Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii) Second Opinion Review

By Adam Riley 23.04.2010 15

Review for Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon on Wii

Ever since Bandai Namco first revealed Fragile Dreams way back in early 2007, there has been constant attention placed upon it. There are numerous reasons for this, one of which being the fact that, at the time, Nintendo's Wii console was not receiving any large-scale RPG content from developers such as Square Enix, Konami and Capcom, despite having a much larger user-base than the PS3 and Xbox 360 combined in Japan. Following moderate success with the card-fighting Baten Kaitos RPG series on the GameCube, Bandai Namco decided to once again give Nintendo a helping hand in plugging the gap in the market with not just any old role-playing adventure, but a magical one that combined the expertise of tri-Crescendo (who had previous joy alongside Monolith Soft with the afforementioned GC card-battling RPG) and the publisher's own development outfit, the Venus & Braves team (a PS2 RPG that has garnered a massive cult following thanks to its Japanese-only release, despite being one of the most enjoyable games of its ilk on Sony's ageing platform). The result has been acclaimed by many, yet shirked the majority that cannot get past its minor battle mechanic issues.

The world has been torn to shreds by a series of devastating earthquakes that led to what can only be discerned as an apocalypse; the end of the world is no longer nigh, it has arrived, and Fragile Dreams takes place in the aftermath of just such a terminal scenario. An endless fog has descended upon the planet, casting the majority of it into never-ending darkness, leaving players taking the role of a young boy called Seto who has recently witnessed the passing of his only close friend, an old man he had come to call Grandfather. In the depths of personal misery, the fifteen-year-old decides to make one last attempt at finding even a shred of humankind within the abandoned cities around him. It is not long before he stumbles across an enchanting young girl, who later in the game we find to be named Ren. Since she runs away as soon as she is spotted, it leads to Seto having to explore the world further to find her once more.

It is clear right from the start of the game that Seto's loneliness threatens to overwhelm him and his desire to meet new people becomes increasingly fervent as time passes. The player witnesses it right from the time he starts reading his Old Man's letter in a tear-filled voice, to the first meeting with the strange girl who languishes in the desolate landscape singing a beautifully haunting song before spotting Seto and subsequently running down into the depths of the deserted Japanese underground station. Upon following her, Seto inadvertently forms a close bond with a highly intelligent computer interface that he 'rescues'.

Early in the game Seto hears a request for help from an automated voice, with the AI machine announcing that it is not fully waterproofed and requires assistance due to underground flooding. Soon after, this female-voiced contraption, called a 'Personal Frame (PF),' is strapped to his back and used not only as a navigation device, but a substitute for a close friend. The relationship built between the two, even from the offset, is decidedly unusual, yet oddly sweet and charming at the same time, in the same way that Data from Star Trek was so endearing to fans. 'The robot that longed to be human' idea is perpetuated in Fragile Dreams and the sense of closeness is reciprocated by Seto's desperate need for a anything remotely human to relate to. 'PF' grows more and more attached to the young boy, even to the point of becoming slightly jealous that he insists on always talking of this elusive silver-haired girl and continuing the seemingly endless search for her instead of purely giving 'her' his full attention, since 'she' loves nothing more than to talk to Seto.

Screenshot for Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon on Wii

Even an encounter with the admittedly scary salesman that pushes a shopping trolley around whilst adorned with part of a chicken costume on his head cannot perturb the young lad, so strong is Seto's need for human contact. This almost deranged character proves to be of great use, though, whether you want to avoid him or not. For the cost of a few Yen, he will sell all variety of objects, from simple weapons to small trinkets such as a cat toy to attract the abundance of feline creatures dotted around the world. Health items are essential as well, since you will not always have the comfort of being in close proximity to a camp fire to rejuvenate your energy and save. What must be remembered is that there are only so many items that can be carried. The game deals with this in a grid-based fashion, with Seto's item bag taking the form of a 3x4 grid where items of different sizes can be placed and re-arranged as necessary (this small bag gets upgraded further into the story so that more items can be carried at any one time). When at a camp fire, there is the opportunity to deposit many items in a briefcase and switch things around in any way you like.

The story, as can probably be fathomed from the details above, is heavy on the side of melancholy and even approaching the realms of depressing at times, but there are moments of comic genius mixed in to help lighten the mood in places, such as when Seto goes into soliloquy about how beautiful the sunset is, with the dark red sky almost touching his heart...when suddenly the computer chips in, believing he is talking to it, then proceeds to technically describe the science behind what he is looking at...before realising he is not listening, merely talking to himself. However, there are also moments of true sadness, times when only the most cold-hearted person will not well-up slightly, maybe even shedding a single tear once caught up in the magnitude of the emotional scene unravelling before your very eyes. The story unfolds at a perfect pace and is told in a way that is both magical and heart-warming.

Some games will rely on the strength of their tale alone, yet Fragile Dreams not only has the most absorbing story on Wii to date, but is also one of the stunningly beautiful ones. The rich palette of colours used throughout, the exquisite locations, the highly detailed characters with their extremely natural animations - everything is a joy to behold, and that is without even taking the few breath-taking animé scenes that are included, which look staggeringly good even when played on a 40-inch HDTV. This is, without a shadow of a doubt ,one of those Wii gems that show exactly what the system can achieve under the right guidance, and really should make some third party developers blush. Additionally, Fragile Dreams excels in another area, that of its soundtrack. Composer Riei Saito has worked for tri-Crescendo on the Baten Kaitos and Endless Sonata soundtracks, yet it is her marvellously memorable, moving and soul-touching compositions for Fragile that will imprint her name onto the memories of gamers for years to come, putting her in the same class as legends such as Yasunori Mitsuda, Hitoshi Sakimoto and Nobuo Uematsu. Thankfully this is accompanied by a sterling effort from the Westernised vocal talent, with actors and actresses conveying the feelings of characters exactly how you would imagine.

Screenshot for Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon on Wii

During the game, Seto will be given numerous tasks to carry out. The game is fairly linear throughout in this way, but due to the complexity of the environments you need to wander around, at times it can be difficult to keep track of exactly what needs doing. Thankfully, not only does every new objective appear on the screen to ensure the player never gets confused about what is next on the agenda, simply tapping Up on the D-pad will also bring you to the 'About Me' page where not only can Seto's current health, attack strength, money total and Level be found, but also the current mission he is on. There is also the very clever addition of your robotic companion giving hints about what to do next, simply by placing the Wii Remote near your ear like you would with a telephone handset. The game recognises the movement of the controller and activates the voice via the internal speaker. This speaker function is used on many occasions during the game to great effect, and is a far better inclusion that mindless shaking of the Wii Remote for fighting purposes.

One of the key issues that almost prevented Fragile Dreams from ever being released in the West was the fact that a lot of in-game messages (be they of high importance or merely for the purpose of adding a little extra attention to detail) were integrated into the actual graphics, rather than being words placed atop the visuals. To circumvent this, though, now if you point the in-game cursor at specific signs or adverts in the underground stations, a little subtitle will appear on the screen to explain what it says. Clearly it would have been too time-consuming to translate every single aspect of Japanese, such as all the bits of graffiti scrawled on walls, or short obvious signs such as ones on fire extinguishers, however the translation team do throw in some nice touches, like giving the English description for the promotional poster of a movie, for instance. There are some amusing pieces of vandalism now in English as well, with a particular example being a poster where someone has drawn an eye on the head of a movie's star and roughly scrawled 'I can see!' over the film's tag-line. A large chunk of time can easily be wasted simply wandering around, checking out all the different sections of text, just as completists will have thoroughly enjoyed scanning every possible object in the Metroid Prime trilogy.

Along Seto's journey, in addition to the intriguing bits of English-subtitled Japanese signage, he will come across many mystery items that can be collected and cannot be clearly seen in the dark. Instead, they will only be identified when resting at a camp fire location. These items, along with other key ones that you find whilst wandering around the desolate, decaying world, are of great importance to Seto. They contain memories of those that once lived on this planet and help to prevent the poor, isolated young boy from losing his grip on reality. Some of these memories are joyous occasions, such as a mother and young girl talking happily together, whilst others are from when earthquakes struck, causing such pain and anguish. The voice work used for these moments is truly wonderful, conveying a wide array of emotions and helping to absorb players into the beautifully visualised surroundings. There are also certain items that can be used at specific stages of the adventure to help re-unite trapped spirits with their loved ones, creating even more emotive moments - a theme that runs for the entirety of Fragile Dreams and is a large part of what helps players move past any minor qualms or niggles with the battle mechanic.

Screenshot for Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon on Wii

Whilst there are many enemy encounters, the main focus of Fragile Dreams is more on the gentile-paced journey, with players joining Seto on his mysterious adventure into the world that has fallen into a state of disrepair. Along the way, in true RPG fashion, there are said battle encounters. Considering the pace is slow anyway, rather than making it even more so, tri-Crescendo and the Venus & Braves/Seven team have opted to make fighting as simple as possible, with 'A' being the sole action button. There is a small map available in the bottom-left of the screen that not only helps with navigation around the various environments Seto traverses, but also indicates when enemies are close - a radar pulse from the circular map, along with a brief rumble and noise from the Wii Remote is emitted with imminent danger. Instead of taking part in turn-based combat with wild beasts, Fragile Dreams actually includes real-time action fighting against the non-corporeal forms of those that have passed away. These ghostly apparitions are jealous of any remaining living beings and will do their best to help Seto join them in the spirit world. To prevent an early demise, the young boy can stab at them with any weapon he possesses, starting with a rudimentary stick and building up from there.

There is no lock-on feature, and Seto's running speed is only moderate, meaning that anyone hoping to rush through will find battles highly frustrating. On the other hand, anyone taking their time, soaking up the atmosphere, will appreciate how many enemies can be despatched with one or two mere swipes of the weapon, moving Seto around with the Nunchuk's analogue stick, carefully moving the on-screen pointer around with the Wii Remote's infrared sensor to adjust the camera and then simply tapping 'A' to flail away (tapping three times in a row to cause the protagonist to swipe, slash and finally lunge forwards, or holding 'A' to build up power with other weapons later in the game). It is by no means a perfect system, and when an enemy manages to scoot behind Seto, trying to spin the camera around and re-direct weapon slashes can be moderately awkward. However, for the most part it suffices and the need for fighting is not too frequent or intense that the battle mechanic threatens to break the game. On the other hand, fighting is not something to be completely avoided, with regular battles being important as Seto levels-up over time, increasing both his health statistics and strength. With most encounters only consisting of three or four slow-moving enemies at once, however, they can all be picked off at your own pace, with temporary retreat to a far enough away distance to make them disappear completely always an option. Keeping a spare weapon in your inventory is also imperative, since it needs to be remembered that Seto is merely using items from his surroundings, such as sticks and butterfly nets (yes...), so they have a tendency to break after enough whacks on enemies or crates. Whilst it may well be appear to be primitive on the battle front, there are subtle nuances to the system that will appeal to the more patient gamer and, for the majority of the time, you set your own pace.

This may make Fragile Dreams sound like a stroll in the park, yet it is neither too easy, nor overly difficult to the point of requiring endless level-grinding to make Seto attain superhero strength. The team at tri-Crescendo and Bandai Namco have struck the right balance to ensure there is enough included to appeal to all sectors of the gaming community, including those not quite as adept at playing videogames as others. The whole journey is by no means short either, and to even reach the half-way marker can take a good fifteen or so hours if players are taking the time to track down all the items containing hidden memories, checking out the interesting translations of signs/graffiti around the world, and gradually building up Seto's levels sufficiently as good practice instead of ducking out of every enemy encounter. Fragile Dreams: Farewell to the Ruins is a masterstroke in videogame story-telling, accompanied by marvellous art direction, a glorious sense of style, some of the best voice acting witnessed in a Wii game to date, a truly stunning soundtrack and a fighting system that is nowhere near as clucky and awkward as many sources will have you believe. Bandai Namco and tri-Crescendo should be whole-heartedly applauded for crafting such a magnificent experience for Wii, whilst XSEED Games and Rising Star Games deserve firm pats on the back for chasing it down and securing the rights for its Western release. Every Wii owner longing for an adventure with real substance to it should at least give this one a try.

Screenshot for Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon on Wii

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Bandai Namco and tri-Crescendo have crafted a magical piece of software that transcends the usual realms of videogaming, guiding the gamer into an intricately woven tale and refusing to let go until the very end, whilst treating the player aurally and visually throughout. Fragile Dreams is an experience that every Nintendo Wii owner should try.

Developer

Project Fragile

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (12 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Well, you sure beat the hell out of my piece Adam. Smilie

Folks, just to temporarily make you aware, that score is meant to be 9/10. Bit of a system glitch that should be sorted soon Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Phoenixus said:
Well, you sure beat the hell out of my piece Adam. Smilie

It's more like a 'love letter' to Fragile than a review, Smilie I played it for 15 hours straight one Sunday...then got through the rest during the following week. Really took my time going slowly through, checking everything, soaking up the atmosphere as much as possible.

The good thing about a C3-2-1 is that it shows how two people can play the game and see it from slightly different perspectives Smilie

Just need Jorge to fix the problem with the score so it shows the 9/10, rather than the score from your review Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

*says goodbye to more money*

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+

Smilie Amazon UK's selling it for just 24 quid, which is great value for such a fantastic game!

Have many people on Cubed3 bought this yet?

( Edited 23.04.2010 23:06 by jesusraz )

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
Our member of the week

Beat this game two days ago. I don't regret buying it =).

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Kafei2006 said:
Beat this game two days ago. I don't regret buying it =).

That's good to hear Smilie How long did it take you to complete? What were your favourite parts (either be 'vague' or use spoiler tags if necessary).

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
drew (guest) 24.04.2010#8

Thanks for a good read. I bought this at launch and only play it when I can give this my undivided attention. I hate "cinematic" games, this is a game with a story, and a well told one at that. Everyone should at least take a look at this.

EDIT - I don't normally do this, but if people want to boost this review, use the following links Smilie

http://digg.com/d31PKiq
http://www.gamegrep.com/reviews/32572-cubed3_fragile_dreams_wii_uk_c321_review/

drew (guest) said:
Thanks for a good read. I bought this at launch and only play it when I can give this my undivided attention. I hate "cinematic" games, this is a game with a story, and a well told one at that. Everyone should at least take a look at this.

I totally agree. I get bored sitting through frequent lengthy CG sequences. Years ago they had that *wow* factor, but now everyone overdoses on them. I much prefer how Fragile gives you the odd smattering of beautiful anime video moments, interlaced with in-game visuals for the rest of the cut-scene/story progression parts.

It's definitely not one of those that you pick up and play for a short while either, so again I'm with you on that point. I'd woken up at 2AM one Sunday, for some reason or other, and just couldn't get back to sleep. I thought maybe playing something for a while would help me nod off...Nope, I ended up glued to Fragile for the entire day. I even sat eating my lunch bit by bit, only putting the controller down when listening to some of the lengthier memories were being read out, or certain scenes were taking place.

I have to say I was pretty stunned, and really wasn't sure how to react when:


Totally wasn't expecting that. I can kind of see how it was meant to be a thing of innocence, but then again it struck me as a bit out of place as well.

Anyway, glad you enjoyed reading it - thanks for the comment Smilie I was concerned maybe I'd gone a little overboard on it...

( Edited 24.04.2010 07:08 by jesusraz )

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
Our member of the week

jesusraz said:
Kafei2006 said:
Beat this game two days ago. I don't regret buying it =).

That's good to hear Smilie How long did it take you to complete? What were your favourite parts (either be 'vague' or use spoiler tags if necessary).

I won't spoil anything but my favorite parts are definitely all those that take place outside, under the moonlit sky... Beautiful landscapes ^^.

Took me in the 15/16 hours to complete, but i missed a couple mementos (those mystery items with memories attached to them) But by the time i realized i missed them it was too late to go get them, wherever they were.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

It took me 15 hours to get to the carnival area, where you had to do that annoying chase section, hiding in a tea cup and sneaking around. That was one part that bugged me Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
Our member of the week
Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

That's definitely the sign of a good game, when there are so many moments that stick in your mind. The development of the relationship between Seto and the Personal Frame really caught me off guard. I honestly was quite stunned by how strong and realistic the bond between them was.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
Mouser X (guest) 27.04.2010#14

Yes, I completely agree (see previous "spoiler").


The part that sticks in my mind the most was when I was "asked" (aka forced) to do the impossible.
I even repeated that section 2 or 3 times to make sure I hadn't mistaken what was going on. "Am I really supposed to do that?!" If it hadn't been 3 or 4 am, I would have been screaming "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!!!" the entire time. As it was, I was certainly fretting about it wildly. Looking back now, I want to replay the game, just so I can get that feeling (both of the outlandishness, and of the victory) again.

Really, Fragile is a great game. I'm extremely hard pressed to think of any game that offers a similar experience. If there's people out there who are still "on the fence" about this game, at the very least give this game a rent. I got the GameStop preorder item (12 track OST! WooHoo!), and thus paid full price. While I'm not certain it's worth $50, that is what I paid for it, and I'm not really disappointed. $40 though, and I think it would have been perfect. I guess $10 for the 12 track CD is reasonable enough to make up the difference. Smilie

Anyway, great game. Seriously, try it out if you haven't already. I got hooked on the Japanese version (and thus couldn't understand any of the dialogue whatsoever), and even with that barrier, I knew it was a game I had to play. Mouser X over and out.

Mouser X (guest) said:

Really, Fragile is a great game. I'm extremely hard pressed to think of any game that offers a similar experience.

Exactly. I've been deeply drawn into certain full-on RPGs in the past, but this whole experience was pretty damn unique overall. There is certainly nothing like it on Wii.

If there's people out there who are still "on the fence" about this game, at the very least give this game a rent.

Well, yeah, rent it and devote three full days to soaking it all up...It has to be made clear to people that this is in no way a 'pick up and play' effort, which can be chipped away at in small segments. A lot of the atmosphere is lost if you take that approach.

Part of the fun was immersing myself in the adventure for hours at a time, which helped with the feeling of joinging Seto on his lonely journey.

I got the GameStop preorder item (12 track OST! WooHoo!), and thus paid full price. While I'm not certain it's worth $50, that is what I paid for it, and I'm not really disappointed. $40 though, and I think it would have been perfect. I guess $10 for the 12 track CD is reasonable enough to make up the difference. Smilie

It's a shame Rising Star didn't bring the soundtrack to Europe as a pre-order bonus. It did bring Luminous Arc 2's CD over, but oddly enough didn't bother with Fragile's. Strange. Must have been a cost issue. The music's great - I really must get hold of 'Moonlight Tracks.'

I got hooked on the Japanese version (and thus couldn't understand any of the dialogue whatsoever), and even with that barrier, I knew it was a game I had to play.

I thought I'd played quite a lot of the Japanese version last year...until I dived into the Euro release and realised I'd barely scratched the surface! I know some people say listen with the Japanese voices whilst reading the English subtitles, but in this case I actually thought the English voice acting was really impressive.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

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