For everyone who has ever thought about getting a dog for a pet, but were too afraid to ask or make the commitment, there may be a solution in “Nintendogs” for the DS handheld game console. No, it won,t take the place of owning a real live dog, but the game comes fairly close to it.
Nintendogs DS is a game, a simulation and a virtual pet all rolled into one. Nintendogs comes in several “editions”. Each version spotlights a particular breed of dog, but each edition also has five other breeds to choose from. There is a “Dachshund and Friends”, a “Labrador and Friends” and a “Chihuahua and Friends” version. I chose the Chihuahua title because my dog,s breed, a Shetland sheepdog, was included in the game.
Nintendogs DS had some surprises for me. I expected a run-run-of-the-mill Tomaguchi-like experience but was pleasantly surprised at the depth of gameplay. The first thing that happens in the game is a trip to the kennel to select your puppy. There are six “official” breeds to choose from and three “display” puppies. The puppies play and interact with each other and the action is extremely realistic. Clicking on a puppy will show a summary of the temperament of the puppy – whether it is friendly, easy to train, stubborn, loyal, etc. If only it were this easy in the real world.
After you have selected your new pet, you take your puppy “home” and get to know him or her better. This is where a little bit of “Twilight Zone” stuff happens. Nintendogs draws you into the game by prompting you to talk to your new puppy, naming it, and teaching it tricks. The game is unique in that it uses the onboard mic of the DS game console. I have to admit, I was feeling a little goofy talking to my “dog”, but this aspect of the game is what connects you to the virtual pet. It was a quite a thrill to see my puppy actually respond to my voice.
In the dog trick training mode, I was able to teach my new puppy how to sit. The puppy does tricks by voice command, so it is very important to speak accurately each time you talk to your dog. I found this particular aspect of the game really funny. I was literally overjoyed when “Pokey” was able to do a trick. But I also found myself saying things in frustration when the dog wouldn,t obey or wandered off. Talk about realism in a game.
Training your puppy is not for the faint of heart or the inpatient. As with a real dog, you have to show and prompt your dog how to do a trick, repeat it until he understands, and make sure that your puppy remembers the trick. All this is done through a logical system of training. There are manuals on training, how to care for your dog and other information found on “books” in the game.
The graphics are amazingly life-like. My puppy, “Pokey”, exhibited many of the traits and actions that you would expect a young dog to do. In the course of getting to know my virtual dog, he would come directly towards me and push his face against the screen of my DS and bark for attention. The rendering of the dogs is very good, and at first glance, the puppies can be mistaken for live video. In the world of Nintendogs, your puppy never grows up and remains in puppy form. The environment that the puppy lives in is quite realistic. Your puppy spends his time in a large living room with toys, his food bowl, and other items.
What else is there to do? Besides training your dog to be a good citizen, you can take it for walks in the park (yes, your puppy will pee and poop), enter him in dog competitions, buy toys and supplies, meet other Nintendogs via wifi, and most importantly, play and bond with your puppy. And take my word for it; you definitely will bond with your pet if you spend any amount of “quality time” with it.
Nintendogs will not appeal to everyone because it is not an action game, in the true sense of the term, but it does have “action” in the form of interacting with your pet by taking care of it. The touch screen system of the DS allows you to pet your dog and teach it tricks. The onboard mic allows you to interact with your pet through voice commands.
So just who will like this game? To borrow a term off of the boxes of board games, it will be enjoyed by “children of all ages.” If you are young at heart and have an affinity for animals, Nintendogs may just be the game for you.