It Came From Obscurity: Yume Nikki
Yume Nikki on the outside looks like a relatively cute adventure-RPG with sprite graphics similar to that of Earthbound, but what is hidden deep within this title will haunt you weeks after playing it.
Yume Nikki, which translated from Japanese means “Dream Diary”, puts you in the shoes of a young girl named Madotsuki who refuses to leave her one room apartment. Her only escape from her own solitude lies in her mind, in the form of vivid dreams. In fact, most of the things you will do in the game will take place in the dream world, as the only thing waiting for you in the real world is your apartment balcony, a television with nothing but a test pattern, and a Famicom where you can play the title’s only minigame: NASU, a thoroughly unsatisfying title where the player must catch falling eggplants in their mouth. This mini-game is a perfect practice in futility, as catching the eggplants is unnecessarily difficult, failure to catch one results in a loud buzzing “Game Over”, and there is no sense of reward in even succeeding.
Entering the dream world results in a near facsimile of her living space, though the Famicom is strangely absent. This time, however, you can leave the confines of the apartment. Doing so brings you to a dark room with twelve doors, portals to different parts of Madotsuki’s brain. Since the game never clearly states what your purpose in exploring the Dream World is, this can seem a bit disorienting (potentially even boring) to those first experiencing Yume Nikki unassisted. I’ll spare you that trouble, as it shouldn’t cheapen the game’s experience. Madotsuki must travel through the Dream World collecting effects, objects that she can use when she is asleep. Such effects range from the truly useful items (such as a bicycle or a knife) to the absurd (such as frog or poop hair), to the completely useless (such as fat or blonde hair). Players can collect many of these items in any order, but a few of the later effect items cannot be accessed without the proper previous effect. This adds a mild amount of puzzle solving to what could have been simply a scavenger hunt game.
Though one of the effects in this game is a knife, don’t be fooled. Yume Nikki will never force you into combat. In fact, there is no way to die in the Dream World. Any sticky situation you find yourself in can be ended by simply pinching your cheek and waking up. Find all 24 effects and drop them in the room with the twelve doors and you will end the game. I will not spoil the ending, but after playing through the game it will feel eerily appropriate.
You’ll notice that throughout this article I’ve neglected to delve into details about what goes on in the Dream World, and I’ve got a perfectly good reason for this: I don’t exactly know what I’ve experienced…and to be honest it frightens me a bit. What I can say is that what lies behind each door is a unique aesthetic experience. A good set of headphones is a must!
I cannot stress this enough, do not play this game if you have a weak scare tolerance. The scares may not hit you directly when you play the game, but trust me, you’ll feel it as you go to bed at night. I’ll leave you with one small bit of information, and it’s up to you whether you take it.
If you find yourself in an pink teepee with a bedroom in it, be sure to play with the lights. Keep doing it.
Download the English version of Yume Nikki HERE