App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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Move over, Netmarble, there’s a new gacha game shop in town, and it’s run by Nintendo. That’s right, the same company behind properties like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda have gone out and made themselves a game where you spin a virtual slot machine in hopes of receiving an SS tier anime waifu for you to put on an endless upgrade treadmill. I wish I was joking about that last sentence, but I’m not. Dragalia Lost is Nintendo’s latest release on mobile, and—despite being fine—stands out as a sign that the company only barely cares about mobile games.
Dungeons and dragons
In Dragalia Lost, you’re doing the same things you’ve done in almost every gacha game ever. You grind out tons of different currencies in hopes of drawing a powerful set of heroes and/or upgrading any characters you already own. You do this by running through dungeons that feel quite a bit like Nonstop Knight, though you have direct control over your character.
You control one member of your party at a time by tapping and holding on the screen in a direction to move and tapping continuously to attack enemies. Your hero will target foes automatically, but you can do things like tap and hold to power up special attacks, swipe to dodge, and activate character-specific special abilities to help make your way through every encounter.
Lost the plot
There’s a story that tries to provide some motivation through Dragalia Lost, but the game doesn’t really try to make you pay attention to it. For every cutscene, there’s a skip button that offers up a nifty summary of the inane nonsense happening narratively so you can focus on what’s really important: the grind.
Regardless of whether you’ve cleared the game’s main story or are reading up on character backstories, Dragalia Lost’s one true raison d’etre shines through. Everything—and I mean everything—is tied to some sort of reward you can cash in so long as you save up enough of it. For the impatient, there’s also the ever-convenient option of paying for currency, which can let you hit Dragalia Lost’s digital slot machines more often than a free player.
Nintendon’t do this
I don’t want to sound unfair in my judgement of Dragalia Lost. There are tons of gacha games on the App Store, and some of them are fun, including this one. What’s more, Nintendo’s take on the genre skews slightly closer toward fairness than a lot of other games in the genre, and playing co-op with other players can be a legitimately good time. For these reasons, I can see myself playing this game for a good long while.
Saying this and only this sidesteps the context of Dragalia Lost’s release though. This game is Nintendo’s first take at launching an original property on mobile, and what do we get? We get a game that’s a marginally better version of Monster Strike and almost completely devoid of the creativity and originality that many have come to expect from Nintendo games. It’s not a good look, and it certainly doesn’t give me any faith that any future Nintendo releases on the App Store will even attempt to match the quality of what they put out on their own hardware.
The bottom line
Dragalia Lost is a fine game, and I bet it will be a successful one too. I’m all for quality, new gacha games, but this is not how I want to see Nintendo operating in the mobile space. Despite being a decent game, Dragalia Lost doesn’t feel Nintendo-like at all. Instead, it feels like a polished up version of the games we’ve all already seen on the App Store, making Nintendo’s mobile efforts really feel like an afterthought rather than any sort of space for exciting new game developments.