Do you have enough self confidence to admit that these dogs are just too freaking cute?
Nintendogs has been one of Nintendo’s most successful new franchises since the launch of the original DS. Selling over 20 million copies to date, the original game captured the hearts of gamers by giving them an entertaining and endearing pet simulation game. Gamers could do everything with their dog including buying accessories and toys, teaching it a number of tricks, giving it baths, taking it on walks, and entering it in contests. With up to 3 puppies at a time, gamers could choose from a number of breeds available throughout 3 editions of the game.
With the launch of the 3DS, Nintendogs has arrived for its second iteration of titles, called Nintendogs + Cats. It’s clear that felines are a new addition to the game but aside from the new hardware capabilities of the 3DS, it’s difficult to think of ways that Nintendo could have improved upon the first game. Is this title worth the $40 to take care of these adorable pets once again and has Nintendo added enough improvements to keep the experience fresh?
The one most noticeable difference gamers will see when they turn on their copy of Nintendogs + Cats: GR&NF is that the game looks much better than the previous editions on the DS. Everything from the fluffy looking fur to the realistic looking eyes will make these puppy pals seem very much like the real thing. Since I hadn’t actually owned a copy of the first game (my fiancé did and I played with hers a little), I didn’t really know what to expect. After playing Nintendogs + Cats, I found myself quite endeared by the little pooches and often found myself literally oohing and awing over the little tykes. Nintendo has succeeded in giving gamers a sense of companionship with these virtual beings, similar to that of owning a real dog.
Everything in the game is enjoyable from the menial tasks such as feeding the dog or scooping its poop to the more exciting ones like taking him on a walk or entering your dog in contests. One thing that was removed, however, was tracing a path on the town map for walking your dog. I thought the idea was a neat one in the previous game since you had to strategize how you would like to use the available movement points within a day (by visiting the store, picking up presents, or going to the park). In this game, there are other places to go to once you pass them on the main streets you traverse but you never really get a sense of exploration like in the first game (mainly because it’s impossible to visualize the track you’re walking around without a map).
As for teaching tricks, I found the recognition to be very good but the microphone to be not as much. I looked forever to find a setting in the 3DS and game menus that allows you to test/change the sensitivity of the microphone but never could find a slider to make the necessary change. Thus, if I were in an environment with some sort of outside noise or air flow (such as in my car with the air conditioning on), many of the tricks that I taught my dog or commands that I gave him were difficult for him to hear. A pair of headphones with a microphone is the best way to solve this problem but for gamers without this luxury, playing the game in a more secluded area is a must (though this is kind of a given anyways since you’ll be speaking frequently and you don’t want to annoy everyone around you).
The 3D also works very well for the game, giving a sense of depth to the environments. Thus, in your house, at the park, and walking down the street all give you a noticeable sense of depth. It’s not the most impressive 3D I’ve seen on the 3DS so far (such as games with vast environments) but it works well for making the experience more realistic looking and impressive.
Familiarity Breeds Repetition
Everything from the original Nintendogs games is available in this title, with the same contests, the same walks, and the same gameplay in almost every way. There are a few minor additions that make use of the 3DS’s new functionality such as using the pedometer to literally walk your dog (finding gifts along the way) and using StreetPass functionality to trade gifts with peoples’ 3DS’s that you walk by. However, the overall similarities between this game’s gameplay and that of the previous ones is both its biggest strength and its biggest downfall. Repeating gameplay is ok to get the formula correct but if the game itself is almost entirely the same, gamers who have already experienced the series will have no reason to pick the latest game up.
The addition of cats is a nice change of pace from previous installments. However, after saving up the required money to buy a cat (it took me about a week of entering each contest twice a day), I was extremely disappointed to see that there are no additional gameplay elements with the cats. Sure, they act in different ways than the dogs like purring and climbing on furniture in the main room, as well as having cat specific toys and food but aside from this, there aren’t any contests to enter your cat in and you can’t take it for a walk. Thus, the only gameplay involved with the cats are that inside your pen.
Finally, AR is also included in this game, allowing you to project your animal into the environment around you. This is a cute addition to the gameplay but the problem I had with it was that the obedience contest forces you to use it. I found that trying to keep the AR card in view while making sure my eyes were a certain angle and distance away from the 3DS to see it properly and simultaneously projecting my voice in a way that the dog could interpret my commands was a difficult combination to pull off. Sure, I could turn off the 3D but then it kind of defeats the purpose of the system.