Game Review

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon Review

USA USA Version

Posted by James Newton

Diamond in the rough

There’s a sincerity to Fragile Dreams that’s very appealing, but that weighs heavily on the game over time. After burying his grandfather in his front garden, main character Seto explores the post-apocalyptic world with a heaviness of step that should make clear this isn’t a game full of sunshine and rainbows. If you like a drop of sorrow in your gaming, Fragile Dreams delivers by the bucketload.

Exploring the world for human survivors, the early enclosed spaces are oppressive and claustrophobic, with tight corridors and storage rooms hiding cackling enemies and ghostly apparitions. The Remote functions as a flashlight, used not only to illuminate areas but also to slow down enemies and reveal hidden messages later on in the game. It makes a great change from the usual design mentality that any character using a stick as a weapon must use waggle control, and is just the first example of many smart touches throughout.

The Remote speaker is used similarly superbly from the beginning, alerting you to impending enemy attacks as well as a lot of hot-and-cold segments that break up the combat. Lift the Remote to your ear and your companion Personal Frame gives words of advice through the speaker, bridging the gap between screen and your senses. There’s plenty of speech from the controller and it’s always loud, clear and adds plenty to the game whenever used, drawing you into the world with ease.

The speech coming from your regular speakers is pretty good, too. With some emotive and often subtle voice acting – in English or Japanese – the characters seem authentic and show plenty of range, with the campfire examination of mystery items quickly becoming a highlight. Here, discovered items reveal their owners’ memories, ranging from recorded phone conversations to dog collars, milk bottles to photographs and more. Each memory is sensitive, well-written and often genuinely moving, and makes those respites from battle all the more poignant and memorable.

It’s not all grief and loss, though – there’s actually a lot of quirky humour in there to enjoy, though it may not be apparent at first. Take a look at film posters and advertisements in the underground mall, or listen to the oddball chicken-headed merchant who gargles “have a nice daaay!” after he’s sold you a cat toy and some old sweets. Something always seems to come along at the right time to deflate the heavy mood a little, an achievement in itself.

Atmosphere aside, the gameplay is enjoyable and just varied enough. Exploring the world Seto will come across the departed souls of its residents, manifested as anything from flying jellyfish to flame-mouthed mastiffs, and defeating them yields experience points as well as useful items and the memory-holding mystery items. The biggest problem is the simplistic combat – although there are different kinds of weapons, from iron pipes to slingshots, the lack of manoeuvrability in battle hinders the game somewhat. A step or strafe move would have helped, though it’s worth pointing out that Seto is no swordsman, just a normal boy exploring the world, so it stands to reason he’s not rolling about like Link.

Each style of weapon handles differently, from the wide swinging arc of the butterfly net to the blunt power of the steel pipe, but they have something in common: they break. Batter enough ephemeral spirits with a bamboo stick and it’ll snap, dropping your attacking power and preventing you from performing combos. If you need to defeat a certain set of enemies to proceed and your weapon breaks you’re in trouble, though you soon develop an awareness of when to avoid combat. Still, with no tangible warning of when your weapon’s about to give in, it’s still irritating to get caught out: after the first few breakages you learn to prepare by carrying replacement weapons at all times, something made easier by the upgrades you find allowing you to carry more items.

That’s really the only major criticism we can throw at Fragile Dreams. Although the earnest talk about enormous mounds of earth and dreams amounting to nothing can weigh heavily from time to time, it’s all too rare to find a game with such a well written script and voice acting that genuinely improves the game by its presence. The game also displays some of the finest design on the Wii, with beautiful high-resolution graphics well in advance of most of the machine’s output, and the music is on a similarly high plane. What could easily have been a muddy and indistinct post-apocalyptic mess turns out to be one of the Wii’s most compelling worlds yet, and one that deserves exploration.

Conclusion

When Fragile Dreams is good, it’s excellent, with great cutscenes, a beautiful decaying world to explore and enough mystery to make Professor Layton hang up his hat. The combat is the only downside, though you soon learn to avoid where possible. Graphically and aurally the title excels in offering a world unlike any other, and for fans of intelligent, emotive gaming there’s no brighter torchbearer than this.

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User Comments (37)

Kid_A

#1

Kid_A said:

I'm glad to finally see a positive review of this game. It struck me as something I'd very much enjoy...definitely going to give it a shot once it comes down to a reasonable price.

Objection

#2

Objection said:

An emotional game with a good story and mood? I think I can accept its less-than-stellar combat, then. :)

bro2dragons

#3

bro2dragons said:

agree with Kid_A. so pretty much just imagine me saying exactly what he said word for word but without him having said it first because that just makes me look like a copydragon...

WolfRamHeart

#4

WolfRamHeart said:

I pre-ordered this game and it is still waiting for me at the store. I was waiting for this review to see if it would be a worthy purchase. I'm very glad to see that it is. Time to go pick this baby up. Thanks James!:)

MattL

#5

MattL said:

Couldn't agree more with this review. I'm 15 hours in and totally immersed in the game world. The feeling of being alone, coupled with some beautiful environments make this one of the most atmospheric games I've played so far. The tragic side-stories really are quite moving and it's difficult not to feel moved by them.

Some of the other reviews I've seen really do this title no justice at all.

miketh2005

#6

miketh2005 said:

EVERYONE BUY THIS IF YOU WANT A RETRO GAME CHALLENGE 2!!!

It's published by XSeed, and if they get enough money they will translate Retro Game Challenge 2 from Japan. It's supposed to be really good.

Donatello

#11

Donatello said:

Will be buying, once it goes down in price. I can live with the weak Combat, because by the looks of it everything else makes up for it. Besides Resident Evil Remake and Zero's combat was dated and wasn't anything amazing, yet i had a great time with both games.

Oregano

#12

Oregano said:

I still want this, I'm thinking if this is in stock tomorrow I'll pick this up with Heart Gold and wait a week or two for Red Steel 2 to get more impressions.

YanV

#13

YanV said:

While the action sequences do feel a bit stale every now and then, the game, as a whole, is entirely amazing and definitely worth the playthrough.

KrazyKain

#14

KrazyKain said:

I have a thing for games that make me feel sad... wierd that.... but yeah, might have to try this

EdEN

#15

EdEN said:

And, from what I've heard, the soundtrack is just as good as the game. Looking forward to purchasing this in august...

Sean_Aaron

#20

Sean_Aaron said:

I don't know about "fun" but it's certainly an experience. I've been drawn away by other commitments, but I do find it an extremely affecting game that can be difficult to play at times because it is so poignant and heartfelt. This is especially some of the early bits, though that may be due to my being a parent.

In any event it's truly worth sticking with and I hope more people check it out.

darklinkinfinite

#21

darklinkinfinite said:

Man, my first weapon break made for about an hour of unenjoyment with this game. After I got my first bamboo sword I sold off my stick. When it broke, I didn't have the cash to buy a new weapon so I spent a while whacking ghosts for 11 damage a strike (with a proper weapon I'd be doing 40-50) until they dropped enough frozen dinners for me to afford a new bamboo sword.

After that, I made sure to stockpile swords by buying one or two from the Merchant every time he showed up and keeping a spare on me at all times. After that, I was able to get along with the amazing experience this game provides.

Vinsanity

#22

Vinsanity said:

This is one clunky game, but as an experience it's beautiful, sad and memorable. A must play for a very specific type of gamer (like me!), but definitely not everyone's cup of tea. Also, not enough was done in XSeed's localization - the dub is a little awkward, though the voices ain't bad, and the dialogue itself is great. Too many of the english actors overplay the copious, "..." in the script, so out of impatience, I've been playing through it with the Japanese vocals. Nice to have the option.

However, no changes were made from the Japanese version, which is a shame because - as I said - it's clunky. it's especially annoying to have no depth attached to the cursor, so if you pass it over a foreground object, Seto will quickly aim towards the screen as your cursor passes through it. It's like a mini seizure in tight corridors. I really wish they would've taken a few days/weeks to implement a bounding box tweak a la the Conduit - the bounding box here is a pain in the to get used to. Also, there should be an easy mode that turns off weapon breaks. There's a reason why roguelikes aren't a popular genre outside of your country, Japan...

Still, beautiful, sad and memorable. A really cool game if you're up for the clunkiness, and just want to experience this gorgeous personal adventure. Or wanna see just how bad an early spoiler can feel - man, I never wanted to leave that mall!

[Edit - I know it's only a minor spoiler, but it came as a shock to me when I played it and I'd like to preserve some of that surprise for our readership - James]

Ravage

#23

Ravage said:

I might have to buy this, I was a little skeptical, but this looks awesome.

Sean_Aaron

#24

Sean_Aaron said:

@darklinkinfinite: my experience exactly. In my case I discarded the broken bamboo sword not realising that it would still make a good weapon compared to a broken stick or a cat toy! Needless to say after feeling frustrated when I hit the mall, I restored to an earlier save point (definitely a good idea to make use of the three save slots to allow for correction of mistakes) and have carried on "happily."

I should hopefully get far enough in Sky Crawlers this week-end to review so I can get back to this (and Red Steel 2).

Omega

#25

Omega said:

This is exact the kind of game that I want on the Wii. I love the gorgeous graphics and the dark atmosphere. Beautiful. I think my next two Wii games are this one and Calling. More of these, please!

Sushie

#28

Sushie said:

Bargain bin for me. I don't have a lot of money to spend on games, so it will have to wait in line.

Rerun

#29

Rerun said:

Interesting enough. Too many new games. I will get this but not right now. If only Amazon offered the OST pre-order bonus . . .

Azaris

#30

Azaris said:

huh first np gives this a 5.5 now i see an 8 i have no idea which one to believe

DarkLloyd

#32

DarkLloyd said:

a story and rpg leveling up o.o its insta buy as soon as i finish beating all of my other games possible

Deviant_Mugen

#33

Deviant_Mugen said:

Nice to see this game get a better score than what Nintendo Power and other publications gave it. I definitely want to pick this game up eventually...

Highlar

#34

Highlar said:

I just got Fragile yesterday, and finished it today. It truly is a beautiful and thought provoking game that is hard to put down once you get started with it. I played it through the first time in English because I played while my girls watched and enjoyed the story with me. What shows me how touching and emotional some of the scenes are: my 7yo daughters were tearing up and sniffling at some points of the game. Fragile Dreams is just that good when it comes to mood, atmosphere, and story. The controls I found could be a little on the rough side, but never so much as to be a total hindrance or really get in the way of the meat of the game: the story (except for possibly one part near the end in the hospital corridors...grumbles). The graphics are some of the most beautiful I have seen on the Wii, or personally for most any game this year so far (beautiful I say...not "realistic" and "high-def"). The music also makes the beautiful mark, with haunting melodies and a wonderful intro song. My only complaint? I wish the game were longer, as I would have loved to have spent more time in Seto's desolate world. Now I just need to go back and play the game in Japanese...and play it slower...because I know I missed some memory objects in the game, and I loved learning about the world through the memories. It is a great concept and works well for the game. All in all, I am perfectly happy with my Fragile Dreams experience, and will look forward to experiencing it again soon. I also wouldn't mind an anime built around the Fragile world. :)

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