It’s late, and the structure of thought in this OP probably isn’t going to be too clean, but maybe that stream-of-consciousness style is more fitting for the game in question.
Yume Nikki, the 2004 RPG Maker game, was as submerged in the logic and structure of dreams as it could be, which is to say it gave sparse direction (save for a few words at the beginning), followed a loose structure, and contextualized nothing. This isn’t to say it was an aimless or directionless game. In fact, it’s one of the most cohesive games I’ve played. Disorientation is an element so key to the experience of the dream, and everything in Yume Nikki exists to serve that sensation. Screen wrapping is employed on many of the dream world’s maps, turning them into endlessly looping toroidal planes, while obstacles and background tiles are repeated and repeated all over to prevent the player from clinging to landmarks that would normally help them find their bearings. Choppy, surreal background images drift around, combining with long stretches of empty map and the scrolling of the screen to confuse the player’s sense of speed. Doorways lead to doorways lead to doorways in a sprawling labyrinth of maps, and getting hopelessly lost in the labyrinth frequently makes waking up the only effective way to untangle the exploratory knot.
Yume Nikki (2004) was nothing if not intentional in everything it did, and the ways in which worked the constraints and played to the strengths of RPG Maker were groundbreaking. It inspired a fair share of excellent successors - OFF, Space Funeral, and Middens among them - but Yume Nikki remains a timeless and unapologetic work of surreal art in and of itself.
Enter Yume Nikki: Dream Diary. On January 11, 2018, a mysterious 8 minutes 33 second teaser was dropped for the project. A lot of folks (myself included) were incredibly intrigued by it, and there was heavy speculation on what exactly it was going to look like.
Fast forward to February 23rd. The game was released for $20, and, still intrigued, I decided to check out some gameplay videos; what I saw was a game that fundamentally misunderstood its source material. The best way I can describe how is that
Yume Nikki (2004) was coherently incoherent. Yume Nikki: Dream Diary is incoherently coherent.
The former has a strong sense of identity - it doesn’t mold itself around notions of what it should be as a game, and in doing so creates a mold of its own; the latter can’t seem to decide on what its identity even is, let alone capture the identity of its namesake. It tries to be an atmospheric platformer, it tries to be survival horror, it tries to be a puzzle-adventure game, and it falls short of all three.
Gone is the labyrinthine map navigation of the original; dream worlds are now levels to be completed - they have win states, and “enemies” (of which there are far more than in the original), rather than sending you to an inescapable prison-map, an element of Dream Diary’s predecessor which reinforced the game’s sense of disorientation and spatial confusion, simply reset you to a checkpoint like so many other “gamey” games.
I have plenty more thoughts to share on this, but I think I’ll stop there for now to open this up for discussion:
What makes a “reimagining” of a game - or any creative work for that matter - good? Which examples do you hold up as the strongest, and which ones do you think missed the mark the most?
(Here’s a video of Yume Nikki: Dream Diary’s gameplay, for those interested in comparing it with the original)