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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yume Nikki

Back when I was a little guy there was this game called Super Pitfall on the NES. It was a bad, terrible game about cave exploration that had only one draw for me: I wanted to know what was deeper in the cave.

It seemed that the further down I went, the more bizarre the cave became, and sometimes you'd witness the oddest events occurring on the floors below you, like floating heads and balls of light. Even more bizarre was the respawn after you died. It was never accurate. It was random. And sometimes that randomization worked in your favor. Sometimes the randomization took you to rooms and passages that were completely unlike what you just died in. Sometimes, it felt like I had warped into a completely different game.

But then, ten seconds later, a frog would kill me and Game Over, start at the very beginning. Welcome to NES.

From my perspective as a kid, I didn't know about shitty game design or the underlying code that governed these products. To me, this was an adventure into a strange, dark place; and maybe it starts out with spikes and snakes and crap, but further down? Anything could be down there. Anything at all.

And I don't mean new enemies and different textures and more video game stuff. I mean anything, because as a kid that's still how my brain worked and how I saw these games. I expected that, if I went deep enough in Super Pitfall looking for something, then something would look back.

The game became a door. With it, I could reach some of the stranger places in my head. I still can. I still expect that, the next time I die in Super Pitfall, I'm going to respawn in some alien location that I can't understand.
I don't use this totem very often, though. As much as I'd like to see those strange places, the game sucks balls.

A few years ago I played a game called Yume Nikki; also known as Dream Diary.

If Super Pitfall is a door, then Yume Nikki is the monster behind that door.

Yume Nikki has no story in the classical sense. No discernible goal. No dialogue. Progress is obscure. If anything, the game belongs in the exploration genre, but what you're exploring is more than just some weird shit. You cannot play this game like it was Mario Bros. Go ahead and try, but you won't glean anything from the experience except frustration. This is a game of obsession. It demands dark contemplation and darker conclusions.

And there is a staggering amount of fan-made creations for this game, probably because it's so visually compelling. See that video I embedded? None of those images are from the actual game.

I'm not exactly sure what Yume Nikki captured, but it did.

this is the only game that fills me with complete despair and dread. even when I'm nodding on opium (I'm usually extremely happy and nothing can take the happiness away) I'm still depressed. This game man... its stellar

This game literally changed my life. It inspired me and helped me out of my depression. I was a recluse and spent all my time alone avoiding the real world.
When I finished this game I swore to myself that I'd never be the girl on the balcony.

Sir, a thousand things have to go horribly, horribly, wrong before you start having dreams like Madotsuki... And I mean HORRIBLY wrong...

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