5. Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (2010)
In a word: Heartbreaking
Much like the next entry on this list, I didn’t actually play Fragile Dreams when it first came out. Sure, it was supposedly a great “experience”, but when the gameplay was apparently a bit shoddy, I wasn’t really sure whether it was worth paying for– at least not at full price, anyway. But when I spotted it last year for only £13/$20, I thought, “Why not?” And it was the best impulse buy I’d ever made– because, yes, while the gameplay was every bit as shoddy as I’d heard, the story… The story was utterly beautiful. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the game opens with our young protagonist Seto beginning a journey east to try and find other survivors. The old man he lives with has just died, and what follows is a delicate and heartfelt portrayal of a young boy trying to come to terms with his own loneliness and his need for human affection.
My favourite part of Fragile Dreams‘ story, however, is its central motif of The Glass Cage experiment– the cause of humanity’s almost total annihilation. It was meant to awaken everyone’s innate “empathy faculty” so we could all understand each other without resorting to words, but obviously it didn’t go quite according to plan. It’s the way this tension between words and feelings is realised over the course of the game, though, that really sticks in my mind, as everyone Seto meets sheds a new light on the folly of only using emotions to communicate. There’s P.F, a computer who’s been programmed to automatically respond to and sense her user’s emotional state, but absolutely loves talking; there’s Crow, an amnesiac boy who fashions an identity (and a language) for himself out of characters he finds in a book; and there’s Sai, a ghost who’s both intrigued and a little patronising about Seto’s desire for human companionship. Despite living in a world where speech should be irrelevant, everyone still uses words to express themselves, no matter how unclear or imperfect they are, and the story’s delicate exploration of how we can or should express ourselves is both touching and incredibly poignant.