Jimmy the sausage dog, Lupin the regular cat and Chibi the Shiba, my three virtual pets. They keep my cosy on lonely nights and fit through the day as I take them out on walks. Without my Nintendogs and cats, I fear for where I’d be now.
Nintendogs + Cats is the sequel to hit DS game Nintendogs. As can be gathered from the title, cats are the new addition along with the 3D effects the new console brings. Looking after puppies on the DS was what brought the original touch screen console into the mainstream and started Nintendo’s domination and releasing this new title as a launch game suggests they have high hopes one more. The game has you selecting a pet to take home and look after. You feed it, play with it, walk it and enter it into competitions, much the same as last time. Perhaps too much as the game doesn’t bring much new to the table, AR, StreetPass, 3D and cats are the only significant new features and two of them are novelties at most. Cats don’t have as much focus as the dogs, walks are linear affairs compared to the select a path of the original and the competitions are brutishly hard at the start.
But that is the start, the first few hours which will give a wrong impression to how magical Nintendogs and Cats can be. After a few days playing the game suddenly opens up as pets become good enough to rule the competitions, different paths open on the walk routes, items start flooding the shops and the pets start doing amusing things together. Experiences heighten when you find a secret path while walking and finding a shop which sells remote controller Mario Karts brings excited giggling to the table. Seeing Lupin play the piano while Jimmy performs a break dance is also one of those joyous moments the game can bring, it’s just criminal that it takes so long for the game to open up. It took me a week to afford a cat for example. A week to own my pet of choice!
The game isn’t all bad at the start though. Interacting with the pets is satisfying, even if you touch their silhouettes on the touch screen rather than the pet themselves, but you quickly feel a connection. You can play around with the AR and StreetPass features from the off. With the AR cards you get with the Nintendo 3DS you can have your pet in the palm of your hands wearing Nintendo themed hats depending on which card you use. Seeing your pet in a real living space is a surreal experience though I wish the feature wasn’t mandatory for the Obedience Contests. Having to bark orders at your pet using the mic and keeping the dog in focus always feels messy. Doesn’t help that my accent is something the pets don’t like. Telling my dog to lie down quickly resorts to swearing at the top of my lungs, stupid dogs. Other competitions are free of the AR card trickery however with a fun touch screen based lure and disc competitions to partake in. StreetPass is also used well in the game. As you pass users, information is transferred and you can bump into the Mii owner and their pets while on walks. It is a small touch, but helps make the world seem a little more personal. Even when not using these features, the 3D impresses greatly and as you can just leave the game to run itself most of the time, it is a great showcase for the 3D. Impressive depth of the world makes it feel like you can fall into the screen and when the dogs pop out the screen, it makes you want to touch them. Not in a sick twisted way, of course.
Nintendogs + Cats is a cute game which will appeal to many. It may be a slow starter and not much of a game, but once it opens up and you don’t have to resort to collecting junk on walks for kicks, it often becomes a world of fun, rainbow wigs and the occasional choresome walk. A virtual pet is not just for launch day, but many months after. The only choice should be which version to go for. Do you prefer Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs or Toy Poodles?