Review – Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon

Towards the end of the Wii’s lifespan, I made an effort to scoop up whatever lingering titles I was still deficient on. Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon was one title that I hadn’t experienced that showed up on a few lists of hidden gems on the system, so I made it a point to pick it up. I then immediately put it back down, because I wasn’t in the mood for it at the time. However, Rule of Rose has left me with a taste for introspective games, and Fragile Dreams seems to promise the sort of melancholy I crave. The name of it alone looks like the reunion album of a shoe-gazing band. It seems like the perfect ticket to Misery-Ville.

Oh, it made me miserable, all right…

My goodness, girl. Are you cold?

FIND STUFF, GET SAD

Fragile Dreams follows the story of a boy named Seto as he attempts to find other survivors of some sort of unspecified apocalypse that wiped out humanity. Soon after setting out in the world, however, he becomes smitten by a mostly naked, silver-haired girl and decides to devote all his energy towards finding her. Along the way, he meets up with various other characters who do their best to get in his way and slow him down.

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of Fragile Dreams’ plot. At its core, it’s the story about not wanting to be alone, but you spend most of the game with some form of assist character. Not only does this eliminate isolation from the game’s atmosphere, but none of these hangers-on seem good enough for Seto, who single-mindedly seeks out this mystery girl and even risks his neck for her. Love is a potent thing, especially when you’re a confused teenager.

The story proceeds from environment to environment, and most areas focus on a specific character. Maybe I’m spoiling things here, but most of the time, each segment ends tragically. This is the basic flow of the game: find stuff, get sad.

GOODNIGHT MOON

Did you ever play Silent Hill: Shattered Memories? Do you remember how 90% of the game was walking and looking at stuff with a flashlight. Well, the same thing goes here. That’s basically the same sort of formula you’ll find in Fragile Dreams, only with terrible classic Silent Hill combat factored in.

Along the way to find mystery girl, you come across certain objects with memories attached to them. Each one tells part of a small, tragic story about someone. They’re not even necessarily related to what’s going on in that given moment in gameplay. For example, one section treats you to the story of a cat that goes around posing as other people’s lost pets. It’s absolutely apropos of nothing. Not that it’s unwelcome, it just doesn’t add a whole lot to the overall narrative or atmosphere.

While you’re exploring the environments you’ll be occasionally accosted by ghosts and — I’m being serious here — robots. As already mentioned, the combat sucks. There’s sort of a timingbased combo system in place, but most powerful attacks only happened accidentally for me. Your weapons also break, and they seem to do it at random rather than after a certain amount of use. It’s pretty horrible, especially since you have limited inventory space and can’t carry around a bunch of golf clubs in case one breaks after the first time you use it.

I’m truly not sure what the point is. You can avoid combat pretty easily, but there’s a level-up system in place that incentivizes battling the baddies to gain more XP and stronger attack power. With combat already being so pointless, it’s weird to see a game try and add more depth to its fundamentally horrible system.

There sure is combat in this game for some reason.

TRULY ALONE

I’m really bummed out by the environments Fragile Dreams has you traverse. With a story set in the post-apocalypse, following themes of loneliness, I feel like the game would have benefited from putting you through a series of derelict places that would have once had a lot of people. There are those for part of the game, with the abandoned amusement park and hotel being the most obvious examples, but for the majority of the game, you’re instead stuck in tunnels.

All kinds of tunnels, in fact. Subway tunnels, maintenance tunnels, sewer tunnels, tunnels in the bowels of a hydro-electric dam. It’s bleak, but not in a “forever alone” kind of way. More in a “lots of grey, not much to look at” kind of way. It’s like all the most boring environments in video games all stapled together.

Worse yet, the game makes heavy use of extended segments of traversal. Tunnels that just go on forever, staircases that descend into the depths of hell, ladders that seem impractically long. These are things that might be useful for flavour in a game if used, like, once, but Fragile Dreams seems to think this is peak level design.

BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED

What really defined the game for me, however, was how badly it fumbles its melancholic themes. It really wants to jerk your tears, so much so that it comes across as cheesy and inept. I’m going to spoil part of the plot, so if you want to avoid that, skip the next paragraph.

The defining moment of the game for me was when one character shows up, has a brief interaction with Seto, then disappears. They’re shrouded in mystery, on a mission of their own, then they inexplicably show up later just to give a death soliloquy for no reason except because it’s sad. The reason for their demise? They ran out of batteries. They were a robot… because, and they ran out of batteries… because. And apparently there’s no replacement batteries in the post-apocalyptic future where humans disappeared, because this is the second time the game pulls the whole “character dies because they run out of batteries” schtick.

It’s so transparent that it’s almost embarrassing. The main antagonist is so hollow and their motivations so obvious that they feel tacked on for the purposes of having some sort of easily understood conflict. I kept playing because I was hoping everything would pay off in some grand finale — that all the pieces would come together and form a beautiful picture — but it didn’t and they don’t.

If you love concrete walls, you’re set!

YOU TOUCHED ME

There really has to be a name for flashlight games. Games like the Yomawari series and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories where you just go around looking at things with your flashlight. Light-’em-ups? Flashlight simulators? Light horror? I don’t know, but it’s basically a sub-genre of its own.

I think I’m still processing just how disappointed I am in Fragile Dreams. On the surface, it looks like something I’d be all about, but unfortunately it never gets what it sets out to do right. The gameplay is bland, the environments are excruciatingly boring, and the story is limp. The art design is nice, but I’m really reaching for something to compliment.

I haven’t been this let down by a game in a long while. I guess I had my expectations set to hidden gem, and instead I just found the ruins of an ambitious game.

3/10

This review was conducted on a Wii U using an original disc copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.

About Adzuken 160 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.

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