posted 10/10/2005 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: DS

As I said, the realism of the dogs lies in their personality more than in their appearance.  There are twenty breeds in all, each with their own distinct attitudes, likes and dislikes.  You get six breeds at the start, and the types depend on which version of the game you bought.  All twenty are eventually unlockable, but linking up wirelessly with a friend who has a different version is a more expedient way to complete your list of available breeds.

Once you have your new friend purchased and at home, naming is taken care of with the microphone.  Your dogs will actually respond to your voice, be it a simple call of their name or instructions on performing a trick.  Thankfully, tapping the screen is just as effective as calling their name, so playing in a public place is possible.  As you interact with your dog, he or she will become more accustomed to you and more obedient, and thus more receptive to learning tricks and commands.  Some dogs are more stubborn than others, and some of this depends on breed, so be prepared for a training challenge if you pick a rowdy pup.

As you and your pet become more familiar and comfortable, you’ll also grow in confidence.  It takes consistent practice in a number of areas, but eventually you’ll be able to enter your dog in competitions.  The disc contest is self-explanatory; throw the frisbee and your dog will fetch it.  Distance thrown and number of catches within the time limit determines score.  Agility trials are a little tougher.  You’ll have to train your dog in the gym to leap hurdles, navigate tubes and zigzag through a series of poles.

The obedience trials take the most effort.  You’ll have to teach your pet a solid list of increasingly complex tricks, and not only that, but they’ll have to do them well and precisely on command too.  If you have a particularly inattentive puppy or one that’s easily distracted by a cheering crowd, this contest will be a hard one to beat.  All of the trials are worth it, though, as they award you with big prize money.  The cash is in turn used to purchase necessities such as food and water, as well as more puppies.  You can have eight dogs at one time, three in your home and five in the convenient dog hotel.

In the end, this is all Nintendogs really has to offer.  Its relative simplicity makes it easy to pick up and play, but sim fans hoping for a deeper experience may be disappointed.  It’s a double-edged sword, really.  Non-gamers won’t be intimidated, but the hardcore might consider Nintendogs a little anticlimactic.

But is the game worth the money?  Definitely.  There’s still plenty to keep long-time players busy.  One of the game’s main attractions is finding items during walks, such as new toys, collars or the ever-popular Mario hat.  The wireless “Bark Mode” offers considerable replay value, and an opportunity for virtual dogs and owners alike to play together, swap items and data.  Bark Mode will even search for active DS systems in its Bluetooth range, so if you’re in a crowded area you just might find a fellow Nintendogs player.

The core replay value, however, comes from just firing up your DS and interacting with your puppy.  If I’m bored I’ll pull out the tennis ball or just scratch my dog behind the ears with the stylus.  No matter what, your Nintendog will always be happy to see you. 

Nintendogs is the most developed pet simulator to date. It’s a lot more interactive than the Tomogotchi of old and not creepy like Sega’s Sea Man, and it accurately portrays one of the world’s most loveable real animals. The experience as a whole isn’t terribly deep, but it’s still a great example of the “non-game” genre and the potential of the DS hardware. It’s perfect for quick bursts of play and non-competitive interaction with friends.

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