Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is as beautiful and dreamy as the title implies. Described as an adventure game, Fragile Dreams borrows elements from the survival horror genre, but what sets this game apart are the striking visuals and character designs from the team at Tri-Crescendo, the developer behind the gorgeous-looking Eternal Sonata. We had an opportunity to play a preview build of Fragile Dreams and found ourselves quickly absorbed in this lonely postapocalyptic world.
You play as a young boy named Seto, who has been abandoned and is utterly alone in the world after his elderly guardian dies. All you're left with is a flashlight and a note that tells you to head to a glowing red tower in the distance and that there may be other survivors. You won't learn too much about this boy's past initially, other than that he didn't even know the old man's name. As you set out into the vast and desolate wilderness, it seems that you could very well be the only person alive. However, early on you bump into a charming silver-haired girl who runs off at the first sight of you, and your goal is to find her and hopefully others.
We ventured into the ruins of a subway station in hopes of finding the girl, but instead heard a female robotic voice asking for help. After following the plea into an empty room, we found that it was a personal frame, a metallic boxlike device with a woman's voice designed to interact with humans based on their emotional response. We took the device with us, and it acted as our guide, feeding us with useful information as well as guiding us to our next goal. As you explore the world, you can set up a bonfire whenever you come across a fire pit, which acts as a save point and a spot for you to rest. We also came across a bizarre person who appeared to be wearing a giant mascot chicken head, and he would stop by when we were resting to sell items. We played for a few hours, wandering through the debris and empty corridors of the subway station, armed only with a flashlight in one hand and a bamboo sword in the other.
Glowing jelly-like enemies will appear and are described by the AI device as the manifestation of dead people's emotions. If you point your flashlight at them, they will slow down enough for you to beat them with your sword. Other hostile creatures that we encountered included vicious dogs, and while we made our way through a deserted train, long white outstretched arms clawed at us from windows. Seto isn't really trained to fight, so every time you push the A button, he swings wildly ahead, but as long as you keep your flashlight out and time your attack, you'll survive. Frequent bonfire checkpoints are always available for you to return to if you do need a respite.
The Wii Remote's unique functionality is used quite a bit because it's your only source of light. As you wave it around to illuminate dark corridors, you can also bring it up to your ear to hear what your artificial friend has to say. Fireflies will hover around points of interest, but if you want to examine anything more closely, you point with the remote and hold the B button to zoom into a first-person view. Most of the time, it doesn't seem like there's anything to see up close. But sometimes you'll hear a noise come out of the remote's speaker, and if you point the remote in the right direction and move closer to the source, the sounds will increase until you see what you're up against or find what you're looking for. Not only are you using your eyes to scan the dark environments with a flashlight to catch enemies, but you have to rely on your audio senses too, because the sounds and even the music will hint at what's coming.
The audio as well as the game's visuals are definitely Fragile Dream's strong suit at this point. As you carefully explore the dismal surroundings, you can't help but admire the remains of a poster on the wall or the trash that has been carelessly pushed to the side. When you do make it aboveground, the view of the sky is spectacular and there are traces of life that have somehow survived to give you some hope that there might be a happy ending to this otherwise depressing story. You can choose to play with the original Japanese voices or switch the voices to English; either way, the voice acting is very well done, and you can feel the loneliness and despair in Seto's voice. The music chimes in when appropriate, generally when something dangerous is lurking nearby, to make you feel a bit tense. You will never really feel scared, even though the gameplay is set up like a survival horror game, and we haven't come across any moments that will make you jump out of your seat.
We're curious to explore more of the mesmerizing world in Fragile Dreams and hope to find other possible survivors in this sad but visually dynamic place. At first glance it may look like another Japanese role-playing game, but it isn't. It is very much focused on unraveling the mysteries behind this eerie but beautiful world through the eyes of Seto. Look for Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon specifically for the Nintendo Wii on March 16.