Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of The Moon is a RPG for the Wii, developed by Namco Bandai Games in collaboration with Tri-Crescendo. An European localisation was handled by Rising Star Games, which are well regarded among many gamers for bringing gems like Little King's Story or Muramasa: The Demon Blade to Europe. Fragile Dreams was released in March 2010 and has accumulated quite a bit of hype before its release. The question is, did it live up to expectations?
Well, that's hard to put in one simple word. It did in some ways, but didn't in others. Fragile Dreams is a great example of a game with a fantastic concept that could have used a lot more refinement of its gameplay. It's not horrible by any means but it still holds this game back from being truly great.
You take control of a 15-year old boy named Seto in a post-apocalyptic world trying to find out why everyone has disappeared and what exactly has happened. The story is told so well, that finding out what happened isn't just the goal of the game. You'll want to find it out yourself, and not because the game says so. I was constantly left in the dark and eager to find out more about the tragic events that were going on in this world. That in itself, is quite an accomplishment.
Now even though this game is a RPG, it's better described as an "human drama". You'll meet a few other characters along the way, all with their own interesting stories and problems, although none of them are as touching as those of people you'll never see. Throughout the game, Seto can find various "Mystery Items" that tell sad and depressing stories of their former owners. These add to the constant feeling of loneliness you'll feel throughout the game that is made even more apparant by how Seto is always saying how he hates being alone and simply wants to find someone to keep him company.
The gameplay is where the real flaws of Fragile Dreams lie. It is an Action-RPG that has you fighting enemies in real-time but it all feels very awkward and is anything but fun. With the tone of the game in general, you'd almost think that the developers purposely made the gameplay feel just as depressing and frustrating.
The gameplay could best be described as a mix of "The Legend of Zelda" and "Silent Hill", with some RPG elements thrown in. You'll be exploring the ruined environments of Fragile Dreams' world with your flashlight that's controlled by the IR pointer of the Wiimote, which works well enough. The biggest flaw of the game is the combat itself. It's very shallow to begin with and you'll basically spend fights trying to hit enemies by mashing the A-button. With some timing, you can even pull off a fairly stronger combo. The weapons you find throughout the game are what you would expect from a ruined world, ranging from a simple wooden stick to a golf club or even a rusted iron pole. What's really annoying is that all these weapons can break and there is no meter that shows how long they're going to last. It's not consistent as well. Some weapons seem to last longer while others tend to break really fast, without anything in the item description pointing it out. A simple description like "Fairly durable" or "Very fragile" would have been nice because with a broken weapon and no others in your inventory, you're pretty much helpless. There are plenty of save points though, so should you get really unlucky and die, it's not such a big deal.
Now even though you gain experience from fights, I quickly found myself ignoring any enemies I could simply run past because you don't need to get a lot of levels to beat the game. All in all, it just feels clunky and pointless.
The tone of the game is supported by some beautifully crafted music, which is mostly beautiful but also sad when you know what's going on in the game. The Japanese voices are fantastic and perfectly capture the emotions of the characters. There are English dubs as well and while they're a good alternative, I'd still recommend the Japanese ones.
Graphically, this game looks simply beautiful. With a setting like this, you'd expect a lot of grey and brown but it manages to mix things up with grassy plains, breaking dawn or even a worn-down theme park with many bright colours even in a nighttime setting. Characters are well made with some interesting designs and generally manage to impress.
The game will last you for about 8-12 hours, depending on whether you try to find most of the "Mystery Items" to hear touching backstories of their former owners. Even with that though, it's still rather short and there really isn't anything to go back to it for.
All in all, Fragile Dreams is a great experience in a very believable post-apocalyptic world with a gripping story that will, depending on your mindset, make you think over some things that are brought up in this game. All that is supported by a beautiful yet sad soundtrack. There are a lot of flaws in the gameplay department with some really odd design choices, but if you can deal with those, you're in for a special experience that might even give you some things to think about.