Nintendo has a full roster of identifiable franchises and characters. So many that often times not all of them get equal attention or care. In my personal list of most underappreciated franchises, no franchise gets as little respect or even the time of day as Style Savvy.
Style Savvy is a franchise about fashion, makeup, shopping and having a great time with friends. It is, at its heart and every layer of its skin, femme/feminine. I think it’s because of that we don’t hear a lot about it; tastemakers don’t often go for femme. I myself remember being shocked when I noticed that familiar Nintendo logo on the game’s cover. Yet it’s probably the publisher’s most human and compassionate series.
The latest game, 2016’s Style Savvy: Fashion Forward, has your character arriving in a small pastel colored town filled with tiny shops and cafes. While the town may be segmented into chunks through a menu, it’s a space that is interwoven through its aesthetic and an aura that exudes warmth.
It’s not long after you arrive in town that you find out some folks just aren’t really happy. They don’t feel confident, feel like they aren’t expressing their personality, and get the impression that everyone around them is better than them. When they see how great your style is, they sheepishly ask you to reinvent their look. You whisk them away to a hair salon, a boutique dress shop, the Nintendo equivalent of a Sephora, and work what I would describe as “magic.” Slowly but surely, as you trim a little here and brush a little there, the person in front of you transforms. Let me tell you, when that character looks in the mirror, stops to take it all in, explodes with an enthusiastic smile on their face, and you then realize that you made someone feel better about themselves, it’s a feeling that would rival beating any boss fight in a Mega Man.
Playing Style Savvy: Fashion Forward reminded me of the time I decided to start using makeup. I identify as a male, and as such it was crammed into my head that makeup is feminine and a male has no business playing with the stuff. But about three years ago, I was battling a severe acne problem. I would have new, pulsating breakouts every week and before I decided to go to a doctor to do something about it, it had a severe effect on my self-esteem. I vividly remember those mornings where the walk to the bathroom mirror felt like a long and hellish trial. Afterwards I would just go back to bed and decide that I wouldn’t go outside to face the world.
It was a feeling of self-doubt that I couldn’t hide and at some point my significant other came up with a temporary solution, one that would at least reduce my wallowing in self-doubt. She suggested using makeup to cover-up some blemishes. I decided that it was worth a shot and begrudgingly helped her find foundation and concealer to match my skin-tone. When we arrived home she went to work and applied it while I internally screamed at how awkward it all felt. When she was finished and asked me to look in the mirror, I paused, took it all in, and smiled. For the first time in a while, I was happy about my body.
Style Savvy: Fashion Forward and the other games in the series allow players to experience this in a smaller, interactive scale. You ask characters what you can do to make them feel better, are given the tools to do the job, and more often than not you give them just when they want. It’s a game about helping others. That feels great and it’s a feeling that not many games out there, let alone games put out by such a prolific and recognizable publisher, evoke. Yes, it’s flawed. There isn’t a great variety of body types or races in the game, and I think it’s fair to criticize it for that. At the same I feel that the series’ merits go completely unrecognized because it’s a “girl game.” It’s not for everyone, but neither are niche franchises like Rhythm Heaven and Picross. Although I bet that those games are probably given more of a chance than Style Savvy, and I think many folks out there could really use a game like it in their lives.