Toby: There are games made in RPG Maker 2000 that have become stars among indie games such as, OFF, Ib, and To The Moon, to name a few. However there was also one free RPG Maker game before all of those in particular that shines like the sun. It continues to influence elements of games even to this day such as OMORI, Lisa and UNDERTALE.
That game is 2004's Yume Nikki. It was made in RPG Maker but it's not an RPG per se. There's no battles, no clear story and no level system. The game's creator Kikiyama describes it as "A game where you walk around a dream world with a dark atmosphere". That's the sort of game Yume Nikki is.
Gameplay consists mostly of walking around a large map while looking for special NPCs who give the player "effects". These effects will change how the main character, Madotsuki, looks a bit and unlock new abilities. For example the "bicycle" effect is essential as it allows you to move faster, while the famous "Kitchen Knife" effect gives you the ability to kill other characters.
The world of Yume Nikki is like a dream, the sights and sounds change drastically throughout. In the area that looks like a mall there's strange faceless humanlike figures of various colors wandering around. The sound of a train slowing down can be heard and if you talk to any of the figures their bodies will contort and they will run away. While in another area there's a black and white desert that looks like it was drawn quickly, with only the sounds of steps and out of tune bells breaking the silence. There's also a part in the game where everything is drawn in 8-bit sprites and the sounds and graphics are cute and nostalgic like they're from MOTHER.
It's difficult to put into words but, with its sophisticated art, ambient music and worldview, Yume Nikki gives you the most unique atmosphere in game history. Wandering around the game world feels more like visiting an art museum in a surreal world than playing a video game.
Even 20 years after its release it's no wonder why the game still has so many fans. One of the reasons it has remained so popular for so long is that it is a game full of mysteries. There's no dialogue at all, and while some NPCs can be thought of as characters the interpretation is all up to the player. There's many game creators who will explain all the secrets in their games on Twitter or something but this has never happened with Yume Nikki. The author is one that keeps the mysteries mysterious.
Much like the game, its creator, Kikiyama, also has many mysteries. Since the game was released they have never had any social media accounts and at the moment there is no way to contact them. The only thing known about them is that they made Yume Nikki. Likewise they've also never given an interview.
While they never let out any information to the outside they have been known to accept official collaborations and the sort and the company Fangamer who makes merchandise for UNDERTALE was lucky enough to receive indirect approval from Kikiyama to make Yume Nikki merchandise. I thought I might try to use this opportunity to interview Kikiyama. Honestly I thought there was no point in even asking. Kikiyama's reclusiveness has in itself become an aspect of their game. So that's why I decided to put some voluntary restrictions on my questions. First of all the questions can't be about the game's content. Second of all they can only be answered with yes or no. Lastly, Kikiyama gets to pick how many questions there are.
...To my surprise they said yes. That's why this preamble has become so long...
—10 Questions for Kikiyama.—
#1 When you published Yume Nikki version 0.10a did you think, "This is it! This is the final version!"
Why I asked this question: Of course I don't mean that Yume Nikki felt unfinished or anything, there're many areas in the game and many mysteries. It's just that while playing and even when I wasn't I would often wonder if there was more planned, I mean if the game was finished you would call it 1.0 right?
#2 The site "Vector" where you originally uploaded Yume Nikki was home to many other games such as Cave Story and Maou no Akuji among others. At that time were you enjoying other free games?
Why I asked this question: It takes a lot of dedication to create a game like this for free so I was curious if they were influenced to make a game by the others that were around at the time.
#3 Yume Nikki is made with RPG Maker, before making Yume Nikki did you ever make a more traditional RPG (something with battles or a level system) using the default systems in the engine? Even if you don't intend to ever publish it anywhere.
Why I asked this question: Even those who make games that are called masterpieces are all beginners at first. If you want to make a game like Yume Nikki it would be really hard without having any experience with RPG Maker. Also the image of Kikiyama making a game where you battle slimes or something is funny.
#4 Did you often draw creatures and scenes in Yume Nikki's style before you made the game?
Why I asked this question: I used to draw weird creatures all the time during class. To me the art in Yume Nikki felt like something that would be thought about during school or work and scribbled into the corner of a notebook. (in a good way.)
Toby's response to the answer: I knew it!! I knew you were that kind of person. Well I'll ask another then, I'm sure you've drawn something other than creatures before...
#5 As a kid was there a time when you tried to draw things like cute girls in a more traditional manga style?
#6 Have you ever played any of Osamu Sato's games such as Dream Emulator LSD?
Why I asked this question: Dream Emulator LSD designed by Osamu Sato was released in 1998 and is the only game to predate Yume Nikki that I can see has a sort of predecessor, as in the game you walk around a surreal world and experience random strange events. I thought both the concept and setting was a lot like Yume Nikki.
#7 Have you ever listened to any of Aphex Twin's albums?
Why I asked this question: Aphex Twin's ambient music could have inspired Yume Nikki's soundtrack but this could also just be because Kikiyama has a really good sense for music.
#8 When I first released UNDERTALE it unexpectedly became very popular and I became very stressed because of it. I've become more relaxed about it now but have you had a similar experience regarding releasing Yume Nikki?
Why I asked this question: It's just my personal experience but while being popular is a nice thing it's also a very scary thing for people who just want to live quietly.
#9 Do you still make art or write music sometimes? (Even if you aren't going to publish it)
Why I asked this question: Yume Nikki seems like it was a fun game to make so I wondered if Kikiyama still enjoyed doing music and art as a hobby so I asked.
#10 Up until now I've just asked yes or no questions but it may be hard to answer that way for this one so be ready for this. If we were to go to Denny's together, what would you order? I'll send you the menu so let me know
Answer: Rice Casserole with 3 Types of Cheese & Shrimp
Well that's all! I'll leave it up to the readers to interpret the answers. The important thing we know is that Kikiyama is probably still alive and what they would get if we went to Denny's. Huh me? Definitely the grape parfait! (*The grape parfait is currently not available at this time.)<Back to volumes