Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Archview #64: Fragile Dreams: Farewell, Ruins of the Moon

 This is as depressing as it gets.
 Fragile Dreams is a bit hard to fit inside a definite genre, it has some survival horror elements and some RPG elements. Basically, you could call it a Silent Hill for teens. You have your clunky controls, clumsy combat, weapons that break, the need for a flashlight and creepy enemies from survival horror games and the leveling system from RPGs. It's also got one of the most depressing stories I've played in a videogame.
 The game pits you as Seto, a kid who has lived with his grandfather for as long as he could remember, and he recently passed away. For reasons unclear at the start, humanity was wiped out, and as he is now all alone he sets out on a journey to find other humans. Alongside the way, he will have to fight enemies that range from ghosts to beasts as he explores what's left of the world. Seto will also meet a small, but very unique cast of characters compromised of robots, ghosts and maybe even humans.
 The game is set from a third person perspective, and you use the Wiimote to move around your flashlight. Movement is a bit on the stiff side, what doesn't help is that you need to get used to moving the cursor. Unlike most Wii games that use a cursor, when the you point outside the screen, instead of the cursor locking on the last position, it defaults to the center. Another point of annoyance is that the flashlight points at objects, meaning that if you want to turn left at a corner, but as the cursor gets over the wall or a box on the way, it will point at it, making Seto look at the object instead of turning. On cramped spaces with loads of objects, it becomes annoing.  Getting used to it is a must, as most enemies remain invisible to the naked eye, requiring you to aim your flashlight at them.
 Combat also has its quirks. When attacking, sometimes it's hard to tell if the enemy is in Seto's range or not, getting you to hit thin air. There are two major types of weapons: Projectile and Melee. Melee has three subtypes: Sticks(Swords, Pipes), Rods(Poles, Spears) and Hammers(Axes and, well, hammers); Rods and Hammers behave similarly, you can charge the A button for stronger attacks, while Sticks require timing in order to produce a stronger combo; while Projectile weapons have the advantage of range, at the cost of not being able to use the flashlight. You need to keep in mind that weapons break, randomly, however the game usually waits until you are out of combat before breaking it.
 Throughout the game you will come across many items, but Seto has a limited amount of space in his bag, so you will have to think carefully about what to keep and what to leave. There are also plenty of items that require appraising, which can only be done at bonfires. Speaking of Bonfires, they are the only places where you can save your game, and they completely heal you. Randomly, when staying at bonfires a merchant will come by, allowing you to buy or sell weapons. Among the items Seto comes across, there are "Memory" items, these items come in many from hats, bells, bottles and what have you, and they tell the stories of their owners on their last days. This is a sad game, and these stories, while adding depth to the game and granting backstory, they also paint a very depressing picture.
 Visually it's a mixed bag. Enviroments look fantastic, they are very distinctive between each other and they are depressingly beautiful. Everything is abandoned and worn down, while not resorting to browns and greys and having a lot of color, the first time you come across sunlight is very memorable(Although it's almost completely undermined as soon as you have to backtrack and it get's dark as soon as you enter the forest). Characters on the other hand... Seto's clothes design is so intricate that it makes no sense, while Ren's as simple and dumb as it gets. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, look much better and their personalities make them quite engaging. The monsters are also very creepy, without needing to use blood or gore to get their point across. Still, animations are very simple and a bit dated, but nothing too bad.
 Music is used sparingly, but what few pieces there are, they are haunting and solemn. The sound effects are phenomenal, monster have their distinguishing groans, cries, childish laughter... They are fantastic. Voice acting was pretty good too, even if a few of the memory items were a bit weak, and if you don't like it, the Japanese voice track is included, but the english voice overs are fine. Still, the game manages to convey a feeling of loneliness with it's visuals, audio and story, it works and it's very, very immersive.
 The game lasts a good 10-12 hours, and beating the game unlocks art galleries. There is no game plus and no difficulty settings, so after you are done with the game, there's nothing else to do. The game is not too hard, yet not a total cakewalk, I had around 2-3 deaths, but mostly due to negligence on my part.  Despite everything, I think the game is totally worth it, just don't play it on a bad day, unless you want to cry. It's that depressing.
 7 out of 10.

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