Review by Myviewing

"Feeds your need for narrative if anything."

Gaming is usually focused on making gameplay more refined and having gamers move on to the next product only to leave the prior product left behind for scroungers to pick up. Some games however manage to find their establishment in history with having more of a focus on storytelling than on making a game anyone is capable of picking up and mastering. Such is the case of Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, a game that puts its first priority as being a deep memorable storytelling experience first and being something fun and enjoyable second. Whether or not you find this to be a good thing or not is entirely up to debate, but if narrative is what you're looking for, you are going to love Fragile Dreams if you are willing to look past a dated game formula or other minor issues.

You'll find the plot in a fairly familiar setting, but not in one that will remind you of prior games you may have already played. It takes place sometime after the supposed destruction of humanity, there is no one left roaming the planet except for strange spirit creatures and once towering cities have now become nothing but a crumbling image of what it once was. Among the few human survivors is a boy named Seto whose grandfather has just recently died. Now without anyone to call his friend, Seto must traverse the world to see if there are any fellow humans still alive that he can share his presence with. This changes of course once he meets a silver haired girl who wanders off to who knows where else, and now Seto must brave many obstacles, underground labyrinths and monsters to reach the young girl. The setting might sound a bit cliché on paper, but in practice it turns out to be quite a moving and memorable experience. I can't really talk about the story too much without the risk of giving away major spoilers, it truly is one of those stories that needs to be experienced rather than explained. The best way I can describe the story in a nutshell is a significant part of Lost Odyssey's story with a mix of WALL-E in it. Whereas Lost Odyssey is a study into the emotional impact of immortality though, Fragile Dreams is more of an observation into human emotion itself. No matter how odd the characters you come across might seem, chances are you might end up feeling for at least one character throughout the story.

The story is also further fleshed out with Seto being able to find Memory items to observe the remaining memories within those items, another narrative inspiration from Lost Odyssey. The items range from just a single moment in time to a whole story of what the owner of the item had, from the perspective of an older man to a younger girl, or even a dog. These items all offer a sense of unfulfillment on the part of the owner because of their dying moments on a dying earth, many of them making the player wonder just what kind of person the owner of the item was.

Overall the storytelling of Fragile Dreams is one that portrays the sadness of humanity and what emotions and mortality can do to drive them to do questionable things. All of the characters are also very human through and through, even the ones that might not appear human at first. There's not over the top nature behind any of the characters no matter how bizarre looking they might seem. If you're expecting a game with zany characters or over the top action, you'll come into Fragile Dreams quite disappointed. If this is what you've been looking for in a video game though, good news, your prayers have been answered.

The graphics in Fragile Dreams are more of an emphasis on style than they are on technical prowess, but it does at the very least do a good job in conveying its well created world. Nothing in the game feels like it couldn't have been done on the Gamecube or even the Playstation 2. There are some frame rate issues in the game though, notably when a very detailed character model appears in the area. This isn't a common occurance though and it doesn't end up causing any game breaking glitches or anything of the sort.

If you come into Fragile Dreams looking for good sound to add to the atmosphere, you won't be disappointed. The music usually only plays when there is a cut scene or a character is making his or her entrance, though the notion of nothing but Seto's footsteps is also enough to remind one of the sense of loneliness that players should be feeling and empathizing with. When there is music, it is usually very minimal and gentle, so expecting any grand epic themes will disappoint players, but it does what it's supposed to in order to add depth to the scenes. The voice acting is purely a matter of preference, though I personally found the voice acting to be pretty well done. Johnny Young Basch as Seto really had me convinced that he has the capabilities of performing as a younger person, and none of the other characters seemed to have questionable choices in these regards. If you are a purist for the material though, the option to turn on Japanese voices with English subtitles is available if you honestly feel it to be totally necessary to add to how you feel the game should be felt.

I have gone into the story a lot, but that's primarily because it is what Fragile Dreams sets out to be in the first place. As a game though, it doesn't do too bad of a job keeping the players entertained, but it's certainly not a game experience that won't stay with you. Anyone who has played Baroque will have a fairly summarized idea of how the game is played, though it doesn't play 100% like said dungeon crawler. Having no other real option, you move Seto with the control stick on the nunchuk and control his flashlight with the wiimote. The B button allows you to search things in more detail from the first person perspective and the A button examines things from this point of view, otherwise the A button serves as the attack button. Examining important things is also never an issue since almost everything that can be picked up is marked with a couple of fireflies overtop the item. There's also a level system that allows for Seto to advance in levels to have more health and grow in terms of attack power, and it really only seems to fulfill this bare minimum without much regard to the other stats.

Overall the exploration isn't much of an issue in Fragile Dreams, but the combat can be a bit cumbersome for those looking for a more polished attack method. Seto is a very slow person when it comes to attacking with any of the four weapon types, making attacking have a bit of a learning curve. Despite this being the case, the game itself is rather easy to pass through since the enemies don't offer much challenge with the exception of the enemies towards the second half of the game that actually require some form of strategy to defeat. There are also some boss battles, but they are really just regular enemies with more health and a different attack pattern. The boss battles may offer some kind of challenge at first, but once you learn their attack patterns they become very easy and this can be quite disappointing when the same can even be said for the final boss.

Overall there's nothing necessarily broken or wrong with Fragile Dreams' combat system, it's just not a very enticing or at points even entertaining one. There are some puzzles every now and then, though they are very simplistic, there are some events requiring interaction, but these are very minimal sections, Fragile Dreams in the end shows that it definitely isn't meant to be played for having a gameplay experience you won't forget.

Another bit of a downturn for Fragile Dreams is that the replay value is very minimal when you beat it within the 10 or 12 hour minimum it might take to beat it. After that there's not much reason to play through the game again since beating the game also unlocks a theater mode of every cut scene through the game so you can relive the story all over again without the gameplay. At $50, it's not too bad of a deal, though if you can find it at a better purchase it is definitely more recommended.

This day in age, there seems to be a huge conflict between games and narrative. This not only brings up the question of whether or not games can have good narrative to provide players, but also to whether or not narrative should be a main focus in the first place. Fragile Dreams is probably a good example of how a developer can take a great emotional story and place it into a merely above average dungeon crawler engine. If narrative is a main focus that you looking for in a game, you won't be disappointed and you might even wonder why it wasn't made into an anime or even an animated film. When all is said and done about gameplay though, you won't have much to be very entertained by. Either way though, Fragile Dreams isn't a bad purchase by any stretch of the imagination, and I personally think XSeed Games deserves some kind of thanks for bringing an obscure game such as this to the United States.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/03/10

Game Release: Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (US, 03/16/10)

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