Storytelling in games sometimes feels to me like it's still rather an immature art. In a typical game, story comes early, fast and substantial in the form of numerous cutscenes, giving the player a reason to press forward and taking a back seat to the action itself—and often, it should. But there are also games like Metroid Prime, where the majority of the story of the world around you was delivered through scanning objects and computers and reading the little bits and pieces.

Fragile Dreams does something yet again a little different with the medium. A single objective that you will pursue throughout most of your playtime is delivered early on, but the real story comes to you as you explore the world around you, a beautifully realized post-apocalyptic world, filled with the memories of recently departed souls and the marks they left as they went.

These memories are triggered by some physical object you'll encounter and pick up, then later examine when resting at one of the game's myriad bonfires. A shoe holds the memories of a mother desperate to get to her child during an earthquake; a paper crane, the memories of a child whose mother gave it to her. Each memory is told in the voice of the one who experienced it; many of these tales were quite emotional.

There are also stories to be told just in your surroundings; one particular example that will stick with me long after I've forgotten most all else about this game was a room in a deserted hotel that had all its furniture overturned. Why did this happen? I knew, from many memories before that humanity was dying en masse—the survivors knew they were next, seemingly resigned to their fate, though their memories never explained why. I wondered, were they putting up a last stand there, thinking to fight? It proved quite poignant in the environment it was in.

You move through this world, flashlight almost always in-hand, as one of the last remnants of humanity hoping to find more. Ghosts are around many corners, and dangers brought on by the decay of buildings and structures. You start out swinging an actual stick to defend yourself. There's a lot to look at, even in the back third of the game, which exchanges the rich locales touched by all kinds of humanity for lengthy, deserted corridors punctuated by a few awe-inspiringly huge structures and mysterious and creepy hidden messages on the walls you can only see with a special lamp. But these corridors, along with lengthy walkways and seemingly endless stairwells did end up feeling like a little too much; I wonder if they were trying to go for a feeling of a long, lonely road in the end? Perhaps they overdid it. Solitude is already a pervasive theme throughout the game, beautifully realized with art direction, quiet music and sound direction, and the nature of the gameplay; this felt like perhaps a little too much.

But things get a touch less perfect when it comes to controlling protagonist Seto. You move about with the Nunchuk's control stick and point the Remote at the screen to aim your flashlight. There's a lot of really neat use of the Remote's speaker here, giving auditory warning of enemies ahead in a particular direction or sounding a la Hot and Cold for something you are looking for. You also wield one of several types of weaponry which you can use with the Remote's A button. All the action-RPG basics are represented here: sword, staff, bow, axe—though their forms are generally more appropriate to their theme as debris you find strewn about a post-apocalyptic world. While I tend to stick to the sword in most of these kinds of games, Fragile Dreams had me changing things up reasonably often depending on what sorts of enemies I'd be facing.

This scheme works well for exploration. You never have to—and in fact, can't—manage the camera outright, but instead just walk around and point your flashlight where you want to look. Early on in the game, you're encouraged to avoid a pack of wild dogs, and strafing them is accomplished not by lock-on but by an action that makes a lot more sense in real-world terms: looking over your left shoulder while walking to the right. It works a little less well for active combat, though, when enemies start getting behind and above you; it's very difficult to turn or look in the appropriate direction to deal with this. Weaponry does also break, randomly, at the conclusion of fights; if you don't have something else handy in your handbag, you'll have to get to one of the thankfully fairly plentiful bonfire save-points to swap in something else from your larger inventory.

Again, I'm left wondering if some of these decisions were intentional for the game's pacing. The limited on-hand carry space and the requirement to visit bonfires to both rearrange what you are holding and inspect mystery items you may find along the way (the game explains this thusly: the bonfires keep enemies away, leaving you free to check things out) serve to slow down the pace of the game, particularly if you're keen on hearing all the stories of the departed (and you should be!)—and the slow pace is a key part of Fragile Dreams' feel. Seto is no superman, either, so sometimes his occasional ineptitude makes a little sense even if it may objectively be a flaw, frustrating as it may be for those of us conditioned to control fantastic physical specimens in video battle.

For all the vivid tales from the memories of those who passed on, though, the game's main story leaves several uncomfortable loose ends. It has been interesting to read various theories online and think about the story myself, but I do sort of wish there had been a little more closure. And that's about all I have to say about that—it's best if you experience the thing for yourself.

The sum of Fragile Dreams comes out positive, an experience very unique among others in its medium, and something that I am very grateful to XSEED for making it possible for those of us in the West to experience it. If you've been looking at the game and dithering over whether you'd find yourself too frustrated with its systems to enjoy it, my own recommendation is to just go for it. It's a beautiful thing, and I'll remember the memories it gave me for a long time.