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Hands-on: Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon


I've never played a game quite like tri-Crescendo's Fragile Dreams for Wii. While, mechanically, it's a fairly standard action-adventure game – something like one of the PS2 Silent Hills with experience points – everything about the game contributes to a distinctive mood. Fragile Dreams is an exploration of quiet -- something few games ever have any room for.

Gallery: Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii) | 18 Photos

Sometimes the quiet comes off as peaceful, sometimes it's eerie. Most of the time it's just melancholy. It's an appropriate feeling for a game set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo nearly devoid of human life, populated only by ghosts and broken-down remnants of modern Japanese society. The game begins in an observatory that is, like most of the game, too dark to explore. Following the death of the old man who had taken care of him, a boy named Seto finds himself alone in the observatory, and seemingly alone in the world, for the first time. It's clearly been a long time since the world ended -- the old-style TV in the observatory is just an odd box that resembles a mirror to Seto.

The first task is to open the canopy and let light in, and then find a flashlight so Seto can explore the library in another room. These tasks act as a tutorial for the game's interface. To explore, you move your view (and the flashlight) with the pointer, zooming in with the B button and then interacting with the A button in a very adventure game-like system. At this point, a huge mask appeared out of thin air -- a ghost, whom I fought off by holding the flashlight on it and hitting the A button to swing the stick I had.

Seto then leaves the observatory and meets with a mysterious silver-haired girl -- a rare occurrence in this world. He follows her and ends up in a dilapidated train station. A tinny voice began to come through the Wiimote speaker, getting louder as I pointed toward it and approached. The voice belonged to a sort of talking computer – presently expressing its growing concern about being submerged in water – who joins Seto as a guide, strapped to his back. Rather than being simply a robotic voice, the "Personal Frame" and Seto quickly begin to depend on one another and even reassure each other in scary situations.

After exploring the train station a bit, I came upon a small arrangement of sticks, which the Personal Frame suggested was a place to build a fire. This is the game's interpretation of "save points." As Seto warms his hands and rests, you can save, manage your inventory, examine "mystery items" to identify them, and even learn the history behind some items you pick up. For example, looking at a paper crane brought access to the memories of the (presumably dead) little girl for whom it was made.

After exploring the train station for a bit and walking through a motionless train, I found myself outside in the daylight, in one of the most stylized and beautiful dawns I've ever seen in a video game. And Fragile gives you a few minutes to walk along the tracks and enjoy the view, while the PF explains what makes the sky so bright red.

A final warning: though I was impressed with the mood of the game in what I played, I have some amount of tolerance for anime styling. If you can't handle things like a whiny, somewhat androgynous protagonist and the kind of voice actors you hear in dubs of anime shows (or Japanese speech, if you prefer), you will not be able to deal with Fragile Dreams. If you're confident you can accept that kind of stuff, though, Fragile Dreams seems like it could make a meditative counterpoint to all the bombast usually present in games.

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