Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii) - Review by Chris
Developed by Tri-Crescendo and published by Namco Bandai, Fragile: Farewell Ruins to the Moon, as it was originally named, saw release at the beginning of 2009 in Japan and was met with relative critical and commercial success. Since its inaugural unveiling, gamers worldwide have hoped that the game would see release outside of Japan and when Namco Bandai opted out of doing so, it looked like the game was destined to never see these shores. But who should step in but Rising Star Games and with that, gamers could finally look forward to finally playing the game. But has the wait been worthy it or is the game destined to fade away like a forgotten memory?
A disaster has occurred causing almost the entirety of the human race to die off, leaving much of Earth in disrepair. Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins to the Moon follows the endeavours of one survivor who is suddenly left all alone at the end of the summer with the death of his grandfather. Feeling a sense of isolation and in need of the company of others, protagonist Seto sets out into the wastelands to find other survivors. It takes little time for Seto to come across a survivor; a young, silver haired girl named Ren singing atop the decaying ruins of a train station entrance and from this initial confrontation of the characters, which results in the Ren running away, Seto heads deep into the decaying world to locate the girl.
The game is particularly story heavy, to such an extent that it always overshadows the gameplay. As you explore the ruins of Japan, with locations taking the form of a train station and yard, a decaying hotel and a dam and waterworks, you'll search for items and clues to what has happened to the world as well as clues that point towards the location of the silver haired girl. In each instance, you'll often have to solve puzzles, either through interacting with the world or by using the special flashlights in the game which illuminate the darkness impenetrable by the natural light of the moon, as well as having to fight off the ghosts and monsters which now populate the majority of the world. These combat encounters play out in a simplistic fashion, with Seto having one mode of attack, regardless of the weapon he uses, which can be combined into a combo attack with correctly time successive button presses. There are different types of weapons which alternate the way the combat plays out, with short weapons such as iron pipes or golf clubs, long ranged melee weapons such as spears and bug nets and ranged weapons such as crossbows and longbows. It adds some depth to the combat but you can largely get through every situation with the basic short range weapons and you'll rarely feel the need to use anything else. A scattering of boss battles through similarly doesn't show much depth but does require you to learn the moves of your opponents and create a suitable strategy.
As you go through the game and complete these encounters, you'll gain experience points which go towards levelling your character, much like that seen in the standard role playing games. But besides the addition of some extra hit points and a slight increase in your attacking stats, the game is very light on the RPG gameplay inclusions, although having to micro-manage your inventory for broken weapons and items, which you'll have to deal with often, plays a big part in the game.
From a gameplay perspective, it would seem the game lacks in most departments but as mentioned, it plays second string to the story and rightly so. As you progress through the game, you'll encounter various characters, human, ghost or even robotic, which help to provide some backing to the story and even with the non-human cast members, such is the strength of the story and the writing that you'll instantly feel a rapport build with them and some truly saddening moments involving some of the characters will leave you teary eyed. Also found throughout the game are various items which can be taken back to your campfire and these items contain memories, some lasting only one instance while some span over the course of many items, which provide a further backing to the game's story and the events which preceded the game.
It's an incredibly well written story, hitting on some strong emotional elements and making the player look at themselves introspectively as if they were going through the emotions of Seto and those contained within the memories. It's unrivalled in emotional draw not only on the Wii but on any console and makes for a truly compelling play, easily overshadowing any issues that come about through the gameplay. The story and characters are the real reason to play the game and are as much a part of the gameplay as the combat is.
Like other titles on the console, the Wii-mote's pointer capabilities are used to control the in game flashlight for looking around the environment and guiding your movement through turns, while the Nunchuk's analogue stick controls your standard movement paths. While it isn't quite as robust as the controls in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, those implemented here work well and the movement of the Wii-mote as the flashlight, especially within the more open expanses you'll be walking through, feels intuitive and natural. There are some slight snags, however, when the game moves into more confined surroundings as the flashlight has a tendency to hang up on walls when turning corners meaning Seto will suddenly shot round and face the opposite direction to where you were hoping to move. It's something which can become a slight annoyance but taking a more liberal and gentler pace through these sections can minimise the issues.
The visuals of Fragile Dreams manage to create a paradoxical situation of being simultaneously sombre yet beautiful. The crumbling and decaying ruins of Japan are extremely well created, showing the true extent of natural decay on man-made structures and portray an atmosphere of loneliness and desolation perfectly. Yet in the midst of all this, the crumbling ruins feel strangely beautiful and draw you into the experience unlike any other title, pushing you to explore every nook and cranny to take everything in. It's an overwhelming experience at first, taking you through dilapidated train stations and malls to an amusement park and beyond but you'll soon appreciate the work that's gone on here and it all looks great.
Character models are equally well done with Seto and the scant few wasteland inhabitants he'll meet being extremely well designed. An anime style look is given to all the characters and provides a bright contrast to the desolate locations, giving the game its sense of hope and exploration. The various ghosts and monsters you'll encounter continue the experience of ying and yang, being, in many instances, creepy giving survival horror titles a run for their money. It all comes together to create a very unique looking title that really is a pleasure to look at and although there are some instances of frame rate issues, they do little to dampen to presentation.
Perhaps the area that really hits home the beauty of Fragile Dreams is the audio. The music had been expertly composed by Riei Saito and easily creates one of the most pleasant soundtracks in a game in recent years, beautifully accompanying each and every location and moment perfectly to create a real sense of connectivity with the gamer. There isn't a single area where the soundtrack lets the game down, from the beautiful opening song to the song playing out the end credits, both of which were penned and sung by Japanese singer/songwriter Aoi Teshima, and everything in between, it's an incredibly moving concoction of sound that rivals even some of the best music put forward by animation and film studios, with some songs here sounding on the same level as that produced by legendary animation house Studio Ghibli which shows just how good the soundtrack really is.
Furthermore, Rising Star Games have managed to include both the original Japanese and the new English voice-overs. Both of these are of extremely high standards, with each of the voices suiting the characters perfectly in each and every situation. Which you choose to hear when playing is up to the gamer but purists will no doubt choose the original Japanese voices which really fit in with the game's world and atmosphere.
The sound effects manage to generate a feeling of eeriness which you'd expect from the desolate, post apocalyptic world and using the Wii-mote's speaker to further this really leads to some very creepy moments helped largely by the lower and tinnier quality of the sound coming from the speaker. It's a great feature as finding foes can at times only be done through listening to the speaker and even your companions will chip in and provide advice from time to time through it as well.
The shortcomings of Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins to the Moon are easily apparent from the outset, with a decidedly shallow combat system and some occasionally frustrating controls. Yet these things are insignificant in the larger scale of things because Fragile Dreams is more than a game; it's an experience requiring the gamers to look introspectively upon themselves in relation to the in game memories and circumstances and acts as a piece of emotional entertainment that comes together far better than any other game. The astonishingly beautiful soundtrack, the desolate and crumbling surroundings you'll explore and the story and its characters create an emotional ride that makes this title worthy of everyone's attention and is sure to linger long in the memory of those that dive into it.
Pro: Truly emotionally gripping story and memories, astonishing soundtrack and use of sound, locations are expertly realised
Con: Combat system is a little on the shallow side, controls can be troublesome in the game's narrow corridors
Final score: 8.5