Nikke: another horny thirst trap gacha or a worthwhile game to try?

I have such conflicting feelings about modern gacha games like Nikke or, to give it its full name, Goddess of Victory: Nikke.

On the one hand, they’re undoubtedly considerably better than they used to be, both in terms of gameplay and presentation — I remember when your average free-to-play mobile gacha title was little more than a glorified website with no sound or animation, for example — but on the other, it’s hard to feel like it’s worth getting attached to a game that might get shut down in less than a year, and moreover to a game that sometimes feels like it cares more about making money than providing a truly fun gaming experience.

The thing I’m most conflicted about is the “thirst trap” nature of many of the most successful gacha titles — games like Azur Lane and Blue Archive.

At least this game knows exactly what it’s doing.

On the one hand, these games have some of the most gorgeous artwork and amazing character designs in all of gaming, and that feels like something worth supporting. On top of that, their brazenly sexy nature is undeniably appealing, particularly given that most games like this incorporate some form of relationship mechanic, allowing you to interact directly with your favourite characters.

At the other end of the spectrum, though, it’s hard not to be painfully aware of how these games have one hand fondling my genitals sensually while the other is quietly reaching into my pocket for my credit card.

Characters are specifically designed to be sexually appealing first and foremost — and while some of these games do a decent job with characterisation if you put the time into them, one would be forgiven for assuming they were some of the most flagrantly transparent examples of “sex sells” in existence. People can and will “whale” vast amounts of money in the hope of getting a character that, let’s not beat around the bush here, they want to fuck.

My first impressions of Nikke from afar very much put it into the “thirst trap” category. It’s horny to an almost satirical degree, with exaggerated Live2D animations, a disproportionately large number of characters with thick thighs, jiggling breasts and buttocks at every opportunity, characters who are all over your self-insert protagonist right from the get-go and costumes designed for maximum ass revealing rather than practicality.

I mean, come on now

But there was something about the overall atmosphere that I rather liked as soon as I started the game up for the first time. There was an interesting, almost Nier-esque melancholy to the whole thing — and while some of the characters you meet during the initial tutorial mission feel rather tropey, they start revealing that they have a bit of depth to them almost immediately.

And then, rather surprisingly, the game unexpectedly threw in a strong piece of drama before it had even taught me how to draw from the gacha: one of the characters who had been all over you just five minutes earlier dies. Specifically, they die at your hand — you’re forced to put them down after their brain is corrupted by the game’s resident baddies. And this carries some meaning; it only occurs after you’ve already been through some things with them during the game’s opening missions, so most players will have already started to develop a sense of attachment to them.

For those unfamiliar with gacha titles, you have to understand that this is a relatively big deal: characters do not die in these games, because if you kill them off, there’s no way you can monetise them. If a character is canonically dead, in theory players shouldn’t be able to draw them from the gacha — I don’t know if this is actually the case in Nikke as yet, but it will be interesting to see — and they certainly shouldn’t be able to use them in combat.


This is a ballsy move, particularly if there has clearly been some time and effort ploughed into making the character appealing and sexy. Cutting down a character like this means deliberately eschewing potential income from costumes, upgrades and premium “relationship” mechanics such as in-game marriage. And, more than anything, it feels like there is at least part of the game’s development team that wants to ensure it has a narrative that can be taken at least semi-seriously, even with all the heaving bosoms and wobbling bumcheeks.

Up until this point, Nikke had kept me interested with some gameplay that was a bit different from the norm, too. Rather than adopting the usual turn-based RPG formula of so many other gacha titles, Nikke instead unfolds as a crosshair shooter, taking some clear cues from classic light-gun games. By tapping and holding on the screen, you move a crosshair around, and the exact way in which your weapon behaves depends on what your currently selected character is armed with.

Machine guns automatically fire when your crosshair is over an enemy, allowing for continuous shooting. Sniper rifles feature a scope that allows you to see far-off targets, and do not fire until you release your finger. Rocket launchers allow you to “charge” their shot to increase their damage. And shotguns, as you might expect, have a powerful close-range spread shot.


Besides the different weapon types, the position of your characters affects your view on the battle also. Since the majority of Nikke unfolds with your phone in portrait mode, the battlefields are wider than the visible area of screen you have, so hitting enemies that are far to the left or right requires you to actually switch to characters who are in those positions. This adds an interesting strategic element to planning your squads: do you just dump your most powerful characters in there without thinking, or do you attempt to optimise their positioning according to how you prefer to play?

Further depth is added through a mechanic called “Burst”, in which characters can unleash special abilities in a set order in order to trigger a “Full Burst” mode, which increases everyone’s damage. And, of course, outside of combat you can beef up your squad by feeding them experience point items, breaking their level cap and giving them equipment to make ujse of.

The trouble with the early game in Nikke is that, like most gacha titles, it’s way too easy. With the amount of rewards you get bombarded with for progressing through the tutorial, logging in on a daily basis and as compensation for periods of maintenance, it’s easy to get a squad of Nikke together that will steamroller everything in their path for quite some time. This trivialises the early-game combat to a certain degree — and, given that the game is going for a sense of dramatic tension, it feels at odds with the narrative at times, also.

Obligatory loli

Again, though, like most gacha games, this situation doesn’t last forever — and the game seems to have plenty to do outside of the main story campaign if you want a bit more of a challenge or some varied tasks to take on. There’s nothing vastly out of the ordinary here from a structural perspective if you’ve played any gacha title released within the last ten years, but the solid gameplay during the combat sequences coupled with the game’s incredible sense of style does make it stand out somewhat.

Yes, Nikke is a gorgeous looking game, and I’m not just talking about the characters. The whole thing has clearly been designed with care, attention and a desire for a feeling of thematic consistency. The muted colour palettes coupled with the well-produced music creates an oppressive, dystopian atmosphere, and the energetic voice acting complements the characters well. Major story beats are represented with widescreen anime sequences — for which you’ll have to turn your phone sideways, obviously — and these feature solid design and decent animation, making an anime adaptation of the game feel like something of a sure thing for somewhere down the road.

As with pretty much any game like this, Nikke will live or die for you personally based on your patience for this sort of thing. Structurally, the game does nothing new whatsoever, so if you’ve long tired of the usual gacha game loop of grind-upgrade-grind this probably won’t do a lot to change your mind.


But if you think some spectacularly beautiful anime women coupled with some fun crosshair shooter mechanics might entertain you for a little while, it certainly won’t hurt to give Nikke a go for an hour or two. With it being free-to-play, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t stick with it, after all. Just remember that however much those beautiful anime women shake their tits and ass at you, all they’re really interested in over the long term is your credit card number.

At least we should get some spectacular fan art out of this game if nothing else!

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Pete Davison
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