Because of my lack of fashion and decorating skills, I often fear that the Gay Mafia is going to come and take away my membership card one day. Luckily, Style Savvy for the Nintendo DS doesn't require you to know anything about fashion aside from matching like colors and not trying to mix punk and preppy. I also want to make it clear up front that this is not a game about fashion designing. You are a stylist, which means you will take the 10,000 different items of clothing to create fabulous ensembles. Technically, there is a teeny bit of designing, but it only amounts to a label asking you to pick the colors for one of their clothing items.
Obviously this game isn't going to be for everyone, but long story short, I had a complete blast. Full details after the jump!
Your character starts out working as a salesgirl in a store, eventually catching the eye of the handsome owner Dominic with her impeccable styling skills and earning her own shop. It's up to you to keep your store stocked with clothes purchased at the buyer's center, and sell the appropriate garments to the customers. For instance, if a girl in a red plaid preppy outfit comes in looking for a skirt, don't sell her the frilly pink lacy one. Although on occasion, you can persuade someone to buy an item if it's not their usual style as long as it's their favorite color.
There's really no story to speak of besides that. There are a series of fashion contests that you can enter, but they're super-easy to win, and following your victory in the International Contest, you'll see the end credits. But that's not the end of the game, really, because you can continue to run your shop and every day brings new and different items to the buyer's center. The clothes also change with the season, so there's always a reason to pick it back up. Although to be perfectly honest, I sometimes had a hard time putting it down. the gameplay is simple and truthfully kind of repetitive, but I kind of couldn't stop. Yes, customers will repeat because they come back for more (eight visits gets you a discount!), but sometimes I swear they ask for the same thing. Not that I minded. I just sold them some pants or a pair of boots or whatever, and sent them on their way. I especially love when you pick something for them to try on that they particularly love, because a shower of rose petals fills the screen (no, seriously) and this means they're so excited that they'll buy something else.
It would've been nice to have a little more story, though. There's a series of characters who pop in and out of your store, but nothing really happens with them. Sure, there's the ones who run the hair salon and the makeup shop where you can visit to get makeovers and buy new lipsticks and eyeshadows, but I was kind of hoping for a romance storyline with Dominic. There's hints of it, but it doesn't really go anywhere. At least, it hasn't yet. Maybe it takes a few months... Because the game does work in real time. Customers will mention when it's Monday and they need some retail therapy or if it's a holiday. And on Sundays, you can get a preview of the next season's styles at the buyer's center. Thankfully, they don't require you to play during business hours. Your shop will be open whenever you play.
As a business sim, it's very lax. Which is good for me, because I'm not good with the micromanaging. Basically, you'll just sell a bunch of stuff, and when you have some money in your store account, you'll go buy some more stock. You can customize your store interior and music, but it doesn't seem to affect the kinds of customers you get. You can create flyers and advertisements to draw attention to specific items, and a local fashion magazine writer will interview you about items you want to push. It's more about the fashions than the business.
The graphics are cartoony, but the detail in the various items of clothing is impressive. As you play, you'll start to recognize the brands your customers are wearing so you'll have less trouble figuring out what to sell them. The sheer number of pieces available in the game means there are a bajillion different outfit combinations, and if that's not enough, downloadable clothes will also be available. At launch, the game offered up some pieces from Charlotte Ronson's 2009 collection. Oh, and you will have one of every single item you buy for your shop in your closet at your apartment, so you can wear everything yourself. As for sound, it fares a little worse. The music in your shop can get annoyingly repetitive, so I recommend not using anything with vocals or you'll go insane in 5 minutes.
In addition, the game uses the DS's WiFi capabilities for some multiplayer. You can link up to four DS's locally to play the fashion contests together. One player will judge the outfits the other three send down the runway. As far as online, you can open up a branch of your shop in a virtual city that other players can visit. You can also browse around the other shops yourself and see if you like anything on their mannequins. I opened my online branch before the game launched, so I got no play, but the day after the release date, I'd somehow raked in over $800 for my store!
As I said, Style Savvy isn't going to be for everyone, but I have to admit that I found it a whole lot of fun. Even just changing my hairstyle and playing dress-up with my character was entertaining. The constant flow of customers sounds like it should be numbing after a while, but the variety of characters and outfits and styles and requests helps keep things from getting too monotonous. There's also a fun sense of humor with the quirky characters. (Like Rococco, who runs the fashion contests, and whom I'm convinced is a trannie. The wig shifts around on her head too much and she has no curves. I'm just saying...) Focusing on the fun fashions instead of the boring business is also a plus in my book. And heck, I think I'm even learning a little something about fashion. I know what a bolero jacket looks like, now! Maybe this game is making me a little gayer so I can renew my membership another year...
It's hard to give Style Savvy a number grade, because it's so unique. Empirically, I admit that the limited and repetitive gameplay should rate it around a 5 or 6 out of 10. But the crazy fun I had playing dress up makes me want to give it an 8 out of 10. Your mileage may vary!