Remembering Yume Nikki

Posted 2024-06-26.

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It's been twenty years since the first version of Yume Nikki appeared in the website of the elusive kikiyama. Twenty years of dreams.

I wonder when it was that I played Yume Nikki and met the protagonist Madotsuki for the first time. I know for certain that the game was already popular online when I found out about it; people already loved Uboa, for example. Those were the days! As far as I know, Yume Nikki gained fame in the western net around 2008, maybe 2007, when the final version of Yume Nikki was making the rounds (alongside the English fan translation), but I'm not that sure. I played it way after that, anyway, around 2010 or so. Everything reached my part of the world a bit later. I never was much of a gamer, much less of RPGs, but I remember loving Yume Nikki from the start. Maybe it was because it reminded me of Earthbound, the only other RPG I had extensively played back then. But Yume Nikki is different in every way.

There's not really much of a "game" to it. The only goal, if you can call it that because it's optional, is to collect all 24 effects and to explore the maps. There's no dialogue, no more challenges, nothing to hurt you, and no plot. It's all just Madotsuki and her internal world. More than a game, Yume Nikki is like an interactive painting. The game equivalent to ambient music. An experience that has been profoundly influential to everyone who's given it a chance.

Yume Nikki is a romantic work: emotional, sincere and hearful, and at the same time somber, strange, mysterious and at times shocking. As any great work of art, it leaves its purpose and meaning under the domain of speculation. The author is the only one who knows why Yume Nikki was made, not academics or video essays pretending otherwise. The simplicity of its presentation (forced, in a good way, by the RPG Maker 2003 engine) and its purposeful ambiguity conceive in players a deep intrigue. It's this intrigue that has led thousands of dreamers to come up with a plethora of different theories about what the game means and what messages it contains, some theories crazier than others, but none more official or valid (many are just deranged and wrong, though), making Yume Nikki a very profound personal experience. In a way, everyone makes Madotsuki's dream theirs.

Why does Madotsuki not want to leave her room? What are the contents of the books in her bookshelf? Why does she see native american symbols in her dreams? Does she live alone? Is that room all there is? Who are the few human figures in her dreams? How is she dressed, really? Does she wear a sweater and a long skirt? Why does collecting the effects lead to that? Oh, so many questions without answers.

Outside the game, the mystery grows because of the enigma behind the person of kikiyama, the sole developer of the game. Almost nobody knows who he is, if he's a man or a woman, what's his job or if he's done more projects besides Yume Nikki; and those who claim to have met him (or her!) don't know more about the game than the rest of us. kikiyama published the final version of the game in 2008, refused to explain further, and left for good.

Yume Nikki is not a horror game nor a bunch of random ideas thrown together. Nothing further from the truth. My own theory is that the worlds of Yume Nikki are carefully designed to evoke universal symbols so that everyone can relate to at least some part of Madotsuki's dream.

Ah, what could evoke more melancholy than seeing the wet floor after rain? It's the last opportunity we have to play in the puddles before the heat of the Sun dries the land and we have to wait for the next shower. A beautiful image in real life already, but I saw it multiple times in dreams (especially as a child), and so did Madotsuki, apparently. The Puddle World is one of the simplest but it's definitively one of my favourites for bringing back those nice memories. Of course, imagination has to fill in the blanks, just like when reading a book.

Image of the Puddle World

I remember that as a child I had this singular dream in which I walked around my neighborhood and looked at the sky. There I could see all the planets of the solar system bunched up together in a bright oval mass, and I thought it was mysterious and spectacular. Imagine my surprise when the background of the Graffiti World had a similar shape and colours... it's weird to notice these things, but it made the experience that much more special!

Image of the Graffiti World

I could write all day about the other sublime experiences that this incomparable game offers, such as the first time you reach the Sky Garden after a good hour in the Wilderness, or when you figure out, with some help maybe, that you can fly from the roof of the Mall. Just take a look at all the beautiful art that this simple game has inspired, both visual art and music, to understand the profound impact that its had on the collective unconscious. Yume Nikki is more than just the knife!


These days it's trivial to find millions of works that pay homage to Yume Nikki or try to imitate it. It's sad to know that none will be as legendary.

Yume Nikki appeared right at the end of the last period of history in which there was mystery on the internet. Video sites weren't as massive and there weren't wikis for everything. It was just you and Madotsuki, and maybe some weirdos in imageboards and forums who were, just like you, trying to figure out the mystery of this little RPG Maker game. kikiyama might have been involved promoting this game online in its early stages, but he quickly decided to not get involved further, letting the game grow on its own; he chose not to become an important figure, even though he clearly had made one of the most influential games of all time... could another kikiyama exist in this era of unbounded egocentrism?

As long as there is mystery, someone will try to find an answer. Mystery is what inspires humanity. The mystery of Yume Nikki is inexhaustible, and, as long as it can be played, this makes it eternal.

Happy 20th anniversary, Yume Nikki.

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