I’ve been focused on manga related discussions in my last few updates so I’m going to switch gears and do a video game review today. I’m going to talk about Nintendogs + Cats: Toy Poodle & New Friends for the Nintendo 3DS.
The Nintendogs game has been around since the Nintendo DS has been around. With the release of the 3DS came an upgrade for the Nintendogs line of games. Not only can you play this game in 3D, but you can have a cat in the game. The DS version of the game only came with different breeds of dogs to take home, love, and care for in your virtual home.
I think at first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this game as “silly” or “stupid.” Why would anyone want to spend the time playing a game where you take care of virtual pets when you can go out and get a real one? In my opinion, once you start playing this game it’s hard not to get charmed by it.
When you start the game like in Nintendogs for the DS, you are brought to the kennel where you get to view all the available dogs and their breeds. You get to tap whichever dog you like to see up close, the dog will come to you, and you pet it. When you tap on the “get this dog” button, it will pull up a description of what this dog’s personality is like before finalizing your purchase. Once you have selected your desired virtual pet, you and your new dog are then whisked away to your virtual home where you and your new dog get acquainted with one another.
The screen prompts tell you your new dog needs to get used to its new environment. You pretty much call over the dog by tapping the middle circle button with a dog and owner’s hand icon on it. A little whistle sounds and the dog comes running. You have to keep interacting and petting the dog until you get it to calm down. Once you do that, the screen prompt then lets you know that your dog has now calmed down and has gotten used to its new home. Now it’s time to name the dog.
I chose a white toy poodle and named him Snowball in my game. As the owner, you have to speak into the microphone a few times to get the dog used to its new name. Once the dog has identified the chosen name you have given it, the screen prompt will tell you the dog now knows its name and then asks you to write it down so you won’t forget. The typed name will show up in a little profile box next to your pet so you can check the status of your pet. Is your pet dirty? Do they need a bath? Is he/she hungry or thirsty?
Like taking care of a real pet, you have to feed it, clean it, play with it, and take it out for walks. If you have a dog, you need to teach them how to do tricks. Teaching them tricks comes in handy when you want to enter them for the obedience competitions to win money. The other competitions you can enter your dog for are a disc throwing competition and a lure course competition. When you take your dogs out for walks you can practice for these competitions: the park for the disc throwing and the gym for the lure course competition. Just make sure you have a disc and lure in your supplies inventory. You need them for the times you practice or enter the competitions. The game starts you off with some reasonable amount of money to buy food, drinks, snacks, and toys for your pet. You do have to replenish the money you spend by doing the competitions.
The competitions are in tiers. As you win the number one spot in each tier, you move onto to the next tier. Winning number one will earn you more money compared to if you keep coming in second or third place all the time. The difficulty of each tier you move up gets hard to keep your pet at number one by the time the timer runs out. Once you do earn the top spots in all tiers of the competition, winning lots of money will enable you to buy higher quality stuff for your pets, home, and it will give you the chance to buy another pet.
You are only allowed three pets at a time in the game. After purchasing your first dog at the kennel, it opens up the ability to purchase a cat if you want one. Upon purchasing your first dog, you won’t have enough money to get another dog or a cat so participating in the competitions in each playthrough is important to save enough money for a new pet.
The next pet I bought was a tabby cat that I named Lola. The cats in the game are slightly easier to maintain because you don’t need to take them out on walks and they don’t participate in competitions. Only the dogs in the game are the prize earning pets. Cats do need to be shown love of course, so be sure to call your cat over to lavish as much love as you can give them.
When Nintendogs came out for the DS I wasn’t particularly interested in the game. I ended up trying out the game for the 3DS when my friends had it for their own system. I found myself falling in love with the game as I interacted with their pets. I don’t know what it was really. Maybe because they made these virtual pets so darn cute? The 3D capability for this new Nintendogs made the pets pop out more in the game. When they come to you and you have the 3D set to on, it does feel as if you can reach out and really touch them. The illusion is pretty remarkable. I actually wanted to purchase the game for myself, but luckily I got the game as a Christmas present from these same friends. Score!
Is this a game you can play hours on end? Not really. There’s only so much you can do in this game. You can’t keep feeding your pet if they aren’t hungry or you don’t want to make them fat. You can only enter each competition a maximum of twice each day. You definitely can’t spam the competition more than twice to get more money. I suppose you can take them out for lots of walks or play with your pets with the toys you have, but it will get boring fast. This is one of those games where you play for a short period of time.
The beauty of this game is you can leave this game for several weeks and your pets won’t die. They will get hungry and dirty if you neglect the game for a long time, but you don’t have the burden of making sure your pets are still alive. Wish you can have your cat and dog stay kittens and puppies forever? You can with this game. They don’t ever age. They always remain cute and sweet.
Nintendogs kind of reminds me of the 90’s craze of Tamagotchis, the Nintendogs of virtual pets before there was even a Nintendogs. Anyone remember the Tamagotchis? I had at least two of these Tamagotchis and their other virtual pocket pet copies back in the day. It was a novel idea at the time. You can take your pet around with you, feed it, clean it, and watch them grow. The only downside is these pocket pets do die if you neglect them for too long while Nintendogs eliminates that burden for the player. Can’t take care of your pet for a while? No problem. Come back when you want to see them again. The Tamagotchis actually fashioned their pets out of taking care of a real pet. It was fun for a while, but it can get annoying if you have to worry about a virtual pet not dying.
This brings me back to why Nintendogs may not be as silly of a game as some might think. I think Nintendogs is like a testing ground for people thinking about getting a real pet. Would anyone be able to have this level of commitment to take care of a real one? Having a pet is not a video game. You can’t just put it away for several days and come back to it whenever you feel like it. Pets are living, breathing animals and they need to be taken cared of. If you want to have a pet but not the commitment of having a real one then Nintendogs is your solution for that. I personally don’t own a pet, but I don’t have the real desire to have one in real life. At the very least I can enjoy my virtual pet without having to commit to taking care of one every single day.
My final thoughts on the game, buy this one if you want to have a virtual pet without the commitment of a real one. Your pet will remain kittens and puppies forever if you prefer them at this stage rather than at their adult stage. Be prepared to only spend maybe less than an hour on this game. It’s not for the hardcore gamers who want more than just using a stylus to play with a pet or take them out on virtual walks. It’s a good game if you need just 15 or 20 minutes of your time to play something fun.
Reviewer Rating: 8/10