Bev Chen
15 May, 2011

Nintendogs + cats Review

3DS Review | You can (kind of) teach an old dog new tricks.
Before it was even released in 2005, fans were eager to see how various capabilities of the Nintendo DS would work, such as the touch screen and microphone. Amidst the launch titles, Nintendogs showed that it was definitely up to the task, featuring elements of virtual pet games that were popular years before it, combined with a new and innovative control scheme. But now we’re six years from then, so how much has Nintendo done to improve the pet-raising simulator for the Nintendo 3DS? As it turns out, it’s not as much as you would think. Tweaks to various aspects of gameplay aside, there is not a lot in Nintendogs + cats that deviates from the formula of the previous games. The simplicity and intuitionism is still very relevant to gamers today though, and without a doubt, there will be many occasions where your virtual pet will make you coo in delight.

As made obvious by the title, one of the key features of Nintendogs + cats is the addition of kittens to add to your pet household. Dog lovers prevail though, as these kittens are nowhere near as fun to play with as the puppies. You can’t teach them any tricks or enter them into any competitions, but they do slip out from time to time to fetch you presents. It’s also quite interesting to watch dogs and cats interact with not only each other, but you, the player. Just as they are perceived to be in real life, cats are quite fickle and don’t pay you much attention, sometimes even preferring to ignore you when you try to call them over. Dogs, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Tapping on the screen is often more likely to get the attention of your dog rather than your cat.

Life while choosing a puppy and life afterwards.

Life while choosing a puppy and life afterwards.
So what can dog owners expect? If you’ve played the previous Nintendogs game, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what gameplay entails, but as anticipated from a sequel, there are a couple of improvements in place. At the beginning of the Nintendogs + cats, the game allows you to choose between nine starting dog breeds, with others unlocked as you progress through daily life with your pets. It’s a little disappointing that this doesn’t apply to the cats in the game – rather, the game gives you a choice of a standard cat (which we took to mean a shorthair) a longhair and an oriental. Once you select a breed, you can pick from various colour schemes too, which gives a nice bit of variety.

From here, it’s up to you to name and train your dog, which once again is done with the built-in microphone. We found that since our personal experience with Nintendogs all those years ago that this has been fine-tuned and results in a much more satisfying experience. There is (for the most part) no longer any need for you to sit for ten minutes and repeat the same command over and over, only for your dog to look at you, confused. Taking your dog out on walks is a much simpler affair now as well. As many no doubt remember, Nintendogs had you draw a path for your dog to walk, with how far you could go depending on how much stamina you have. This got irritating quite quickly though, especially if picking up the presents scattered around town was your main objective. And let’s face it, whose wasn’t? In Nintendogs + cats though, your walk constitutes of a straight path lined with numerous fields of grass (for the dog to, ahem, relieve him or herself), other people (also walking their dogs, of course) and the occasional gift. It’s a much better way of tying dog walking in and takes a lot of the initial guesswork out of what should be a very easy task. In addition to taking your dog out for walks, you can literally take your puppy out with you – that is, via use of the built-in pedometer. Nintendogs + cats makes great use of this 3DS function, as depending on the number of steps you take, the better a present you will be awarded. On a less materialistic note, the longer you walk, the happier you make your dog. StreetPass is compatible with this feature as well; you can meet other people, receive presents from them and play with their dog in a virtual park.

A walk in the park nets us a present... and nets a dog a bath.

A walk in the park nets us a present... and nets a dog a bath.
Nintendogs + cats also marks the return of competitions which, this time around, comprise of Disc Competition, Lure Coursing and Obedience Trial. The ranking system is now better structured though; whereas in the previous game, coming third or better in a contest would let you progress to the next level, coming in lower than third would drop you down to the previous level. Such is not the case in Nintendogs + cats. Now, you need to come first in a contest in order to progress to the next level, but you never need to slide back down the ranks. The Disc Competition and Lure Coursing competitions are self-explanatory, if a little bit misguided in the game. The game never explains to you the importance of stamina or how it can be trained, and at the beginning it’s not even quite clear that it is in use until you realise how much better you are than everyone else. As for the Obedience Trial, the game now demands that you use your AR Cards. You might get really excited and wonder how these affect the competition (we did), but prepare to be underwhelmed. All the AR Cards do are project a 3D image of your puppy (just like in the AR games). It’s the same old contest otherwise, with your dog being required to perform certain tricks within the time limit. The gimmicks don’t end there though, as the AR Cards can be used outside of the competition as well. Again, these make your dog appear in 3D, but this time with the various hats of Nintendo characters on the cards. The game also makes use of facial recognition and after a time you will find that your dog will react positively to you if you put your face up near the screen. Let someone else who hasn’t played with your dog do the same thing and your puppy will react negatively.

Dear puppies, if you don't win these contests, I can't buy you a new bed.

Dear puppies, if you don't win these contests, I can't buy you a new bed.
Nintendogs + cats has had a significant graphical upgrade since gamers’ last outing with it, thanks to the power of the 3DS. While the dogs and cats still aren’t quite photo-realistic by a long shot, the level of detail is impressive, especially when it comes to fur and coats. Once again, the animals move just like they would in real life, conveying a real sense of innocence and playfulness in the way they act. Other graphical elements, such as certain accessories, are a bit less aesthetically pleasing, looking more like they belong in the previous title.

It’s quite clear that Nintendogs + cats isn’t meant to be a huge time-killer, but rather a game to be played in short bursts every day. Not quite like owning a real puppy or kitten, but if you’re not worried about the limited number of things to do each day in the game or just don’t want to own a pet in real life, Nintendogs + cats is the game for you.
The Score
It may not be leaps and bounds away from the original Nintendogs, but a few improvements and additions, regardless of gimmick factor, means that Nintendogs + cats does prove that the virtual pet genre is still alive and kicking. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
if I were to buy a 3DS, this is the game I would want the most at this point in time...and that's kind of depressing (not knocking the cuteness of the game, just the lack of decent software).
2 years ago
PALGN wrote
Amidst the launch titles, Nintendogs showed that it was definitely up to the task,
Nintendogs definitely wasn't a launch title in any country.

Actually, the Nintendo DS had a terrible launch selection, and the 3DS has a lot of decent software by comparison - it just doesn't have a single 'must-have' title like almost every other launch, which was actually intentional.
2 years ago
Googol wrote
which was actually intentional.
Huh... why would you intentionally launch a game console without a must have title to make people buy it?
2 years ago
To give third party titles a chance to sell. It sucks for third parties when all people buy are the single big Nintendo title at launch. It breaks the trend of having 1 must-have Ninty game and a whole bunch of third party games nobody buys (in comparison).

Basically, Nintendo's making third parties the priority this time around, by staggering their first-party titles out this time. Will it work? Maybe. I guess we'll see whether it's better in the long term.
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Australian Release Date:
  31/03/2011 (Confirmed)

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