The hardworking hustle-and-bustle lifestyle that citizens everywhere experience make it constantly harder to own a pet. In fact, that's one of the reasons virtual pets continue to remain popular worldwide, especially in places with large and condensed metropolitan areas. With that in mind, what better game to include in the launch lineup for a developer and publisher that literally controls the handheld gaming market?
What Is It About?
"Nintendogs" has been one of Nintendo's most popular and profitable collections of games ever since its debut early in the lifespan of its last handheld, the Nintendo DS. The game was one of the most realistic virtual pet simulators at the time, probably being the best game to really give players the feel of truly "touching" a dog.
This new entry in the charming virtual dog-owning series does everything every version of its predecessor did, while also showing the unique features and utter power of Nintendo's latest handheld.
Why Should I Care?
Players that don't have the slightest interest in raising a pet, or a dog for that matter, can stop here. Otherwise, the game is quite a pleasant experience. The game begins at a kennel where players choose from an extensive list of dog breeds. The kinds of dogs that are first available depends on which of the three versions of the game is being played. Either way, the version of the game doesn't matter because as you progress in the game, eventually all dog (and cat) breeds will be available.
Upon choosing a dog, players will get to interact with their dog from the get-go. The dog can be petted by using the stylus to rub on the dog's silhouette, and other actions and activities can be performed simply by pointing at a few menus using the system's touch screen. Among the first things players will do with their dog include naming it, teaching it tricks, and having the dog take part in a variety of activities that dog owners would definitely appreciate.
One of the more involved activities players will do with their dog is walking it. This activity allows players to see their dog interact with different parts of the environment. Head over to a patch of grass, and the dog will pee. Walk passed other Mii dog owners and the dogs will either get accustomed to each other's presence or start hating. Other than moving the leash back and forth, in essence leading your dog to various areas in the on-rail environment and picking up dog feces and tossing it in the trash, user interaction is pretty much minimal. Despite not doing much, players could still be amused by the happiness of their dog(s) and the fact that they're finding gifts during these walks.
In addition to the standard way of walking the dog in the game, players also have the option of walking their canine companions using the 3DS pedometer feature. For every hundred or so steps taken, the dog being walked will find various treasures everytime the 3DS is awakened from sleep mode. Also, when walking past folks who actually own a 3DS and also have the game on sleep mode, data can be exchanged thanks to the StreetPass feature. These new features give players an incentive when treating the 3DS like it should–as a portable gaming device.
The competitions in the game are very easy to get into as they give the game a competitive edge that it starves for. Among the game's competitions are the Disc Competition, Lure Coursing, and the Obedience Trial. The Disc Competition pits the dog and its owner against two others, seeing how many points can be accumulated by tossing and catching the disc in deep zones. The Lure Coursing is a test of timing and speed to see which dog can arrive at the endpoint fastest, and the Obedience Trial tests to see which dog is the most obedient. Success isn't certain on a first try, especially when not reading the directions, so players shouldn't expect their dogs to dominate from the get-go. The 3DS keeps players from trying to speed up progression by only allowing owners to only compete in each game twice a day. It may seem like a limitation, but a collie can't become Lassie overnight, so it's an understandable decision on Nintendo's part.
The decision to include cats, thus "Nintendogs + Cats" was a welcome one. However, "plus cats" is simply what it is. The game is essentially Nintendogs with cats thrown in. Other than frolicking around and playing in a frisky fashion, the cats have nothing to offer. They can't be taught new tricks, they can't be walked, and they can't be entered into competitions. While newcomers to Nintendogs may be turned off be this affair, the fact of the matter is the average cat doesn't learn tricks or do all these things to begin with. Nintendo really should have given cats more of a focus though by at least giving the player an option of a grooming award. Then again, even the stupidest cat videos get a million hits on YouTube. It wouldn't be surprising to see sales for the game soar just because a cat is on the front cover.
What Makes It Worth My Money?
Of the reasons to pick up Nintendogs + Cats, perhaps the biggest reason is to check out how powerful the 3DS is. Aside from deep online play, Nintendogs + Cats makes use of virtually all of the 3DS features. The StreetPass and Pedometer features were briefly touched upon, but the key factor is within the game's 3D. The puppies and kittens in the game are all extremely cute, and the dogs are a lot more realistic and furry-looking than their DS predecessors. Depending upon how deep the emotional connection is with the pets and players, one's heart can really sink when a nintendog or cat are in a bad position. Fortunately, dogs can't die in the game, so even if you abandon your game for several months, if you decide to pop the game in again, the dog (or cat) will just be sad–which is easily undone by some good scratching and petting or feeding and cleaning. So for the sick fans of animal cruelty, the most those kinds of people can do is throw the frisbee or tennis ball at the pets and watch as they whimper.
As fun and enriching a pet-owning experience as Nintendogs + Cats can be, the main problem in the game lies within the fact that not much has changed. Granted, there isn't a lot of room for innovation with pet care, but the game could surely have more options or features to at least make the game more entertaining. To kids, especially if or when they get real pets, the game can get boring after a month or two–heck, maybe even a week or a even a few hours with their lack of patience days. Newcomers, however, should find a lot to like about Nintendogs + Cats. The game is a charming experience that rewards patience, which players will definitely need if they want to play with the cats too.