BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS COMING! Yume Nikki is a pretty obscure game that is quite the experience. I don’t exactly remember how I heard about it at first, but I have played it very extensively with a friend. It’s a free game made with RPG Maker 2003, and you can play it immediately after download, unlike certain Japanese games made with it. Also, this game is not a JRPG. Hell, I have no idea what genre you can throw this game in. I think it’s some kind of horror-hybrid. Regardless of what genre it falls under, Yume Nikki oozes style (sometimes literally), but with that being said, it comes with its fair share of flaws. Grab your helmet and body armor – this is going to be a wild trip.
Visuals – 9.0 – Like I said before – this game oozes style. Yume Nikki looks like a high-end JRPG from the 16-bit or Game Boy Advance era. What visually sets it apart is that certain areas have a static image as the background, and the floor is invisible. The images are often abstract and pretty goddamn unsettling. There are also some areas that are lacking in color, and all of the features are outlined with a color that stands out. I found my feelings conflicting when encountering these areas because they gave me a sense of childlike wonder and extreme loneliness. Outside of that, it looks, for the most part, like a 16-bit RPG. Every now and again, though, you’ll discover something that looks… odd. Have a look.
Sound – 6.0 – There isn’t too much to talk about here. The first thing you’ll notice will be the adorable sound of the footsteps of Madotsuki, the main character. They make a cute, little sound that you’d only hear in anime, or some shit. All of the time. All of the steps. FOR THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF THE FUCKING GAME. And then, you get the bicycle! Bicycles can’t possibly make the same sound, BUT THIS ONE DOES, AND THE FREQUENCY OF THE STEPPING SOUND IS DOUBLED. It’s actually not that bad, but the decision to do such a thing is questionable. There are very few other sound effects that really stand out, other than the odd scream that is let out when most things are stabbed with the knife (more on that in a bit). As for the music, I’ll give it the credit it deserves by saying it’s unique, and the composer deserves bonus points for creating it on their own. Even more credit has to be given because of the fact that each song is fitting to the area that you happen to be in. What’s a shame is that most songs are composed of one measure, and that measure is looped without end. Luckily, not a single song in the game is annoying. In fact, most of them are pretty soothing.
Story – ?.0 – Madotsuki has some fucked up dreams. That… seems to be it…? I mean, there are other characters, but there’s no dialogue.
Gameplay – 2.0 – Yume Nikki manages to commit the worst offenses in terms of game design. Once you get her to sleep, you are able to explore her dreams. The only hints you are given appear when you start a new game. Outside of that, the game gives the player almost no feedback, so you just wander around, hoping that something will happen. Remember the floorless areas with a static image in the background? Well, as creative as they may seem, they actually suck. The lack of flooring makes it very difficult for you to know where you are. What’s even worse is that these areas loop, and you can’t tell how big or small it is, especially since, for whatever fucking reason, unique landmarks seem to be few and far between. It is 100% guaranteed that you will get lost, wandering around aimlessly, wondering what the hell you’re supposed to do.
If you haven’t given up after just a few minutes, you’ll run into something that you can finally interact with. Upon hitting the action button, you’ll see in small letters the word ‘GET’ with a text box on the bottom of the screen telling you what you have obtained. Finally, you’ve done something right! These are called ‘effects’, and they change Madotsuki in some way. Some are simply cosmetic, while others are purposeful in some way. Finding them is a major issue because, again, outside of the messages you get when starting a new game, you are given no hints or feedback. To make matters worse, doors that you may find can lead to a completely new area to get lost in. Stumbling across these is extremely frustrating because you don’t know whether or not you have seen everything a certain area has to offer, and you’re suddenly thrown into a new one that you have to explore.
At some point during your effect hunting, you’ll get the knife effect. Yes, you carry a knife around and use it as a weapon, but there’s only one actual enemy in the game. You run around the game killing things that aren’t trying to hurt you, mainly because killing things and hearing their screams is one of the few bits of feedback you get as a player. Other bits of feedback come from certain effects being equipped and the action you can perform with it. The best example is easily when you have the cat effect equipped. You can meow as the cat and most ‘creatures’ around you will move closer to you.
Another thing to note is that ‘events’ can occur. Some of them are just a luck of the draw, while others can be found or triggered by an effect. Again, the game tells you little about these things, but when they happen, they’ll catch you by surprise. Some are creepy, some are cute, and others just make you scratch your head wondering why it was put in the game in the first place.
Using the stoplight effect on the girl (left) triggers a full-screen event (right).
Overall – 7.0 – No, your eyes aren’t broken. I know that I’ve said time and time again (especially if you know me in person) that gameplay is the most important thing in a video game. Yume Nikki’s gameplay is an abomination in how it only tells you how to play the game when starting a new file, and that’s it. You get lost, and you’re just supposed to deal with it. It has the most issues with conveyance that I have ever witnessed in all of my 22 years of gaming. On top of that, the story is absent, the sound is acceptable, and its visuals are nicely stylized, but that doesn’t save it. This game is a chore to play… but I gave it a good score for a reason.
GAMECHANGER – What I didn’t mention earlier is HOW you obtain the stoplight effect. You get it by interacting with a person that had met a terrible fate on a street. Obtaining the stoplight IMPLIES that there had been a car accident, and it had killed that person. Now, when you interact with the girl in the figure from earlier with the stoplight, she grows extra arms and looks utterly creepy. Hear me out on this – what if..those aren’t extra arms at all? What if she’s dead? Her arms must have been mangled in some way! The arm coming out of her head – brain matter? What could have happened to make her suffer such a cruel fate? The stoplight effect triggering this event IMPLIES that she was KILLED IN A CAR ACCIDENT, AND THAT PICTURE IS A CHILD’S INTERPRETATION OF HER MANGLED, DISFIGURED CORPSE. Shit like this is what makes Yume Nikki such an incredible experience. The theorycrafting that has stemmed from this game is absolutely mind-blowing and overwhelming. THAT is the saving grace of this game. People have picked this game apart and still are. Plus, so many have done it by now that the game has been turned into a science, which helps newcomers not feel so lost when playing.
There are LOTS of implications dropped in Yume Nikki, some of which is utterly disturbing. There is no actual answer as to what’s going on, though. Everything up to now has been nothing but speculation from the community that this game has created. If you dare to play it, follow a Let’s Play from youtube. Otherwise, browse the Yume Nikki Wiki (http://yumenikki.wikia.com/wiki/Yume_Nikki_Wiki). Like I said, this game is a wild ride. It’s only recommended for the truly daring.
I’ll catch you all in my next review. Keep on gaming.