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Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is a game made for the Nintendo Wii, and can be classified as a sort of adventure game where you play as a boy named Seto traveling desolate Japan at some point after some kind of worldwide apocalypse, which has left very few survivors. The goal is to search for a silver-haired girl he saw one day–but as you do so, you encounter the spirits of those who died, which have taken on a variety of haunting forms. In some ways, the game is similar to games found in the survival horror genre. The difference with this game though, is that rather than try to make you scared, it tries to make you sad. Humanity has already been pretty much wiped out, so loneliness is the central theme of the game.

It’s for this reason that I was interested in finding this game and playing through it. Overall I found it a rather unique experience for the video game medium, and an example of how it is possible to create an engaging setting, tone, and atmosphere as the basis for a video game’s story. The game begins with Seto having buried the man who raised him, who he called grandfather, and going out to search the abandoned city ruins for any survivors. The environments you search through are not just bleak though–some are surprisingly quite beautiful. Seto is able to recognize the beautiful natural scenery he encounters, but he feels sad that he has nobody to share the experience with. To some, Seto’s mourning will come off as melodrama, but if you go along with it and try to picture yourself in such a situation, the game becomes a more personal experience.

The actual gameplay for Fragile Dreams is okay at best. There’s nothing amazing about it, but I didn’t have many problems with it either. You generally go about searching for things to move the plot forward, and as you do you fend against spirits with amazing weapons like a butterfly net or a slingshot. There are a variety of different weapon types to keep things interesting, and the many savepoints throughout the stages make it easy to start over if things get rough. Generally the game is pretty easy though–the point isn’t so much to have a huge challenge, as it is to experience the world of the story (as simple as the actual plot may be).

Some of the spirits are rather interesting, but others aren’t too creative. I’d probably say the same about the character designs as well–oddly the side characters you meet have rather cool-looking designs, but the main two characters got the short end of the stick. I think my favorite characters were Crow and Chiyo, who contributed some touching subplots that made the story a bit more interesting. I am a little bothered by how Seto was generally accompanied by some other character in the game though, even if they weren’t exactly human. I would have liked the game to have explored that feeling of loneliness a lot deeper, and really make the player feel truly alone in the world. Granted, there may not be much in the way of engaging plot when there’s nobody for the protagonist to interact with, but this is intended to have a more pensive story than your average video game. I wanted to understand Seto’s feelings much more, perhaps because this was such a unique opportunity to delve into a protagonist’s quiet thoughts (and fragile dreams).

That said, there are a lot of things the game did do well for creating that mournful atmosphere it intended. Perhaps the thing I love about Fragile Dreams most is the music. It’s incredibly atmospheric, and I especially love the vocals used for the opening introduction and the ending credits. The way the game utilizes the capabilities of the Wii console also helps place the player in the role of Seto, by having him move his flashlight as you move the controller, and by having setting-specific sounds play from the controller’s speaker. All the graffiti you could read on the walls was also a nice world-building touch, and I kind of liked Seto’s crude hand-drawn maps.

One storytelling element I felt was rather intriguing was how Seto could find random objects that revealed the thoughts of those who had died. Usually you just get some audio of some random person recounting some random sad event in relation to the object, but sometimes you get a conversation between two people, or a story that continues as you find more objects left behind by the owner. These are basically just little bonus stories where unseen characters have positive experiences despite the world coming to an end. It’s generally bittersweet, but there are genuinely hopeful little tales mixed in, despite how troubling everyone’s lives had become before they died.

Overall Fragile Dreams will be best enjoyed by those looking for something unique and overlooked in the video game industry. The execution is far from flawless, but if the concept of a “survival sorrow” intrigues you then it’s definitely worth checking out.

Positives: unique concept; beautiful environments; excellent music; refreshing tone and atmosphere

Negatives: some clunky gameplay elements; the English dub is rather bad (so luckily Japanese audio is still available); the story and tone had the potential for much more than I felt was achieved (though it can also be argued this game is a trailblazer for this sort of story, period)

It’s not too expensive of a game, so if you have a Wii (or if a roommate has a Wii, as was the case for me), look into checking this one out! I hope that there will be more video games that experiment like this in the future, so that one day there can be games that have legitimately truly moving stories to tell.