NINTENDO DS REVIEW: NINTENDOGS: LAB & FRIENDS

Nintendogs is a series of three virtual pet games that feature incredibly realistic puppies for you to raise - without resorting to the pooper scooper or Bounty - the quicker picker upper. I have to admit that I was a little reticent at first, not being very comfortable with the cutesy stuff, but Nintendo has done a really good job of bringing the virtual pet genre to an entirely new level.

I don't want you thinking I went soft on you, but I can see that Nintendogs will appeal to a large demographic - including those that wouldn't even think of entering into an arcade. Nintendogs isn't so much a game as it is an experience and I would not be the least surprised to hear that people (okay, maybe not people but certainly girls) are buying the DS system just to play Nintendogs.

There are three different versions of Nintendogs but aside from the name and a different roster of dogs it's virtually the same program. Dachshund & Friends, Lab & Friends, and Chihuahua & Friends offer different breeds of dogs. Only a real dolt would consider buying all three, but I promise I won't call you any names if you just purchase one. If you own a DS, at least rent this game. The attention to detail is incredible. The genre has come along way from raising an egg.

Unlike any previous game, the DS is utilized to the max. With it you can pet your dog, throw balls for him to fetch and give commands via the built in microphone using a voice recognition program. By saying a command three times into the microphone the system will recognize your voice and issue the command to the dog. It's not perfect and sometimes you'll have to speak the command a few more times before it registers. Always talk in the same clear tone and try to eliminate any background noises to reduce any tracking errors.

The level of graphic detail is astonishing. The dogs are fully rendered in 3D and display incredibly realistic animation as the puppies frolic and tumble all over the screen. It's hard not to get attached to these mutts for crying out loud.

Interaction with your pets is somewhat limited but it's still an incredible experience. You can take a walk, give them a bath, feed them, pet them, play with them and even enter them in a dog show. Taking your best friend out for a walk, you will explore new environments and interact with all kinds of toys, bones and balls while amassing a collection of collectibles.

The way you interact with your pet will affect his or her demeanor although the dogs never become aggressive or dangerous. In fact they never age and they don't die. No heartache for Tiffany.

Bark Mode is interesting but I'm sure it will never attain mainstream status. It might become popular at dog shows or other such events. If you leave your DS in sleep mode, to save on batteries, it will recognize, via the wireless network, anyone in the immediate area with the same game in the same mode. What will happen is the dogs will visit each other and be able to exchange gifts and information. You can then put these anonymous passersby into your friends' list. It's a neat concept but one that I'm willing to bet will never work for me. I think you would have to live in New York City to make this mode work.

Nintendogs shows a lot of promise for the development of future games built on this premise. It's a little on the short side as you'll soon be looking for more things to do but once you consider the attention to detail and the underlying depth you should be amazed at the near flawless execution of this not-entirely-original concept.

Preview by Vaughn

Move over Tamagotchi, Nintendogs is barking up your tree. Nintendogs, for those who haven't heard of the strange DS title making its way to North America August 22, 2005, is a puppy sim. Raise a puppy - (three different versions of the same offer a variety of breeds - see below for details) - feed it, play it with it, take it for walks. The game has taken Japan by storm and by all accounts appears to be an absolute pop culture phenomena.

One thing I've noticed about these "virtual" pet deals is that kids often ignore their real pets to spend time with the pretend ones which is absolutely stunningly moronic. My daughter plays with her Tamogotchi with far more dedication, love and attention than she is willing to provide Derek and Mr. Fishy Fish & Chips, the two family gerbils which she begged for a Christmas and a half ago. That has more to do with bad parenting then an innocent childs digital wanderlust. I'm referring to my wife's bad parenting of course... I'm too busy operating this website, drinking with the boys down at the wharf and attending 2:00 am cockfights to parent, therefore I'm completely exempt from scrutiny.

Nintendogs lets you pick a puppy from a variety of breeds available at the beginning of the game. As you start spending time with your pup you can throw flying discs and balls to improve the pup's agility. You can bathe it when it gets dirty and use your own personal voice commands to train the dog to do tricks. If you train it well enough, your dog will excel in obedience and agility trials and disc competitions, which will earn money that you can use to buy other supplies and puppy breeds. When you earn enough cash, you can buy even more puppies to live with their original pup. Players can socialize their pups by walking them around the town, where they will meet neighborhood dogs, and maybe even find new toys. Trips to the park and gym offer valuable training time to prepare for agility trials and disc competitions. Over time, the pup's stamina will increase so players can explore farther and farther.

Players care for and train their puppy by petting it, walking it and buying it supplies to play with. As a puppy competes in obedience and agility trials, owners can win money to purchase other puppy breeds.

Players can socialize their pups by walking them around the town, where they will meet neighborhood dogs, and maybe even find new toys. Trips to the park and gym offer valuable training time to prepare for agility trials and disc competitions. Over time, the pup's stamina will increase so players can explore farther and farther. Players also can interact wirelessly with their friends' Nintendogs -- they can set their DS to bark whenever another puppy is within wireless range.

3 different Nintendogs games to choose from:

Chihuahua & Friends: Chihuahua, German Shepherd, Boxer, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Yorkshire Terrier or Shetland Sheepdog

Lab & Friends: Labrador Retriever, Miniature Schnauzer, Toy Poodle, Corgi, Miniature Pinscher or Shiba

Dachshund & Friends: Miniature Dachshund, Golden Retriever, Beagle, Pug, Husky or Shih Tzu

Features:

  • Pet the pup, acquire and play with more than 100 items like tennis balls, flying discs and even clothing accessories. Teach your dog to do tricks by creating your own personalized voice commands.
  • Train your pups well and compete in obedience and agility trials. Win these competitions to earn cash, which you can use to buy supplies and even more dogs to keep your first puppy company.
  • Walk puppies around the town to meet neighborhood dogs or interact wirelessly with friends’ Nintendogs using the innovative Bark Mode.
Click For Media
System: DS
Dev: Nintendo
Pub: Nintendo
Released: Aug 2005
Players: 1
Review by Dan
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
3.5
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
2.5