Reviews: Yume Nikki

A curious anomaly

There is no more than weirdness to it. Once you have gone through the main menu, the game starts to be strange. Normally, sleeping in games is just a cheap way to recover hit points or stamina, but in Yume Nikki is the most important feature the game has. And from here onwards, the way goes downhill.

You get to meet the dreamworld of a little girl with problems to get out of her room. There is anything making her behave like a hikkikomori? Is she perfectly sane? Why does she always dream of the same non-sensical world? There is anything in her dreams that can be related to the previous questions? The answer to the latter is "maybe". That could be the reason of its relative success. Let me word it again:

Exploration is the unique goal the game appears to have. And, therefore, you explore. Then, after you have explored her dreams and gathered the "effects", she finally is able to do something else. Dying. So it's no wonder that the player may want to explore into the girl's background, to know what made her do it. And, therefore, you explore.

The fanbase is fueled by that purpose. To build up a backstory to Madotsuki, having only as material her dreams. And it's pretty obvious that with the MST3K Mantra in mind, the game is outright boring.

To sum up, the game is about looking for something that you know that may not exist, by exploring a world that only exists in the mind of a fictional hikkikomori girl.

Perhaps one of the foremost examples of art in video games

Yume Nikki is not a fun game. In fact, I've heard of Yume Nikki referred to more as an experience than a game, and I definitely agree with this. When we talk about art, we tend to refer to things as "experiences." This is primarily because most media that takes itself seriously aims to give use an exercise in empathy—that is, a window into another person or non-persons perspective. When we peek through this window, we feel as they feel, we see as they see, and for a fleeting moment, we're in their world.

That's what Yume Nikki is. It's not so much a story as it is a snapshot of a story. We don't experience the whirlwind of Madotsuki's emotions in a linear fashion, but rather in a loud orchestra of events. Her sorrow, confusion, depression, and growing anger at a warped world is not conveyed through prose and direct storytelling, but rather through vivid imagery and symbolism. Not a word is spoken, yet we understand who she is and how she views society, herself, and her peers. The depth of her character is unrivaled, and the environment of her dreamworld is fascinating and immersive. We find a knife in a strange, dark world. Beneath the facade of a cutesy blonde girl hides a terrible demon. A lonely guitar plays in an abandoned, run-down desert village. These short vignettes speak a language of emotion, strange and sometimes frightening, but all the more poignant, and ultimately culminate in one of the most shocking and emotional endings I've seen in a game, but perhaps the only appropriate ending the story could have.

No, it's definitely not a fun game per se; save for the enjoyment of exploration and the thrill of discovery, it lacks the excitement characteristic of more popular games. However, it's a great story that reveals itself through analysis, discussion, and contemplation, much like a good painting, and definitely art in video games at its finest. Overall, it's a game that you should definitely experience, and one that you certainly won't forget.