Review – Fashion Dreamer
I had no idea what I was going to be encountering when I picked up Fashion Dreamer towards the end of last week. My first time hearing about it was during a recent Nintendo Direct, and it looked…well, it looked okay. It seemed like an intriguing concept, and my wife and kids were over the moon at the commercial. It apparently was evocative of a series called Style Savvy which my beloved had put countless hours into, and also showed my daughters on her 3DS. The idea of crafting, designing and customizing outfits for any number of people and styles seemed cool, so I went with it and started my trek with a positive mindset.
From the drop, Fashion Dreamer leaves no confusion as to what it’s about. After you craft your character (which is a very flexible and detailed system), you’re dropped into what almost feels like what writers from the 90s thought the future of the Internet would look like. Floating streets and digital pathways make me think more about Ralph Wrecks the Internet than Rodeo Drive. A tutorial message begins you on your journey, asking you to engage with the different avatars you see (called Muses) to copy their fashion into your own cyber lookbook and to suggest new designer builds for them (called Lookits). After you dress the Muses, they take a photo and add it to their social media, which gets reactions that lead to your elevation in success. The more you post, the more you get feedback, the more you can do.
In terms of detail and customization, Fashion Dreamer swings wildly back and forth between minute details and truck-sized brush strokes. Making your Muse look a certain way – eye color, nose shape, chin contours – have a good range, allowing for some very specific facial appearances. Then again, the bodies themselves are very generic, giving you nine different sizes that only affect height and not girth. While I can see the idea here is for a very idealized fashion world of clothing being for everyone, not having the choice for a Muse to be plus sized beyond “tall” feels like an obvious misstep from the drop. Again, it’s a video game fantasy fashion world, but, for some players, this lack of representation will be quite noticeable.
The clothing itself is also strangely diverse and bland in the same swing. You have a massive range of different clothing styles and cuts that you can only really customize in terms of color print. You unlock additional clothes through the use of keys that you get a boatload at a time, to the point of it feeling like busywork. That is, you get fifty keys, but you can’t mass select clothing to unlock: you need to choose one at a time, confirm, and then get a little animation for unlocking. It’s massively time consuming and leaves the player wanting to just either spend all the keys at once or get just one piece of clothing and call it a day.
After the basics are explained, Fashion Dreamer really pulls off the mask to reveal the number of in-game currencies that need to be farmed out through luck and Muses. There’s the gatcha machine to get more clothes. There’s the bingo game that can win you the currency used to buy more clothing and also furniture for your Showroom (the online showcase of the clothing you designed and will sell). There’s a vending machine for items that you can hold in photos and can’t be obtained any other way. All of those use totally different redemption items, and all get dropped randomly from doing Lookits and posting them to get feedback.
There are elements of the game that are very cool, such as the sheer amount of clothing available. As an Animal Crossing survivor, I know the importance of choices when it comes to dressing up the villagers of the world around you. Between the online and offline mode, there’s a plethora of Muses to encounter, “borrow” their look and then dress up for your own amusement. I changed one woman’s outfit five times in the span of five minutes, and she was always over the moon about what I did even if I completely ignored her requested parameters. Casual, sporty look? You’re going to wear a trenchcoat with a polka-dot top and like it, Claire! There’s so much to be done in terms of clothing that there must be thousands, if not millions, of combinations.
But Fashion Dreamer is a little creepy in how some of these things are done. It’s one thing to walk up to a Muse and instantly copy their clothing onto your own: I get there’s an entire meme/subculture for “steal their look,” but the very literal action was strange. No, it’s when you can look at a Muse and steal their face that I got upset. Not even steal the whole face, you can just steal the details you enjoy. Oh, hey Brad, I like the way your eyes look. Now so do mine. We are bound through the empty windows of fashion. Despair, and rejoice in the void.
What ultimately takes the wind out of the sales of Fashion Dreamer is the lack of drive or compelling meaning to accomplish anything in the game outside of existence. From what I understand, Style Savvy and other fashion games at least have a through line about fulfilling your dreams of being a world-famous designer or something to that effect. Fashion Dreamer has no such throughline. You make clothes. You want more people to like your clothes, so you make more. You unlock additional clothes, to make more clothes, to give to more people, to like. It’s as if Ouroboros was also really into selling imitation Gucci’s in Battery Park.
For the sake of everyone, I’m going to acknowledge that Fashion Dreamer almost certainly is not for me, and that’s okay. I’m not on social media, nor do I plan to join it at any point. The shocking number of studies and reports that show social media overall impacts mental health negatively lets me know that a person who already has a lot of issues shouldn’t join a practice that should create more. This game is definitely aimed at the young and the trendy, the ones who enjoy the idea of clout chasing, influence spreading and basically getting recognition and praise for their presence online. It’s a microcosm of the overall state of the world, and I have to believe people who enjoy that sort of thing know this.
Having said that, this game was so flat and hollow I could have played it like an ocarina. Everything is positive without substance: even people who hate their looks still give you praise, just less than if they actually got what they wanted. Solo play and online play felt identical as I met various people, judged them and then put them in totally different clothes. Nothing of note felt like it had happened or would happen. I got to fly around a drone and take some pictures. I posed in a photo booth. I just kept unlocking culottes and sweatshirts, hoping for the right combination that would excite me, and it just didn’t arrive.
Fashion Dreamer is an extreme version of Paper Dolls with the added bonus of a never ending parade of additional playmates. If you have the time and the resolve, you have a fascinating, perpetually positive world of fashion, creativity and interactions. In that realm, it has endless possibilities, and that’s going to be great for some. But, if you’re hoping for a reason behind it all – a story, a goal, something besides “because it’s there” – then this is one trend that we simply won’t be joining.
While inoffensive and benign, the sheer number of clothing choices stands in stark contrast to the banal expressions of every Muse, and the lack of effort for any sort of real character customization outside of facial details.
You figure out the entirety of the game in fifteen minutes, and then spend an hour trying to remember where everything is. Lack of centralized map or faster movements means trudging to do the same routine over and over: make clothes, dress people, get likes, weep silently.
Its just the same poppy electro tunes as you’d hear in a photo booth in an arcade. While it captures the energy needed to be peppy and excited, it also eats out your brain after a while. Muting the television doesn’t harm the game experience, so feel free to go mute whenever.
If this doesn’t hook you in immediately, you’ll never gel with the concept. Lack of story and any kind of penalty or consequence prevents the need to hone or improve my skills. You just keep unlocking and pumping out clothes, then take photos of what you like. This is for someone, but it clearly isn’t me.
Final Verdict: 4.0
Fashion Dreamer is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Fashion Dreamer was provided by the publisher.