'Style Savvy': Not just for women anymore...maybe

Three surprises about Nintendo's Style Savvy, the 2009 DS game where you coordinated cool outfits and ran your very own fashionable clothing shop. One, it was developed by syn Sophia - the new name for Aki Corporation, developers of all those well-beloved console wrestling games. Two, it sold more than two million copies worldwide. Three, the majority of those copies were outside of Japan.

It's probably no surprise that a sequel, Style Savvy: Trendsetters, is hitting the 3DS October 22nd in the US. "The previous game came out October 23rd, 2008," said producer Hitoshi Yamagami in this week's Famitsu magazine, "but talk about a sequel popped up pretty quickly afterward, about three or four months later. The game got a much bigger worldwide response than we were expecting, so concepting kicked off very fast. The final year or so of development went pretty smoothly, but it took a long time for us to reach that point."

What was the delay? "At the time, though, we weren't sure what platform it'd be on," explained director Yurie Hattori. "There was a period where we were prototyping the game on the Wii, but once we were briefed on the Nintendo 3DS concept, we thought this game would be a lot more compatible with the improved graphics and networking the 3DS offered. So we got to work on that, but with a sequel like this, it's difficult to strike a contract with the original game. We can't change it too much or else fans will be disappointed, but there's no point to it if it's the exact same."

For people familiar with the original Style Savvy, the changes will be pretty plain. In addition to 12,000 new fashion items to choose from, Trendsetters also largely drops the cutesy Bratz-ish approach of the original, opting for a more realistically-proportioned graphic look on all the characters. "The concept of the original game was something for young girls to enjoy since they couldn't buy clothes with their own money," Hattori said. "The resulting audience was quite different, because we all saw how popular the game proved to be with a really wide age range, not to mention both genders. It made us realize all over again that the fun of picking out and wearing clothes isn't anything tied to a specific gender or age. That's why the overall taste of the game, along with its characters, is designed to cover a wider range of customers than before."

Mens' fashion also plays a key role in Trendsetters for the first time, although Hattori freely admits that the game ain't exactly an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog depth-wise. "We considered releasing a mens' version of the game by itself," said Hattori, "but wound up throwing that out since it was doubtful we could provide as much variation to mens' fashion as we did to womens', If I had to go with one or the other, the mens' items in this game are more along the lines of what women would like to see men wear. If you're a man and you play this, it might give you some ideas on what kind of clothes women find attractive...maybe. There may not be as much variation in men's fashion, but each item has a lot behind it. You have to balance each item out more carefully, so it's a different strategy from womens' fashion."

Nonetheless, Trendsetters (which comes complete with fashion trading and showing-off via StreetPass) is a game that both Hattori and Nintendo have pinned high hopes on. "I really think this is something both men and women can enjoy to the hilt of it," she commented. "Female players can put on the clothes they like, and men can concentrate more on running a shop or creating the sort of woman they like. People who know a lot about fashion can research outfits that go beyond the game's rules, and people who are totally new to it can use it like a textbook of sorts. Fashion covers everything from clothing and makeup to the general atmosphere you present, so everyone's going to have a different approach. That's something we've striven to get into the game, getting feedback from people in the fashion industry who usually don't go anywhere near games, and I hope that rubs off on the people who play this."

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