In September 2017, during a particularly exciting Nintendo Direct (Super Mario Odyssey, anyone?), there was a title that you might not have noticed: That game was New Style Boutique 3: Styling Star for Nintendo 3DS. Known as Girls Mode in Japan and Style Savvy in North America, it’s understandable if you’re confused or you’ve never heard of this series before. Even the name may make you think of all the female-oriented shovelware games you see at EB, but the New Style Boutique games are an underrated gem; their longevity, and the fact that it’s a series that continues to get sequels, attests to this. With its origins spanning all the way back to the Nintendo DS, the New Style Boutique series generally revolves around owning a clothes store, picking outfits for your customers and managing your own boutique. New Style Boutique 3 brings some necessary changes while maintaining the core gameplay of the series.
When you begin your game, you’re put in charge of your very own boutique. You’ll buy stock, create and sell outfits based on criteria, and build your store and brand as you earn more money; it’s like an in depth fashion/dress up simulation game with light tycoon game elements. The game lets you experiment with an immense amount of clothing options, and create outfits based on requests. Astonishingly, there are over ten thousand unique items in the game, with men’s and women’s clothing (probably the only time in my life I’ll ever have such a vast wardrobe within my grasp). Not only is there a brand for every style – whether it’s basic, rock, girly, gothic, lolita, hippie, and so much more – you can dress up your own character and outfit however you like, which is a great way to spend hours of time without even realising it. Your customers aren’t the only characters who can have fun dressing up! Even if you’re not interested in fashion, the gameplay itself is refined and easy to grasp, giving you many search and help options to find the right outfit until you’re confident enough to do it on your own.
Buying stock and managing your boutique is an important part of the game. Although it’s not too complex – you can’t set the prices of your items, and store appearance doesn’t affect gameplay – you need to keep an eye on your stock levels or risk missing a particularly lucrative client. If a client comes in asking for Enid Chen brand pants and you don’t have any, you’d better go get some quick, or risk the day rolling over before you can fulfil her request. Although the store customisation options are a bit limited, it’s fun to play around with the music and layout of your shop; sometimes clients will comment on it, and it may even attract customers who like the style of your boutique.
As you fulfil store requests, you are given access to more buildings, brands and customers. I’ve always been impressed by the colourful and wide range of customers, with individual personalities and dialogue based on their style and design. It really does feel like you’re serving individual customers rather than NPCs. You might get a customer who wants to see what it’s like to dress as a punk, despite being a fan of girly clothes, or a girl who’s broken her shoes on the way to work and needs you to get her some heels ASAP. The characters and their reactions are full of personality, regardless of whether you’re talking to a client’s brother (who really can’t be bothered clothes shopping) or the local baker who can’t help but speak in bread puns. To me, this is one of New Style Boutique’s strongest points, and keeps the game interesting even after you’ve completed dozens of requests.
At its core, the game is standard New Style Boutique fare, and doesn’t really deviate from the established formula. However, it does have a couple of great quality-of-life changes. In the previous New Style Boutique games, I’ve always found that buying stock gets tedious after a while, as you have to choose individual items for each individual brand, which as your boutique grows becomes a chore. Much to my pleasure, this game has added an option to automatically choose a selection of stock for you, which eliminates the biggest issue I have with the series. However, you can’t adjust for budget, so this option isn’t as simple to use early on in the game, but you can choose to remove expensive stock items and it works fine.
New Style Boutique 3 is the most refined instalment in the series, and is a great game for veterans and newcomers alike. It’s a very relaxing game as the pace of progression is dictated by your play style. After a while you won’t be able to help but look at your own wardrobe and instantly think about whether your clothes are lively, chic, punk, or whatever else…and then feel wistful when you realise your wardrobe can’t magically procure hundreds of options for you. It made me more fashion conscious, and even if you’re not the biggest style fanatic it’s a really fun way to learn more about how clothing and style coordination works (creating a whole outfit in one colour doesn’t mean it’s coordinated… unless it’s black!). Even though it’s not a blockbuster title, there’s a reason we’re still getting Style Boutique games: They’re addictive, underrated fun. If you’re in doubt, give it a go — you never know whether a secret fashionista lies dormant within you.