Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome Review – An Otome Experience, All Dressed Up

    Title: Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome
    Developer: Kalmia8
    Release Date: September 8, 2017
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: MangaGamer
    Genre: Otome

Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome is an otome game where you play as Ema Tachibana, an anti-social girl who has a self-described resting bitch face. These factors contribute to her lack of personal connections, which is just how Ema would prefer to be. That is why the hilarity often hits when two handsome yet eccentric classmates decide that they have to convince her to become their next fashion model.

Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome prioritizes its Otome themes, with its choice of two immaculately designed male love interests. While the duality of a “masochist and sadist” is the main draw between the two, some key features better solidify its understanding of the Otome genre. In the beginning, you may name your own character. Furthermore, there is a toggle for turning off the protagonist’s “face,” which hides Ema’s character sprite during dialogue portions. Dating games often present the main character as a self-insert for yourself, so having these options appeals to a greater immersive feeling.

That isn’t to say that Ema does not have a personality of her own. You will quickly become acquainted with her signature yelp as she gets roped into Saito and Miki’s odd shenanigans. It is refreshing to see Ema struggle against such strange circumstances as being asked to be a model. The story is aware of its own ridiculousness, but having the main protagonist just go with the flow would push it over the edge in terms of believability.

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Saito and Miki are no pushovers either. Miki’s passion for designing despite the difficulties of gender stereotypes weaves narrative parallels with Ema, who is similarly bullied for traits she cannot control. In contrast, Saito arrives in bombastic fashion, often pinning Ema down both metaphorically and physically. Their sprites and designs reflect this.

Miki’s soft and bright color palette meld with a casual stance that oozes innocence. Saito’s darker themes and slanted posture coolly synergizes with his half-worn jacket, emphasizing his cool boy aesthetic. That being said, the roles being sold here are either not present or way too on the nose. Miki being presented as a masochist doesn’t fit well with his playful attitude, while Sachi simply stating that he loves the pain of others is a strange statement. In this regard, the game sometimes does not trust its audience enough to show rather than tell.

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Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome’s setting is an anomaly. It is split halfway between the bog-standard high school and wherever Ema is dragged along. This is usually Miki’s place to try out his new designs. The latter could have led to some interesting scenarios but generally serves to isolate the main trio to play out whatever bizarre scenario the plot demands.

Miki’s home serves as the best setting when it is just Saito and Miki alone together, as they can clue us in on their dynamic without Ema becoming the immediate spotlight. The environment can feel lonely when it focuses on the trio together since the focus spotlights just how few other important characters there are. The intimate dynamic of the pairings playing off each other is a warmer feeling, and the focus on that in later routes makes for a more streamlined experience based on your actions.

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In contrast, the school provides a context in which Ema is still the lower caste within the social pecking order. This is necessary for the game’s insinuation that Ema is undesirable to normal people – her height is a major source of distress to her, and the constant bullying or fear from her classmates results from that. In that sense, the high school is the more interesting venue, as the main conflict is established and allows the player to observe how she changes due to Saito and Miki’s influence.

The plot is a standard Otome affair, despite its grandiose premise. It is a thinly-veiled wish-fulfillment vehicle, with a target demographic of people who enjoy being told that they are gorgeous and unique by their preferred hot guy. It hits the hallmark formula of establishing the protagonist’s flaws and breaks through them piece by piece. Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome plays by genre conventions, making it easier to identify who would enjoy its familiar faces. A potential connoisseur of Otome games can spot the sweet, bumbling heartthrob and bad boy from a mile away.

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There are several basic endings, but only two available from the beginning, with the results being quite obvious. However, Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome falls into the unfortunate trap of offering seemingly insignificant choices that affect which route you take.

This isn’t too annoying, as the routes are rather short, and it is possible to figure out which choices lead where through trial-and-error if you desire. The multiple bad endings are pretty funny and derive from choices that other games would just ignore as a product of poor decision-making. For example, choosing to go back to sleep instead of meeting with Miki does just that, contributing to the shortest VN route ever.

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Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome is not a revolutionary Otome game but knows exactly where to aim to check the genre’s boxes. Its options to customize the experience show its understanding of the desire to self-insert in the dating game scene. Further, Saito and Miki are passable love interests, and if nothing else, serve as nice eye candy while sticking closely to established archetypes. If you can handle the fast-paced humor of three incredibly clashing personalities along with the signature heart-pounding, often aggressive romance of Otome, this will provide you an enjoyable romp.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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