How can you describe a game like Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon? Strictly speaking, it’s an RPG, but to go into it expecting standard RPG tropes and mechanics will leave you baffled. More than anything else, Fragile Dreams reminds me of a survival horror game, despite everything it does counter to the genre.
Unlike in a survival horror game, where you avoid combat, Fragile Dreams encourages combat through its RPG aspect. As you defeat enemies, you earn experience and level up. Yet at the same time, combat isn’t particularly fun – and I don’t mean that as a criticism. The slow, dangerous battles and breakable weapons call to mind the survival horror genre, as does the emphasis on exploration. You also have a limited inventory, which can be managed at bonfires. Bonfires also serve as your save points, and let you buy items from a bizarre merchant. These things all contribute to the game’s weird blend of RPG and survival horror elements.
The greatest cause of Fragile Dreams’ unique feeling, though, is its atmosphere. I wouldn’t call it scary, exactly, but it is very lonely and haunting. You play a boy named Seto, who is searching for another human in an empty world. The Wiimote serves as your flashlight, a nice touch for these sorts of games on the Wii. Ghosts fill the abandoned locations you travel through, and though you meet companions of a sort along the way, it does an excellent job of making you feel alone.
It also raises questions. What happened here? Why is everyone gone? Although the greatest mysteries won’t be revealed until the end of the game, some answers can be pieced together along the way. As you explore, you’ll find certain collectibles that belonged to people back when the world was normal, before humanity was destroyed. When you stop at a bonfire, you get a chance to examine any of these special items you found since your last stop. They contain brief memories of the people who owned them. This creates little sub-stories you learn as you play, and also contribute to the overall lore and backstory of the world.
The plot itself is very strange. When the pieces finally come together, it probably won’t be what you expected. I didn’t know what to make of it at first – on one hand, it almost seemed too complicated for its own good. At the same time, though, I can’t help but appreciate its strangeness. The writer revealed additional information in an interview later on that cleared up some confusion, though I wish it could have been more properly conveyed through the game itself.
Overall, Fragile Dreams stands as a delightful oddity. It’s an RPG, but one with more parallels to the survival horror genre than to typical RPGs. It’s a strange, haunting game, and I’m happy I had a chance to play it.