New Style Boutique 3 (known as Style Savvy in the US) is a game that sees you in the role of a fashion boutique owner trying to enfashion a lackluster town. It’s the fourth game in the New Style Boutique series (hence the 3, of course, because video game numbering sequence make perfect sense, don’t they, Street Fighter 2?). All of the games in the series had been very well received, so it was with some measure of curiosity that I approached this game to figure out what the attraction was.

In New Style Boutique 3, you take the role of a young lady who inherits a fashion boutique from her uncle Tim. Your talent, naturally, runs towards finding the right style for people who enter your boutique. It is not just up to you to recommend fashions, though, you have to keep your shop well-stocked with clothing in various styles. On the way, you’ll meet three ladies who aspire to be singers, all in different ways. And naturally, the fashions you choose for these ladies will determine the kind of star they become.

I was slightly worried going into New Style Boutique 3 that as someone of the male persuasion, I knew next to nothing about women’s fashions. The other thought that went through my mind was “how much fun can this really be?” I needn’t have worried too much, though, because the game comes with a fairly comprehensive encyclopedia called “Fashion 101”. In it, you can find definitions of just about everything you’ll encounter, whether it be the different fashion styles (lively, bold, Gothic, boho-chic, and about a dozen more), different articles of clothing (inners, jackets, skirts, shoes, hats and more), and accessories and makeup and hair. It’s a crazy amount of detail, massing up to over 10,000 individual items.

Here’s how the game works in practice. You get to your shop in the morning (or whenever you’ve condescended to check in on things, because if you’re away, your assistant will handle things that don’t include actually selling clothing), and find customers waiting. The first customer will tell you a story about how she broke a heel while wandering around, and now needs new shoes in a stiletto style. The second customer is feeling particularly rebellious and wants an entire outfit in a Gothic style. The last customer says she needs a jacket that matches her lipstick. You can check your stock to determine whether you actually have the items they’re asking for, then make a suggestion and see if they go with it. You have two options when suggesting an outfit or an article of clothing: you can give give a tentative “Take a look”, which gives your customer three chances to back out if they don’t like what you’ve chosen, or the more emphatic “Try it on!”, which is an all-or-nothing go. You better be sure the customer will like what you’ve chosen here, because if they don’t, they might not spend money at your store. Each customer also has a rough budget of how much she’d like to spend, so staying within that budget can be just as much of a challenge as finding the right item, so having a wide range of items is key to satisfying everyone.

Actually choosing the clothing for your client isn’t as hard as I initially thought, though, because the clothing selection screen has a search function, so you can drill down quite finely to what she wants. If your customer is looking for a rock-style tank-top inner in yellow with black stripes, you’ll have no problem figuring out whether you have the item or not. If you have it, that’s awesome. Item sold, unless it costs much more than she was budgeting for. If you don’t have stock, then you’re going to have to tell her to wait while you stock up, and this is where you run over to the exhibition hall, where you can grab items from the brand stores to stock in your boutique. Need something bold or lively? You’re going to need to pick those items up at AZ-USA. Need something more feminine? Chorale is your baby. Not all of the stores are available to start with, though. These get unlocked as the game progresses and your style level increases, so if you require Gothic clothing from Raven Candle near the start of the game, you’re fresh out of luck, unless you can convince your client that the black, buckle-up corset from Rock Diva is essentially the same thing.

Failure isn’t as hard and dramatic in New Style Boutique 3 as more male-oriented games, though. The clients are all usually very nice to you (Ed: so it’s not very true to life, is it?), and if you don’t recommend something they’ll absolutely love, if it’s close enough and you say “Try it on!”, they’ll either usually take it anyhow, or you’ll be given the chance the convince them to buy it. If you recommend something completely out of left field, or something totally not in the style they’re after (giving a muted, feminine item to someone who wanted a bold, rocking outfit, for example), they’ll usually tell you it’s not what they wanted, leave, but be back within the next day or two to ask you again, up to three times. As the game progresses, the requests will start getting harder, meaning you’ll be looking for a very, very specific item of clothing or accessory.

Furthermore, as your style level increases and your make more customers happy, some new stores will open in town, different to the supplier shops in the exhibition hall. The first one you’ll get is a hair salon, where your customers will ask you to give hair style recommendations. You’ll work together with the hair stylist to create that look. It could be as simple as “I just want blue hair”, to “I need something in the same color as before, but in a boyish style with long bangs”. Once again, as long as you’re close enough, you’ll be fine. You don’t earn any money for doing hair salon work, but successful looks will increase your fashion score, giving you access to more clothing, more clients, and more hairstyles. Later on, you’ll get to do the same thing with makeup. I understand that a men’s fashion boutique also opens up later in the game, but as of my playtime (in excess of 15 hours) I’ve yet to unlock this feature.

I must say that New Style Boutique 3 is the ultimate fashion creative’s game. You get to make a lot of choices here. Not only can you choose the layout of your shop, you also can choose the layout of your apartment, and later on, even design your own clothing, storefront window, storefront mannequin, and so on. Not only that, you can also trade designs with others online. At the time of writing, though, the servers weren’t available, so I couldn’t test the feature.

One thing I will say about New Style Boutique 3 is that, possibly because it’s aimed at girls, it’s not very colorblind friendly. I know the percentage of colorblind girls out there is much smaller than boys, but they are there. So going back to the example of the lady who wanted an item of clothing to match her lipstick, I saw pink lipstick, but chose a blue item because it looked pink to me. Naturally, she went off in a huff because what she actually wanted was something purple. In cases like this, explicitly mentioning the actual color would have made a huge difference.

The rest of the issues I have with New Style Boutique 3 are more in the “nice to have” category. For example, when checking stock to see if you have an item being requested, you have to back right out of the inventory, say you have the item, and then find it again. It would have been nice to be able to make the recommendation from the “check stock” screen. The other issue I had was getting stock from suppliers at the exhibition hall in a particular style: there’s no way to search for a particular style in a given supplier’s shop. So if you’re looking for an item in a girly style, your best bet is to hit up April Bon-Bon, but you’re just as likely to find an item in the same style at Basic U for cheaper, and this can be a sticky issue if you’re a bad enough saleswoman and you’re low on cash to restock. Later on in the game, you’ll get a cellphone app that allows you to restock quickly with styles that you’ve bought before, and you CAN search for styles in this app, but if you’re after new fashions you still have to hit up the exhibition hall.

So after these 15-odd hours of playing New Style Boutique 3, what’s my impression? I enjoyed it, and even though I’m not precisely the target demographic, the fact that I had a good time with the game indicates just how much fun it is. There’s something definitely satisfying about giving people the right outfit, even if some of the animations are a bit over the top and narmy.

That all being said, I think it best to finish with an anecdote. I was at the mall over the weekend, and because I’d been so immersed in the game, my head was full of fashion, in the same way that you see ways of fitting things together after hours of Tetris. I found myself in front of the display window of a large fashion outlet (not going to mention any names except to say that it rhymes with “blue firths”). My first thought when looking at the display mannequin? “The person who put this outfit on the dummy used the wrong fashion combination”.