Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
Publisher: Xseed Games
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 03/16/2010
Prior to actually having a copy of this game in my hands, I hadn’t given it more than a passing glance as far as pre-release research is concerned. From what I had seen though, it came across as an anime version of Fallout. Not only that, but it was being developed by Tri-Crescendo whose previous work on Eternal Sonata intrigued me. It wasn’t the greatest RPG of all time by any means, but it was a memorable title that provided an enjoyable adventure and I expected a similar experience from Fragile Dreams. Does this game have the makings of a niche classic, or is the idea of fun just a dream like its title implies?
You play the role of a boy named Seto, who lives in a post-apocalyptic future with his grandfather. They believe that they may be the only remaining humans alive, and after his grandfather passes away, Seto decides to go on a journey to find out for sure. With nothing but his flashlight and a ridiculous looking backpack/knapsack thing in tow, Seto travels to an underground subway station where he happens upon a young girl singing under the moonlight. Startled, she flees into the darkness and Seto descends after her in order to find out more about her and any other potential survivors.
The plot sets itself up to be one hell of an interesting ride on the surface. When you begin the game, you know very little about the world or its characters. How did all the humans die? How many are left? What are they doing now? These are all things you are curious about as the game opens, and the answers to these questions do end up being as good as the story builds them up to be.
So what holds this tale back? The execution. I’m not sure if it’s because of a shoddy translation, or just the awkward delivery of the lines, but the dialogue is some of the worst I’ve ever heard in a video game. And the worst part about that is that the entirety of the story is told from the perspective of Seto without narration of any kind, so any plot advancement that occurs does so through the various characters and creatures that you encounter on your journey. Some of the quotes felt so odd and out of place that there were concerns by passersby that I was playing a hentai game of some sort.
Girl: “You touched me.”Â
Seto: “Yeah, I touched you.”Â
Taken out of context? Yes. But in what situation would you ever have a verbal exchange such as that and have it not seem creepy? I’m not sure if these lines are a direct translation of the Japanese ones since I don’t know the language. To save yourself embarrassment though, I would turn the Japanese voice track on anyway. You wouldn’t want friends or family getting creeped out from being within an earshot.
Story/Modes Rating: Mediocre
Fragile Dreams’ scenery and backdrops are one of the best reasons to play this game. You can tell that the development team spent a lot of time and energy crafting a desolate world that is both believable and begs to be explored. You’ll visit locales such as underground shopping malls, abandoned theme parks, and rundown hotels, and they all look fantastic. Sometimes you’ll forget that you are supposed to be looking for somebody and lose yourself in the thrill of exploration.
The characters and monsters look pretty decent as well, just not quite as impressive as the world around them. For a Wii title though, this is one of the better looking games on the system. However, it does come at a cost. Whenever there are too many enemies onscreen, the frame rate seems to take a noticeable plummet and doesn’t catch up to itself until you destroy a few of them. This doesn’t crop up too often, but it is a minor blemish worth mentioning.
Graphics Rating: Great
As a mentioned earlier, the voice acting ranges greatly from pretty good to embarrassingly bad. This is more noticeable at the beginning of the game where it is just Seto and his new robot tutorial companion who will often have conversations that follow the pattern of speaking a sentence, pausing, and then speaking again. It hardly seems natural and really kills the suspension of disbelief that should come from playing an RPG with a heavy plot emphasis.
There isn’t too much for music in this game since there is such a heavy emphasis on having a creepy atmosphere. At least, nothing particularly standout. The vocal pieces that play during the beginning and end of the game are very good though, and they do well to convey the theme of the game.
The best part of the whole soundtrack by far though are the sound effects. Sure, you have your typical footsteps, combat noises, and door opening sounds. The ones I’m referring to come from the spirits that you see (or don’t see), and what you’ll have to follow if you want to get a bead on your enemy. This is where the speaker on the Wii remote comes into play. As you point your flashlight in the direction of an enemy, you’ll hear sounds coming from the speaker in the controller. The closer you get to your target, the louder the sounds get until you finally find them. The enemies are invisible to the naked eye, you see, so only by this method will you uncover them and finally defeat them. This is a fantastic use of the Wii hardware and goes a long way to submersing you into the experience.
Sound Rating: Good
Fragile Dreams is played with both the Wii remote and nunchuck. You use the joystick to control Seto’s movement and you point the remote at the screen in order to control the direction of the flashlight. This actually works pretty well, as the game is fairly responsive to the remote’s movement, so shining the flashlight where you want is a breeze. It’s a good thing too, because it’s the only thing the gameplay does well.
As you use your remote speaker in conjunction with the flashlight to finally find an enemy ghost, combat finally begins. When this happens, you’ll see your lifebar show up on the left side of the screen and then you can proceed to… press A. There is no block button. There is no dodge. There’s not even more than one kind of swing. You can do a combo of up to three stiff swinging motions before you can adjust your position slightly and do it again. This is really disappointing, as I’ve seen more depth in action RPG combat in games that were made two decades ago. You eventually get a feel for it and learn how to defeat enemies even with your small combat arsenal. It just feels like such a letdown compared to the rest of the game. It seemed like the developers tried really hard to create this creepy atmosphere with the spooky sounds and dark locales, only to limit the experience of what should be one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. Imagine going to a restaurant where everything was great except for the main dish. You’ll eat it because you paid for it, but you wish it could be better.
The combat mechanics were pretty bothersome, but nowhere near as much as the inventory system in this game. You have a limited amount of slots in your bag in which to carry objects, much like you would a survival horror title. It makes sense after all, your character can only carry what they need and nothing more. The problem with this is that the only way to make money is to sell loot that you pick up from defeated ghosts. But since these mystery objects take up so many slots in your inventory, you are forced to run back to a campsite to unload. Why does a small diamond fill four slots in my bag, but my sword only takes up two? Not only that, but your equipped items have to go in your bag too, which means your flashlight and your weapon as well as any healing items you have. And after you make the trek back to dump off all of your newfound crap, all the enemies respawn for you to repeat the process again.
You can save, as well as purchase items from these campsites as well. A man wearing a giant chicken head and pushing a shopping cart will visit you at random and ask if you would like to buy or sell any items. Disturbed? No, not about the giant chicken head. How about the fact that it’s random. Why would you make me keep using the campsite just to get this guy to show up when I’m desperate to buy something? If these little nuisances are starting to sound like one facepalm after another, just wait. There’s more.
Your weapons have a durability rating of some sort, but it’s not consistent. Not only does the game not provide you with a durability measurement of any kind, but there is no pattern as to when they can break. It can happen within one fight, or it can happen after fifty. Once the weapon breaks, you can still defend yourself, but just barely. You do minimal damage and in some cases, you can’t leave the room you’re in until all the enemies have been vanquished. This is a big problem if it breaks before you can get to a save point to get a new one. Luckily save points are abundant, so even if you do perish, you won’t have far to go. You can carry more than one weapon if you are paranoid, but expect to make twice as many trips to unload the crap you pick up.
Despite all of its flaws, the gameplay did grow on me after awhile. Perhaps it was because the game itself isn’t all that difficult, so its many annoyances were slightly more forgivable than if I were dying constantly. I think if you go into this game expecting to enjoy the atmosphere more so than the combat, you may get more out of the experience than you would if you were looking for more fast paced RPG action.
Control/Gameplay Rating: Mediocre
Fragile Dreams is approximately about 10-12 hours in length, and once you complete the game there isn’t much else to do. There doesn’t exist a New Game+ feature, nor is there much for sidequests during the course of the game. Finishing the story will unlock some trailers and concept art, but that’s about it. There are items strewn about the game that contain memories, which behave much like the dreams in Lost Odyssey. The person whose memory is tied to that object will narrate a short story about the sentimental value of that item. There are a ton of these strewn about that may take some time to collect if you want to squeeze every last ounce of story out of this game’s world. I personally felt that only a few of them were mildly interesting, and the rest were far too cryptic to be of any value to the overall plot.
Replayability Rating: Bad
Fragile Dreams is incredibly easy, but manages to be frustrating at the same time. The enemies aren’t all that intelligent, and most can be defeated by mashing the A button before they have a chance to make a move on you. Others take a slight ounce of strategy to take down, such as playing keep away until their weak point becomes visible. In fact, most enemies you can just run around and not fight at all, although you forfeit potential experience gains and loot drops. What makes these battles irritating is when you are forced to fight in a small room or a narrow hallway with multiple enemies. It becomes far too cramped to get away unscathed, and sometimes you will suffer a cheap death simply because enemies can continually damage you back and forth with no opportunity to get away. Even better is when you are in said cramped area with a broken weapon.
Bosses require a slightly higher degree of strategy, though once you learn their simplistic patterns, they too will fall with the greatest of ease. In fact, I never died once during a boss battle. As long as you know what attacks are in their repertoire, all you have to do is stay on the move until they expose their weak point. But given the simplistic level of combat moves you are given, it’s no surprise that they are very easy to learn.
Balance Rating: Poor
It’s unfortunate that a game with such a unique use of the Wii hardware has such run of the mill combat mechanics. Using the flashlight in tandem with the sounds coming from the speaker in order to find your enemies is such a unique addition to the RPG genre that I wish the battle system could have risen to the same level of creativity. Instead, it degenerates into such a slow paced button masher, that you wonder if development had been rushed on this portion of the game. My first thought was that perhaps they were leaning more towards the survival/horror genre when coming up with the gameplay by attempting to make you feel like the helpless human you really are. After all, you are playing as a boy trying to take on spirits with nothing but a stick or golf club. Regardless of whether that were true or not, it still doesn’t excuse the lack of variety during battles.
Originality Rating: Mediocre
This game was one big roller coaster for me. It started out interesting with the cool story setup, the intriguing locales, and the Wii hardware mechanics. My interest began to wane after my first few uninspired battles. It declined even more after I was forced to do a lot of backtracking in order to perform mundane tasks for some ungrateful little girl’s ghost that wouldn’t allow me to advance. As I stuck with it though, the story began progressing at a much faster pace and I actually started caring about what happened at the conclusion. If you perceive the game as a place to explore and uncover secrets rather than one in which to do battle, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it much more. In fact, once the plot began picking up, I began finding it difficult to put down as my drive to see the ending carried me through to completion.
Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre
Being such a niche title to begin with, it’s difficult to pinpoint who exactly might show a substantial interest in this game. Being such a huge departure from Eternal Sonata, or even Baiten Kaitos makes it difficult to recommend to fans of Tri-Crescendo’s previous works. It does have a heavy anime influence, and even has a few animated shorts sprinkled in throughout the game, so JRPG fans will have something to get excited about. Basically, if you’ve always wanted to play an anime style Fallout game, but more linear and less emphasis on fighting, you may take a liking to this game. Everyone else may find the plot execution far too awkward to give it much of a second look.
Appeal Rating: Poor
If there’s one thing that games do not need, it would be segments that exist purely to artificially pad out a title that would normally be a brief experience. I don’t need additional hours tacked onto my video games, I barely have enough time to play the ones I have. So when you insert long empty hallways and bottomless ladders to your RPG’s that serve no other purpose than to extend the in-game clock, I get a little peeved. Why is it necessary to create a ladder that takes me literally five minutes to climb down to get to the bottom? I almost climbed back up, because the whole trip looked exactly the same and I thought I was doing something wrong. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to backtrack that segment.
Later in the game, you get a new flashlight that allows you to illuminate things that you wouldn’t normally be able to see without its aid. As you revisit old areas, you’ll notice a plethora of writing on the walls that wasn’t viewable with the light you started the game out with, which is a really cool addition. The problem is, since the writing on the walls was done in Japanese, you have no way of knowing how creepy or funny these things are. I understand the unwillingness to keep the game in its original form, but I really wish those phrases would’ve been translated for me.
Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Poor
Final Score: Mediocre Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon can best be described as a cross between Fallout 3 and Luigi’s Mansion. You spend a great deal of time exploring a post apocalyptic wasteland hunting ghosts with your flashlight, but when you finally find said ghosts is when the game starts to come loose at the seams. The world of Fragile Dreams is a beautiful one worth exploring, and the story is just interesting enough that you will want to see what happens at the end. Just don’t play the game expecting a deep combat experience, because you won’t find it here.
Tags: Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, xseed