|Engine||RPG Maker 2003|
Yume Nikki (ゆめにっき?, lit. Dream Diary) is a 2004 surrealistic adventure game by homebrew Japanese developer Kikiyama. The game was created using RPG Maker 2003, but has few role-playing game (RPG) elements. Players explore the dreams of the character Madotsuki (窓付き?, lit. windowed). Travelling through her dreams, the player encounters surreal and sometimes disturbing scenes, such as being swallowed by a large red sewer-creature, meeting a disembodied head character known as Uboa (ウボァ?) and a full-screen rotating image of a girl with five arms. The most current version of the game is 0.10, and was released October 2007.
Players begin the game as a hikikomori named Madotsuki at home in her apartment, the only area she can explore when awake. Though the apartment has a balcony, attempting to open the door to the outside world results in Madotsuki simply shaking her head. Her only means of entertainment are a television, which shows a simple test card when interacted with, and a Famicom-style game console with the game "Nasu" (ナス?, lit. eggplant), once described as "the most depressingly futile minigame ever made." There is a dream diary on a writing desk which the player can use to save data.
When Madotsuki sleeps she begins to dream, and the player is presented with a dream world which resembles the same room Madotsuki fell asleep in, with some minor differences. In this dream world the player is able to leave the room, which will lead to a zone of 12 doors, with each leading to a different world to explore. These 12 worlds in turn connect to a number of other worlds, forming a large and expansive area for the player to roam. The environment in each world is uniquely surreal in its own way. The plot and story of the game is for the user to navigate the main character's dreams and to obtain 24 objects known as effects. "These effects cause all sorts of things to happen, from the pedestrian (acquiring a blanket for Madotsuki to wrap herself in), to the strange (transforming the protagonist into an oni), to the downright demented (the protagonist's head turning into a large hand with an eye in its palm)." Both natural and artificial backgrounds like a forest, mountainside, a colorful neon maze, a bizarre number world, and a world full of mutilated body parts set a strange tone for the game. The player can attempt to interact with objects, although few will provide any response. The player can choose to wake from dreams at any time, by causing Madotsuki to pinch her cheek and awaken. This behavior ensures that the player has a way out of the dream world at all times.
Many locations serve no purpose in reaching the end of the game, and appear to be included for aesthetics. There are several extremely large, wide-open maps that can only be navigated by finding landmarks or wandering aimlessly. Nearly every NPC can be killed with the knife; however, this usually results in nothing more than a muted scream as it fades away. While the game has no actual enemies that Madotsuki can fight, some areas have wild-eyed girls with what appear to be beaks for mouths, named "Toriningen" (鳥人間?, lit. Bird People) within the game's system files, who will chase after Madotsuki and, upon catching her, teleport her to an inescapable area, forcing the player to "wake up" and return to the real world or use the medamaude effect to return to the nexus.
The player can level up and gain hit points by collecting effects, but this is merely an artifact of the game's engine (the ability to edit what appears on the game menu did not appear until later versions of RPG Maker) and has no effect on gameplay. There is no way to actually die in a dream, though enemies do exist in the form of NPCs that teleport the player to inescapable areas. Most NPCs however mean no harm to the player and simply wander around her dreams, and all but those particular enemy NPCs can be killed with the knife effect.
Release and reception
The public release of version 0.00 of the game took place on June 26, 2004, as a demonstration preview of an incomplete game. With each following version from 0.01 to 0.09 new features and content were progressively introduced, along with various bug fixes. The latest version, 0.10, featured general bug fixes and became available on October 1st, 2007. The creator has mentioned that there will be an update in the future.
Freelance video game journalist Lewis Denby stated it is a "genuinely upsetting" game and that, "there's more to [Madotsuki's] existence than almost any other videogame character you'll ever meet". Independent game developer Derek Yu enjoyed the game, comparing its visual theme to EarthBound and stating "The lack of dialogue or any 'action' fills me with this strange sense of dread." Gamertell's Jenni Lada scored the game 85 out of 100. She praised the unique premise, distinct art style and abstract gameplay which evokes a "dream world experience". Lada noted the geometry of the dream areas, which allows for loops and exitless rooms, and found that it could be "winding and confusing". Whilst she warned that it won't be to everyone's tastes due to "dark or graphic imagery" and found the ending to be disappointing, she concluded that Yume Nikki was worth experiencing. John Jackson praised the game for its ethereal dream-like setting and its non-linear gameplay mechanic, stating, "Out of every game about dreams, this is the one that probably comes closest to actually resembling one." He goes on to argue the game's limitations and vast, undefinable architecture forces the player to question their surroundings and the significance of the smallest actions and events that confront them.
Originally a little-known game that became popular on the Japanese forum 2channel, the game gained a following outside of Japan after an unofficial English translation was released. After gaining a cult following on 2channel, popularity of the game quickly increased by viral means amongst Japanese gamers. Yume Nikki was ranked 14 of the most downloaded programs in 2010 from Vector, a popular Japanese download site, out of a total of approximately 100,000 downloadable software, as listed in the 2010 Vector Awards. This was a significant increase over the previous year, where it only ranked number 68. The game also has a significant following amongst Chinese gamers on Baidu Tieba, Taiwanese users from the anime-manga-game board Komica, and in the rest of the world via *chan imageboard communities.
Various merchandise based on the game has been released, including music albums, light novels, and manga adaptations. On March 26, 2011, the first official merchandise of Yume Nikki, a rubber mobile phone strap featuring a Madotsuki design, was introduced by anime online retailer Surfers' Paradise. Merchandise released later on include capsule seal characters, clear files and T-shirts, all bearing the official Yume Nikki mark by Kikiyama.
Yume Nikki has also been adapted into both a manga and a light novel. The light novel is titled Yume Nikki: Anata no Yume ni Watashi wa Inai (ゆめにっき —あなたの夢に私はいない—?, "Dream Diary: Inside of Your Dream, I Am Not There"), and is written by Akira. The manga is illustrated by Hitoshi Tomizawa, and was serialized in Takeshobo's web manga magazine Manga Life Win+ from May 20, 2013 onwards.[needs update]
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- John Jackson (2010-05-05). "Every Day the Same Dream Diary". Kotaku. Retrieved 2010-07-22.
- 2010 Vector Award (Japanese), Retrieved 2011-06-03.
- 2009年 年間総合ダウンロードランキング（Windows） TOP 100 ── 09.01.01～09.12.10 (Japanese), Retrieved 2011-06-03.
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- 「ゆめにっき」グッズ特設サイト - サーパラグッズ開発部 (Japanese), Surpara store. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
- ゆめにっき×マチゲリータ コラボレーション イメージソングCD, Project YUMENIKKI
- ゆめにっきとは？, Project YUMENIKKI
- Yume Nikki Surreal Horror Game Gets Novel, Manga Adaptations, Anime News Network. Retrieved 2013-05-14
- 漫画情報, Project YUMENIKKI
- Yume Nikki & Kikiyama's Official Website (Japanese)
- Download Yume Nikki (English)
- Project YUMENIKKI (Japanese) - Official website for the album, manga and light novel based on the game
- Madotsuki's Closet - Extensive Fansite (English)
- Uboachan - Fansite / Imageboard (English)
- 夢日記(ゆめにっき/Yume Nikki) - KomicaWiki (Chinese (Taiwan))