How Yume Nikki Built a Cult Following
Creepy young women in creepy bedrooms investigating creepy environments always makes for a great plot. In the case of Yume Nikki, that's all the player gets for a plot; everything else is left to the imagination. There's no dialogue. There are no maps. There's no story to unravel or discover. The self-guided exploration so central to the game is also central to the creation of the game's cult following.
Yume Nikki: A Short History
Yume Nikki, which translates to "dream diary" in English, is a surrealistic horror "RPG" originally released in 2004. "RPG" is used loosely here, as the game was created on RPG Maker 2003 but features very few RPG elements, if any at all. In Yume Nikki, players explore dream worlds as a reclusive young woman known as Madotsuki. There are 12 worlds players can explore, collecting 24 different "effects" that have various uses in the game. There's no real goal to the game, if collecting 24 "effects" doesn't count as a goal.
The game rose to prominence after an unofficial English translation was released soon after the original release. The fanbase, already substantial in Japan, expanded globally with the English translation. Within the last year, the game has found fans among Chinese and Taiwanese players. Yume Nikki is now free-to-play on Steam, with publisher AGM Playism teasing a follow-up to be released on Wednesday, Jan. 24.
There's a Method to the Madness
Yume Nikki was created by a Japanese developer known as Kikiyama. Besides the pseudonym, not much more is known about the developer, and Kikiyama has refused to divulge anything regarding Yume Nikki's symbolism, canon, or creative choices. The lack of explanation leaves fans theorizing, conjecturing on everything from Madotsuki's backstory to why the only way to interact with any NPC is with a knife. When explanations are offered, they are rejected and criticized, as demonstrated by the spin-off manga and novel. And because Yume Nikki is composed of dream worlds, everything has a meaning. Everything relates back to the waking world in some shape or form.
As for the follow-up coming out later this month, all Playism has said is that Yume Nikki: Dream Diary is the "next Yume Nikki project." Whether the follow-up is going to be a sequel, a remake, or a brand-new game is yet to be seen. The bizarre, eight-minute teaser doesn't say much more beyond "next Yume Nikki project," but that's to be expected. A game known for not telling players all that much isn't going to do a 180 and spill its secrets. And as the Yume Nikki fanbase has shown, they wouldn't want it any other way.
Yume Nikki is currently free-to-play on Steam.