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Nintendogs Review

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Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: August 22, 2005 Also On: None

The number of titles released on the Nintendo DS is unfortunately small, especially when you take into consideration that out of the few, even fewer use the DS’s functions to their full ability. With Nintendo’s latest creation, a puppy simulator called Nintendogs, the features of the DS are used to a full extent in an interesting and ridiculously cute way.

Notice I haven’t called Nintendogs a “game” because it isn’t actually a game at all, but rather the furry, hi-tech equivalent of a Tomagotchi or Neo Pet. If you remember those little handheld devices, they were pet simulator toys that were a huge fad in the late 90’s. Anyway, Nintendogs is a simulator that makes you the owner of a puppy (or two or three later on). With this comes all of the responsibility and cuteness of a real dog, only without the fur, slobber, dog treats, and those not-so-nice dog “treats.”

From the start of the “game,” you’ll enter a Kennel and from here you can choose from one of six different dogs. Each of the three versions of Nintendogs features different puppies, and depending on your version, you can choose one of a total of eighteen different breeds. From there you take your puppy home and begin training it to learn its name and so on. You’ll be obligated to feed, walk, and pay attention to your puppy as well.

Of course, this is where the fun and annoyances come in Nintendogs. For the fun, you have a vast array of things to do with your dog. You can go to a store and buy it food, liquids, collars, toys, and the like. You can then nourish it, pet it, teach it tricks using the DS’s microphone, and play things like Frisbee and fetch. When I first started raising my dog, I found myself feeding it whenever it was hungry, taking it on walks whenever possible, and playing as much fetch as possible. More options open up over time, like tug-of-war and blowing bubbles or throwing popping balloons at your puppy. It’s all cute fun that shows the fun and cute side of raising a dog.

All of this is relatively easy to do and you make complete use of the stylus. No buttons are used in Nintendogs. All puppy interaction is done with touch or sound. This is where the nagging things really caught me with Nintendogs. Unfortunately, my spunky miniature pinscher wasn’t the learning type, because she never caught on and learned my verbal commands. I trained her to sit, shake, spin around chasing her tail, jump, and a few other things on command–but after a day or so it seemed as though she forgot the trick. Of course you can manually make your dog do these things by moving the stylus over it and forcefully showing the dog how to do something, but you do that to train the dog in the first place. The DS’s microphone picks up sound waves pretty well, but unfortunately, there isn’t much leeway to verbal commands. When I first taught my puppy tricks, I used a low tone of voice that is now very difficult to remember. I don’t remember the tone of voice I used when I taught my puppy to sit, and apparently the word “sit” sounded a lot like “jump,” because she tends to jump when I tell her to sit. A tip to Nintendogs players is to use a normal voice when teaching a dog tricks, or a voice that is easily remembered.

I mentioned taking your puppy on walks, and that quickly becomes one of the most tedious things outside of real dog walking. After a while your puppy builds up stamina and wants to take lengthy walks that can take up to five, ten, or even fifteen minutes depending on how much it decides to scratch itself or how many times it takes pooping breaks. However, on the walks you can encounter other dogs to see how well your puppy interacts. Last of all, you can find other stores, a few parks, and a gymnasium for your shopping and recreational needs. Still, the walks take long enough on their own–it made me very hesitant to prolong the pain by stopping along the way.

Last of all the big things in Nintendogs is the competitions that show you just how well-trained your puppy is. There are Agility, Disc-Throwing, and Obedience competitions. The Agility competition is similar to what you’d see on television with real-life dogs, with tunnels, see-saws, and obstacles to leap over. Disc-throwing competitions were my favorite, where you could throw your puppy as many Frisbees within a minute time period as possible. Further throws earn more points, while a jumping catch is an automatic bonus. My dog was a master of this, which may have been why I appreciated it so much. Last of all, the Obedience trials are the most boring but most important of all trials. You’re judged upon how well your dog obeys commands like sitting and rolling over. Not only are you judged on how quickly the dog responds, but also how long the dog holds the pose. These competitions are a pretty fun way to see how well you’ve done with raising your puppy, but it’s a shame that you can only enter three every real-life day.

Nintendo did a fine job making sure that the animation was perfect as well as the look of each and every dog. It’s downright adorable to see the puppies interact with things, especially when you can purchase little accessories to adorn your pet with. The sound effects are equally cute, with squeaky little barks and other cute dog noises. The cuteness is enough to make a masculine person’s head explode, but dog lovers will certainly appreciate the attention paid to the detail. The only DS function that didn’t really stand out to me was the wireless capability, but even that has something cool. Using WiFi, you can connect to other Nintendogs owners and get their Trainer information, which will allow their dog to stop into your little world and give you gifts as well. It’s not really necessary but it’s a cool addition that gets you free stuff. Free stuff is never bad.

In conclusion, Nintendogs is a fun little title. As I said before, it gives you all of the benefits of having a real dog without the penalties of being sued by the PETA for throwing tennis balls or Frisbees at your pets. Emotional attachment is certainly possible, and it was evident that I was addicted to this little simulator after several days of feeding, walking, and playing with my puppy. I can’t go by without saying that it is truly fun to interact with a puppy, virtual or not, and since there’s the option, I’m happy with it. I recommend this game to anyone who is interested, but I strongly suggest to anyone else to stay away from it. It’s not a game, it’s a simulator. If you don’t already appreciate Nintendogs, don’t even try to.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 7.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8.5
Written by Cliff Review Guide