Friday, November 25, 2011

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon's Shin's Fate

Despite having a long, RPG mumbo-jumbo type name, Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is quite an impressive RPG from Namco, a very artistic work that comports itself with a dignity and style more like a Hayao Miyazaki film than a regular video game. It's like a...poignant, emotionally-driven artistic anime version of Fallout. While I don't find it as amazing as several people do, and it's certainly true that too much of the details and history of the plot are left unexplained or a little too open to interpretation, I do have to say that basically every part of it seems stylistically thoughtful and laden with emotional meaning, and every step of the gamer's journey through the moonlit ruins and haunts left by a gentle apocalypse is an enjoyable one, a significant one. This is a game that grips your hand tenderly as it tells its tale of emotion, and growth, of loneliness and friendship, and you're happy to hear the story.

Oh, except for this one part which is TOTAL FUCKING BULLSHIT.

By necessity, this rant now will contain spoilers for Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon. Big ones. So, if you haven't played the game, don't read this.* Go do something else, instead. Watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, or read something by Mark Twain. He's better at witty writing than I am, anyway. A lot better.

Alright, so. What is bullshit about FDFRotM? I'll tell you what is bullshit about FDFRotM. What is bullshit about FDFRotM is the fate of Shin. That is 100% bullshit, and it sours the entire ending. And it pisses me off!

Alright, so, quick refresher--Shin is the main villain of FDFRotM. He is, or was in life (he's an artificial intelligence hologram-thing during the game--but since it's patterned exactly after his memories and personality, and planning to again activate the world-ending Glass Cage project, this version of Shin is as legitimate an antagonist entity as if he were the original), a scientist who achieved semi-psychic abilities to read the emotions and thoughts and whatnot of other people, by making himself the first test subject of his research to improve communication through empathy. After losing faith in humanity because of all he heard in the minds of people around him, Shin brought about (or helped bring about--if I recall correctly, it's not exactly stated that he was responsible for the negative effects of Glass Cage, but it's definitely implied that he had a huge hand in the whole fiasco) the quiet apocalypse of the Glass Cage project that left the world almost wholly without human beings. Shin gives up his quest to eliminate the last remnants of the human race at the end of the game when protagonist Seto combats him, and Seto's companion Sai, another ghost left behind from the old world, confesses that she had always secretly loved Shin. This, of course, shows Shin the error of his ways, he gives up on his plan and he and Sai fade away, happy and content thanks to their love for one another. How nice.

How very nice.

How very WHAT THE FUCK IS THE MATTER WITH YOU, NAMCO?

I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Namco. Did I just see that right? Did you just give the GENOCIDAL MADMAN who killed over 6 BILLION PEOPLE a HAPPY ENDING? Maybe you missed the part in your own narrative where Shin brought about the END OF CURRENT HUMAN CULTURE. Maybe you forgot that he caused 6 billion people plus to go to sleep and never wake up again. Perhaps you have not quite considered that this fellow eliminated a PLANET'S worth of sapient organisms.

I'm sorry, but come on. Maybe I don't have enough perspective, but I feel like any individual who knowingly and maliciously participates in the extermination of an entire species, one numbering 6 thousand millions, does NOT deserve to get the girl and ride off into the fucking sunset! This is not a minor lapse in judgment. This is not a child's TV show where we're going to smile and encourage Shin because he realizes he made a mistake that was hurtful to others but has now learned his lesson. Big Bird, Lambchops, and Captain Kangaroo are not going to burst into a cute little song about why it's important not to do what Shin did so we all learn a happy little lesson. Twilight Sparkle is not going to dictate a letter that starts with, "Dear Princess Celestia, today I learned that it's not good to condemn everyone everywhere to death." This is a crime against humanity that makes every previous transgression committed, every war crime conceived, look like cute misdemeanors! If your story is going to involve a guy who expunged a sentient species from all existence, there had better be some serious consequences for him! Particularly if they're offset by the reward of a love interest!

And I mean APPROPRIATE consequences, here. Yeah, Shin does die, but look at the way he goes! Happy, content, satisfied! His notion that humanity sucks is proven wrong by a chick saying she digs him--but his mind is only comprehending the "I HAS GIRLFRIEND NOW" part. What it's NOT contemplating is, "Oh shit. I guess I condemned 99.9% of my species to death based on an assumption that was wrong." You do not see a single twitch of regretful conscience from the moment Sai proves him wrong to the moment he disappears in a golden, misleadingly divine light.

My God. Just...it's so unbelievable to me that Shin gets off virtually unpunished. A happy ending for the mass mass MASS murderer!

There are, of course, some extenuating details to this situation that make it even more stupid. Such as Shin's motivation. What was it that caused Shin to do this horrible thing? What unimaginable travesty was committed against him that could bring him to attempt to wipe out the human race? Twice? Get ready to shed some tears, guys: people weren't as nice as they should have been. When Shin became able to hear people's emotions and thoughts and such, he found out that what people think isn't always as nice and socially acceptable as what they say and act like. And so, because the people around him had petty negative thoughts in their heads, Shin decided that humanity was irredeemable and had to be eliminated, too petty to be allowed to live.

Because, y'know, finding out people aren't as nice as you want them to be isn't a petty reason to murder them, or anything.

I've seen versions of this idea a few times, and I have to say, every iteration I've seen has been better than Shin's experience. Take the show Torchwood. In Season 1, an alien chick gives one of the show's characters, Tosh, an artifact thingy that will let Tosh hear the thoughts of those around her. Upon bringing it to work, Tosh finds that her coworkers and friends speak and act nicely enough toward her, but think unpleasant things about her, criticizing her for her interests, her attempts to socialize with them, and even her style of dress. She's shocked and dismayed at finding out the secret vices and petty thoughts of the people around her, and it disorients her, makes her question herself, her place in Torchwood, and her beliefs.** Watching Tosh try to make the best of the situation, seeing her shocked loss of faith in people at knowing what they truly think, it all comes across as very believable. It's done well (one of the few parts of Season 1 that is, in fact). But you know what Tosh never gets around to feeling during her emotional turmoil? The desire to kill all humans. Somehow, her experiences, which for all appearances are extremely similar to Shin's, never cause her to question whether she should take an active part in destroying her species. You know why?

Because she's not a PSYCHOTIC IDIOT and the Torchwood writers were actually making an effort to create a character that could be taken seriously!

So not only is Shin homicidal on a species-wide scale, but he's that way for really stupid, selfish reasons. REALLY stupid ones, when you consider that he was a SCIENTIST who somehow thought that a specialized sample group of, say, 50 people could be trusted to be a completely accurate representation of a population of 6,000,000,000. So not only were his reasons for causing an apocalypse those of a whiny douchebag, but he didn't have any reasonable proof that these pitiful reasons were even ACCURATE.

Here's another thought to compound how stupid this scenario is. The reason Shin gives up on trying to kill everyone again is because he finds out from Sai's ghost that she always loved him. He apparently somehow didn't pick up on it. Um...how the hell could a mind-reader miss one of the most intense emotional and intellectual sensations one can feel happening in the patient he worked with every day? Particularly when the love was directed at him? This is either a disturbingly bad plot hole, or, if you want to make a stretch and fill in said hole with a quick bit of logic, it means that for whatever reason, Shin just wasn't able to hear love in people's minds, expressions, pheromones, whatever level the damn empathy power worked on. And if he couldn't hear love, who knows what other positive emotions he couldn't tune in on? No damn wonder he thought everyone around him was a jerk if he wasn't capable of hearing the parts of them that were at all decent. So not only did he murder for petty reasons, and not only were those reasons basically entirely unverified and impossible to determine whether they were actually accurate to the human race as a whole, but it's ALSO questionable now whether the experiences he had were even accurate of the handful of people he stupidly decided should be indicative of the whole human race.

We're supposed to feel any sort of sympathy for this guy? We're NOT supposed to be absolutely enraged that he finds peace and romantic fulfillment with no observable feeling of guilt?

And hey, regarding that romantic fulfillment, exactly why does Sai still love the guy, anyway? I mean, I can understand where her feelings came from during life. The game has her explain how they developed, and it's believable enough, if not particularly compelling. But honestly, I feel like Sai knowing that Shin deliberately killed everyone on Earth and is now trying to squash the few humans he missed the first time should maybe cool her passions a bit. Maybe I'm just crazy. Ladies, help me out. If you found out that the dude you'd been crushing on was the bringer of Armageddon, basically a more effective Hitler but who lacks even Hitler's (insanely misguided) wish to improve humanity, would you still have the hots on him? Or would whiny global genocide turn you off just a bit? I'd like to think that the latter would be true, and, by logical extension, I'd like to think that Sai's continued romantic interest in Shin is IDIOTIC.

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is a great RPG, it really is. It's compelling, it's creative, it's artistic. Overall, I highly recommend it. Nonetheless, the circumstances of Shin's defeat and demise are stupid, nonsensical, and infuriating. It really feels like an instance where the writers just couldn't be bothered to consider the character and situation for very long and just threw in a few tired cliches to get it over with, cliches that they couldn't even execute well.












* This probably will leave this rant with no one to actually read it. Oh well.

** Why it would surprise Tosh at all that Owen is thinking mean things is anyone's guess. It's not like Owen goes out of his way during Season 1 to hide the fact that he's a complete and total asswipe.

11 comments:

  1. Wow is the games villain that bad.

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  2. Ecclesiastes says:

    Big Spoiler Alert: This is the blog equivalent to a locked door. Sigh. I guess I'll have to play this game a bit sooner than planned so I can keep my membership in the Cool Club.

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  3. If it helps, Ecc, it's a very cool game and you totally should play it anyway.

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  4. Wow, someone else played this game? I absolutely agree with the ending. However, I really couldn't get into the story as a whole.

    *spoilers* So, don't read further if you care.


    From the very beginning, Seto just buried his grandfather, and he gets back inside... through what door? He didn't have his flashlight already on him? The ceiling hatch wasn't already open?

    Next problem I have: this is a post-apocalyptic world, but Seto never is concerned about finding clean water or food. This actually led me to think he was an AI too and just didn't know it.

    PF... "dying." First thought, bury her. Really? Not, "let's go find you some fresh batteries." No, no, she's dead. I'm sure this is done for emotional impact, but it was so forced.

    Seto quickly loses his quest to go to the red tower, and instead tries to chase a girl down. What happened to his grandfathers dying wish? Eh, that can wait, it's not like there's a time limit on it.

    Crow... oh Crow. Seto is so eager for friendship that he becomes close friends with someone who just stole from him, had to chase down, and beat into submission. But, it's cool, we're friends now.

    What's with all the cats? I think I befriended at least 20, and nothing really came of it as far as I could tell. Also, why are cats the only animal (besides killer birds) left?

    Memory items don't add to the current story, and only flesh out the world. The entire story in the game is, go kill bad guy. That's what the grandfather's instructions lead to. Then Seto gets distracted it becomes save girl, then kill bad guy. To break things up, there are scenes that want to force emotions down your throat instead of presenting what's happening and letting you decide.

    The game itself was an annoying set of fetch quests that hardly make sense. "Of course the girl must have gone through the locked gate. I must find a key." The combat was simplistic, and only made aggravating, not challenging, by weapons breaking. With limited inventory, this meant keeping multiple weapons on hand, which made picking up items a pain since you'd need to run back to a fire pit to identify them.

    It wasn't the worst game I've played, but there's so much missed potential that I didn't enjoy the experience.

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  5. I certainly can't really deny any of what you say here, Zenic, aside from my thinking the memory items' setting fleshing-out was really good and a positive addition to the story, and that the gameplay elements of combat and weapon-breaking didn't really matter to me (annoying though they certainly were). But you're right about so many details not adding up, and there are a lot of aspects of the overall plot that require too much guesswork and interpretation. All I can really say is that the game's story, characters, and overall events are really meant to be experienced emotionally first and foremost. And with most games, I wouldn't give them a pass on illogical things for this, but I think FDFRotM conveys its emotional and spiritual message and theme with such sensational eloquence that it makes up for the problems in logic that it has. As I've said before, everything, ultimately, is in the execution of an idea, not necessarily in the idea itself. After all, my favorite RPG of all, Grandia 2, builds itself mostly upon cliches, yet its execution of these supposedly overdone ideas is incredibly excellent. But your perspective's no less reasonable on this, to be sure.

    Incidentally, this rant still qualifies as legitimate even with the idea of taking an emotional viewpoint of the game, I feel, because the disbelief and irritation caused by Shin's getting away with global annihilation with no consequences is, while quite logical, also a case where the emotional sensibilities of justice are thwarted.

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  6. I had a conversation with someone where I suggested if you played the game without the memory items, then they'd see how dumb the story really is. Their answer was, "of course, the memory items are an integral part of the story."

    I say no though, they're integral for the back story of what happened to the world. Seto's motivations, what drives his story, is all very shallow. The memory items were more like books in Baldur's Gate, and if you skip those, you still have a deep story.

    I think there's a distinction between having a deep, powerfully emotional lore, and playing out the events in a deep, powerfully emotional story; the latter this game is not. I may not remember clearly, but Seto has no bearing on finding closure for any of these lost hopes. An especially poignant fact when taking the ending into account.

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  7. I don't know what the storyboard management people were thinking. They left so many holes in this plot that I'd say it's pretty unrecognizable. Absolutely no backstory on the old man seto lived with. Not much on seto either other that the fact that he is 15 and was born after this "incident". Absolutely nothing on Ren; I don't even think they revealed her age even though she looks close to seto's age. Really, the only complete background is that of sai. Why didn't the survivors die like the rest of the population? What did the old man do that was so horrible? Where did ren come from? How has she been surviving thus far? I doubt she's strong enough to defend herself. Why is she so into cats? And what about crow? Where was he created? How was he created? Why was he created? By whom was he created? There's even some things still not clear about sai. Why was she chosen for the catalyst? Can anyone be a catalyst? How does the glass cage even work? Does AI stand for artificial intelligence? I expected to learn more throughout the game but THESE QUESTIONS ARE NEVER ANSWERED!! I admit that like on the bookshelf in seto's house there are books on the glass cage suggesting seto's grandpa played a role in the extermination of the human race. There are extremely hard to find hints around but these questions are so essential I think they need to be more obvious.
    I read part of the manga and that kinda cleared things up. Apparently ren lived in the laboratory with several other kids which is how she knew shin. Ren and possibly the other children too, could read minds.Also she needed medication daily to stay alive, though even with medication, her life would be short, possibly related to this mind reading ability. Shin being in cat form really just confused me further. I think this needed to be in the game

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    1. There were times when I thought Seto was a android like Crow. Maybe Ren is the same. Consider the old man had many books on AI and robotics in his library.

      Maybe the old man was part of the original team of scientists.

      I really didn't understand all the cats. Why cats? Why no dogs (except for enemy ones)?

      Pretty sure AI stands for artificial intelligence, I've never known it to stand for anything else.

      Maybe the disease/virus that was released turned everyone into cats...

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  8. To reply to RPGenius' initial post on Shin and his happy ending, might I point you to another work of fiction with a similar villain in Star Wars? Darth Vader committed genocide against the jedi and blew up an entire planet. Yet, in the conclusion to the trilogy, he goes peacefully knowing his children are safe and even comes back as a hologram thingamabob. The difference is that Darth Vader was straight up evil before turning back, while Shin-bot, in my opinion, was confused.

    His reasoning that people were evil was because ALL of the emotion he sensed in people was the negative emotion. The fact that he didn't sense Sai's love implies that he was deaf to positive emotion, so his mind was flooded with pure hate.

    As for the old man, I think the consensus is that he was a scientist for the original glass cage, if not the actual flesh-and-blood Shin. It would explain his books on AI, Robotics, his letter apologizing for the world he left behind, and his instructions to Seto to travel to the Red Tower. He likely had a hand in creating the androids like Crow (probably the old man featured in Crow's picture) considering he had the pirate book Crow had read also on his bookshelf.

    I do agree, however, that the game was more about emotion than anything else. The story takes a backseat to the atmosphere of loneliness and longing for company. I find it interesting how well this was conveyed for a game where you spend most of your time with a companion of some sort. I found Crow to be rather interesting in that regard. At first glance, it seemed like he wanted nothing to do with companionship and just wanted to torment you, but when you read the pirate book, you find that he's only imitating the book which had the end result of a friendship, which tells me that friendship is what he was after all along, and that was the only way he knew how. Unlike the other companions, he didn't stick around, but that went along with the book as well, as the pirate had left but promising they'd meet again.
    I think the cats in the game are just another example of the desire for companionship. They serve literally no gameplay purpose. In a world so devoid of life, you reach out to them with nothing to gain but their affection. They care that you exist, and that's all that matters.

    I feel there's a lot more going on under the surface that I'm not privy to, but I give the designers a lot of credit for making something out of the ordinary. Sure, the main story itself is no award winner, but if that was your (generalized, not pointed to anyone specifically) takeaway, I feel you were paying attention to the wrong things.

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    1. I wasn't a big fan of Vader's being admitted to the Casper the Friendly Force Ghost club, either. I'm gonna stick to what I've said; even if he was "confused," and unable to hear the positives, as a scientist and non-moron he SHOULD be able to recognize that his incredibly small and very non-randomized sample size could not reasonably be taken to be an accurate representation of the population as a whole. It also stands to reason that for he himself to be able to recognize and feel positive emotions, there must have been at least SOME other humans who were also capable of it, who he would be killing along with the (supposedly) mean masses. It also stands to reason that for humans to have shown in such detail and so often in their various forms of artistic expression positive emotions, they must have some capacity for them. And lastly, the guy was around Sai often enough--we can assume that even if he couldn't hear her positive ones, they'd result in her having little in the way of negative thoughts in his presence. He never thought it was odd to be getting a blank reading from her? Again, guy was a scientist; this is the sort of rational approach and common sense that he's professionally trained to handle problems with. So I'm sticking with my opinion that he's an asshole, makes little sense, and doesn't deserve a happy ending.

      At any rate, logical thinking as far as Crow's motive, and I must say I like the insight about the cats. Had not considered that perspective on them, and it really works well, particularly given that the long memory item story about the ribbons, arguably the most emotionally powerful and thus important of all the the memory item stories, involved a similar use of a cat.

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  9. Plot holes aside, according to canon Shin is Seto's grandfather.

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