Nintendogs + Cats brings the pet simulation game to the Nintendo 3DS, transforming your virtual canine into a 3D companion.
As a new pet owner you will visit the kennels in search of a lovable and friendly canine/feline to become your new best friend. You can choose from a selection of puppies or kittens, but I went down the dog route and theres a nice choice of breeds such as the French bulldog, German Shepherd, Spaniel, Chihuahua, Yorkie, Shepherd, Husky, Dalmation and Basset Hound. All of the puppies are simply adorable with an abundance of energy. I chose the french bulldog which is known for it’s big round eyes and rabbit like ears. She’s scratching at the 3DS screen, excited and wagging her tail, desperate for me to take her home. Once she’s stopped licking the 3DS screen I’ve got to prepare her for the transition from kennel to new home. It’s down to me at the end of the day to make her feel comfortable and confident in her new home.
Once you’ve selected the breed you want, it takes a little while to get to know your puppy. Using the stylus and touching the screen I can stroke her and rub her belly. The display screen is split up into three different catagories which comprise of Diary, Supplies and Go Out. The Diary mode allows you to see the condition of your puppy from physique to whether it’s thirsty or desperate for a can of dog food. It’s a good indicator to see whether your puppy is in top condition.
In the supplies section you can choose what items you’re going to use or give your puppy. Choices vary from general water bowl and food to toys for your pup to play with. It’s also the place to purchase shampoo for when your puppy inevitably gets mucky and you need to bathe it.
When I tried Nintendogs + Cats out in Amsterdam, I had no idea how deep this game goes, but there’s more to it than I orginally thought. Getting to know your puppy is as much of an experience as ever. Once you’ve chosen a name, I named mine ‘Ninty’, it’s time to get your dog to recognise your voice and face. The game encourages you to speak to your puppy through a series of voice commands such as calling it’s name, and using the sit command. At first you think the puppy isn’t going to recognise your voice, until you start calling it and it looks round at you. It’s a strange feeling to see your puppy understand you for the first time, but it’s a rewarding experience. Precious moments with your canine friend can be captured with the built in camera using the L and R shoulder buttons. The 3DS allows you to take photographs throughout gameplay which is great, because you’ll find yourself clicking away with the camera and looking back on those early puppy days.
Nintendogs + Cats makes use of both StreetPass and SpotPass. With StreetPass, players can exchange presents and 3D photos with other players, and SpotPass allows you to receive Nintendogs + Cats notifications as well as special presents. StreetPass and SpotPass remain active even when you’re not playing. This means new oppotunities to meet other dogs and exchange gifts without needing to be at the screen all the time.
Taking your puppy out for the first time is a lovely experience. The environments feel bright, colourful and full of life as you walk down the street. Players touch on the lead icon to walk their dog and pull up slightly. At first your puppy will sniff or eat flowers as they begin their journey. Other times they will be swayed to investigate the odd piece of rubbish that may be left in the street. Don’t forget to clean up after your pet, as this will happen throughout your walking time. During your walk, you’ll engage with other puppies who your puppy may greet and other times when your puppy just won’t make eye contact. Ocassionaly players will discover a present that’s left on the road and these will contain treats for your puppy to enjoy. Taking your puppy out for a walk is a great form of exercise and time for exploration. Out and about players will find mountains, towns, beaches and Nintendo parks for your puppy to enjoy. The first time I took my puppy to the park, I was quite happily playing frisbee, only for another puppy to waltz onto the scene and steal away my puppy’s toys. Players may feel over protective, but it’s a great feeling to see your puppy interact with other dogs as they both go leaping into the air to grab the same toy. Collision!
Training your puppy is important if you want your canine friend to compete in competitions. Talking into the 3DS is needed to give commands to your puppy. Your puppy can learn a series of commands and tricks, it just takes a little persuasion for your puppy to obey. The tutorials show a clear and consise way for your puppy to learn sit, paw, play dead, spin, and roll over. It takes a few attempts in voicing the commands to your puppy for it to understand you, as there will be times when he/she looks back at you with their head to one side and a redundant look of confusion. Practice is needed and you can only learn three tricks in a day.
Once you’ve done with some training lessons, you can take a wander around the vast selection of shops that are available to you. These include an accessory shop where you can purchase cute items of attire for your puppy, such as bright pink collars, hats or even sunnies. A supply shop which allows players to pick up biscuits, treats and toys to keep your puppy entertained. The modo shop is where you can purchase furniture to decorate your home. A nice variety of home interiors are available including modern, Japanese, Asian and fairytale designs to make your home look more personal. Ninty ended up getting a new bed which she enjoyed. If you want the nicer interiors, you are going to have to part with a great deal of money as they proved to be incredibly expensive. Other shops included a second hand shop where you can sell items or exchange them, kennels if you wish to purchase another puppy or kitten and a hotel. That’s right, I said hotel. The Altesse Hotel is a pet hotel which looks after your puppy/kitten and you can drop it off, swap it, or even donate your pet. I left that place in a hurry as I didn’t want some random stranger looking after my beloved Ninty.
Competitions are part of the Nintendogs + Cats world as you’re introduced to three catagories to compete in, which include Disc Competiton, Lure Coursing and Obdience Trial. All of these competitions involve your puppy peforming against two other CPU puppies. While most of the competitions were interesting, the obedience trial caught my attention the most as this involved the AR cards. Placing one of the six AR cards down on a flat surface, your puppy is then thrown into the limelight and is given a set of commands to obey in a designated. AR cards are also used to allow your canine friend to wear character hats to look funny. Oh look, she’s got Kirby on her head. All the tricks you’ve taught your puppy up to now will need to be on top form. Win first prize and you’ll come away with some money, which could mean new gear for your puppy or new decorations for your home. Either way it’s fun competing, even if your puppy doesn’t always want to obey you the first time round.
The 3DS has a built in Pedometer which is used in Nintendogs + Cats. This is where you can actually close the Nintendo 3DS and carry it around with you and this allows your dog to go walkies too. This will count the steps your puppy will take as you do in the real world and lead to him/her finding presents along their journey in the outside world.
Overall my first impression of Nintendogs is a good one. The variety of gameplay and the 3D effects I found constantly enticing. Your puppy is provided with a nice selection of toys to play with and challening competitions. The whole experience feels more personal and I’m not just given a puppy for the sake of just walking it or bathing it. Nintendo have created a virtual canine world where it’s given the player the choice of controlling the environment in which they inhabit. Puppies are given objectives to reach for competitons and rewarded. With the new introduction of StreetPass and SpotPass, I’m sure we’re going to see people exchanging gifts and photos for a long time to come. The 3D on Nintendogs + cats makes the game feel more realistic without going overboard and with a lovely selection of breeds of puppies and kittens to choose from, you’ll be tempted to give them all brand new homes.
Now I must return to the adoption centre. I hear a kitty calling my name.