Spanning 16 games, anime and manga adaptations, and a near 20-year legacy, the Atelier series is one of the most beloved RPG franchises of all time. With such a wide cast of characters and a charming premise it's no wonder that the series has been beloved by fans for so long. It's great to see such an influential franchise finally make it's way to the Nintendo eShop for 3DS.
Hold on. Sorry. Our mistake.
Upon further inspection, it appears as though Doll Fashion Atelier has absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned RPG series. In fact, the only thing the two have in common is the use of the work "atelier" in their titles. We looked that up too and apparently "atelier" is just a fancy word for "workshop." As the title sneakily suggests, Doll Fashion Atelier is nothing more than another digital doll dress-up game.
Much like the Anne's Doll Studio series, Doll Fashion Atelier has its players dressing up a series of dolls and placing them in environments of the creator's choosing. In fact, this game has so much in common with Anne's Doll Studio that we spent an embarrassing amount of time researching and trying to confirm that they are not part of the same series. The gameplay is nearly identical, the assets look the same, and Atelier even has similar themes to the five Anne's games, acting almost like a "greatest hits" collection, assuming you're the type of person who thinks that shallow template designers are great.
If you're looking for a breakdown of the gameplay here, you won't find one because there is literally no game to be played. Doll Fashion Atelier allows you to choose from one of five themes such as Gothic and Princess, select your doll's hair and eye colour, then slap some clothing and accessories on it with as little interaction as possible. To be fair, the interface works well as the game is controlled completely using the 3DS's touchscreen while the doll is displayed up top, but beyond that there is essentially nothing else to do.
Once your lifeless doll has been designed,you can then place it over a pre-rendered backdrop or import a photograph from your 3DS camera to use as the setting. There are a very limited number of creative tools that you can use to deface your work, but this set consists entirely of different coloured pens and stickers, so you're going to have to get very creative if you plan to throw together anything worth looking at. It's sort of like Miitomo, but with less flexibility, no options to easily share your creations, and none of the charm.
This main – and only – objective here is to dress up a doll and plop in into a setting that may or may not be appropriate for its attire. It doesn't take a genius to finish the task at hand, then ask the question "now what?" And that's the biggest problem here. After you've dressed your doll you have the option to export it to your 3DS's memory card where you can either copy it to a computer or leave it and forget that it ever existed. You also have the option to go back and create new dolls, but there is no incentive to do so when you can't actually do anything with the character you've created. The grim reality is that there's no reward for playing Doll Fashion Atelier, it's just a set of tools that any player is going to have a difficult time getting any semblance of enjoyment out of.
Is a grown man the target audience for this game and thus the most qualified to review it? No, probably not, but that doesn't mean that observations can't be made. One of the biggest things that needs to be pointed out is that children are not dumb, and they shouldn't be expected to settle for entertainment as lackluster as Doll Fashion Atelier. This game is aimed to appeal to children, and the awful assumption is that Doll Fashion Atelier doesn't need to have any depth to keep a child's attention.
This game accomplishes what it sets out to do – it provides a functional platform on which players can dress up and decorate dolls, but that doesn't mean it's worth anyone's time. The experience is shallow, the gameplay is unrewarding and, believe it or not, a child is perceptive enough to know when they're being disillusioned by a bad product.