The most beautiful thing about the 2021 follow-up to dress-up role-playing game Love Nikki, Shining Nikki, is its arcane strangeness. The clothes are pretty, too—glittery dresses with skirts shaped like a tulip petals’ cup, tiaras with knots of pearls like dollops of cake frosting, one implausibly pastel Sanrio collab—but I find the game most enchanting in its weird RPG elements, like the guns that you never fire, only equip for style points during its core gameplay, Styling Battles where you face off against non-playable characters by presenting a better outfit.
Shining Nikki’s official Disney collaboration outfits (which are currently exclusive to Taiwanese servers) encapsulate the game’s mysteriousness by actually denying these guns, though, immediately unequipping when you try to pair them with firearms.
The collaboration includes Beauty and the Beast heroine Belle’s buttercup yellow dress and Cinderella’s puffy silver ball gown, along with related accessories, like a full red rose in a glass case for Belle to hold, and a midnight-colored ribbon for Cinderella to wear as a choker.
As delightfully on-theme as they are, all of these outfit items are totally incompatible with Shining Nikki’s many gun options (a sniper rifle, a cute little handgun, you name it). I imagine most people are purchasing Disney outfits in the gacha game for the sake of Disney, not with the goal to make their character look prepared for ruthless warfare at all times. But I have always suspected that Cinderella’s outfit looked incomplete without a menacing machine gun.
Disney wouldn’t allow it, though.
Nikki YouTuber and TikToker Vivi Gaming brought my attention to the phenomenon in a recent TikTok, demonstrating how giving your character a gun while she’s wearing a Disney outfit restores her to her default outfit state, but keeps the gun in her hand.
At first, Vivi thought it was standard practice for Nikki collaboration outfits to block gun usage, so she didn’t think too much of it at first, she tells me over email. But then she tried adding a gun to a Sanrio outfit, and it worked.
“I realized Disney’s censorship rules are stricter than the other collaborations,” Vivi says. “I was very surprised since I know the firearm censorship was not a thing in Love Nikki,” Shining Nikki’s predecessor from 2015.
Vivi demonstrated this in a TikTok, too. “There’s a loophole,” she says gleefully in the video, “I think they forgot to set the same rules for Love Nikki.” Then, she shows us how Love Nikki’s Cinderella, and Frozen’s Elsa and Anna can cooly hold onto any gun, including rifles, a machine gun spilling over with a strip of ammunition, and not one, but two Glocks—one for each delicate hand.
“Half of Elsa’s problems in Frozen would’ve been solved with a blicky,” one popular comment says.
That’s true, and it’s nice that Love Nikki emboldens Elsa to command her kingdom with a blicky. Still, Vivi, who is located in the U.S. but plays the Nikki games on Asian servers, says she notices awkward, inconsistent “censorship” even in this freer Disney collaboration.
“Love Nikki censored the Little Mermaid’s midriff,” she tells me. “The same Ariel outfit in the Chinese server is wearing a bikini instead of a tank top in the Global server.”
“I was surprised when I first saw this, too,” she continues. “But at the same time, I had just watched the live active Aladdin and noticed Jasmine’s midriff being covered. Disney also removed the kiss scene between Jasmine and Jafar. The message Disney is sending to girls now is way different compared to three decades ago.”
Neither Disney nor Nikki developer Papergames responded to Kotaku’s request for comment in time for publication, but, indeed Disney has been recently attempting to (controversially) stay uncontroversial, never opting to rock the boat or present an atom’s worth of salaciousness if it can be avoided. Sometimes, like in pulling Jasmine away from a coercive kiss, that can be a good thing. And Disney is a children’s brand, after all, but its decisions mostly seem to be out of personal interest rather than moral responsibility to baby brains.
I don’t expect much else from a megacorporation. But I’ll take a win if I can get one, and Love Nikki’s loophole makes sure the games can appreciate fashion’s weirdo power despite Disney’s all-seeing eye.
It lets fans imagine princesses as brutal and immaculately styled as they’d like them to be. Vivi agrees; “I can have the official Rapunzel, Cinderella, Ariel, Elsa, Anna, Mickey, and Minnie mouse suits with a Glock,” she says. “That’s not canon, but now because of Love Nikki, it can be.”