Look, gacha games are in a weird spot when it comes to story. Considering the genre exists to just be a list of chores you need to complete so you can gamble more, it’s easy to write it all off as some toxic branch of the gaming tree.
Once you get over your biases though, there’s a lot of nuance to the medium, and it’s best exemplified by NIKKE: Goddess of Victory. It’s a game that simultaneously has interesting world building alongside some of the most blatantly predatory and fanservicey mechanics, enough that it’s kind of brilliant for it.
Never has it been more obvious than with the game’s current ongoing event, Over Zone, which covers the infamous Pilgrims of the Nikke world. From here you get to see what NIKKE at its most premium is like- arguably being one of the game’s best events for celebrating its half-anniversary.
For starters, the best part of the Over Zone event is that you, as the player, are nowhere to be found. While previous events are about how your Commander, seemingly blessed by the patron saint of appearing sexy to robot girls, has seemingly ended up in yet another situation with romantic undertones, Over Zone ditches that in favor of actual world building.
Here, you follow Goddess Squad- made up of SSR units you’d recognize in many a free-to-play humblebrag. Scarlet, Rapunzel, Snow White and the current featured character, Dorothy make up this roster. It’s such a good story because it strips away so much of NIKKE’s usual refrains- there’s no cliche pervy scenes as Dorothy accidentally sits on the commander’s lap, or Scarlet drunkenly making advances on you. Instead it’s a grim portrait that Nikkes aren’t just incredibly jiggly- they’re also very sad.
Unlike previous events which featured the typing noise of shame, Over Zone’s cutscenes are also fully voiced. If you didn’t like the Pilgrims before, here’s your chance to have them grow on you. Funnily enough I simply don’t think this story would have worked without the voiceover- let’s face it, ever since the dawn of FGO every gacha game has tried to sell itself as having cute girls but sad story. Few would actually include performances worthy of it, and in that sense NIKKE has absolute balls for pulling it off.
I mean, it took Rapunzel, a character who on the surface is a generic horny nun archetype and made her likable. It justifies almost every part of her personality in a really satisfying way- and she even overcomes her own flaws fairly realistically. Scarlet is also there, though I suppose in her case it’s more of a justification of the character you already get. I’m gonna be real with you, just hearing Shinjo Akane from Gridman talk in circles was already enough to make me like her.
As someone who’s yet to encounter Dorothy in the main campaign, Over Zone is a surprisingly good introduction to the latest pink-haired face of a team cosplayed by Iori Moe. The story screws her over in a fairly grounded way, avoiding making anyone look overly evil. The heights from which she falls isn’t so much the product of a mustache-twirling villain, it’s the fact that she wants more and gets less than acceptable. Part 1 of the event does such a good job of making you feel genuinely sorry for her that you can’t help but hope everything goes bad for the villains in Part 2.
Throw in the overall quality of Over Zone against the cavalcade of other gifts part of the NIKKE Half-Anniversary and you honestly have the game feeling the best it’s been since launch. As easy as it is to be down on gacha games as being all about manipulating you into spending, events like these are great because they remind you that when there’s love put into a project, it shows. In fact, sometimes it jiggles.
The only complaint is wondering where the hell we’re meant to go from here, since any other event is going to feel like a step down. Worse still, it’s a limited time story- so if you don’t experience all of it before the event ends, you’re probably not going to see it again for a while.
It’s kind of the perfect snapshot of the problems mobile games face in that regard. Because Over Zone is an event rather than a story update, plenty of NIKKE fans got to experience it. That being said, it’s for that same reason that there’s a good chance that new players might never see it again.