This month’s game is another hidden gem created with RPG Maker. Back in 2004 a Japanese freeware developer, Kikiyama, decided to create an RPG with the sole purpose of creeping out players as much as humanly possible. Yume Nikki was born and she succeeds in her glorious goal.
Yume Nikki is about a young shut-in named Madotsuki who only plays a depressing game called Nasu and sleeps. One day she begins to have these strange dreams which involves traversing incredibly surreal and creepy worlds. This game was the first RPG Maker freeware title I ever encountered and kicked-off my obsession of sorts.
Warning–passing through this particular door in the dreamscape may reveal in-game spoilers: so proceed at your own risk.
When the game starts, Madotsuki can only either play her Nasu game or sleep. Sleeping allows her to enter the Dreamscape where she can go through one of 12 doors that leads to 12 different levels, each with its own warped theme.
The game is very open-ended and simply requires the player to travel through the protagonist’s dreamscape, collecting items known as “effects” to unlock new areas. There are 24 effects scattered throughout the worlds and while most of them are simply for aesthetics, a few of them do have some sort of use.
For instance, in order to reach the Poop Hair effect (yes it’s a thing), you need to use either the Yuki-Onna effect or Umbrella effect to douse a flaming door blocking the way. Sometimes these items can also have interesting effects on the otherwise silent NPCs that litter the various worlds. The Catsuit draws any NPCs to Madotsuki while the Knife lets you channel your inner psycho by stabbing anyone you meet. These effects are usually the only way to get the inhabitants to interact with you.
Unlike other titles, the main purpose of Yume Nikki is not to achieve a specific goal such as saving the world or rescuing someone. Instead players must simply explore and uncover the secrets that lay hidden. It takes non-linear exploration to its logical extreme as there’s really no pay-off for what players accomplish, except finding new areas and events.
Where this game excels is in the horror and weirdness that permeates every aspect. Each area is filled with the most unsettling imagery, such as freakish backgrounds, body horror and plenty of empty rooms that simply exist to unnerve the player. There are also various Easter eggs involving the random appearance of certain NPCs and events, the most famous examples being Uboa, the Mars event and the White Desert event.
You can dowload the full game here. In 2013, the official site announced the release of a novel, manga and album for Yume Nikki. The manga has already started serialization in the magazine Manga Life Win and there’s naturally an English translation, which you can find here. There’s also an awesome Let’s Play of the game (don’t worry it’s not YouTube) which is over here. Unlike other LPs, this one uses subtitles to keep from taking away Yume Nikki‘s ambiance so it’s a great choice for those that don’t want to lose the atmosphere of the game.
For more great titles, check out more of the best Japanese indie games you’ve never played.