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Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii) artwork

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii) review

"Given time, you will eventually adapt to all of those quirks. Even when you've grown accustomed to the overly simplistic and repetitive combat, the awkward flashlight and camera controls and the ridiculous inventory system, however, Fragile Dreams can surprise you with just how obtuse it can really be. As you progress through the game, you'll find yourself forced to backtrack to locations where you've already been (after finding the proper key, of course) or you'll have to chase a mischievous prankster around an amusement park or whatever else the game throws your way."

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon has a great package design but to see the coolest artwork you'll have to flip it around so that the North American cover is reversed. Then you'll get to see artwork from the Japanese version and a lovely picture of a silver-haired girl standing near a moonlit pond. Messing around with the artwork can be a bit of a hassle and it'll take a few minutes, but the gorgeous results are worth it.

Unfortunately, working your way through the game itself requires a similar amount of hassle. Every event that takes place seems to be preceded by one inconvenience or another, a tiresome pattern that wouldn't be so bad if your efforts were ever properly rewarded. They're not, though, because Fragile Dreams goes downhill the minute you look past its enchanting box art.

The first problem is that the game takes place in some ruins that appear to be located on the darkest moon in the entire universe. I like the idea of a lunar adventure, but what I found here felt more annoying than it did magical. Upon beginning a new game, I was immediately asked to adjust my video settings so that a number of boxes and a range of five separate colors on a gradient bar would be plainly visible. In other games, any required modifications can be made by tweaking settings in-game. If that's possible here, though, I couldn't find a way to do it. Instead, I was being asked to adjust the settings on my television so that I could make things out properly.

Since I was happy with my current settings and had played numerous games without incident, I refused to change my settings. How bad could this new game really be, I wondered, if I left my settings where they were? The answer, as it turned out, was "pretty freaking bad."

If you play it, you'll find that Fragile Dreams has you spend most of your time within some extremely dark interior settings. The adventure even begins inside of an observatory building of some sort. With my television settings unmodified, I could barely see a thing as I fumbled around that cramped location for a good 15 or 20 minutes. I found first the crank to open the skylight a bit--the better to let in some light--within a minute or two, then later found my way up some stairs and across a beam that led to an item with fireflies dancing over it. The sparkling insects on the moon tend to gather around objects of value. Why? Perhaps because it's summer, the game reasons. Okay, then...

After a few more hours of play and some adjustments to my television's brightness and contrast, I was still inside, except now I was exploring the ruins of an underground mall with a talking backpack that was giving me instructions and getting jealous because I was looking for a silver-haired girl that I found just outside of the observatory. The girl had run away when first we met, so it naturally became my mission to find her again. The backpack that I procured shortly after beginning that search served as a convenient and chatty companion, but that dynamic was destined to change as the game progressed and I became more accustomed to the game's quirks.

Since you'll spend so much of your time indoors in Fragile Dreams, you'll also spend a lot of it fumbling with your flashlight. Wii Remote movements control both the flashlight and the in-game camera, with the result being that you'll often find yourself illuminating a walls or ceilings and not the path that you need to follow. Every once in awhile, you'll hear eerie music that signifies the presence of enemies. Many of them can't be seen unless you shine your flashlight beam on them, so you have to spin around like a drunken ballerina until you find your target, which by then has probably begun circling you and will shortly vanish. Menacing wildlife--dogs and crows, for instance--remain visible no matter what, but they're not as common as ephemeral legs (that like to kick you), arms (that like to grab you from walls) and blobs (that like to float).

If the enemies don't sound particularly lethal, that's because they aren't. Though you're initially armed only with a stick that eventually will be replaced by uninspiring upgrades such as a bamboo sword, a slingshot, a broom and other such devices, you're capable of obliterating nearly every enemy you encounter. Just mash the 'A' button a lot and move around with the analog stick. You'll almost never have to fight more than a group or two of foes at a time, since save points are peppered around the various corridors like olives in a Greek salad.

If you do find yourself struggling against your weak resistance, the problem won't persist. Enemies yield experience points when defeated, along with healing items and currency that you can use to purchase still more weapons and goodies. The RPG elements are welcome, as far as they go, but that's not actually very far. You don't learn new abilities. Your HP and ATK simply increase, which winds up not mattering because the same is true of your enemies. Venture to a new area and you'll find what appear to be the same few goons (they're not even colored differently), but they'll suddenly hit harder and you'll have to chow down on more candy to restore your life.

Of course, there's only so much candy--or anything else--that you can fit into your sack. Fragile Dreams features one of the most frustrating inventory systems that I've ever encountered in a game. Your items are laid out on a limited grid, with some taking a single square and others taking several. There's never enough real estate, even when your capacity upgrades. You have to arrange everything so that the shape of a particular item can be held, which can get a bit stupid since you don't have any way to know ahead of time what item you'll be adding to your inventory. When I first picked up the slingshot, for instance, I didn't know that it was shaped like a 'T' and so I had to mess around with my items quite awhile to make the darn thing fit into my rucksack. The problem is solved by returning to one of your campfires to stash unwanted items in your briefcase, but no matter what you'll be messing around with your inventory far more often than you really should need to. Often, the item you're making room for is just someone's dying memory: a girl who was holding a balloon, a mother rushing home to her child or a dog who saw his master crying salty tears. It's unfortunate that they tie up valuable inventory space, since they'll vanish the moment you examine them back at the campfire. Not only that, but your weapons can break without warning. You either need to carry extras or you need to memorize campfire locations. You also either need to stock up on spares when the merchant happens by your save point or you need to be ready to re-visit your fire several times in succession until he finally decides to make his random appearance.

Given time, you will eventually adapt to all of those quirks. Even when you've grown accustomed to the overly simplistic and repetitive combat, the awkward flashlight and camera controls and the ridiculous inventory system, however, Fragile Dreams can surprise you with just how obtuse it can really be. As you progress through the game, you'll find yourself forced to backtrack to locations where you've already been (after finding the proper key, of course) or you'll have to chase a mischievous prankster around an amusement park or whatever else the game throws your way. Just when you think you've finally cleared the last irritating obstruction, the game does something unexpected like force you to creep along weak floors so that they don't collapse, or to carefully navigate a towering rollercoaster track while birds peck at you. If I didn't know better, I'd swear that the developers were trying to make me quit playing.

In the end, it doesn't matter if they were trying or not. Playing Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon finally became too much for me and I stopped playing without ever witnessing the closing credits sequence. I can't recall the last time I've been this disappointed by a game's failure to live up to its obvious potential. Like they say, don't judge a game by its covers. Either one of them.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (March 27, 2010)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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zigfried posted March 27, 2010:

Wow, uh, this is really disappointing. Not your review... the game... I was actually looking forward to this. The thing about the flashlight brings back bad memories of Silent Hill Shattered Memories.

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jiggs posted March 27, 2010:

shame..was kinda looking forward to this game. Fragile looks pretty.
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zippdementia posted March 27, 2010:

Great review, Jason! I'll be an honest gamer, I didn't find your last couple of reviews to be inspiring (of course, we disagree heartily, but congenially, on FFXIII so that's a tough one for us) but this is a great sample of your work!

You are concise, humorous without being gauche, and you nail this game with a believable sense of game knowledge and history. You seem to know immediately what is just common-sense WRONG with this game and I'm liking the 'tude.

What this experience tells me is that games need to have better cover art, because GODDAMN I wanted to buy a Wii again just based on the little cover shots I've seen of this game on the site.
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honestgamer posted March 27, 2010:

Thanks for the comments, guys! This was an easy game to review. I banged out my review in just over half the time it usually takes and I'm pretty pleased with the results. However, I'm a bit sad that it's the review I wound up having to write. This game looked like it would be so cool. There was all sorts of potential and I like both the developer and publisher. The results in this case, well... you read the review.

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