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Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: tri-Crescendo
Genre: Action RPG
Format: Wii Optical Disc
Released: US 03/16/10
Japan 01/22/09



Scorecard
Graphics: 80%
Sound: 69%
Gameplay: 40%
Control: 35%
Story: 60%
Overall: 55%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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He comes at random, whether you're ready or not. You won't be.
 
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The camera will never be this obedient.
 
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Most of the game is spent chasing her around.
 
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The game looks best in the dark.
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Kyle E. Miller
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
05/21/10
Kyle E. Miller

Post apocalyptic video games don't have to try to be cool. Logic would have it, therefore, that the developers of Fragile Dreams: Farewell to Dignified Titles had to try to make the game as antithetical to cool as it is. Never before has post apocalyptic art been so consistently boring. Astonishingly inept design hampers every aspect of Fragile Dreams to create an experience so detestable it may challenge your choice of hobbies.

Fragile Dreams doesn't have a plot for its first three quarters, instead focusing on a few characters and their struggles against loneliness in a world bereft of life. It's a character study with some attempt at deeper meaning using a post apocalyptic world to facilitate drama. In the game's final few hours, a sort of villain appears to usher in a skeletal plot that attempts to pull the theme together and show the fragility... of dreams.

The meandering plotlessness of Fragile Dreams' first three quarters is theoretically sound, but dreadful in execution. The protagonist, Seto, is annoying, an infallibly forgiving, trusting saint with the brain of a stegosaurus and a design from the industry's collective trash can of rejected JRPG concept art. His voice and demeanor are sickening at times. Other characters aren't as irritating, but dialogue rotates between heavy-handed and saccharine to bizarre and irrational. Some of the dialogue exchanges are truly confounding, and even insulting. At one point early on, a character tells Seto to head right and proceeds to remind him, and the player, which direction that is. It's the one you hold pencils with, just in case you're wondering.

These aren't effective ways to develop relatable, tolerable characters, and given the brevity of the adventure (it can be conquered in as few as eight hours), emotional connection is nearly impossible. When Fragile Dreams tries to take on an actual narrative during the last few hours, it gets worse. The nonsensical plot does nothing to bring Seto's previous encounters together, and the overarching themes are artistically uninteresting and philosophically lazy.

Fortunately, Fragile Dreams has some measure of atmosphere, although it can be ruined by the game's multitude of problems. Fragile Dreams looks like a murky PS2 game, but for a Wii game, it looks good. Much of Fragile Dreams occurs in the dark, and Seto is armed with a flimsy weapon and a flashlight. Exploring and looking about are thus done by flashlight, and this sometimes creates a spooky atmosphere, but the game is never downright scary. Lighting effects such as the requisite flashlight are decent, although imperfect. For instance, in a room partitioned by shelves, the flashlight shines right through them, creating a terrible labyrinth and a broken controller. Some areas look better than others, particularly at the beginning of the game. Toward the end, there are too many monotonous corridors and too few details, as if the developers rushed the game out the door for release.

Sound isn't used quite as effectively to cultivate atmosphere as I had expected. In one of the better design decisions, sound effects come out of the Wiimote, getting louder or softer depending upon Seto's proximity to the sources. Cat, cricket, frog, and monster sounds make use of this feature, although some of them are a bit repetitive and abrasive. Overall, the sounds aren't as chilling as they could be. Silence is common; music usually plays only in cutscenes and combat. The soundtrack is fairly generic and a couple tracks are incredibly annoying. Voice acting is flat with typical JRPG melodramatic flair and awkwardness. Overall, Fragile Dreams' flaws erase what is done to deepen the atmosphere, and I wanted nothing more than to stop playing.

The piss-poor design rationale that went into Fragile Dreams shows most in the gameplay. The game plays similarly to a survival horror title like Silent Hill: Seto runs around in the dark bumping into walls and supernatural entities all the while trying to find keys in places they have no reason to be. Fragile Dreams borrows more than that from Silent Hill, however. It borrows the notoriously clunky control, but transforms said control into a tedious, slow, imprecise, and infuriating affair that renders the game almost unplayable. The Nunchuck controls Seto's movement while the Wiimote controls the flashlight, which also moves the camera. Anything more complicated than walking in a straight line becomes a nightmare. Even then the flashlight cursor sticks to walls and turns Seto around for a few seconds as he tries to regain his bearings. Every movement is a chore.

Combat aggravates already crippling issues. The camera is perhaps the greatest offender. While the Wiimote can move the camera, it stays behind Seto at all times. Once in a while, the game breaks this rule, but it's probably nothing more than a glitch. Generally, the camera is fixed directly behind him, removing any sense of depth and making enemies and the environment difficult to see. Due to the lack of depth perception and tiny weapons, there is no possible way to determine how far away enemies are. Seto usually has to practically sit in their laps to hit them. Longer, staff-like weapons make this slightly less problematic, but these weapons are slower than others. Monsters that knock Seto to the ground or jump backward make combat almost unplayable. Heck, monsters that move make the game unplayable.

Fragile Dreams allegedly implements a combo system during combat, but I saw very little of it. Correctly timed attacks supposedly allow Seto to strike more powerfully, but these seemed to occur at random if at all. When I actually tried to get a combo, I couldn't. Despite this "combo system" and a few different types of weapons, combat is mostly boring. When it isn't boring, it's frustrating and impossible. Fortunately, most enemies can be avoided and Seto can level up if and get more powerful if enemies prove to be too difficult, probably one of the best elements of the game. During the last couple hours, however, narrow corridors combined with increasingly frustrating enemies spells untold amounts of anger and explosive swearing.

When not in combat, Seto is likely to be running through dark places looking for keys or backtracking on inane "quests." Or Seto might be tasked with playing ridiculous games with other characters that would challenge a sloth's patience. Exploration would be the game's strongest feature had the developers not ruined the experience. For the first half hour or so, the game hardly leaves the player alone to explore, cluttering the experience with unnecessary cutscenes and needless tutorials. From there, the pacing improves only marginally. At times, Seto takes a few steps, cutscene, takes a few more steps, cutscene. Segments like these remove the player from the experience, which kills the atmosphere. Early areas are somewhat neat to explore at least, even if they're not original, borrowed from a Silent Hill game as they are (subway, amusement park, hotel). After that, locales devolve into bland corridors and endless sequences of ladders. There are hallways and ladders that literally take sixty seconds or more to traverse. That might not seem long, but a lot can happen in sixty seconds. In Fragile Dreams, nothing happens.

A few more nasty design decisions bog down exploration even further. A limited inventory, for example. Even worse, the inventory is like a puzzle in which the player must arrange things on a grid. Using the Wii's tedious motion controls to do so is trying. Another attempt at realism: breakable weapons. With no indication of weapon condition, this is a vexation and nothing more. Save points, in the form of bonfires that all look the same no matter the surrounding terrain, are frequent, but frequently annoying. Fragile Dreams' only merchant shows up at random whether needed or not. Considering that his voice made me contemplate violence, this is a waste of time at the least. Would an extra option to call the merchant have been so difficult to include? In a final attempt at realism, most items cannot be identified except at a bonfire save point. The rationale is that they can't be seen in the dark. Even supposing the flashlight somehow isn't bright enough to make out an object, I have a difficult time believing that Seto could pick up and carry a bow and arrows back to a bonfire without knowing what it was. He's stupid, but not mentally challenged.

Fragile Dreams is a clusterflock of bad ideas implemented poorly. I hope the developers consider a different business because they clearly don't know how to make a fun video game. In fact, they don't even know how to make a tolerable one. Excuse me while I try to forget about Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon.



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