Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon Reader Review
Most survival horror games like Silent Hill use gore and grotesque imagery to create an atmosphere of fear and dread to make the player apprehensive about progressing forward. Fragile Dreams is able to create a great feeling of sadness and loneliness without breaking a PEGI 7 rating, making it in some ways more mature than its 16 and 18 rated counterparts. Many games such as Dead Rising and the Fallout series deal with the practicalities of surviving the apocalypse. Fragile Dreams asks of the player: how would you emotionally cope with life after the apocalypse? Would you wander the dead landscape alone, believing in the false hope that you will one day see the face of another living human or would you rather end it all?
"Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon" is a wii-exclusive survival horror RPG from Tri-Crescendo, the developers behind the PS360 JRPG “Eternal Sonata,” a game which uses a similar anime-esque art-style. The story follows the young boy Seto shortly after the death of his guardian. After burying him in a shallow grave, he finds a note left by the old man telling him to seek out the red tower, the place where the last surviving humans live. This is a story about brief meetings and fond farewells, where every chance encounter is precious beyond measure and even the most minor souvenir is to be cherished. Of course, the emotional delivery of the story was helped by the excellent Japanese language track. Seto as a character is, thankfully, a lot stronger than he looks; breaking free of the stereotypical angst-ridden teenagers seen in many JRPGs and a lone boy with a stick is certainly braver than a bromantic team of space marine on steroids with lancers.
The game uses quite a simple control scheme which exclusively uses the wiimote and nunchuck configuration. The A button will cause you to perform an attack and the B button will allow you to zoom in to a first person angle to get a better view of your immediate surroundings so you can examine, interact or pick up nearby objects. The D-pad is used to access a series of pause menus including the inventory and map. The control stick is used for movement and the wiimote IR is used to aim your torch or projectile weapon, aiming beyond the bounding box will turn Seto. The torch will allow you to see enemies that are usually invisible and aiming it in a specific direction will allow you to hear the sounds coming from that area. Raising the wiimote will cause your AI assistant, Personal Frame to give you input and advice on the current situation. There is an option to output these sounds by the same method as the rest of the mix or to play them out of the wiimote and strangely many of these sounds will be in English no matter which option you choose for the language track and it certainly made me jump the first time I heard
The game uses a zone based encounter system; similar to the one used in Crisis Core, where enemies would appear in a set area and could be escaped by walking out of its boundaries. It also employs the common survival horror tropes of degradable weapons and inventory management. Weapons don’t degrade with use; they degrade randomly as dictated by an off-screen dice roll when the battle is ended or escaped which seems to increase the probability of the weapon breaking over time the more the weapon is used. This is quite strange as it means that some weapons will last for hours while some will only last for a few minutes, but an upside of this is that once you start a battle, you know that your weapon will last to its conclusion. The inventory system is similar to the one used in Resident Evil 4’s attaché case. Items and weapons have a specific shape and size and so you must rotate items so that more of them will fit in. The game is saved at small bonfires at preset locations in the environment. It is here that you can also swap items between your inventory and your suitcase and (if he chooses to visit you) buy new items and weapons from a merchant who wears a giant chicken helmet.
The art style of the team’s previous games is used for the character models and the cutscenes have been animated with great expression. This, going hand in hand with the brilliantly acted Japanese language track helps greatly with the character development and adds to the believability of this beautifully ugly fantasy; from Crow’s arrogance to the white haired girl's delicate dance-like gait. The understated, piano-led score softly punctuates each moment, gently complementing the atmosphere further. When exploring, you will automatically pick up any items you walk over and that will fit into your inventory. Some items are classified as mystery items and must be taken to a bonfire before you can discover what they are. Most of the time, these will be regular items. Sometimes though, these will be the personal effects of a once living human which will then tell you their story, similar to the audio logs of Bioshock. These smaller stories enrich the overall experience and some are actually more moving than the main plotline, especially one about a girl who usurps the identities of a group of friends using a series of bells that they all wore. Make sure to pick up the 3 items at the base of the stairs near the endgame.
Some people who have played this game have had issues with the controls, especially during battles. This was never an issue for me as I quickly worked out that it was important to keep moving in a circle by sidestepping and using the IR to turn and not attack until I find a weakness in the enemy’s pattern. If you are expecting a game like where you can attack continuously with little strategy then you will be sorely disappointed. The only place where I felt I wasn’t able to enjoy the game was a sequence where you need to hide from someone in a teacups ride and susequently sneak up on them. The game does a bad job at signposting how you can do this but with a little experimentation I was able to pass. The only other problem I had was that if you round a corner and you are aiming your torch at it, Seto will turn around and start walking backwards slowly. This will be quite a common occurrence in some of the game’s more cramped environments but you can alleviate this by pointing the wiimote away from the sensor bar. Some people seem to find these flaws game-breaking but to me they were small niggles in the greater scheme of things.
Fragile Dreams is a game that has divided gamers and critics alike due to some inconsistencies and imperfections but like many great games, was ignored entirely by many due a poor marketing budget. Some find that the issues I have mentioned ruin the experience but it is a game that I loved and wish to draw attention to. For me, this is one of the greatest stories ever put in a game and one of the most emotionally engaging I’ve experienced in any medium and I would like to thank the publishers XSeed and Rising Star for bringing this game to the west so that I could experience this great and moving adventure. If you care about story and character development in games, you should make sure that you at least consider getting this game and if you do, then you can join the small cult following that the game has, which is apparent if you do an image search for “Seto x Crow.”