You may have already heard some impressions about Fragile Dreams in our recent podcast, but there's still much to tell about Tri-Crescendo's upcoming post-apocalyptic adventure.
The game begins with the death of your surrogate grandfather, the only human being you've ever had contact with. The world is empty and decaying, seemingly uninhabited, but your guardian leaves a note telling you to explore the red tower to the East. Completely alone, Seto (your character) sets off to search for human life, but is soon met by a terrifying spirit who warns him against exploring the world. Overcoming the spirit, you escape the house and begin your journey.
Whereas most RPGs charge you with preventing the death of all humanity, Fragile Dreams skips all that and starts you off after the event. With just a stick for a weapon, Seto must protect himself against the dangerous spirits of the deceased that want him to join their ranks. Combat is a simple matter of pushing with good timing - quick taps will launch three light attacks, whereas small pauses increase the strength of your hits. It's a surprisingly delicate system that initially resembles button-bashing, but once mastered is varied enough to get you through almost any battle. The spirits themselves take on many forms, from harmless jellyfish to enormous dogs, but our favourites are the flaming, cackling legs that hide out in the underground areas.
Even better than the bizarre enemies are the sound effects that accompany them: for the most part the game is all-but silent, with just your footsteps and the distant crackle of a campfire for audio, but when enemies appear there's chunky piano chords, screaming and more, with some sounds even coming through the Wii Remote speaker. In fact, the Remote speaker gets quite a good workout, with digitised speech from your Personal Frame, a robotic assistant that guides you in the game's early stages.
One intriguing aspect about Fragile Dreams is its graphical style, with lanky, big-headed characters bearing a Kingdom Hearts-style look. The game's environments are also highly detailed, often bearing posters, slogans and graffiti that can be zoomed-in upon to reveal messages and more. Some of the shots dotted around this preview should show you how gorgeous the game can look, and although the lighting effect from the flashlight isn't always perfect, the overall design and construction is enough to elevate this above many Wii games.
The game is most accomplished, however, in its emotional scenes. Although Seto interacts with very few people indeed, certain enemies leave behind "Mystery Items" that can be taken to campfires and examined. Sometimes these are healing items or objects to sell, but every so often you'll receive an item containing the memories of its owner, be it a photograph, a book or a dog collar. Once examined you can listen to its stories, some of which are genuinely affecting, revealing otherwise hidden elements of the world and its long-dead citizens. They also tie into spirits you meet in the game - one item belongs to a young girl who wants to play "hide-and-go-seek", and soon you meet the girl and have to locate her using the Remote's speaker in a hot and cold-style. It's a clever way of giving the empty world some human interest without lengthy cutscenes and masses of reading. The voice acting is also of a commendable quality, although there are some artificially long pauses in sentences, though that's a minor complaint.
Fragile Dreams is certainly an interesting title: there's not much in the way of action for the first two hours as the game introduces you to the world and its odd inhabitants, but as you begin to explore it becomes more engaging. For those who enjoy the adventure and exploration side of RPGs over combat, Fragile Dreams is certainly worth keeping an eye on in the coming months.