Four years ago, I stumbled upon a trailer for a Wii game by the name of Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon(The US release added “Dreams” into the title, at least to my knowledge.). The trailer sold me on the story of the game so I quickly went looking for an English version. Sure enough there was, but at the time the game was extremely hard to find. So fast forward to 2015 and I finally got my hands on it, but I didn’t finish it until now.
The story of Fragile Dreams takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, specifically the outskirts of Tokyo judging by the tall red tower that looks a lot like Tokyo Tower. Some time before the start of the story, there was an event that caused the vast majority of humanity to die off or disappear, so many that the survivors often couldn’t find anyone else. This event left no destruction in its wake, leaving the world to the ravages of time. The story begins with a young boy named Seto preparing to leave his home for the first time in years after the death of his grandfather, an old man that had adopted him. His goal was to find someone, anyone, so that he wouldn’t be alone in this world.
The story of Fragile Dreams is a beautiful tale with a colorful, albeit sparse, cast of characters. Though you’ll spend a large chunk of your journey alone, you run into these characters along your journey, and while only two stay with you for a portion of the game, even the ones you meet briefly have enough personality to root themselves in your heart. Seto’s journey is ultimately about bringing people together in a lonely world haunted by ghosts of the past, and it is well told despite its relatively short running time of 10 hours(I’ll get to why it was 10 hours in a bit.).
One of the best parts of the game though, other than the story itself, were the side stories. There aren’t any side quests in the game, but you can find objects on the ground that once belonged to someone. These items contain their memories which are then played back to you in voiceover format. They won’t tell you how the world ended, but they will tell you how people handled their final days and some of these tales are heartwrenching. The writers for this game outdid themselves as far as I’m concerned.
And now we get to the worst part of the whole game: the gameplay. My god did I want to rage quit so hard because the gameplay is just so crap. Now, granted, part of it can be attributed to the fact that my wrong is very compact and as a result my Wiimote was only about 3 or 4 feet from the sensor and the sensor had so much trouble trying to track it, but just overall the gameplay was bad. The combat is monotonous and quite frankly I just wanted to ignore every enemy I saw because fighting them is a tedious affair. You can’t block attacks and the only way to dodge is to just run in the opposite direction. Enemies only attack after long intervals of doing nothing, giving you plenty of time to hit them(Though 9 out of 10 times the enemy will block it. you have to wait for them to do... something... before you can actually strike them.), and even if you’re standing right in front of them they might still miss you. The only reason I ever fought anything other than the boss was because leveling up grants you more health and increased attack power, nothing more. You need more health if you hope to survive later boss fights. The enemies also generate an invisible wall apparently because even though there is clearly enough room to run past them, you hit a wall that you can’t see, often resulting in you getting hit. This was frustrating in the end game areas because the corridors became tighter and tighter and the game would throw 4 or 5 enemies at you in that confined space to the point that running was the best option in order to conserve your weapons and healing items, but you couldn’t run because that damn invisible wall kept you from making a b-line to the exist.
Which brings me to the next worst thing. Around the beginning of the game you meet a strange man wearing a giant chicken head for a hat and he acts as your merchant. He only shows up when you rest at a bonfire, and even then he doesn’t always appear. In order to buy items from him you need Yen, but to get Yen you have to either defeat enemies and acquire rare stones that turn into money when you rest or pick up something of value. The latter doesn’t happen very often so most of the time you’ll be relying on stones, which enemies drop only on rare ocassion. And most of the time you won’t find any weapons or healing items on the ground. Sometimes, but not always, so you’re pretty much forced to buy from him if you want to stay in the game. Which brings me to my next point: weapons break. Weapons breaking in a game is nothing new, but normally you can repair them. You cannot here. Once a weapon breaks, it stays broken, and you have to trash it and select a new one. It is always a good idea to keep a second and maybe third weapon on you for good measure, but backpack space is limited so you have to be careful how many big items you take with you when you leave the bonfire. Everything you can’t carry goes in a chest that you can only access at a bonfire. Most good weapons are prone to easily breaking so they’re best saved for boss encounters since they won’t break during the fight like they would when fighting a normal enemy, they’ll break after it though. Eventually you’ll run out of money and have to conserve everything you have, especially considering that there are times the merchant doesn’t appear no matter how often you rest at a bonfire. Just to give you an example of how frustrating this can be: I was at the end game, my money was really low, like barely enough for a small healing item, and my best weapon had broken, leaving me with two polearms and a bamboo katana. I knew I wasn’t gonna be getting anymore weapons before the final boss, so I had no choice, but to run past all the enemies. That didn’t work because their invisible walls were blocking me, so I had to bring out my mallet, which I was saving, in order to use its knockback effect to get enemies out of my way. I died numerous times before I succeeded. And then the next room had toxic gas in it that killed you slowly, so I had to make a run for the exit, but the path is a catwalk now, barely big enough for one person, so imagine my frustration when my path was continuously blocked and I slowly died because I couldn’t get the enemy out of my way fast enough.
Just... so frustrating.
I’ll admit, for a Wii game it actually doesn’t look half bad. Obviously, by todays standards, the polygon count could use some bumping here and there, textures could be higher rez, and animations could be better, but this is a 2009 game and so I can’t hold it to those standards(But, ya know, I can hold it Xbox 360 standards.). It still looks nice though, except for all the aliasing, but I’m not sure if that was the fault of the game, or because I was playing a Wii game on a 47-inch 1080p display. One negative, however, is that the games framerate is highly unstable. I think the developers went a little overboard on the graphics because there were areas that made the FPS drop so hard, and even some battles were difficult because the sheer number of enemies dropped the FPS or the particle effects were too much for the Wii to handle.
I have to give the game credit though, it succeeded in producing the correct atmosphere for the story. Most of the game is set during the night and that makes things seem a lot lonelier. The sunrise and sunset scenes are also beautiful and they hammer home that the world, while practically devoid of human presence, is still a beautiful place. It’s a sort of ruined beauty I guess is how I would put it.
The soundtrack for the game is absolutely beautiful and deserves as much praise as I can give it. Rarely did I feel like the music was just background noise. It was as much a characters as anything else in the game. It enhanced the scenes so much, additing emotion where needed and it’s something that you can listen to on its own and still enjoy it to the fullest. The final boos theme is also very good. It’s somber, but feels hopeful and daring at the same time. It isn’t bombastic like most boss battle themes in gaming which is a nice change of pace. That is always something I’ve loved about Japanese games. Boss battle music is always about getting your adrenaline pumping, it sets a specific tone, sometimes sad and sometimes happy.
As for the sound in the game, it isn’t bad persay. Obviously it’s Wii quality sound, but like every other part of the games presentation the developers did put work into it. The wound of chirping birds, cawing crows, wind rustling tree leaves, footsteps echoing down a long corridor, you name it. They all sound good. The game also makes use of the Wiimotes speaker. Sometimes you’ll have to track down an enemy or another character that you can’t physically see, and so you have to use the Wiimote speaker to locate them. The reason for is that the Wiimote is your flashlight in the game, and when you point your flashlight in the direction of what you’re trying to find, that person or things voice gets louder on the Wiimote speaker. So you have to use it to approximate where your target is. In the case of a character who joins you later, Sai, if you hold the Wiimote up to your ear she’ll give you advice through the speaker. It’s a well crafted experience I have to admit.
Fragile Dreams is exactly as the name implies: It’s fragile. The gameplay is so boring and quite frankly frustrating that it could make just about anyone put down the controller for an extended period of time. Just that one thing can make or break the entire game for people. However, if love stories, then perhaps like me you’ll managed to push through all of that and experience a story truly worth hearing. It may only be good for one playthrough because of the gameplay, but the story makes it worth it in the end. The developers clearly put their heart and soul into the presentation of the game and that is a big plus in my book. It’s a shame that this gem was hidden on the Wii. I don’t know how well it did in sales, either in Japan or here in the US, but there hasn’t been another game in the series since this one and only game. Not that the ending left a sequel hook, just that I would have loved to see more of this lonely world.
So in the end, I highly recommend this game to story buffs, but people who put gameplay front and center need not apply as you will find nothing to love here. As of right now the game is still very difficult to find. If you go on GameStops website you’ll see that the game is currently unavailable and almost always is. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a copy at a Gamestop near you. Once you’ve finished the game, provided you don’t plan on playing it again, you can trade it back to Gamestop for $8, $11 if you’re a Pro member. That’s actually a fairly good deal in all honesty.