Release Date: March 16, 2010
If one was asked to rattle off the greatest Wii RPGs, it’d be a short list consisting of The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles, Super Paper Mario (you at the back, quiet) and Tales of Graces— at least for the folk in Japan, that is! One that unfortunately finds itself left out all too often is Fragile Dreams. It’s by no means perfect– it controls like a drunken horse, the voice acting is slightly wonky and it’s easy to get lost, but it’s almost certainly interesting enough to warrant a purchase.
The game begins with a narrative cutscene explaining that the old man who looked after our protagonist Seto died at the end of the summer. All alone, Seto must leave his observatory home and travel the ruins of Tokyo to find an imposing red tower and, hopefully, other survivors.
If there’s one game that could be accurately compared to Fragile Dreams in terms of tone (and what it does to achieve it) it’s Silent Hill 2. Both games manage to perfectly put across the sense of loneliness one would feel in a post-apocalypse scenario. While Fragile Dreams is far from being a horror game– although it does have some spooky moments– it’s very hard to categorise. It’s somewhere between RPG, adventure and interactive-story in its mechanics, but the story is unlike anything you’ll have seen before. While there is interaction with other characters (such as a slightly irritating robot sidekick who likes to yell at you through the Wii Remote) the early portions of the game at least are desolate and alone.
That’s not to say desolation can’t be beautiful. The breathtaking night skies and sunsets bring the world roaring back to life, and what the game lacks in gameplay is more than made up for with its presentation. Anime cutscenes are used for important plot events and are very well put together, and while much of the game takes place in indoor areas, the lighting is almost always fantastic with the motion controlled flashlight showing off the dynamic lighting very nicely indeed.
Moments like this are rare, but that just makes them all the more beautiful.
If there’s anything that lets this game down, it’s the gameplay. While it bears some tonal similarities to Silent Hill 2, it also brings with it that game’s clunky combat and inventory systems. Combos are awkward to pull off and targeting enemies is rather difficult as well thanks to the awkward camera controls. Seto will often have to fight the same groups of enemies multiple times as he trudges around the same areas too, either getting lost or looking for some item needed to proceed to the next area.
While it’s nice that you’ll occasionally find people’s mementos from before the downfall of society, it does little to alleviate the stress of a limited inventory system that reminds one of Resident Evil 4‘s if it were far less generous with space allocation. Weapons break easily, and if you’re nowhere near a campfire at which you can save, that means a long hard slog with a twig until the chicken headed merchant comes along to offer some of his wares.
Still, for sheer creativity and interest, and for being six long years in the making before release, Fragile Dreams deserves to be played. It may not be perfect, but we need perfection much less than we need innovation and attempts at taking gaming in a new direction. Oh, and there are cat toys.