Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is one of those games where you either seem to love it or hate it. So let me just get this out of the way: I love this game. The atmosphere and setting mixed with the aesthetics of combat make for an enriching experience. No, it is not a perfect game, but this is a game that deserves a spot in your library.
Fragile Dreams is a post-apocalyptic survival horror RPG that takes place around Tokyo. You take control of Seto, a teenager who is left alone after the old man that looked after him died. In a final note to Seto, he tells him to head towards a red tower, saying that other survivors could be there. With that, the opening credits begin and Seto sets out on his journey across the desolate land.
Along the way, Seto comes across a number of companions, which include a mischievous thief, a ghost, a computer that loves having conversations, and a mysterious merchant that wears a chicken mascot headwear. Seto will also have encounters with enemies, which he’ll need to take out with an eclectic mix of weapons. These weapons include but are not limited to simple sticks, bamboo swords, rusted pipes, golf clubs, sling shots, bow, butterfly nets, and brooms. You can also find hammers, axes and katanas, but I never needed them.
Gameplay was fairly simple. You pointed the Wii-mote at the screen to shine the flashlight you held at certain spots as well as turn yourself around. You hit A to attack, either with your melee weapon or your distance weapon. And you can look at things closer by holding B.
Overall, I thought that control was pretty good. There were a couple of instances in which I found it difficult to move the camera, but these were few and far between. For the most part, everything worked within the tone of the game.
One of the complaints that I heard about this game was with the weapon system. The argument against it was that the random chance of a weapon breaking could leave you without anything to use against the game’s enemies and quite defenseless. I never had an issue with weapons. The only time I had a weapon break on me quickly was the only time I used a broom (which broke right away).
Also, weapons don’t just break whenever; they break after you’ve completed a battle. At that point, you can run back to a bonfire (which serves as save points, shopping moments, and equipment swaps between your bag and a briefcase), get a couple more weapons, then go back out to fight some more. I was also smart in buying as many weapons as I could at one time, knowing that the merchant wouldn’t be around at every bonfire. With that strategy, I didn’t even go through half the weapons I had on hand.
But the gameplay is only a small portion of the game. The greatest strength of Fragile Dreams is in the game’s atmosphere.
Graphically, the designers did well in creating a post-apocalyptic Tokyo filled with crumbling structures in various stages of decay. The ground and walls are filled with drawings, as well as mold, dirt, and blood. While it is not a graphically superior game on the system, it gets the important things right.
Sound plays an important role in the game as you have to use directional hearing during the game. This comes into play during a number of fights and when you play a game of hide and seek with a little ghost girl early in the game. And, for the most part, it is the lack of sound that makes the game. Music doesn’t play outside of battles and cutscenes and, aside from the occasional group of cats, there is very little life in the world. In this type of game, it works, and leaves Seto with a greater sense of loneliness.
As for when the music does play, it is hauntingly beautiful. The normal battle theme is rather ethereal in nature. The themes during the cutscenes are subtle, perfectly complementing the scene while never overstepping what’s happening. The opening and ending themes are well done. And my personal favorite song – the theme for the final battle – is very understated, keeping with the overall subtle nature of the game.
And the subtlety carries into the story. There is very little to the main plot. It’s pretty much Seto’s “series of unfortunate events” as he makes his way to the tower, which holds the main antagonist in the game. Not wanting to share spoilers, I will refrain from telling you why the antagonist forced the apocalypse. However, I will say that it is initially confusing and, when I realized what it was – and you probably will before the credits roll since they beat you over the head with it once the villain explains it in the last part of the game – I didn’t care for it.
What I did care for were the collectible items that you picked up along the way. When you made it to a bonfire, each of these items would have a story to be told from just before the apocalypse. Some were lighthearted, most were depressing (NOTE: don’t play this when you’re depressed; you will feel worse), and a couple of them were spiteful – one in particular with seven holders of seven different items you find. But despite these range of emotions, they are incredibly well written and worth hearing. And, in keeping with the subtle nature of the game, no music is played during the reading. All you will hear is the voice (or voices) that accompany each story.
Speaking of voices, Johnny Yong Bosch, I may give you hell for sounding the same in almost everything you do but, when it comes to giving an emotion – subtly, of course – you do a great job.
If I had to describe Fragile Dreams in one word – and you can probably guess it – it would be “subtle.” The all-around design of the game is subtle and it is an incredible experience because of it. It has its flaws, but they shouldn’t detract from your overall enjoyment of the game.
If you’re someone who prefers their games to be action packed with quick pacing, this is not a game for you. However, if you are someone who loves to soak in the atmosphere of a game, I cannot recommend Fragile Dreams enough.
Review copy was purchased by the reviewer.