They got style, they got grace and all have a smile on their face!
The New Style Boutique games are among my favorites on the Nintendo 3DS. With simple yet engrossing gameplay, the series has won me over with a charm that is unparalleled. I will freely admit that they are better than they have any right to be. The concept of running a boutique, choosing some clothes and interacting with complete digital nobodies shouldn't be compelling. That being said, somehow syn Sophia made it work and created something I would gladly play in the late hours of the day. The one exception being Fashion Forward. It’s my least favorite entry due to the opening felling extremely slow and the story being largely disjointed due to the implementation of a real-time clock system. With New Style Boutique 3: Styling Star, the developers go back to the essentials and have created the best entry yet.
The instant changes start with the story. The previous entries certainly had a direction to follow, but it never felt like a focus. You got exposition dumps on characters I didn't ask for and I wanted to move swiftly on to my next set of tasks. In this game, everything about it feels a lot more natural. You're given actual time to get to know what you are dealing with, what they want out of you and how you should go about achieving that. Everything in the town setting is woven into one another with such incredible ease. Most of the experience is centered around an idol agency named NIN10, where you will follow the journey of a couple girls. They want to become the next big thing and need your fashion sense to get there. On their route to becoming musicians, you will quickly realize how quirky their personalities actually are. Rosie, one you meet almost immediately, steals the thunder of every moment she is in.
Even the minor characters, the ones who visit your boutique daily, have also been largely enhanced. You build relationships with them and raise their heart count, which can go up to five. It will result in smaller plots in which they will ask you to meet and want to open up about their problems. This in turn made me excited, it was nice to be able to continue to play the actual game part of New Style Boutique 3. Of course, there is a line now and then that is repeated, but the amount of times this happens is far less than in Fashion Forward. There are things that actually open up, so you want to ensure that they visit your store as much as possible.
The act of opening up your boutique, selling clothes and micro managing every single thing is what continues to thrive in these games. After listening to a character's latest dilemma, you need to use your fashion knowledge to select the right items. This can be about a certain image, color or even a wacky scenario that you encounter along the way. Personally I find it fun to scroll through the items and find things of interest manually. If you happen to be less confident, there are search functions to help you find something specific quickly. A controversial inclusion is the fact that you can now find exactly what you need with a push of a button. Personally, I found this completely negating the act of playing, so I mostly ignored it.
On the flip side, there are some terrific enhancements worth mentioning. Previously you had to know if certain clothing items were still in stock. As a result, I would save frequently to ensure I wouldn't screw up. With New Style Boutique 3, you can look through your inventory before accepting a request, which is incredibly helpful. If the stock of an item is non-existent, you can tell them to wait while you stock up in the Exhibition Hall. You will need to be careful in the early on as funds are pretty tight, but once you know your regulars, it shouldn't be a problem. It makes the managing side of it a lot more engaging. New Style Boutique 3 appreciates you paying attention and rewards you accordingly for it.
This rewarding factor comes into play with the new levelling system. Unlike previous entries, where progression would just suddenly happen, New Style Boutique 3 offers a fair sense of getting things done. As you help costumers, a progression bar will fill all the way to the right. When you go to sleep, all your experience will be cashed in for a new level. Levelling up will also introduce new characters, fashion brands, options or locations to visit. Some of the features found in the previous games, like hair styling and make-up, will open up in due time this way. A new inclusion in that sense is the option to paint nails, but that was so limited that I barely bothered.
Styling Star is the best looking game in the entire series. This is partially helped by the lack of 3D visuals. While I totally understand the decision, you can't help but wonder why they would drop it now. It’s not like that this was such a hot commodity in 2015, which is when the last entry was released. In either case, it’s a colorful spectacle that is just pleasant on the eyes. The music is fantastic, from the songs by the upcoming artists to the boutique tunes, there isn't much here that I don't like.
Nintendo Presents New Style Boutique 3: Styling Star is a lengthy game. I've spent hours upon hours with this game and have never lost interest at any moment. The game is a culmination of what developer syn Sophia has learned from the last couple of outings. With a well developed plot and gameplay that makes you forget you need to sleep, I couldn't wish for much more. The few miscues such as the repeating of lines and the painting nails were easily overshadowed by the full experience. What Styling Star delivers is charm and you’ll be hard pressed to find this much in any future Nintendo 3DS game for some time.