Ahoy! Here there be spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon

The first game I'm going to talk about is Fragile Dreams for the Wii.

This game is a post-apocalyptic, third person adventure game. It relies on immersion of the player into the story. This story is told by a character named Seto, a lonely young man whose grandfather died just as the story began. It revolves around his strange journey, which is, at first, to find other people in this desolate land. Rapidly, the journey transforms into a search for a silver-haired girl he runs into shortly into the game.

The game contains a number of really cool aspects to explore. As you travel, you pick up Memory Items, which are thrown in purely for flavor. These items hold the final memories of whoever held them last. The player is expected to draw his or her own conclusion to what happened based on these memory items. You can also collect a number of weapons, ranging from handy to utterly useless. As the game is not 100% story-driven, you are expected to smack around the occasional enemy.

Fragile Dreams has got to be one of the saddest games I've played. Seto is constantly alone, except for an occasional non-human companion, such as the PF or Sai the ghost. It was compelling and interesting, watching this poor kid on his travels to find the silver-haired girl. The world he lives in is empty, filled with nothing but urban decay and malicious ghosts.

It's a damn good thing the story was so interesting, because the controls were fucking awful.

I have an affinity for Tri-Crescendo games. There's just something about the developer that I love--something about the way they tell stories and the way they develop their characters. Their games are great, and the music is always beautiful. But the control scheme? Total miss on this one.

Some have claimed to say that the gameplay was mind-bendingly obnoxious to put you in Seto's shoes, and perhaps that's the case. But do I really need to sit through all five minutes of climbing down this God-damned ladder? My arms are tired just watching it. The battle system was annoying to the point that I wanted to avoid battles at all cost, and I likely missed out on a few levels and some Memory Items by doing that. Running down a straight corridor for a literal ten minutes while some zombie dipshit robot dolls sprouted out of the ground didn't make me feel sorry for Seto. It made me feel sorry for myself.

If you can get past the generally annoying as sin fetch quests, battle system and contrived boss battles, this is a really moody, interesting game. I was fortunate to be able to get past the gameplay and enjoy the game, but not without cursing extensively at that idiot wrecking ball. As a player, you'll be completely immersed in the story and world, due to the beautiful destroyed areas, Memory Items and the hand-drawn maps. The memory items actually include some short stories, some of which will go together and others of which are more free-standing. The music is also beautiful and haunting. One of the most immersive parts of the game in general is the fact that as you explore normally, you will hear no music. Your only music will be the ambiance of the surrounding area, unless of course you run into some enemies along the way. When a cutscene plays, though, you're granted a lovely little treat for the ears. Another thing I love about Tri-Crescendo games.

The ending was about as bittersweet as they come, as Seto finally finds his silver-haired girl and the two travel together, and one day, he is completely alone. It seems a bit of a slap in the face to spend the entire game chasing after this bitch and then she dies or something. Come on!

I suppose I should rate this game. Well, the game was intended to be more of an "experience rather than a game" (I got that quote from Wikipedia and I wholeheartedly support it), and it was also intended to invoke strong emotional responses. As this, the game not only succeeds, but excels--I ugly cried more than once during the game, and found myself genuinely wanting to see Seto find this girl. Despite all the stupid crap that happened to him, I couldn't bring myself to blame Seto for anything, even if he was allowing himself to get stepped on a little (especially doing those stupid quests for the ghost Chiyo... "in order for me to trust you, you have to bring me a star, a moon, and my lost ring, all in three different stupid areas". Fuck you.). Living in such an isolated, post-apocalyptic world, I guess anyone would reach out for company, even if it meant getting stepped on a little.

The story was great and the game's physical and audio aspects were beautiful. The character development was also good, and though it was frustrating as all hell, the gameplay was... unique. I'm giving the game a solid 8, and it would honestly be higher if the controls and gameplay didn't make me want to tie a bowling ball to my head with a thumbtack-studded shoelace and throw it out the window. This game would be good for you if you are extremely patient (I'M NOT) and like a good story.

And if you like a good ugly cry.

Now, I learned a couple of things from this game. This is basically the part of the review in which I justify playing video games to myself. I learned, for starters, that a game does not have to be fun to be necessarily enjoyable. At times, this game was outright frustrating. I still did, however, enjoy the experience the game gave me as a whole. I have always argued that graphics don't make the game, and I stand by that. However, there is something to be said for style and representation. Shiny graphics and stylistically beautiful and mood-driven environments are on a very different scale. I'm trying to find something to compare this to, and I'm failing. Uh. I guess it's the difference between... between a smooth pebble, and a nice, flat skipping stone. The smooth pebble is nice, but really, what are you going to do with it?

For a glimpse of just how stylistically beautiful this game is, and what a strong emotional reaction you get from the music and environment alone, here's a trailer:

The other thing I learned was that I wouldn't last five minutes in a post-apocalyptic world. I need human contact and I think I would spiral into a loneliness-induced coma instead of fighting for survival. To be honest, I would likely just give up before I found someone else to share my time with. I'd probably sit there and wither slowly away, praying to whatever God would listen to let someone find me, soon.

I hate to leave on such a cheerful note, but I've got some video games to play.

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