For the RPG haters: I’m very sorry, but I’ve played what is technically an RPG for the fourth time in a row. Sorry.
Yumeiri (or, Les Hypnonautes) is a roguelike by Affility/Takeshi Namikawa that was recently released on Steam. This was originally a 2015 Japanese-only smartphone game, but this Steam version serves as an official localization with some added and rewritten content. I originally played this as a Steam Next Fest thing but I saw that it was going to be released soon after, so I decided to hold off until I could play the full thing.
You are a young man – who I decided to name Johnny Violence – that receives experimental technology that allows him to explore his dream world and its past memories. It’s within that world that he recalls the memory of a girl named Matsuri, a friend from childhood that he got separated from. Goaded on by Match, a representation of young Matsuri, he finds himself viewing Matsuri’s memories and comes to see how his lost friend lived her life – and how she’s become unhappy with it.
Yumeiri bills itself as a narrative roguelike and is structured into multiple chapters, with each chapter representing a character arc. While there are no checkpoints within a chapter (though you can save and leave in the middle of one), you’ll only have to start over from the beginning of that particular chapter if you die.
Progressing in Yumeiri is a bit unorthodox for the roguelike genre. Progress is represented by you flipping pages of a book, with a random chance of an event happening when a page comes up, until you reach the end page. Besides that, there are story scenes that play at certain points, and thankfully you can fast-forward through the stories on repeat visits (and trust me, there will be repeats).
However, while the path is linear, you don’t necessarily have to keep going straight forward – in fact, just going straight ahead will pretty much guarantee a loss unless you get insanely lucky with events. You have a time limit and it’s actually fairly generous, so you should take advantage of that by flipping back and forth on earlier pages to grind experience and money from easier encounters.
What are you grinding against? Well, Yumeiri has you facing off against remembered experiences that your character tries to overcome. Combat is just attacking, using items, or attempting to escape. However, your attack stat depends on the situation. Dealing with a math test depends on your intelligence stat, dealing with a terrible classmate depends on the social stat, etc.
Now, plenty of the fights will be unfair, because you’ll often be pitted against your worst stat. There’s a chance to gain stats or stat-boosting items from the non-combat event pages, but otherwise, it will feel like an uphill battle.
But as frustrating as it is, it’s a frustrating experience that ties into the narrative of Yumeiri. The struggles in the game perfectly represent the struggles the characters had in that moment in their life.
For example, the initial dream of my character Johnny Violence paints him as somebody brave and strong – for a really young kid, at least – but not very smart. He can handle scary woodland creatures, but when it comes to math tests, he’ll flounder against them. The second dream deals with Matsuri and it’s incredibly easy for her to get hit with negative debuffs – mostly depression – which makes sense because the dream details the point where she ran away from home, believing herself to be hated; to twist the knife further, healing non-combat areas during that dream are awfully rare, which is sensible because you know, how could a runaway kid cope with her situation?
Does the frustration work? Yes. Is the combat good? Well. The chapters kinda end with you hoping that you lucked into getting a usable item that destroys the boss, so unless you’re real low on the resources those items tend to use (like sacrificing time), there’s barely any strategy involved. Also, I honestly don’t think there should be dodge chances at all with how simplified everything else is.
Outside of fights, you’ll come across non-combat special pages that are usually skill checks. While failing the skill checks tend to hurt you, you’ll sometimes grow in that stat, so it’s not all bad… unless RNG is particularly unkind to you. I had a pretty bad spot in the Corporate Survival route where I kept getting events that kept asking if I could go out when I had no money to spend. I basically lost half my health out of that, which was really annoying (but honestly kinda funny).
Frustrations aside, Yumeiri does a good job at trying to communicate a story. Yes, events will repeat – and they will repeat a lot – but isn’t that just how memory is? We all have that one thing in our lives that we just keep thinking back on – usually something that sucks – so going against something that sucks in Yumeiri over and over is the perfect representation of that.
I will say though: the only thing I outright hate about the narrative is your guy character. Yumeiri absolutely has the same energy as that type of anime where the guy protagonist is as ridiculously vanilla as possible while being surrounded by way more interesting people. In fact, it gets kinda ridiculous at the end of the Corporate Survival chapter, as it’s mainly Matsuri having an ideological argument with her former boss and he just briefly wonders who the hell you are before getting back into things. While you could say that the protagonist’s role is to provide Matsuri somebody to bounce off of, there’s multiple, more developed characters like the aforementioned boss that does exactly that.
My frustrations kinda grew further as I entered the last main chapter. This chapter is far more combat focused than the others, with barely any non-combat encounters available. A result of this is that items wind up being less plentiful, and combined with a near never-ending train of enemies, it all ends up feeling more luck-based than it already did.
While Yumeiri does try to spice things up with items granting unique (and risky) status effects, I just find the gameplay less interesting and more aggravating than the preceding chapters. This is especially since the encounters don’t represent any interesting life moments and feel more literal than past fights, which removes the symbolic edge past fights carried. It’s a shame because the story events that happen toward the end actually does hit – especially an optional bad ending – but it all just has to be wrapped up in a frustrating experience.
Though, it’d hit more if I actually cared about your guy character at all. Big “bait for lonely dudes who get no bitches and stack no paper” energy; the bonus episode somehow managed to concentrate that energy even more by putting him in an isekai fantasy.
In general though, I will say that I think the narrative presented in Yumeiri is nice. Besides how it presents its story, I’m into the overall theme of feeling powerless against life’s circumstances and trying to escape it. Though, it’s also weird that it applies the same principle to companies? Like, I don’t know how the Japanese business world is, but the US government barely has control over companies at this point. As with the rest of my opinion on this game, the messaging is mixed.
As for actually playing it, I found myself easily drawn back into trying again and again, despite my frustrations. Yes, it’s a roguelike, a genre that I’ve personally grown tired of – but it’s also a roguelike with mercifully short sessions. In fact, I’ll say that the game’s linear structure further works in its favor because it’s easier to hop into than a more open game presenting you with lots to do.
On one last note, I’m kinda mixed on the game’s presentation. I actually do like the art and I think it goes well with the storybook aesthetic of the game’s framing, but I dislike how the text goes over the art. This was not the case with the original mobile incarnation of the game, which has a cleaner interface that separates the art from everything else. It makes me wish that the Steam version did a better job at presenting itself.
Yumeiri is a rough game and I undeniably have some frustrations with it, but there’s definitely things I like about it. Like man, in a world increasingly filled with roguelikes, it’s good to see a shorter, more focused one. My ultimate take? I say that you should check out the demo first, because I don’t think this is a game that’d vibe with everyone.