Have you ever been super hyped for a game? Have you counted down the months, weeks, days, even hours until you could have it in your possession and finally give it a spin? Have you read all the first look articles and just utterly thought a game couldn’t get more toward your personal tastes? If you have, I’m sure you could understand my extreme excitement for Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon. Now, let me ask you another question: Has all that anticipation ever been completely destroyed by actually playing the game and not having it live up to your expectations? I don’t think there has ever been a game I wanted to like more than Fragile Dreams and even as I reviewed it I kept going back trying to desperately sway my own initial negative impressions. And yet, I can’t. The game pains me to play it, and I’m raging pissed, because the story drew me in so much but the gameplay and control scheme make me want to rip out my beautiful blond locks and adopt the Sinead O’Connor look.
Loneliness Knows Me By Name
When Fragile Dreams begins you get an eerie feeling, similar to that type of feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when your parents leave home for awhile and don’t come back until much later than promised. Naturally, you start to panic, your mind races, and you’re left alone in your thoughts. Honestly, I don’t know what’s worse than that feeling. and in the beginning of the game it kicks in full force when you control the main character, Seto. As Seto explores his home, an abandoned observatory, you discover that Seto has spent practically his entire life living there with a mysterious old man. Later, you find out the man has peacefully passed away, and for the first time in his life, Seto is completely alone. You see, the backdrop to Fragile Dreams is quite interesting – think of it as humans taking a page from the book of dinosaurs and progressively getting closer and closer to becoming extinct. As the species is dying out, there’s nobody around to maintain anything man-made and the world has become a wasteland with nothing but death and sorrow in it. Seto comes across a letter from the old man that he anticipated Seto would find if he ever passed away. He tells Seto he is not alone, and the promise of those words are all Seto needs to abandon the observatory and look for something – or perhaps I should say someone – with whom Seto could find companionship.
I know the whole “post apocalyptic world” concept is being used more and more in video games *cough cough* Fallout *cough cough* Borderlands, etc. However, what Fragile Dreams does, and where it succeeds, is that it really examines the impact of loneliness on the psyche. For instance, many times during the game, Seto will wonder if he’s starting to talk to himself. Early in the game, he discovered a personal assistant with high tech A.I. that can not only communicate with Seto, but provides clues and hints on where Seto should go next in his journey. Seto also confides in the A.I., and he gets used to talking to it as if it were a real person. It’s very eerie how this companionship with an object is what helps bring Seto comfort and keep him sane throughout the majority of the journey. Everybody copes with loneliness differently, and throughout the game the characters you will meet exemplify this. It’s great to get a personal peek into each character and how differently the abandonment of human life has affected them. This is no doubt where the game shines; unfortunately, the gameplay ruins a lot of the good about the story.
So Interesting, yet so Poorly Executed
There is nothing more disappointing than being really wrapped up in a unique concept, such as the one Fragile Dreams provides, and then being completely turned off by gameplay mechanisms. I know there are gamers out there who, despite the game’s flaws, will have the patience and persistence to play through Fragile Dreams. I applaud them, but personally, nothing makes me angrier than wonky control schemes and gameplay choices that leave me unable to play a game. The sad thing is, for someone who was so invested in the story of Fragile Dreams and what it had to offer, I came to dread playing the game for numerous reasons. I cringe as I have to put myself through the experience all over again with this review.
Let’s start off with the battle system, which feels tacked on and incomplete. Basically, it’s boring. It’s all about tapping the A button on the Wii remote at the right time. It sounds simplistic and, indeed, it is. On top of that, because of the Wii’s control scheme it often becomes more a nuisance than it should be. It’s very easy to lose your target with the camera angles and you will find yourself getting hit as you re-orient yourself. There is one really cool thing about the battle system, although it’s conceptual and not part of the execution: all the enemies are ghosts. These ghosts are the manifestations of the undying feelings that were left over after a human’s death. Needless to say, the game really will remind you of a survival horror game like Silent Hill.
The game has all the normal RPG staples that the RPG fan is used to. There’s currency, experience points, hit points, and equipment. Ghosts can drop money – which is incredibly scarce and becomes a frustrating aspect of the game. Once you’ve got the cash, there’s a man dressed in a chicken mask who sells you items at rest points. He doesn’t pop up nearly enough, and it’s entirely random at which rest points he will appear. And, of course, there are different weapons and items for you to use. Now, some of us RPG fans are used to developers trying to think outside of the box and make a game more realistic and challenging by adding breakable weapons. Yes, Fragile Dreams employs this “feature,” and poorly at that. It is beyond easy to break weapons, especially in the beginning of the game. With the aforementioned financial conundrum Seto finds himself in, you’re sometimes forced to kill enemies with a broken weapon. This makes defeating enemies take a hell of a lot longer than is reasonable. Broken weapons not only deal less damage, but also prevent you from being able to do any combos. Ok, now for my rant: I don’t understand why breakable weapons needed to be used in Fragile Dreams. I understand having them in games where the item progression makes it where a broken weapon represents a need to upgrade, or even in games focused toward the hardcore with a high difficulty level. However, this is not the case in Fragile Dreams, a game that seems to try so hard, elsewhere, to make everything uncomplicated enough to appeal to a wide variety of gamers. People who find themselves on the more casual side of the gamer coin will be turned off by this addition. For the majority of the game it ruins the fun, detracts from your progress, and is just a pain in the… who knows what. I can understand the desire to make things realistic, but when I’m gaming I want an escape from reality, not a reminder of it. /end rant.
Another beef I have with the game is the extremely limited inventory space you’re allotted. Seto is limited to six to eight items at a time, and you can’t simply drop broken weapons. When you reach a bonfire, which doubles as your save point, you can switch items out of your inventory into your suitcase where they can be carried indefinitely, but this is also a pain. It’s easy for items to get left behind, and since you have to equip a new weapon before you can remove your broken one, there’s simply too much inventory juggling. To add insult to injury, sometimes the menus for transferring items from your suitcase to your inventory and vice versa can be very time consuming to navigate with the Wii remote. This is just something else that’s in the game that is bound to test your patience.
Not all is bad in Fragile Dreams, however. There are some really unique features and cool ideas from the folks at tri-Crescendo. For instance, throughout the game, you can find memory items: the belongings of the deceased that contain their final thoughts. You can bring these items to a bonfire and listen to some of the final thoughts and pleas of the departed. Some of the memory items are linked together, making it especially intriguing as you get closer to completing the entire memory. The exploration aspect is also very intense and exciting, as you’ll often find hints and observations along the walls or elsewhere in the environment. And, hey, if you’re bored and lonely, you can always use a cat toy to play with cats. As a cat lover, I enjoyed this touch to the game. One of my favorite additions to the exploration is the use of the Wii remote’s features. The game has the remote emit the sounds of the atmosphere around you, and it just made the adventure that much more real. This got me even more personally invested in the game. You can even hear conversations of idle chitchat from your companions as you progress through the game.
Fragile Dreams also features a great soundtrack. I’d listened to the soundtrack before I even touched the game, and was curious as to how a soundtrack that featured primarily solo piano tracks would function in the game. To my surprise, it works especially well. It’s interesting just how the music fully reinforces the thoughts and feelings that come with abandonment and loneliness. I was not a big fan of the voice acting in this game, specifically the main character, Seto. There’s an innocence to his voice, but also something extremely grating and annoying about it. It feels like the voice actor, Johnny Yong Bosch, was trying too hard to sound like an adolescent. Johnny Yong Bosch is one of my favorite voice actors, but I’m always turned off when he tries to voice a character that sounds like they haven’t hit puberty yet. Those who played Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World will recognize the voice as almost identical to Emil’s at the beginning of the game. Fragile Dreams is also a beautiful game, and it does push the Wii’s hardware quite well. Everything is very detailed and magnified just the way it should be. This supplements the ambiance that tri-Crescendo has structured with the rest of the game, it’s just unfortunate that the gameplay couldn’t do the same.
My Patience is Fragile
Fragile Dreams will not be the game for anyone and everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessarily worth a try if you’re looking for something different in a game. Fragile Dreams offers an intense RPG mixed with a survivor horror eeriness that is bound to provide some with hours of enjoyment. Those who don’t the patience to put up with the game’s flaws, however, are best to look at a survival horror game for their survival horror fix or to an RPG for their RPG fix.