November 3, 2023
Marvelous, XSEED Games
Dress-up games are a genre that goes wildly unappreciated, these days mostly being relegated to Picrews or as a small element in much bigger games. I have often jokingly called huge RPGs that include armor customisation of any sort ‘dress-up games’ because I need to find somewhere to get my dress-up fix. If that place happens to be Bloodborne, then that’s just how it is going to be. So I was very excited to hear about a new entry in the genre coming to Switch so I could finally start making some outfits that wouldn’t have a negative effect on my armour class.
Fashion Dreamer comes to us from Syn Sophia, the developers of the very popular Fashion Boutique (Style Savvy in NTSC regions) games that were originally released on the Nintendo DS and 3DS systems. These games were largely based on realism, with players taking on the task of managing a boutique clothing store and designing outfits for customers. Fashion Dreamer takes on an entirely different approach.
It begins with the player being plopped into the middle of a virtual world named Eve and told by a tutorial character that you are currently in Cocoon Hope, one of the many cocoons (essentially just hub areas) that can be found across Eve and that each of these cocoons are populated by Muses, other fashion-forward individuals like yourself who want nothing more than to be dressed up by you.
This premise, while interesting, is not very engaging. From this point, there is a brief mention of your character’s follower count and how designing outfits (stylised as ‘lookits’) can help to increase it, but other than that there is no story whatsoever. While the main part of a dress-up game should be the dressing-up, it’s much harder to stay engaged when there is little tangible or satisfying progression.
There are also many conveniences that come with this virtual setting that at first seem very interesting but actually have a demonstrably negative effect on progression as the game goes on. One of these is that you can actually obtain the clothes being worn by any of the NPC or real-world players that you might come across in your cocoon, completely for free. Viewing another muse’s outfit gives you the option to pick and choose what parts of it you might like for yourself, and if you decide you want something, hitting the like button will immediately add it to your inventory.
If you are playing online, which the game does recommend, you also gain access to clothes designed by other players in the “pop-up area” of each cocoon. The items listed in this area change up every few hours, meaning there is an ever-rotating selection of clothes that you can just nab for free at any time. The issue lies in the fact that if you are just starting Fashion Dreamer for the first time, there is little incentive to actually design your own clothes because everything is easily accessible from the get-go. A player of any level can easily obtain high-level items from the pop-up area or from any other high-level player characters that they might see standing around the cocoon.
It’s unfortunate because the idea of player collaboration on this front is actually very appealing. When creating your Muse (you can create up to four on the same account) you set their favorite colour and most wanted item, and what this means is that when other players might see your Muse in their cocoon and decide to create a lookit for you based on that information, you are then able to nab all the items in that lookit yourself for free.
This is such a cute idea, and when I was a bit deeper into the game, I found great joy in creating lookits for players that I could see had only been with Fashion Dreamer for a few days and giving them access to new clothes that fit their style desires. The case just is that there are too many ways you can get new outfits entirely for free, somewhat negating the need to play the actual game or design clothes for yourself. Especially since making any tangible progress in Fashion Dreamer is a terrible grind.
The main gameplay loop of Fashion Dreamer sounds good on paper; in order to gain followers, you need to create lookits for the NPCs standing around in your current cocoon. These characters will have a requirement for the outfit you are making, whether that be a colour, or a style, sometimes even a particular item type. In order to get the best results when creating an outfit for them, it must meet their requirements, and have a cohesive colour scheme. This is fun at first, but as time passes the requirements don’t really become any more difficult. I was expecting to eventually have NPCs that request a lookit with three or four different requirements, but I have only ever seen it max out at two.
“…making any tangible progress in Fashion Dreamer is a terrible grind.”
The other issue is that unlike in games like Fashion Boutique, the muses don’t come to you for their outfits, you have to go to them. When playing online, the cocoons are populated half with NPCs and half with player characters. Player characters do not seem to net followers, even if you create them a lookit meeting their desired items list, so you have to do laps around the cocoon, looking for NPCs you haven’t designed for yet.
NPCs spawn in and spawn out of existence as you walk between screens, and I ended up learning the most optimised loop I could do of a cocoon in order to hit each NPC on each loop and I just…did that, for hours. The NPCs never change either, I didn’t count but I think there were only 10 characters present in my world, and those were the only ones I would ever see. Even when I moved to a new cocoon and expected to meet a new set of muses, I was surprised to see my good friend Newlywed Winnie was there, still talking about how much she loves her husband.
Currency is also a problem in Fashion Dreamer, the problem specifically being that there is too much of it. I have already mentioned followers, the only tangible form of progression in the game, but there are also bingo tickets, gacha tickets, creative keys, e-points and gold coins. All of which do different things that all amount to…nothing really. At least, nothing that makes them worth earning.
Creative keys are used to unlock clothing patterns that you can then use to create new clothes. The gacha machine allows you to… unlock clothing patterns that you can then use to create new clothes, except you can’t choose what item you are unlocking, it’s fully random so you often get duplicates and there is little need to do that anyway when you can already get everything for free.
It’s disappointing that the core loop of the game is so unengaging, especially since I really enjoy actually designing lookits in Fashion Dreamer. The clothing selection is great. There are a lot of very cool shapes and colours to play with, and it’s incredibly easy to make outfits to fit any of your style preferences. I would design lookits for my own muse quite often because it’s great fun to use all the clothes you have acquired so far to make something that matches your style, and to even get likes on your outfit from other players who may have seen you and appreciated your outfit. There is lots of variety and each time I play I find at least one or two new things to add to my wardrobe.
The caveat is, that this really only applies provided that you chose ‘body type A’ in the character creator, because the majority of people playing the game also chose that body type, meaning that almost all the player-created items are designed for that body type. Not only is it difficult to find clothes for ‘body type B’ characters, but there are also far less interesting pieces available, most of the lookits I designed for NPCs of that body type consisted of a sweater and jeans.
For a fashion game, it’s a mistake for clothes to be assigned to specific body types and locking players out of half the clothing options depending on which option they choose. It seems especially strange, considering the attempt at providing inclusivity by not explicitly labeling the body types as ‘male’ and ‘female’. If the clothing options are going to be genderlocked anyway, there is little point in designing it this way.
The most fun I was able to have with Fashion Dreamer was designing outfits for myself and then taking photos at the nearby Photo Egg in each area. I found the game most enjoyable when only visited once every couple of days, because by then, all the online players with a higher level than me would have created a whole slew of new clothing items for me to steal for free, and then I could just play dress-up for an hour or two before logging off again.
As a dress-up game alone, it does function decently well (so long as you have chosen Body Type A of course) but there is very little meat to it, or any reason to play for more than an hour per sitting. There are many far more engaging dress-up games available; the Nikki series comes to mind, a series of very entertaining mobile dress-up games with engaging stories and satisfying gameplay loops, which shows a vision of what Fashion Dreamer could have been.
- Great style options
- Online player collaboration
- Clothes are genderlocked
- Lack of tangible progression
- A real grind
Fashion Dreamer is a game that tries to do too much at once and fails to focus on making the game satisfying in the first place. With all the different forms of currency, different ways to get free clothes, gacha games and bingo games, it is completely unfocused and doesn’t put enough effort into the important stuff: the fashion and a tangible sense of growth as you become more and more popular. There are plenty of older and much better fashion games out there, so Fashion Dreamer really shouldn’t be at the top of your list.