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Love Nikki is a free-to-play game with paid bonuses for mobiles in which you collect clothing and engage in styling matches. It is well suited to playing for short intervals every day. Its main appeal is quite simply that the art is beautiful. An inexhaustible variety of clothes and accessories (if tending towards the glamorous rather than practical) are drawn with a level of detail that shows, whatever the company's money-grabs, that there is passion at work. The glossy, cutesy, bishoujo-style art won't appeal to everyone, but it succeeds wonderfully in what it aims for.
There is not much to say for the story, save that it has not one but two contrived backstories to weakly justify its premise. The cast are all shoujo-manga clichés, but the dialogue can be funny. It has competent English voice actors, but a shoddy English translation, a combination I will forever find inexplicable.
Most styling matches are decided by the software, which seems to rate each item worn by itself; as a result, the winning outfits are often garish messes that pile on accessories with no regards for composition. And sometimes I cannot understand what they want, resulting in a lot of tryal-and-error (helped by how the game remembers your best-scoring outfit). There are however two side games in which players rate each others' creations, and they show a very inventive player base.
The starting stages are easy, with difficulty ramping up and side-games opening as you progress. The starter outfits are the most basic, but the game is set up to give you a few of the more intricate items from very early on. In time you will have to craft specific items, which requires grinding out past matches; fortunately you can do in one button any matches you have mastered. Attempts are limited by real time, but can be exceeded by spending diamonds, the game's most valuable currency.
The game cajoles players from the start with paid packages of currency or unique items, and you can only get the most stand-out outfits by paying (either they are sold directly, or through limited-time events that require a lot of diamonds to clear). However this system gives free players versatility, as they can carefully use their more limited diamonds when they come to blocks in progression or outfits they really want. Whatever you want to spend, I suggest taking a patient approach, as it is a game to play gradually for the long term.
The biggest missed opportunity is that there is little player interaction. There is no shared world in which they can meet, and the Stylists' Associations (player guilds) feel more like another side-game with a chat channel. The fanbase is welcoming, but you will have to turn to websites like Reddit to find it. It's a good online game, but a very single-player one.
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