There’s never been another game quite like Fragile Dreams
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon was quietly released last March prior to a slew of excellent titles released in May. Fragile Dreams is a unique, dare I say emotional game that time will no doubt not be kind to and will eventually be a highly sought after game that was all but ignored when it was new akin to other cult classics like the SNES RPG Earthbound. Still, should you play it? Read on.
The game picks up somewhere around the year 2010, Japan.
After burying the nameless old man responsible for his upbringing and only person he ever knew, a young fifteen year old boy named Seto finds himself truly alone in the world. Following some unknown catastrophic event twenty years ago, human civilization seems to have broken down completely. People are now completely absent, and nature has begun to reclaim cities and turn Tokyo into ruins of a lost civilization.
Among the old man’s possessions, Seto finds a letter left to him in the event of the old man’s death. The letter tells him to seek out a red shining tower in the distance, where he is meant to find something important.
With heavy feelings, Seto sets off from his caretaker’s stellar observatory and begins to explore the ruins of the city formally known as Tokyo. By mere chance, he soon encounters a silver-haired girl around the same age as he is, who is equally surprised to see another person. The overwhelmed girl can’t begin to approach the situation, and instead runs from Seto in fright.
It is at this point Seto enters the ruins of an underground mall and discovers another voice, calling out for help. The voice he discovers is belongs to a Personal Frame (PF for short), a ‘digital interactive assistant’. This computer is incapable of movement, but able to interact with humans through a vocal interface. The PF speaks to Seto with a soft, feminine voice and so Seto agrees to take “her” with him.
Will Seto find the girl again? Will he reach the red tower and even if he does, what waits for him there? Prepare for manly tears readers. From this point on Fragile Dreams is even less cheerful.
Fragile Dreams is an absolutely beautiful game, both artistically and technically. Character models look exceptional for Wii standards, and locations are moody, atmospheric and downright believable. The game world is post-apocalyptic, but unlike most games such as Fallout, the world is not gray and barren. Instead, Seto will explore areas where nature is slowly reclaiming the landscape with tree shoots cracking through concrete, walls crumbling everywhere, metal rusting and water flowing seemingly everywhere.
While the game doesn’t seem to dwell on it as it very rightfully could, Fragile Dreams also has some of the most detailed skylines and horizons in any game, and it’s not even HD. Who says the Wii doesn’t have any great looking games?
Oh, and Fragile Dreams also has some of the most beautiful cutscenes ever as well. Youtube can’t do it nearly as much justice, but check out this one to see what I mean.
There isn’t a large verity in the audio, but what is here is high quality stuff. You’ll find that you’ll be wanting to listen to certain one-time pieces over and over. Composed by Baten Kaitos’ Riei Saitō, most of the music is area-specific and players will be treated to a wide array of extremely well preformed peices of music. Even the titlescreen music is fantastic and easily missed.
Of particular quality is the opening theme, “Hikari” (light) that is played during the game’s opening sequence by singer/seiyū Aoi Teshima
Of the voice acting, it is also remarkably well produced and characters have interesting things to say. There is both English voice acting and the option to switch to the original Japanese, which is rare to see in Western games and very welcome. Both voice tracks are very capable and faithful to each other, so the choice is really a matter of personal preference. The Japanese voices are often softer than the harsher-sounding English voices, but the English voices tend to word things a little better. For instance, in Japanese, Seto’s voice suggests the character is frail, afraid, and lacks self confidence. While these traits are expressed somewhat in his English voice, he comes across overall as someone who is much more sure of himself and his surroundings. These differences are only noticeable if you play the game through twice though, or switch back and fourth mid way through the game. Casual gamers can simply leave it on English and enjoy the game as you can’t go wrong with whatever you should choose.
Fragile Dreams manages to make the best use of the Wiimote speaker that I’ve yet come across. Rather than using it as a gimmicky source of noise as you flail the Wiimote around, it is used to contact certain characters. Early in the game, Seto will find a talking portable computer named a Personal Frame. The computer talks with a gentle female voice and loves to make conversation and assist Seto. You can hear her computer voice by holding the Wiimote vertically and to your ear. Once in this position, she will give Seto advice or simply just talk to him. This might sound stupid, but it’s actually quite engaging. The voice sounds a little tinny out the Wiimote, but considering the voice is that of an A.I machine, it kinda works!
Fragile Dreams is essentially an third person action RPG. You control Seto with the Wiimote + nunchuk setup, and by god, it makes sense. See, the Wiimote itself operates as Seto’s flashlight; aiming it about is intuitive and it’s clear the game was build upon this premise. There is simply no way Fragile Dreams could be ported to any other system.
As you play, enemies appear in real time, which must be defeated by smashing them with weapons such as sticks, pipes or bows. Combat is extremely basic with the only real strategy being to press A repeatedly until you win. That said, the combat does manage to be somewhat enjoyable even if it is rather basic.
Occasionally upon defeat, enemies will drop “mystery items” which can only be investigated by a campfire. These are non-crucial to completion of the game and only serve as back story, but players who want the most out of the game will want to seek out every mystery item they can. Upon examination next to a bonfire, each item turns out to be the most cherished possession of a person prior to their death, and holds within their memories.
As you can imagine, most of these stories are heart-wrenching and come damn near close to emotional. Hardcore gamers who can play Dead Space or Resident Evil: Invisible Zombie mode without being scared at all probably won’t feel much from Fragile Dreams, but for the rest of us, prepare to have your heart-strings tugged at least a little.
As Seto explores Tokyo ruins he will encounter the Personal Frame A.I computer, a mysterious boy named Crow and the wondering spirit of a girl named Sai who despite being dead, is full of life. Each of these supporting characters have back-stories that again will have you crying manly tears, guaranteed.
For all it gets right in terms of gameplay, Fragile Dreams does have numerous faults. The first problem players will encounter is the frequent load times. I suppose there’s nothing that can be done about this, but it is rather annoying to wait ten to twenty seconds to load a new area that isn’t even very large. The next problem is the limited inventory space.
Seto being a young boy and not the manly hero who can carry 200 pounds on his back has only a small briefcase to store all his belongings. Considering you at the very least will need to always have on hand a flashlight, a weapon and a healing item in case of emergency, about half the inventory space is already gone! There’s also a good bit of backtracking required, which smacks of lazy design in my books.
The controls for Fragile Dreams are pretty standard for a third person action game on the Wii. it uses both the Wiimote and nunchuk.
Wiimote Pointer: Aim Flashlight
Analog Stick: Movement
1: Switch Weapon
2: Secondary fire
C: Confirm menu choices, no usage in-game
Minus: no usage
As mentioned, one of the most unique aspects of the controls is how you communicate with your companions starting with the Personal Frame. You do this by turning the Wiimote upright and placing next to your ear. The Personal Frame will talk to the player though the Wiimote’s speaker rather than the television. This might sound gimmicky (it most definitely is) but along with positional noise the speaker makes while shining the flashlight on certain objects, Fragile Dreams is the game I feel makes the best use of the Wii’s unique controls of any game on the system.
Fragile Dreams uses a durability system for all weapons you find, yet the exact condition of your weapon’s durability isn’t known to the player. This means that weapons can and will randomly break and become useless. As such, this requires the player to carry a backup weapon at all times which takes up a good chuck of the previous limited inventory space.
In situations where you just don’t have enough room for a second weapon, this system will force most players to simply avoid all enemies whenever possible, a tactic normally not recommened for any game that allows the player to level up. It’s really quite a shame.
In addition, many of the weapons are fairly useless such as the long range bows. Most enemies appear at close range and the ones that don’t usually charge at you. This isn’t a huge deal as the game does allow you to choose your weapons you find or buy from the insane vendor.
On the technical side, you’ll also occasionally fight with the camera like in any other third person action game. It isn’t a huge deal, but it is worth mentioning. Likewise, Fragile Dreams is a game wrought with lengthy loadtimes. I suppose there’s nothing that can be done about this, but it is rather annoying to wait ten to twenty seconds to load a new area that isn’t even very large.
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is a heavily anime inspired game and will mostly appeal to fans of the medium. It’s also for people who don’t mind overly sad stories. The journey that Seto sets out on is far more emotional than it is adventurous.
Availability and price
Fragile Dreams is an Xseed game and like most of their publications, the run was limited and the game is rare to find. Expect to pay between $40-50 for even a used copy, as rare titles tend to hold their value. If you see it for anything less than that, I’d recommend buying it even if you end up disliking it; you can likely resell it for more than you paid.
Conceptional development of Fragile began in late 2003, after Namco had released their blockbuster hit Tales of Symphonia. When the Wii was unveiled, it became the natural choice as the core of the game was always intended to be a lone boy in a ruined world where the only source of light would be from a handheld flashlight. With a heavy promotion, Fragile was released in Japan in early 2009 to much fanfare and became a best-seller.
Well over a year later, all was quiet on the western front. (see what I did there?) Namco had no plans to publish the title for the west and it seemed that all hope for a localization would be lost. Luckily for us though, Xseed Games pulled a Working Designs and carefully and lovingly localized the game, complete with a brand new English voice track that’s extremely faithful to the original Japanese.
Other than a slight name change from Fragile to Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, the English release is the same game early importers got.
As you would expect, the trailers for the English and Japanese versions are vastly different, with the English version being more concise and the Japanese version being more spoiler-filled. Still, without knowing the context, both are safe to watch for those deciding if the game is for them.
- One of the most atmospheric games in years
- Beautiful visuals with an artistically masterful style make it by far one of the best looking Wii titles
- Intuitive controls that work. Aim with the flashlight and hold the Wiimote upright to talk to your partner. It works well!
- Interesting and engaging story
- Surprisingly lengthy at around 15-20 hours
- Long, frequent load times hamper quick progress
- Extremely small inventory space. Expect to be able to carry only the most bare of essentials.
- Occasionally confusing or unclear goals. Not a game to play a bit and put down for months on end.
- Some difficulty balance issues
Every now and then, the Wii does have some fantastic exclusives that should be played by everyone. Is Fragile Dreams such a title? Frankly, no. It’s glaring problems severely limit it’s potential audience, but if you are willing to look past the rough patches, you’ll find a game that is every bit as engrossing as it is alienating. This is perhaps one of the most unique videogames to ever be released and in utter defiance to its technical shortcomings, Fragile Dreams is one of the most beautifully artistic games ever made. Recommended, but only for some. This is a game that’s Japanese and not afraid to admit it. I sincerely hope a Fragile Dreams sequel is made someday that works on some of the major issues as this one deserves critical acclaim. This is by far one of the year’s best hidden gems.
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Release Date: March 16, 2010
Publisher: Xseed Games
Also from the developer: Eternal Sonata, Baten Kaitos
Buy or skip: Rent before you decide