at times being a nintendo fanboy has pushed me to some ridiculous places. in this particular instance, to playing that best-selling video game of all time (let me repeat that, of all time), nintendogs. in particular i played nintendogs: lab and friends. one of my main motivations was just to see what all the hype was about, but one of the other main reasons is because the video game god himself miyamoto worked on it (as general producer).
i don’t have too many insecurities about my manhood, but although it generally seems acceptable in polite society to admit to playing the animal crossing games, admitting to playing nintendogs is a bit of a step. where will this slippery slope of casual game playing i’ve started on end?? but actually i was kind of surprised at how much i enjoyed playing nintendogs, despite the game being much shallower than animal crossing. it’s far from being the most interesting or entertaining game i’ve ever played, but as with my experience with animal crossing: wild world last year, the game quickly became a relaxing part of my daily routine … that is, until i got to the master and championship levels of the competitions and had to focus on training my cute li’l pooches to become ruthless killing machines that would mash their rivals into pulps of fur. muhahaha. once i mastered all the competitions, though, i had little desire to train up more dogs, so i put it aside.
from a gameplay perspective there was a lot i enjoyed. as one of the earlier DS releases it makes good use of all of the DS’s capabilities, with more of a focus on the voice recognition than any other DS game i’ve played. the voice recognition for the most part works reasonably well, although i was annoyed that i had to retrain my pups on several commands that seemed to stop working, presumably because i’d inadvertently changed the distance i was usually holding the DS from my mouth or something. this of course set me back in the obedience challenges (tragic, i know).
the game’s pacing is generally good, with your puppy becoming able to take longer walks and score higher in competitions (earning you more money to buy more items and house decors). you also accumulate “trainer points” which enable you to unlock more dog breeds. once you’ve beaten all the competitions there’s less replayability (even with all the useless items you can collect), so that although it’s true that all the variations of the games include every breed, gaining enough trainer points to do so becomes a long and monotonous process and i doubt many have done so. if you have friends to wifi with who have other versions of the game you can get the breeds you don’t have that they do, however.
the designers have done a pretty good job of bringing the pups to life. i was hesitant about getting a second dog and dividing my attention between two needy leeches, but it expanded the gameplay much more than i thought it would: my second dog’s personality was quite different from the first (calm as opposed to hyper) and their interactions were entertaining to watch. i’m somewhat interested in seeing how much the personalities of a 3rd or 4th dog would add to the overall experience, and at some point i’ll probably pick this up again. but for now my shiba inu (named “pixel” by my bemused significant other) and my mini schnauzer have been cryogenically frozen in their cartridge until i power it up again. (although because of the game’s internal clock they’re probably starved and dirty and have already run away.) and even though it’s only been a few days since i’ve stopped playing i already miss them! awwww …
– a great, comprehensive FAQ at gamefaqs including info on the unlockables, version-exclusive items, and advanced tricks
– guide at 1up
– english version of japanese widget where you can make a map of the town on your cartridge to determine where you might find unlabelled items on your walk
– entry at wikipedia
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