Yume Nikki: Dream Diary (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 13.04.2019

Review for Yume Nikki: Dream Diary on Nintendo Switch

During the earliest days of when indie games were commonly crafted in RPG maker, Yume Nikki became a cult favourite. This was an overhead perspective adventure game about a shut-in girl named Madotsuki, who has bizarre visions in her sleep. She would often find herself exploring her dreamscapes, solving puzzles, and interacting with weirdos. The dark tone and uncomfortable atmosphere made Yume Nikki so beloved, since it combined Freudian nightmares with EarthBound-style imagery. It had a laidback approach to gameplay, and to this day still has fans producing works inspired by it. Reimagined as Yume Nikki: Dream Diary, and supervised by its original creator, it is back and in 3D... but is this how it should have been?

Yume Nikki: Dream Diary's first impressions are a bit concerning at first. This is not exactly a pretty looking thing. Graphics are drab and generic; there is not much style, and Modotsuki looks like a dummy, while also animating like one. Depth-of-field effects are way over done in instances with harsh cut-off lines, and the frame rate is pretty spotty at times. In spite of these visual and technical short comings, Dream Diary manages to overcome the odds thanks to its execution of its journey into the unknown.

While it is unfortunate that some aspects from the original Yume Nikki did not make the cut into this reimagining, on its own merits it ends up as a very unique and compelling adventure game that plays a little bit like Little Nightmares and Limbo, but with a dash of metroidvania. Newcomers who had never played the original will be in for a treat; veterans might come out of this underwhelmed.

In many ways the ugliness of Dream Diary enhances the mood. There is a strange and elusive quality emanating from this game that makes it feel cursed or haunted; as if nobody should be playing it... hence the unusual visuals. It may not have been intentional, but the sheer stark clashing of the various 3D graphics really does give a dreamlike (or nightmarish) quality that honours the original game in its own abstract way. It certainly does take a little getting used to, but after settling in and fully immersing into the experience proper, everything sort of clicks - and for an ugly title, there is still a surprising attention to detail. From the subtle native American dreamcatcher motif designs peppered through out to vague implications of suicide and depression, Dream Diary is very deft at drawing the player into this bleak and otherworldly place inside this girl's head.

Screenshot for Yume Nikki: Dream Diary on Nintendo Switch

Playing Dream Diary has its rough spots like how the analogue sensitivity makes it very difficult to make Madotsuki to walk instead of run, or during the 2.5D portions the left stick requires extreme precision to walk left or right. The best way it can be explained is holding down right or left, even slightly up at one or two o'clock will result in Madotsuki coming to a halt. It is annoying that this had to be like so, and seems more like an oversight than a design choice. Since this is no longer something made on RPG Maker and is closer to the sub-genre of platformer adventure games, Madotsuki tends to have overly drawn out animations that don't always feel right. This isn't exact an action game where swinging her knife requires a great deal of skilful timing, but as a whole, the entire experience of playing Dream Diary does not always feel right to play... this is to its betterment as a creepy adventure about dreams where nothing should feel right and its detriment for the average Joe gamer.

The goal is to unlock the large and mysterious door covered in locks found in Madotsuki's dream hub. There is not much else beyond that since a substantial aspect of Dream Diary is what the player takes from the imagery. There is no dialogue and the protagonist's only moments in the real world are her bedroom and balcony. Does this girl ever eat? She sleeps constantly and can make sketches of the things she has encountered which doubles as a means to track progress, even if this title is very vague about this and does absolutely no handholding.

This might turn off some modern gamers who require everything to be spoon-fed to them. Dream Diary in a way is a lot like older NES games that were designed seemingly impossible and operate on some kind of bizarre logic. This lack of intuitive design proves just how dedicated this remake is to creating a labyrinth that defies walking through. The very idea of Yume Nikki being remade in this way is quite shocking, since most of the time remakes are made to be more for general audiences, but Dream Diary is in some ways less penetrable.

Screenshot for Yume Nikki: Dream Diary on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Yume Nikki: Dream Diary is a morbid, and profoundly engaging journey into a frontier rarely seen in games. It mostly succeeds with its concepts, and while the visuals might turn off most people, those who get accustomed to them will appreciate just how effective they are at creating a strong uncanniness to its atmosphere. While there is no excuse for some of the technical flaws or control issues, the overall design is strong enough to carry the weight and suck people into this spiralling descent into madness. It has a great replay value, with alternate endings and even a couple of minig-ames within the core game. This is not for everyone, but those who grew up playing cryptic NES titles, like Milon's Secret Castle, and have a fascination with psychology, will find this to be a very worthy addition to their Switch library.

Developer

Kadokawa

Publisher

Playism

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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