The game's title screen
|Engine||RPG Maker 2003|
|Release||June 26, 2004|
|Genre(s)||Adventure, psychological horror|
Yume Nikki (ゆめにっき, lit. Dream Diary) is a surreal adventure game by pseudonymous Japanese developer Kikiyama. In the game, players explore the dreams of a hikikomori named Madotsuki, where they encounter a number of surrealistic horror creatures and locations. The game was created using RPG Maker 2003, but has few overall gameplay elements, with the primary objective being to collect items called "effects" to complete the game.
The initial version was released in June 2004, with subsequent updates over time; the last occurring in 2007. It was later released on Steam by publisher Playism in January 2018. A 3D reboot, Yume Nikki: Dream Diary, was released the following month. In addition, various fangames inspired by the original game have also been released.
Players control a hikikomori named Madotsuki (窓付き, lit. windowed) 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, eggplant). There is a dream diary on a writing desk which the player can use to save data.
After Madotsuki falls asleep, she begins to dream. The player is then presented with a dream world which resembles the same room Madotsuki lives in. In the dream world, the player is able to leave the room, which will lead to a nexus of 12 doors, with each leading to a different world, including a colorful neon maze, a forest, a world littered with numerical symbols, and a world full of body parts, among others. These 12 worlds, in turn, connect to a number of other worlds, forming a large and expansive area for the player to explore. The purpose of the game is for the player to navigate the main character's dream worlds to obtain 24 objects, known as "effects". The player can attempt to interact with objects, although few will provide any response. The player can choose to wake from the dream world 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.
There is no way to encounter a game over in the game, though enemies do exist in the form of NPCs that can teleport the player to inescapable areas, forcing them to wake up or use an effect to return to the nexus. Such NPCs include bird-like humanoid girls with beaks for mouths, called "Toriningen" (鳥人間, lit. Bird People), who will chase after Madotsuki.
Release and reception
Originally a little-known game that became popular on the Japanese forum 2channel, the game gained a following outside Japan after an unofficial English translation was released. After gaining a cult following on 2channel, popularity of the game quickly increased by viral means among Japanese players. The first public release 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 1, 2007. Over a decade later, the game was released on Steam by publisher Playism on January 10, 2018.
Independent game designer 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. Kotaku's 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.
The game inspired a large number of unofficial fangames with a similar style of gameplay, such as .flow and Yume 2kki. The game's structure was also a major influence on 2012's Lisa the First, predecessor of the standalone RPG LISA: The Painful.
Various merchandise based on the game has been released under the "Project Yume Nikki" brand. The game was 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 was written by Akira. The title was licensed for digital distribution in the English language by J-Novel Club. The manga was illustrated by Hitoshi Tomizawa, and was serialized in Takeshobo's web manga magazine Manga Life Win+ from May 2013 until March 2014. A Vocaloid album, entitled Yumenikki no Tame no Waltz (ゆめにっきのためのワルツ), was released on April 27, 2013. A two-volume official soundtrack, featuring all the original tracks for the game, as well as ten arrangements by doujin group INFINITY∞, was published in Japan by Glaive Music on August 31, 2014. A two-volume version of the soundtrack was also released on iTunes and Amazon Music in 2014. An app version of the Nasu minigame was released for iOS and Android devices in November 2013.
A 3D reboot of the game, Yume Nikki: Dream Diary, was released for Windows on February 23, 2018. It was developed by Active Gaming Media under supervision and cooperation from Kikiyama, featuring some unused design concepts from the original game. It was revealed after a two week countdown on Kadokawa Corporation's website following the release of Yume Nikki on Steam. It was also released for the Nintendo Switch on February 21, 2019.
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