|Engine||RPG Maker 2003|
|Release||June 26, 2004|
Yume Nikki[b] is a 2004 adventure horror game created by pseudonymous Japanese developer Kikiyama. The player controls a girl named Madotsuki and explores her dreams, collecting 24 effects that change her appearance and equipment. Random events also occur throughout the game in the form of cutscenes and unique gameplay sequences. Devoid of a traditional plot or any battle system, the gameplay focuses on exploration of the dream world.
Yume Nikki was first distributed on 2channel as freeware for Microsoft Windows in June 2004, with subsequent updates continuing until 2007. It was developed using RPG Maker 2003, but lacks many gameplay elements commonly associated with role-playing games. Despite its limited distribution format, it garnered a cult following and received critical praise for its surreal visual style and emphasis on open-ended exploration; its non-linearity led some critics to describe it as a precursor to walking simulators. Its pixel art visual style and horror elements influenced later indie games.
Yume Nikki is an exploration-based adventure game with no dialogue, combat, or plot. The player controls a girl named Madotsuki who lives in a one-room apartment by herself. The game begins inside her apartment, which the player is initially unable to leave. The player can save their progress by sitting at Madotsuki's desk and writing in her dream diary. Sleeping in her bed causes Madotsuki to start dreaming.
Her dream begins in a room closely resembling her apartment. Inside the dream world, the player can leave Madotsuki's apartment, leading her into a room commonly referred to as the Nexus, which contains 12 new doors. Each of the doors lead to a different area in the dream world, with each area having a distinct environment and design. The player's objective is to explore these areas and collect 24 different effects, which can be used to change Madotsuki's appearance or equipment. Effects can be collected by interacting with certain objects and non-player characters (NPCs). Other objects and NPCs may send Madotsuki to different areas, but there is no way to encounter a game over. Throughout the game, random events can occur, which can be cutscenes or have interactive gameplay elements. The game's ending, which is unlocked after the player collects all 24 effects, shows Madotsuki jumping off of the balcony of her apartment.
Development and release
Yume Nikki was created independently by a Japanese developer known pseudonymously as Kikiyama, about whom very little is known. They created the game using RPG Maker 2003, a computer program designed for making 2D role-playing games. Despite this, many elements often associated with role-playing games are absent, such as dialogue and combat. Kikiyama first shared a build of the game on June 26, 2004 on the Japanese textboard 2channel, and they continued to update the game until 2007. From 2011 to 2018, Kikiyama's status was unknown as they were completely unresponsive to all contact. Some speculated that they had died, possibly in the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. On January 10, 2018, Yume Nikki was released on Steam by publisher Playism, and Kadokawa Games confirmed that Kikiyama was still alive and involved with the project.
Yume Nikki received generally positive reception from critics, particularly for its unique, surreal visual style and exploration-based gameplay. Its visual style has been compared to the 16-bit graphics of EarthBound. Ryan McSwain, writing for Hardcore Gaming 101, remarked that the game created surprisingly good visuals by using layering effects and "eye-catching animations". He also praised the game's music and sound design. Giada Zavarise of Rock Paper Shotgun said that the game's pixel-art style influenced a movement of similarly-styled indie horror games like Ao Oni and Ib. She also attributed some of the game's popularity to the fact that its "dreamy" imagery invites speculation about its meaning. Wired's Julie Muncy also pointed to the game's surreal imagery and said that it appeals to those interested in dream interpretation.
The gameplay and atmosphere were also positively received by critics, who identified the game's emphasis on exploration as a major appeal, with some describing it as an early example of a walking simulator. Muncy described it as being "rich in atmospheric dream worlds" and said its surreal world-building logic creates uneasiness in players. McSwain and Zavarise agreed that the game's world was enjoyable to explore, with distinct and interesting locations, but both identified the lack of any guides or maps as a source of frustration, making it too easy for the player to get stuck. McSwain also criticized the game's random events for being too difficult to experience due to their rarity. Zavarise specifically said the early parts of the game, before the player is able to memorize paths and landmarks, were the most likely to drive new players away.
Originally receiving a limited Japanese-only release on 2channel, Yume Nikki later gained a larger cult following in the west, due in part to its fan-made English translation. Gita Jackson of Kotaku also attributed this following to the game's "unusual visual style and oppressive tone". Caty McCarthy of USgamer compared its proliferation across the internet in the mid-2000s to that of Cave Story. Due to the game's open-ended nature and the accessibility offered by the RPG Maker software, Yume Nikki has inspired the creation of a number of fangames, some of which have attempted to explore theories about the original game; notable examples include Yume 2kki,[c] a collaborative project started by 2channel users, and .flow. It has also influenced other indie games, including Ao Oni, Ib, Lisa: The First, Undertale and Omori. In January 2018, games journalist Lewis Denby started a podcast named Dream Diary which explores the history and theories surrounding the game's origins and its rise in popularity.
Multiple pieces of spin-off media have been produced based on Yume Nikki since the game's last update in 2007. The game has been adapted into both a manga and a light novel. The manga was illustrated by Hitoshi Tomizawa, and was serialized in Takeshobo's web manga magazine Manga Life Win+ beginning in May 2013. The light novel is titled Yume Nikki: I Am Not in Your Dream,[d] and was written by Akira and illustrated by Aco Arisaka. It was licensed for digital distribution in English by J-Novel Club. PC Gamer reported that the manga was criticized for attempting to explain too much of the game's universe. Project Yume Nikki,[e] which managed the official merchandise, also stated that these adaptations were not meant to be reflective of Kikiyama's original vision for the game. A Vocaloid image song album titled Yumenikki no Tame no Waltz[f] was produced for the project by Machigerita.
Along with the release of Yume Nikki on Steam, a two-week countdown appeared on the Kadokawa Games website. At the end of the countdown, a fully-3D reboot game called Yume Nikki: Dream Diary was announced. It was developed by Kadokawa Games and Active Gaming Media and supervised by Kikiyama, featuring some design concepts and characters that were left unused in the original game. Many of the characters and locations from the original returned in the reboot, and elements of puzzle and platform games were added. It was released on Steam on February 23, 2018 and for the Nintendo Switch on February 21, 2019. It received "mixed or average reviews" according to review aggregator Metacritic.
Critics comparing the two games generally felt that Dream Diary was worse than the original. Adam Smith of Rock Paper Shotgun said that it had lost the "mysterious horror and charm" of the original. Azario Lopez of DualShockers said he felt that the developers were "huge fans" of the original game, a fact he felt was apparent in the visuals and sound design, but that it ultimately could never live up to the standard of the original. Kevin Lynn of Adventure Gamers felt that the game's visuals were a "solid translation" of the original's into 3D, but said Yume Nikki's defining open-ended gameplay had been sacrificed in favor of adventure game tropes.
- Muncy, Julie (January 23, 2018). "The Mysterious Japanese Game That Took 14 Years To Officially Come Out". Wired. Archived from the original on January 25, 2018. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- McSwain, Ryan (May 4, 2017). "Yume Nikki". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on March 2, 2022. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
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- "再現度高いぞ!? 「ゆめにっき」Web漫画連載がついにスタート". ねとらぼ (in Japanese). Archived from the original on May 22, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2022.
- Nelkin, Sarah (January 3, 2013). "Yume Nikki Surreal Horror Game Gets Novel, Manga Adaptations". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on March 3, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- "Ongaku Jōhō" 音楽情報 [Music Information]. Project YUMENIKKI (in Japanese). Archived from the original on November 16, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
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- Rad, Chloi (February 27, 2019). "Yume Nikki: Dream Diary Launching on Nintendo Switch". IGN (published February 15, 2019). Archived from the original on February 18, 2019. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
- "YUMENIKKI -DREAM DIARY- for PC Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on November 10, 2021. Retrieved May 25, 2022.
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- Lynn, Kevin (August 12, 2019). "Yume Nikki – Dream Diary review". Adventure Gamers. Archived from the original on November 24, 2021. Retrieved September 17, 2022.