Developer: Syn Sophia
Available On: Nintendo Switch
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
THAT SHIRT'S FABULOUS! - Introduction
There wasn’t a bone in my body that yearned to cover Fashion Dreamer. Hell, from the reveal trailer, it was painfully evident I’m not the target demographic. I did, however, watch that particular Nintendo Direct with my niece - an eight-year-old girl, that is. Her eyes lit up, so I reached out to XSeed as I figured we’d have a blast together.
For months afterward, I tried convincing myself it would be a fantastic romp. Growing up, I adored interior design, and despite being fashionably illiterate, I thought I could focus that interest. With 30 hours logged, the answer’s no, I can’t. I made a mistake having her join me for that presentation. She liked it, though, which is why she’s helping - will it slay, or will it hit the dreaded not trendy section?
WHAT IS HAPPENING!? - Writing
The main assumption I’ve heard as we edged closer to the release of Fashion Dreamer is how it’s a spiritual successor to Style Savvy. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s a load of crap. See, there’s no damn story. I have no reason to outfit the characters of this title, which, by the way, are called Muses.
The supposed inspiration had a light narrative - there’s something tangible to grasp. There’s a flow to what I’m doing, but not here; it’s stagnant and pointless. I want to know why I’m choosing a hoodie for Tyrone - motivate me to waste time selecting a shirt for Beth. Without that, I’m afraid I was actively staring at my other games. I had zero desire to play on, which is a fatal gut punch.
For a decade, I’ve believed that with proper dialogue and a superb script, these coded husks could gain some life. An hour into this session and you start to witness what happens if neither are accomplished. The writing is terrible, and everyone is soulless. There isn’t an iota of charm or whimsy.
To be fair, I did see tiny glimmers of personality. I could sense an attempt to make the world feel alive. I met a guy named Ryan that speaks in rhyme - that was dope. As someone who, as a teen, wrote rap, I was vibing. Sadly, that’s it, and all other replies were disgustingly generic. I didn’t smile, I didn’t laugh, but I sure as hell sighed. There’s clearly a want to be more, but something reeled that back, and whatever it was, I hope it's slapped.
SO, UH, IS THAT IT!? - Gameplay
The gameplay loop has me chatting with NPCs receiving instructions on their ideal attire. I’ve got to cater to their specific tastes, and I achieve that by reading a little hint before adorning them in their Sunday Finest. On paper, that sounds super intriguing. Hell, I did, in fact, have fun picking skirts, socks, and jackets that perfectly complement each other. Coordinating colors and trying to pull out tiny accents is weirdly delightful - it fondles my creativity.
The problem is how ambiguous this facet is. If I have to put together a cute aesthetic and design a look I believe fits the bill, it doesn’t guarantee that it aligns with the developer’s arbitrary definition. I’m at the complete mercy of their subjective opinion on the topic. In that regard, I guess it’s great there aren’t any repercussions for failing, begging the question, why should I even care?
There has to be pushback to engage a player. I want to feel like there's a challenge. If I can pick whatever combination I want, ignoring their precise requests but still be rewarded with a heart, it devolves the loop into mindless territory. I got bored because I knew in lieu of whatever choice I made, the NPC would be happy. I disliked it, but not my niece. She finds it welcoming since, as a young kid who loves colors, she goes insane. At one point, a female Muse wore the loudest, most obnoxious outfit because why the fudge not?
Seeing her laughing and legitimately having a blast was when the fact Fashion Dreamer wasn’t for me was hammered home. That said, a lack of features did cause her to feel fatigued eventually and, like her uncle, want to stop.
I'VE NOTHING TO WEAR! - Gameplay
I want to give props for the immense variety of clothing. No two getups were identical - perhaps a bit similar, sharing a single article, but largely unique. I’ve got to applaud the effort because it kept things fresh when Syn Sophia could have phoned it in and not made this aspect substantial. That’s why it’s frustrating to see poor execution elsewhere. Bluntly, it felt like they spent tons of time ensuring a robust clothing buffet, only to forget to implement the rest of the features. Realizing this and in a panic, they hurried, writing nonsense before adding the loosest sense of game mechanics. All of these comparisons to Style Savvy only goes to handicap Fashion Dreamer, setting it up to be a massive disappointment.
It does excel in one avenue, however, and that’s the online component. There’s a beefy presence that isn’t introduced until later - I’ve got to rank up my talent as a fashionista first. It’s unfortunate, as I can see many people not wanting to wait. If you do, though, you can visit the showrooms of other players - they can also dress your Muse up in outfits they’ve created.
By liking what they have on display, yes, as if it’s social media, it unlocks that specific article in your personal closet. Oh, but you also have your own, and you can show any combinations of hoodies and stockings you’ve concocted. I adore how Fashion Dreamer is trying to build a community. In the right audience, I could see this being the peak of intrigue, but for anyone else, I wouldn’t blame y’all for pressing the power button.
DRESS ME LIKE A FRENCH GIRL! - Gameplay
It’s really not a big surprise to me that there’s a faux Instagram in Fashion Dreamer. I can snap selfies or take group pictures with my friends. After posting, the validation and follows flood in. My muse, Katarina, is hungry for clout, and I can’t argue that it doesn’t fit this setting. What astonishes me is how the act itself is bland. The poses she can strike lack originality, and despite what are supposedly facial expressions, there isn’t a ton of soul.
I wish there were a larger variation in the stances she can take. Give me a few that exhibit a range of emotions, like sassiness or badassery. We don’t get that, though, and have to make do with half-assed sex appeal. Even my niece wasn’t overly keen, and she’s the intended target group.
I CAN'T HEAR YOU! - Presentation
Let’s talk about the environments because, wow, they’re a smorgasbord of color. The beginning area, in particular, looks like someone vomited out a rainbow. The proceeding level is the utter opposite with tamer energy - darker tones are common instead of neon or whites. Then, it’s back to a wonderland of cotton candy and bubblegum shades.
Now, I’m not a fan of overly gaudy cosmetics as it gives me a headache, but I still recognize what Fashion Dreamer is trying for. However, it falls a bit flat, mainly thanks to the frail resolution robbing it of vibrancy - the stages that are supposed to pop and punch you in the face are, instead, wet farts. Again, kudos for the attention to detail in the articles of clothing, but it’s plain to see where the priorities lay.
CHUG, CHUG, CHUG! - Performance
Every day, I count my blessings that an amateur can have this awesome hobby. In that time, I’ve covered plenty of Action RPGs on Nintendo’s Hybrid that are fast-paced and flashy yet have slight to zero frame drops. Fashion Dreamer is neither of those things, and yet, it struggles - there’s just no sugarcoating how horrible optimization is. Even the simple task of picking a dress or shawl is nailed - loading newer options on the list is atrocious.
As I’m scrolling, the buffer symbol is way too frequent for my liking. It makes trying to mix and match for a fabulous getup a not-so-seamless affair. Sure, it may only last a second, but as your clothing library grows, so too does the delay - and trust me, it’ll get enormous, and while I can filter to ease the pressure theoretically, it does nothing to remedy the slowdown.
HEY, HOW ARE YOU!? - Sound Design
When we’re talking about music, it’s mostly meh. About 95 percent of the songs are forgettable. I will note that the one that plays while I change Katarina is catchy. I’m not exactly sure why, but the simplistic tones, as well as the melody, hooked into my head. Hell, it’s currently murmuring in my noggin as I write.
Still, despite that, it’s a no-brainer to say Fashion Dreamer is an easy candidate for a romp you put on mute before turning on a Podcast. That’s doubly the case if we factor in the, well, I’m not positive it classifies as voice acting. It doesn’t even sound human, seeming like it’s A.I generated. The cadence is awkward and sports a manufactured feel. When paired with the doll-like models, it’s kind of off-putting.
AND THE TRENDY VERDICT IS...
Fashion Dreamer is incredible for flexing your imagination. My juices were rushing through my veins as I paired glasses and headpieces. I had quite an enjoyable time constantly swapping what I wore to keep it visually pleasing. I’m not embarrassed to admit I adored this mechanic.
Unfortunately, an absence of compelling gameplay and an actual plot made playing feel like a chore. It overtook any enthusiasm I had for designing and replaced it with indifference. If I’m eager to delete it from my SD card, that’s no bueno. It’s so aggravatingly barebones, and it isn’t long before this exercise in fashion turned into a cycle of monotony. There was an opportunity to mimic the Style Savvy formula, but the ball wasn't just dropped, it was thrown off a cliff. If this is meant for women, they deserve a lot better.
AVOID FASHION DREAMER!
Special thanks to the Publisher for the review code used for the purposes of this coverage