Unlike many Yume Nikki tales, this one begins in 2017, 13 years after the games release. I can't remember the first time I opened Yume Nikki exactly, but I do remember the feeling. In high school, my psychosis grew worse and my mental health rapidly declined,but it was okay because at home Madotsuki sat in my computer waiting for me to explore the Nexus by her side. It was peaceful.
At first, I was really confused about what I'd downloaded. It was recommended by my friend, Vvyrm, and I was interested because it was a free RPG Maker game like my old favorites Ib and Mad Father. I downloaded it from Steam and opened it. The first world I encountered was Forest World. I wondered it aimlessly, pressing space bar as I encountered various frog characters. I eventually found the frog effect. I can't recall my thoughts, maybe I didn't have any. I just kept playing and wandering for ages.
This is really how I played a lot of the game. I approached it a bit mathematically, determining if each world was looping by walking around the world imagining the tiles I was walking on and keeping track of npcs. It was a very fun process for me. Collecting each effect was slow because I walked up and down each row of the tiled worlds, but I enjoyed every aspect of it. The worlds that weren't looping were always a fun treat. My memories of the M are the ones I am most fond of.
At the top of this container, I've put E-man. He is an npc residing in the mall. I always thought he was neat. I liked to play the flute around him. Once, I came up to him while aimlessly walking with the cat effect, and he sneezed. At that time, I had missed a lot of little things that happened when you play Yume Nikki. The excitement I felt at his sneeze was very silly as a result. I walked up to various NPCs with the cat effect equipped and watched for their reactions. This completely screwed up my mathematical approach to Yume Nikki as I was moving a bit frantically. Just. meowing at people.
I was very disconnected from Yume Nikki's fanbase until I began my search for the mysterious developer, KIKIYAMA... I didn't find much. There were theories that KIKIYAMA died in the Tohoku earthquake, however, I don't believe this due to the existence of the Yume Nikki sequel plus official merch from Fangamer, and also, Japanese developers and artists sometimes don't have internet presences and also.. Yume Nikki is on Steam.
I began to encounter various theories about Yume Nikki. Before I describe any of them, I will put forth my thoughts about Yume Nikki from my time playing the game.
I viewed Madotsuki as a suicidal hikikomori who spent most of her time sleeping due to the lethargy mental illness gives you.
The content of her dreams could possibly be related to traumatic events she experienced (such as Shitai-san), people she knew from life that she no longer speaks to or had bad interactions with back when left her apartment. These things seemed to be distorted by Madotsuki's subconscious (Poniko -> Uboa). The NPCs reaction to Madotsuki in the malls to me represented the view of a neurodivergent or anxious person failing to interact with others (or feeling like they've failed anyway). There's other various events in game as well which I honestly am not completely sure on. There is some imagery in game I'd describe as indigenous leading me to believe Madotsuki is indigenous herself though perhaps KIKIYAMA included this for aesthetic reasons only.
The presence of Japanese folklore as well makes me want to believe she is connected to both cultures, but shrugs, I am not sure. Maybe she's not indigenous and had an interest in the culture or like I noted earlier, it is done for aesthetics.. Which is not uncommon in media from the early 2000s.
There are fan theories that align with mine of course as mine are pretty basic (real life to dream, traffic accident, etc). The only fan theory I'm truly fond of that I had not considered prior is the one describing Madotsuki possibly being trans. I think it's possibly true with the inclusions of the restrooms, however, I also think it's possible this could represent the disconnect from gender many neurodivergent feel from birth. Being completely locked out of either gender due to the disconect you feel. It's not uncommon.
Honestly though, I think it's wonderful to find different ways to connect to Yume Nikki as a player considering its somewhat obtuse nature. Whether you think Madotsuki is reliving trauma or you put your own soul into the game you are experiencing, have a good time.