Have you ever dreamed of operating your own fashion boutique? Do you know the difference between tights and leggings? Can you tell a goth from a GothLoli at 20 paces? If so, then allow me to welcome you to Style Savvy: Fashion Forward‘s scenic Beaumonde City!
You got this one for your daughter, right?
I’m not even going to lie here—I snagged this title for myself as much as for her. After the solid reviews garnered by the previous 3DS entry, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Plus, it combines two things that we both really enjoy: video games and clothes. I figured it would be a fun shared gaming experience between us, and it turns out I was right.
What exactly is this game?
Fashion Forward is the third title in the portable Style Savvy franchise, and, in a broader sense, it’s also a part of the growing segment of sandbox-style creativity games like Minecraft or Super Mario Maker. Except, rather than building with bricks and warp pipes, you craft your empire with scissors, makeup brushes, and a seemingly endless supply of couture clothing.
So it’s a makeover simulator?
It’s more like the makeover simulator. You start off as the manager of a clothing boutique, but, in short order, you’ll also try your hand as hair stylist, makeup artist, designer, and more.
That’s… a lot of stuff?
It really is. Style Savvy: Fashion Forward packs a deceptively expansive array of content—something in the order of 19,000 pieces of clothing and accessories, not to mention scores of NPCs with whom you interact and bond. The people of Beaumonde City are in desperate need of your fashion expertise, or so the story goes.
Wait; there’s a story?
Oh, is there ever! Your game begins as your young protagonist discovers that her grandmother’s old dollhouse is actually a gateway to a world in peril, a world that only you can save… with fashion!
Beaumonde City is a Lilliputian hamlet that’s positively bubbling with all the elements of the urban bohemian ideal… and yet somehow its perpetually hip denizens think themselves clueless in manners of proper dress. You are their rhinestone savior, their prophet of lace and taffeta.
While it lacks the literal worldbuilding found in the Animal Crossing franchise—another series that the kids and I adore—you do get to flex your creative muscles outside of just dressing and grooming our fellow lady-folk. Your pint-sized bestie Sophie will also lead you to another in-game dollhouse that you can customize to your liking using the miniature furniture given to you by your satisfied customers.
Man, the culture in Beaumonde City is super weird!
You’re a dollhouse interior designer too, huh?
At one point my daughter looked at me quizzically and said, “So there’s a dollhouse… inside this dollhouse?” And all I could do was nod because she’s too little to watch Inception.
How are the visuals?
While not groundbreaking, Fashion Forward boasts a really cohesive visual design. Its legion of clothing and accessories are rendered so meticulously that you seldom find two that can’t be easily distinguished from each other, the environments are less plentiful but still each has a unique look and feel, and the NPCs, while multi-ethnic, all have a similar big-eyes-tiny-nose magical girl anime design.
Overall the production values are far higher than one would expect from a fashion sim title. From the graphics to the music, Style Savvy: Fashion Forward seems to have an admirable grasp of what it is and how each piece in this world is meant to fit together. This cohesiveness of vision is easily one of its strongest assets.
And the gameplay?
That’s its other genuine asset. Easily controlled using the touchscreen and face buttons, you navigate your various tasks, messages, maps, and even your own personal lookbook via your character’s smartphone. It adds an almost comical element of verisimilitude to a game that is intentionally outlandish.
Your primary responsibility, of course, is to dress and style the citizens of Beaumonde, and this is typically done by noting and following customer requests or asking the right questions to determine the desired look. It’s a simple but effective process that is only hampered by the game’s massive selection of fashion-specific vocabulary.
But never fear: an in-game “Fashion 101 Guide” is always close at hand. You can use it to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of womenswear, but that’s not the only weapon in your style arsenal. You can filter items by dedicated brand, each of which specializes in a specific “image” from girly to gothic, not to mention filtering by image itself, color (or colour, as this North American version is clearly the same as the Euro-localized title), pattern, type, and even price.
In short, Fashion Forward wants you to succeed, and in doing so it helps open up its creative play experience to anyone with solid reading comprehension skills. The fun comes not from competition or even problem solving, but from exploring the myriad of design options at your fingertips.
But is the content really appropriate for young girls?
That, to me, is the bigger question.
As far as the clothing and design content itself goes–assuming you don’t find hot pants or bikini tops positively scandalous–there’s nothing at all objectionable about the title. (And the ESRB rated it as such.) Similarly, while it would be forgivable to assume that the characters within such a clothing-obsessed world to be merely vapid teenage mannequins, Style Savvy attempts to sidestep that thorny issue by giving each a modicum of depth.
Within you first hour of playing, your phone will quickly fill with the “Profiles” of those you meet and assist, and each has not just a unique name and visual representation but also a number of other distinguishing characteristics. While Mariko is a pop star who enjoys watching plays and imagining elaborate fantasy worlds in her head, Yolande is a weight-lifting pastry chef that’s really good at skipping. (And don’t get me started on Fern, the piano-playing nursery school teacher who is, and I quote, “Good at picking up goldfish.” How do you even know that, Fern?!)
The only thing I found a little questionable is that, while some characters are taller and skinnier than others, practically everyone you encounter is inevitably tall and skinny. I’m not sure about the cultural history of Beaumonde City, but suffice it to say that its citizens, while of widely differing complexions, are all of distinctly Swiftian—Taylor, not Jonathan—proportions. A little more variety with regard to body types would’ve been nice.
Fair enough, but would you recommend this game?
Look, if the idea of buying, selling, and designing clothes appeals to you… well, you probably already have this game. Still, if you’ve ever been enamored by the freedom and creativity and charming quirkiness of an Animal Crossing or Tomodachi Life, Fashion Forward may indeed be your jam.
It’s not perfect, and if you tire of repetitive requests or directed (though ultimately open-ended) gameplay it simply might not be for you. In the end, Style Savvy: Fashion Forward manages to be an expansive but never intimidating game that can entertain and engage both a 9-year-old in zebra-striped capris and her dear old dad wearing a battle vest and Mario Vans.
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America