Style Savvy Review: Dressing Miss MichaelS

Join Kotaku's tallest, broadest, and hairiest regular contributor as I explore the world of retail fashion design with Nintendo's Style Savvy for the Nintendo DS.

Style Savvy is a game marketed at girls that's all about fashion - putting together outfits, running your own boutique, and maybe even making waves on the runway scene. The game was developed by syn Sophia, the developer formerly known as AKI Corporation. As you may or may not know, AKI Corporation was responsible for developing some of the best professional wrestling video games of the late 90's / early 2000's, including WWF No Mercy, the first two Def Jam games, and the Japan-only Virtual Pro-Wrestling series. And now they've created Style Savvy, which tickles me to no end.

Now that I've gotten the irony out of the way, let's talk Style Savvy. Is it strong enough for a man, yet made for a woman?

Pull up a chair and let Miss Michael tell you all about it.

Loved
So Much To Do: I spent the first hour or so of Style Savvy helping customers pick out clothing while working as a clerk at an established fashion outlet. Soon things began to open up, and I found myself ordering new items from suppliers, customizing my outfits, and dressing store mannequins. Then the hair salon opens up. Suddenly I can change my hairstyle, makeup, and even take pictures to share with friends. Once you have your own boutique (which happens ridiculously fast), you'll have so much to do you'll find yourself sitting in Starbucks for several hours while your friends watch you, shaking their heads sadly. They just don't understand how much the fashion show means to you.

A Learning Experience: There's a lot to learn in Style Savvy, particularly for the less style savvy among us. Right off the bat you learn the basics of good customer service, paying attention to what your customers are looking and suggesting outfits accordingly. You learn how to maintain stock at a retail outlet; the difference between running a store with a few select styles and keeping a highly diversified but hard to navigate inventory; and how to manage your money. Do you blow all of your cash on a fancy new hairstyle and makeup, or do you make sure you have enough cardigans in stock for your demanding clientele? After several hours of play you'll also find yourself assimilating fashion terms you might have no business actually knowing, like boho-chic, or camisole.

The World's Biggest Closet: 10,000 fashions across 16 different brands equals nearly countless clothing combinations in which to dress yourself, your mannequins, and your customers. Shoes, jackets, sweaters, pumps, sunglasses, jewelry - it's all for sale, and every time you make a new item purchase for your store you get the same item delivered to your personal wardrobe as well. The game uses the Nintendo DS clock to determine what sort of fashions pop up at what times, meaning it's the sort of title you'll want to return to on a regular basis. I mean, if you're into that sort of thing.

Online Shopping: The shopping fun doesn't stop at your own Nintendo DS. Style Savvy players can connect to the internet to shop at other players' stores or set up an online branch of their very own. It's an excellent way for you to share your creations with the rest of the world, and the promise of new clothing available periodically through the DSi download service sweetens the game's online options even further.

Mmm, Unlockables: It's beginning to become an obsession with me. Show me a set of items with placeholders for the things that belong there but aren't there yet, and I will spend hours doing everything possible to fill those spaces. It doesn't matter if it's magical coins, machine guns, or in this case, hair and makeup styles.

Hated
Not Quite Creating Your Own Fashions: Perhaps this is a guy thing, which I somehow doubt, but when I think of creating my own fashions, I think actually designing clothing for the giant-headed women who come to my store to wear. Instead, Style Savvy is all about putting together a look out of what you have available. There is no design aspect. You are an outfit coordinator. This is not what I expected.

Very Girl-Centric: Right from the start, Style Savvy assumes you are female. Your character is female, even if you name her Michael. I've spent the better part of 15 hours being referred to as Miss Michael, and I might be developing some sort of complex. I know, I know - the game is targeted at young girls. Still, I shouldn't have to be called Miss Michael, no matter how adorable my little pink-haired avatar might be.

I shouldn't even have to say it - I wasn't exactly all that serious about Style Savvy when the rest of the staff decided to volunteer me for the review. I expected to get a few laughs out of the game and maybe get negative bragging rights with my fellow members of the press at the next big industry event I attended. "Oh yeah? Well I had to review Style Savvy," I would say, and we'd laugh and laugh. I had it all planned out in my head. And then I started enjoying the game.

What can I say? On a certain level, Style Savvy really clicked with me. It has several elements that I really enjoy in my games. There's the collectability aspect, the avatar customization, inventory management, and a fair amount of logic involved in making sure your customer is pleased with the ensemble you put together for them. Change the scenery a bit and you've got the formula for the sort of role-playing game I'd spend hours lost in. Sure, I've started critiquing my friends' outfits, and I've been saying things like "retro chic" far more often than anyone really should as of late, but isn't that the sort of immersion and involvement we seek in our more traditional games?

If a burly, bearded, six foot, six inches tall man spending countless hours coordinating outfits for virtual women is wrong, then my friends were all right and I should probably not press the point any further.

Style Savvy was developed by syn Sophia and published by Nintendo for the DS on November 2nd. Retails for $34.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played the game for approximately 20 hours, earning my own boutique and making little Miss Michael the talk of the town. Named my store "Mangina" in protest.

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NOTE: Throughout the month of December, Kotaku will review some of the games that we missed earlier in the year. We're catching up.