This is me, 43-year-old bearded man Mike Fahey, taking a short break from being a fashion boutique manager, hair stylist, makeup artist, clothing designer and interior decorator in Nintendo Presents: New Style Boutique 2 - Fashion Forward. I can't imagine how I found the time. The third instalment of Nintendo's Style Boutique franchise arrived in Australia back in November of last year, but it has only just hit American shores (known there as Style Savvy: Fashion Forward, the third in the Style Savvy series). The game transports us to a magical world behind the door of a dollhouse, a world desperately in need of a makeover. Players create their hip young female avatar and are transported to a place where they can hold multiple high-pressure creative positions without being driven completely insane. It's so great!
Like the Style Boutique games that came before it, players open a boutique (which they won't let me name -- wise choice) and deal with customers with only a vague notion of what they came in to purchase. It's up to the player to visit the supply depot and stock up on enough girly checkered trousers, bold black earrings and lively skirts to ensure that no customer goes away unsatisfied.
The fashion boutique core game isn't much different than it's been. Customers still range from deadly specific to vaguely interested in some sort of clothing whatever, and while there's quite a bit of repetition in clientele (I keep getting the girl who brings her friend along to remind her to buy pants), putting together the perfect outfit for your customers is still as ridiculously satisfying as it ever was.
But's it not just about clothes any more. As the game progresses you gain the ability to service some seriously vague customers at the doll town's makeup and hair styling shops. Like clothing sales, it's all menu-driven, multiple choice sort of stuff -- you're never actively cutting hair or painting on your clients' faces with your stylus. This is good, because the customers in the two additional establishments would drive anyone nuts.
"I want to look like a princess!" one hair stylist customer says, making you milk out of her that she prefers something long and regal. "I'm hosting an animal party and want my hair to look like an ani -- " Oh God shut up. Just Cuts is three doors down; go bother them.
The best customers are the ones who want to look like other customers. One character, Xiaoling, is going completely Single White Female on another character, Callie. First Callie catches Xiaoling sketching her, discovering a sketchbook full of pictures of herself. Then Xiaoling asks for clothing that looks like Callie's. Then the stalker serves as our introduction to both the hair-styling biz...
... and the makeup department.
I fully expect Callie to stop showing up in the game one day, replaced with Xiaoling with a "Callie" tag taped over her on-screen name. Of all the things you can do in Fashion Forward, you cannot be the police called to Callie's apartment when this situation escalates.
You can, however, become an interior designer, collecting tiny furniture and arranging it in rooms within a tiny dollhouse, which somehow modifies rooms in a larger house, itself technically inside a tiny dollhouse... my head hurts.
I'm still getting the hang of interior design, which is to say it's not nearly as fun as buying and selling clothes and doing makeovers. I like to do virtual makeup. I think I'm getting good, but I can handle criticism. I'll show you what I know.
No, it looks like I hit you with my car.
OK, maybe not. The best part about giving a customer horrible makeup in Fashion Forward is that you will run into them again and again as you wander through town, stopping by the park for a stroll or sitting at the cafe sipping on some coffee. "She paid me $150 to do that," my character says to herself, finding comfort in the little victories.
I've still got a ton of stuff to do in Fashion Forward, from runway shows to designing my own clothing, which will probably be really, really bad, but my virtual friends will love it anyway. Except Callie. Poor, missing for five days Callie.