IGN Review of Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
I've wanted to love Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon since the game was unveiled in the Japanese videogame magazines forever ago. Just about everything about it screamed, "This, sir, is a title just for you." Post apocalyptic world to explore? Check. A mysterious storyline dealing with the aforementioned dystopia, as well as ghosts and demons? You bet. Fantastic art and production values highlighted by beautifully rendered cinematics? Yup. And a main character who wields a flashlight controlled by the Wii remote? Indeed. From a bird's eye looking down, that's a lot of win, and there are plenty of moments throughout the adventure that impress and entertain. Unfortunately, as the game unravels over the course of a half-dozen hours, some of its qualities are also overshadowed by occasionally frustrating and dated play conventions at which point the experience takes a serious punch to the face.
You play as Seto, a boy who awakens in a desolated world to find his last living companion, an old man, dead. After he buries the body in a shallow grave, he sets off in search of other survivors. The world is dark and beautiful. He's got a flashlight as he explores. And there are signs everywhere that mankind befell some horrible fate -- exactly what and how, though, are left for discovery. It's a smart, intriguing concept that engrosses from the start. The storyline is told via a great combination of real-time voiceovers -- the actors are generally good, although sometimes lines are delivered painfully slowly -- and meticulously rendered cut-scenes. Publisher Xseed Games has commendably included both the English soundtrack and the original Japanese dub with subtitles if you prefer, sure to be appreciated by purists.
Fragile Dreams is a straightforward adventure with action and very light role-playing elements. Seto wanders through the immense and lush world in search of clues and also a scantily-clad silver-haired he bumps into early on -- she runs off into the night before he can really pursue her. I find the game is most enjoyable when the goal is simply to explore -- old, dilapidated train stations littered with remnants of high-technology that far exceeds our own, haunted hotels, rusted amusement parks, and inevitably to damns and labs, where some of the mysteries unravel. The locations are all very interesting in part because the universe in which the boy explores has been lovingly crafted by developer Tri-Crescendo -- both amazing art and good tech -- and therefore looks gorgeous.
Seto controls well with a couple caveats. He's maneuvered with the nunchuk's analog and the Wii remote points his flashlight. I contend that Silent Hill: Shattered Memories boasts the best flashlight and related controls of any title on Nintendo's system, but Fragile is no slouch, either. The light responds to your every command and realistically illuminates darkened subway hallways, underground passages, and even the wide-open terrain. Unfortunately, some conventions that we take for granted in today's gaming industry have been altogether ignored by Tri-Crescendo. For example, there are no lock-on controls of any kind and therefore combat with enemies feels clumsy. If a foe doges your attack, you have to run past him, slowly turn around and try again -- a simple strafe would've addressed that. Also, there's no sensitivity settings for the pointer so love or hate the responsiveness, you're stuck with it.
So desperate to adore this game, I could probably overlook some control inadequacies like these but it is impossible to turn a blind eye to some of Fragile's bigger shortcomings in design. For instance, really tedious fetch-questing and backtracking as means to extend play time. I spent 45 minutes chasing some annoying kid around an amusement park after he stole my locket. Having finally progressed through a haunted hotel to rescue survivors, I arbitrarily had to return all the way back to the beginning area to retrieve an item that would prove my worth to a ghostly guard. These conventions are recognizably archaic and dissatisfying.
The title's light RPG elements -- weapon and item retrieval, damage upgrades -- are easily understood and mostly seamless. Combat isn't spectacular, but it's workable and gaining access to bigger and better weapons (the likes of which generally consist of sticks and swords, along with slingshots) is fun. Meanwhile, seeing Seto's hit points jump after he defeats some enemies is always rewarding. The downside to items and weapons, though, is that they are managed via a briefcase system right out of the Resident Evil series and some fundamental changes can only be introduced at bonfire save points littered about levels. So, if Seto breaks his combat sword and there's no bonfire nearby so that he can swipe in a new one, he'll have to fight with a broken weapon, which can take forever. Given that some enemies actually regenerate hit points, you might just want to reset.
©2010-03-17, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved