I’m a Nikki veteran. For years I’ve collected Cloud City’s most desirable ensembles, strutted down the catwalk in luxurious heels, and claimed the crown in competitions over who was this fantasy world’s most stunning fashionista. After my time with Love Nikki, I’ve long been eager to dive into its sequel, Shining Nikki – so when it came to North America just weeks ago, I jumped at the opportunity to upgrade. I’m not shy about how much better I think this one is – Shining Nikki is no doubt the superior experience – but amidst all of the praise, I do have my issues. As I transition between games, slowly giving up Love Nikki in favor of its brilliant sequel, I find myself growing frustrated that developer Paper Studio has not improved upon its stamina formula. Instead, it feels like Shining Nikki cannot outgrow its ugliest gacha habits, and I worry it’ll ultimately drive me away.
While Shining Nikki improves upon the dress up grading system and provides way more ways to play, it’s not without its caveats. Instead of pursuing more user-friendly, streamlined approaches to gacha mechanics and ways to spend money, the sequel seems to have doubled down on tactics we saw in the original. To be clear, even as someone who sees gacha games as a personal vice, I’m of the opinion that there are very few ethical ways to approach these systems – none of which we ever really see implemented. But with Shining Nikki, it takes all of the old ways to flush your money down the toilet and adds even more to the pile.
In the older Love Nikki, you’ve got your typical few currencies: gold, diamonds, and stamina. There’s some extra annoying ones you get for crafting, spending in your guild, and competing in PVP, but these are your basics. Event currencies I don’t mind nor count against most gacha, as they aren’t a typical factor into my daily routine. Yet I do think it’s worth noting that Love Nikki’s approach to events has historically been pretty greedy – that is, if you aren’t paying money, there’s no way you’ll come close to collecting full outfits.
In Shining Nikki, we once again have the basics of gold, diamonds, and stamina, but now there’s another – star gems. And let me tell y’all, I have not the slightest clue what on earth a star gem is. I know you can buy them from the shop, but that used to be just regular ole diamond in Love Nikki. Now, from what I understand, star gems are the premium currency while diamonds are those you get for free. You can trade star gems for diamonds, but you can’t trade diamonds for star gems. Confused yet? Me too.
Star gems and diamonds can be traded for most things, but not everything, and I’m having a hard time making the distinction when navigating Shining Nikki. And not only has Paper Studio made these currencies more difficult to navigate, but the shop is also more bloated than ever, too. If you compare Love Nikki to Shining Nikki, the latter has pages and pages of stamina, star gems, and diamond packages. Shining Nikki also adds items for upgrades in the form of memory tracks, memory keys (SR), and memory keys (R).You’ll also need to add all of that to daily attempt allowances in several different modes, and currencies for the usual PVP and guild activities.
It’s frustrating to constantly hit gates in just a short 15 minutes or so of play time. I find myself longingly swiping around Shining Nikki looking for more things to do – even after I’ve maybe spent just a few dollars. The rate at which you obtain new banner clothing sets feels greedy, and those currencies often feel so confusing I can’t help but think it’s on purpose. After all, if I don’t understand the value of what I’m spending, then I may make more mistakes, and be more inclined to compensate with my actual cash. I love Shining Nikki, but I hope Paper Studio can find more straightforward approaches to in-game systems, so my dress-up game will feel just a little less insidious.
It’s like Google Maps but for Hyrule.
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