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Gacha Games don’t always have the best rep. Cheap-looking graphics, low-quality live service, and money-sucking microtransactions are just three of the many stereotypes that tend to get thrown at touchscreen titles, whether deserved or not.
With that being said, there are definitely patterns when it comes to mobile gaming especially the more Japanese or anime-style mobile gaming with its focus on well for a lack of a better term, waifu collecting. We believe that you can boil down weeb mobile gaming it roughly five types of games.
Yes, not all of them will fit into these, but most will. You have:
The Turn-Based Waifu Collector (F/GO-kata)
Probably the first thing that people think of when they hear ‘gacha game’. You roll the gacha, all in the hopes of getting some oh-so-valuable JPGs. From there you can take them into the story mode for some turn-based, or at least ATB-style battles.
The appeal is understandable and something that appears across each of these: cute girls (and maybe cool weapons). This works partially because it means the developer only really needs to draw one or two different pictures/sprites per unit so they can pump them out fairly cheaply and quickly, keeping the live service going.
This is probably the biggest problem with this type of gacha. They often re-use the same few animations which can make battles feel redundant as you play through the game. It’s even worse if the game uses 3D chibi models like in Starlight as you get to enjoy the card art even less.
Fate/Grand Order is probably the most well-known of these with Kantai Collection, GranBlue Fantasy, and many others following shortly behind. More recent entries into this genre have seen the JPGs swapped out for more 3D models like Pokemon Masters but the philosophy is mostly the same. Keep rolling that gacha and just maybe, mommy Cynthia will bless you in her PokeSatan Dress.
The Action Waifu Collector (Honkai-kata)
So you want to make a gacha game, but you also have the budget for 3D models and more than two attack animations. That’s when you make an action gacha, where the girls can run across larger maps and dungeons, beating up enemies in hack n slash-style gameplay.
These games tend to have the opposite problem as turn-based games. Because they tend to have a bigger world with more to do, the games can get really demanding. If you want to make any headway in Genshin, you better be prepared to dedicate two hours a day to grinding quests for primogems.
Speaking of which, Genshin Impact is probably the most well-known of these but its predecessor Honkai Impact 3rd is also going strong. There are also games like Punishing Grave Raven and Aether Gazer bringing up the rear.
With mobile games getting more powerful graphically, more developers seem to be going for this style due to the higher quality models and faster-paced gameplay.
Tactics Gacha (Arknights-kata)
Perhaps, instead of turn-based or action RPGs, you’re more of a real-time strategy/tower defense sort of guy. Here you’ll be rowling to get new units to defend bases and checkpoints, or attack enemies like pieces on a chessboard.
This is still a smaller pond, with Arknights being the most popular of them but more seem to be rising in its wake, like the recently released Time Defenders. You can also argue that some western games fall into this category as well like Clash Royal.
Rhythm Gacha (Love Live-kata)
Maybe you don’t really want to play an RPG at all, perhaps you prefer your gacha dipped in the soul of J-Pop. In that case, an idol-filled rhythm game gacha is for you.
These games usually have smaller casts of characters (relatively), but make up for it by having you roll for new songs and outfits. Many of them will actually have a few RPG mechanics to upgrade your characters.
I personally tend to find the gameplay of these the most fun. The majority of them have you tapping to the beat of some really catchy pop songs’ guitar hero style, or would Tap Tap Revenge be more appropriate (if anyone remembers that)?
Love Live and Idomaster are the big two here but there’s a surprising amount of competition with Bang Dream, D4DJ, and even Hatsune Miku getting on stage for a battle of the bands.
Pretty Much Just a Card Game (Hearthstone-kata)
The final genre is probably the most traditional of them all: just playing cards, only on your phone now. At least this way you can’t lose them.
If you think about it, trading cards were the original gacha games. You buy a blind booster pack, pull it open, and hope that the rare foil card you’re after is in there. If it’s not, back to the store to try again.
Unfortunately, this means they also have the same issues that some trading cards have, that being power creep. Each new deck expansion has cards that are stronger than the last, meaning older cards aren’t very useful, and more competitive players will be using similar teams.
There tends to be less waifu collecting in card games with many of the old heavy hitters making their way onto mobile. Hearthstone (yes, it is a gacha game) is probably the biggest, being popular across the world but we also have the Pokemon Trading Card Game and YuGiOh putting their cards on the table.
That being said, there are some original games like Triple Fantasy or Chrono Magia that maintain the more anime aesthetic.
Once again I’ll reiterate that not every gacha game falls into these five categories. There are probably games that take aspects from a few different genres.
However, like every genre, gacha games follow certain trends and patterns because they know that people will spend money on them. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it means that future games will learn from their predecessors what people enjoy in a gacha game and use that knowledge to make something better, and hopefully more consumer-friendly.
Which form of Gacha is your favorite?