Fragile will make you feel alone.
I don't think it's a secret that Fragile is the game I was most eager to see during this trip. Ever since we posted the first screens on RPGamer.com, I've been gushing over the game. Finally, I've had an opportunity to play the game first hand, and my first impressions are very positive.
The game plays like a dream. The controls for the flashlight are intuitive and precise, and it assists in camera control in a way that most Wii games just don't pull off. It's not a direct control of the camera, but as you move Seto, the main character, left or right, the camera moves to follow the flashlight, making it very easy to look and move around.
The game is also visually stunning. In addition to the breathtaking introduction cinematic, the in-game visuals are beautiful. The technical limitations of the Wii do lead to some minor aliasing problems that were fairly noticable, especially on the high definition TV we were using, but the art direction is fantastic. The visuals are technically impressive too, particularly when the characters are shown up close. The shading on their faces and bodies is very crisp and clean. In fact, the aliasing problems are most prominent only when the models are at a distance, which is kind of opposite of the usual effect.
The animated scenes are absolutely breathtaking.
Something I took away almost immediately is that Fragile seems to be very much a story and exploration driven game. There is combat, but it is about as basic as a game can get, and likewise it is not very difficult. The real draw of the game is the atmosphere, the story, the characters, and the very mysterious post-apocalyptic, ghost-filled world. The story, as described by XSEED's Michael Engler due to the game still being in Japanese, begins when Seto's grandfather, the only person who he knows and still seems to be alive, dies, leaving the poor kid alone in the world. Before he dies, he tells Seto to go to the glowing tower he can see on the horizon, as it's the most likely place to find survivors. As he begins setting out, he meets Ren, a young human girl who seems very frightened to meet another living person, then runs away. Seto, lonely and desperate to seek out what may be the last living person in this world, sets out to track her down.
Michael Engler told us that the game is probably one of the most depressing he's ever worked on, to the point where he actually had to walk away from his work station after translation sessions because it was just so sad. It was very easy to understand that, even from the Japanese game, because the entire mood of the game seemed designed to make the player feel alone in the universe. The music was melancholy, the lighting was dark and limited, and even the voices, despite being in a foreign language, just seemed very sad.
One story feature of the game we were lucky enough to see involves discovering special items hidden around the world. These items are relics from the past, and each of them have a story to tell. The one we found was an origami crane, which, when brought to a save point, started a fully voiced story of the previous owners. These stories seemed very reminiscent of Lost Odyssey's Thousand Years of Dreams.
Fragile seems to be a game driven on exploration and story, which is just what I expected. I was already highly excited about this title, but finding out first hand what it was like just cemented the deal for me. The game is beautiful visually, and from what we were able to gather, it's going to have a beautiful story to accompany it. The combat may not be stellar, but if that doesn't bother you, Fragile is a game to keep an eye on.