Review by Heatmiser
"D-Don't judge me... but I really like this game."
I'm an adult now, but if you traveled back in time and said to me as a child "Hey, child version of me. You're gonna love this really cool video game where you play as an adorable girl who tries on clothing and sells clothing to other adorable girls who also try on clothing... in 3D!!" I think I would have somehow found a way to simultaneously laugh, cry, and kick my future-self in the face just for the sheer outrageousness of it all (though I'm sure past-me would still have had a thousand starry-eyed questions about playing games in 3D before the physical assault began. Probably also some questions regarding my time-traveling).
Yet here we are. It's 2012 as I write this, and I'm typing up a glowing review of a game whose sole aspect of difficulty essentially revolves around matching the right purse with the right shoes. I've played every Street Fighter, every Final Fantasy, I've bought collectors editions of shooters, of graphic adventures, I've helped Kickstart old-school pen-and-paper-style table top games, and yet all my gaming time lately has been devoted to making video game women look as fabulous as possible. In 3D!.
Style Savvy: Trendsetters is the sequel to the DS game Style Savvy (which apparently involved no trendsetting), a game I never had the good fortune of playing when it first came out, perhaps because I was still clinging to the few lingering shreds of self-respect I had. In this iteration (we'll call it SS:T for short), your main goal is to become the best darn fashion boutique manager in the entire land, period. You begin the game plucked from obscurity by a famous fashion maven, given the reins to her clothing shop, and are immediately tasked with building it up from the dregs of fashion doldrums into a shop so glamorous and successful that even infamously obnoxious and vampiric clothing designer Karl Lagerfeld himself would cross the street to spit on if it was on fire. Eventually, if you play your cards right- and your cardigans right- you'll find yourself entering fashion "competitions" where you'll be on display in front of the world showcasing your knowledge of style, grace, flair, and pants.
And it's not as easy as you might think! Well, alright, it's probably pretty much as easy as you might think. Unless you have a vagrant clown's taste in clothing, you're pretty much never going to see any kind of realistic setback in this game. Conversely, it's the fashion itself that provides not just the fun, but the somewhat minimal amounts of challenge as well. The game's play mechanics are thus: you'll have to consider what style of boutique you want to run early on. Luxurious fashion for the wealthy elite? Punk duds for the mohawk-ed crowd? Maybe you like Asian clothing styles and want to concentrate on selling those? You can even mix and match if you want. It's up to you, and you'll be selling AND buying these designer duds from the clothing suppliers, where you'll buy a shirt for $20, for example, and turn right around and sell it for double. Take that profit and buy more shirts, slacks, belts, dresses, boots, and any of the other THOUSANDS of clothing items you can imagine, repeat ad nauseum, and you'll be running a high-end fashion shop in no time. To put it another, stupider way, think of SS:T as Harvest Moon: Pants Edition. Instead of seeds, think cheap shirts. Instead of selling off crops to locals, you'll be selling off belts to hipsters. You won't be planting the fields all day, you'll be scouring the local purse outlet for a $1,200 clutch purse that you can talk someone into buying when they ask for something elegant to go with the hideous black fur hat you somehow just sold them.
And that's where the meat of the game is. People coming in and out of your store, all day and night (there's a system that measures time in this game, from morning to evening and back again, but it's super lenient and lets you travel to all the different locations in the game while still giving you time enough to sell ugly slippers and whatnot), begging you to drape them in gothic lolita gowns, preppy suits, even "just a cheap outfit" in the words of one skinflint male. You then take them to the dressing room, pick out any of the thousands upon thousands of choices you have, and hope to God you got it right, at which point they pay you, leave, and the process begins anew with another sucker/customer. Thankfully there's an in-game search engine, letting you home in and look at just at your casual wear, just your sporty goods, halter tops, and on and on, so you don't have to rifle through quadruple-digit choices when you just need a quick pair of beige fur-lined gloves for under $45. (Did I really just write that in a video game review??)
Unfortunately, the search engine, as convenient as it is, removes about 90% of any of the modest shreds of difficulty that SS:T had in the first place. If some customer ask for a "bold" minidress, you simply have to search for "bold" clothing amongst the dress category. Then pick out whatever minidress that catches your eye and voila, insta-win. Clothing items don't even have to match, as evidenced by the one girl who just loved the hideous pink shirt/burnt-brown pants combo I presented to her. Almost every part of the game is like this, but those rare moments when someone says "pick me out some pants to match my shoes" and doesn't give you even a faint hint as to what their style is, deducing juuuust the right fashion choice is what makes the occasional drudgery really worth it. (Seriously, a video game review.)
The graphics are outstanding in every way. This looks like it could be a high-end PS2 game, if not better, and the 3D elements really hold up well, not distracting in the least, and very often give you quite a bit of eye candy when you turn the 3D meter all the way up. Sure, the eye candy comes in the form of wowww, three-dimensional SHIRTS, but c'mon-- I knew what I was getting into when I bought this game. Character designs, fashion choices, sprite animations, all surprisingly top drawer and really well made, and yet it's the little touches that really made me sit up and take notice. To wit: I bought and played this game originally in October, and all month long the in-game town had autumnal ambiance and Halloween decorations in several of the places you'd journey to. Just like a nice pair of diamond earrings can set off a casual pantsuit, it's the tiny details like those that set this title apart. (I didn't just make that analogy, right? No? Good.)
The music, too, really puts you in the proper mindframe for fashion, such as it is. Very quaint, muzak, easy-listening style tunes flow throughout SS:T, sounding just like something you'd hear in a department store or fine clothier. At least that's what kind of music I assume those places have. Not gonna lie, I bought my last shirt at Walmart. See? Even a fashion dope like me can enjoy this game! And heck, you can even change the music your customers (and you) listen to during their stay in your boutique, not to mention that you can change the store window, the mannequins, the decorations, all of it. Not bad for a lil' fashion video game!
There you have it. The most embarrassing thing I've ever written, and that's coming from a guy who once had to write a report on his own childhood obesity as a punishment once when I was a kid. My favorite video game series are the Chrono games, the Suikodens, the Borderlands titles, the Castlevanias, and yet here I am, absolutely loving a video game that bases success and failure on whether you can tell the difference between dress trousers and capri pants. Style Savvy: Trendsetters, letting the world of video gamers feel okay with themselves, one pair of pastel orange bunny-themed knee socks at a time.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/05/12
Game Release: Style Savvy: Trendsetters (US, 10/22/12)
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