[Game Review] Yume Nikki 3D: A Journey Through the Dark Dreams of a Troubled Girl

Alex Beyman

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The fact that this game exists won’t excite you much unless you’re aware of the original Yume Nikki, which it is a 3D remake (and partial reimagining) of. Yume Nikki is a bizarre, fascination dream exploration game made in RPG maker by Kikiyama.

Given that it’s entirely the work of one person, it’s impressive how famous it’s become. As Indie games go, I’d put it on the same level of fame and influence as Cave Story. It’s spawned a seemingly endless series of fan tribute games and fan artwork, as well as its own official manga adaptation.

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As a huge fan of the original game and seasoned oneironaut, imagine my delight when I learned that reclusive Russian developer Zykov Eddy was making a 3D remake of Yume Nikki. Regular readers of mine may recall when I reviewed a horror game of his, Mask Reveals Disgusting Face.

Like everything he does, Yume Nikki runs on the eDuke32 engine, a modern source port of the venerable old BUILD engine behind such classic 90s shooters as Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and Blood. It creates just the right hybrid 2D/3D pixelated look for a game which is meant to be a 3D adaptation of something made in RPG maker.

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You will begin the game in the apartment of the main character, Madotsuki. She is a young Japanese girl living on her own who does not leave her apartment (a hikikomori, ‘hikki’ or ‘NEET’) for undisclosed reasons. Fans have speculated about traumatic experiences which made her this way, that might also explain the content of her dreams.

While she is very confined in the waking world, the dream world is where she is free to roam as widely as she likes. This is the bulk of the game, exploring her dreams in search of keys, and “effects” which give you a variety of different powers that come in handy in certain spots.

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Each effect changes Madotsuki in some way. One is a bicycle she can ride to get around more quickly. One gives her a frog’s head. One makes her monochromatic. The sort of surreal stuff you expect to see in dreams. The environments are equally surreal and fantastically varied.

This type of 2.5D engine does a wonderful job of preserving the 16 bit look of the original game while translating it to a 3Dish environment. It really feels authentically close to the original, and many of the locations from the original make an appearance in this version.

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…Not all of them, however. And many of the environments are original, devised by Zykov Eddy rather than Kikiyama. This will please some, but anger others. Personally I like it. Enough is the same that it’s familiar and recognizably Yume Nikki, but enough is new that it motivates me to explore in search of those new additions, making it a fresh experience.

It is at times quite creepy. The Uboa encounter in particular but also the generally macabre feeling of Madotsuki’s dreams. Recurring imagery includes eyes, knives, 8 bit games, and other elements from Madotsuki’s waking life both literal and figurative.

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It’s strongly recommended to play the original 2D version as well, given how incomplete the 3D version is. The 3D version is by no means a complete remake, and is better viewed as a companion game. There is also Yume Nikki 3D: Isolated Version, with an entirely original set of levels to explore.

It will take you a while to find everything in the base game though. It’s sprawling, maze-like and cryptic. Longer still if you set out to find everything in the 2D original. With no hand holding and few clues, you could be at it for years.

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The best reason to play Yume Nikki 3D is for the atmosphere, and to deepen your appreciation for the source material. It gives fans of the original the chance to revisit many recognizable locations from the game in 3D, and to explore lovingly crafted original areas that feel very true to the original style.

There isn’t really anything in the way of combat. You can obtain a knife, with which you can stab certain NPCs, but actual hostile entities are rare in Yume Nikki 3D. By comparison they are plentiful in the 2D original, those nightmarish bird women being among the most unsettling.

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Will you enjoy this without the context of having played the original Yume Nikki? Probably. Maybe even moreso as you won’t notice everything that got left out. You might even prefer to play this first, so that the 2D original won’t disappoint, being far more expansive in terms of content.

But you could just as easily play them in the opposite order, so that you’ll recognize the 3D environments from the 2D ones they’re based off of. Enjoying the 3D remake in much the same way that we all enjoyed first playing 3D sequels to our favorite 2D game franchises in the 90s, once consoles and home computers became capable of it.

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Boiled down to basics, this is a game for people who wonder at the meaning and symbology of dreams. Who enjoy a creepy vibe in their games and like to explore strange, abstract worlds. Given that it’s free, you have little to lose, and it comes highly recommended by me.

If these screenshots don’t convince you, tugging powerfully at your inclination to explore the unfamiliar and unknown, I don’t know what I can say that would make the difference. It’s a really odd but compelling experience you’ll come out of with a changed perspective on dreams.

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You can exit any dream at any time and will find yourself back in your apartment. From here you can save your game, manage save files and other menu type stuff. IIRC in the 2D original you could play a minigame on Madotsuki’s Famicom, sadly I think that was left out of the 3D version.

It’s a short game if you know where to find all the keys and effects. The bulk of the game’s length is just exploring. Despite the simplicity of it, I give it a high rating for replay value as you’ll want to keep coming back in search of weird tucked-away locations you may have overlooked.

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Yume Nikki 3D can be downloaded for free right here. The “Isolated DLC” with totally original dreamscapes can be downloaded here. While you’re at it, check out the rest of Zykov Eddy’s games here, as well as his most recent game “Electric Highways” on Steam


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Alex Beyman

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