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Nintendogs Package Art


It may seem strange that we waited so long to review a game so important to Nintendo. In many ways it is Nintendo’s most important and impressive title this year across all platforms. The sales have been stellar, and the DS is finally picking up steam in its wake. The nature of Nintendogs makes a strong first impression, but after a month, what does Nintendogs offer?


Everything except the backgrounds is superb. While Nintendo argues that graphics don’t sell a game, the animations and models of the various dogs and toys is a primary focus in this game. You can tell a great deal by the way your puppy looks at you or reacts to your actions. A content look spreads across its face as you pet it, tails wag, discs fly, and poo is dropped. Each breed is distinct and true to life. The only issue is some minor clipping with the leash; but truth be told, it doesn’t matter.


The various yips and barks are well expressed through the speakers of the DS. Background music is rather mellow, but never irritating. Hearing the little tyke (I named my first and favorite dog “Axle”) bark at the sound of his name is still worth a boot every now and then.


The game’s concept revolves around the care, training, and interaction of your pet virtual dog. Your Nintendog is brought home from the adoption center knowing very little. You teach him his name, a trick or two, and then the game is yours to command. Your nintendog can jump, shake his booty, shake hands, growl, and various other tricks. My biggest gripe with the game is the voice recognition. I understand that a dog does not intrinsically understand human speech, but the DS microphone is not up to the task. Training is already an lengthy process, and the complications that the hardware wreaks are frequently enough to make you take a break.

Touch screen interaction is much smoother. Petting your dog and rubbing his belly or brushing his nose is easily recognized by the system and almost always produces the desired result, assuming your dog isn’t tired or annoyed with you. Picking up a ball and throwing it around, then wrestling it from your dogs mouth is strikingly similar to real life.

You can walk your dog on a leash and find various other pets in the neighborhood for your pup to interact with, and the park is an excellent place to practice throwing the disc. You can walk farther after each walk, but cannot walk too often. In fact, the game discourages extended play sessions; you can’t power-level your puppy like you would a MMO character. You can only learn three tricks a day and walk your puppy half an hour or so. Competitions are present to give you goals to aspire to and a method to earn more income to buy more toys and food. The game also tallies trainer points that afford you access to premium dog foods and better equipment.

While many aspects of the game are amazing, the fact is that there’s not enough game there. Managing multiple puppies can be time consuming, but enjoyment of the game, much like that of a real-life puppy, can wear off as the mechanics become more familiar. Where once it was highly desirable to teach your puppy every new trick you could think of, several weeks into the game you find yourself playing the game more as a chore to keep your puppy from running away. If the presentation wasn’t so polished, you’d go ahead and let the thing go, but as it stands I maintain one or two puppies and kennel the rest.


The much touted bark mode is cool in concept, and I really hope it gets implemented in more games that could use it better. Imagine a game where after walking through the busy downtown streets and riding across the subway, your DS has passively acquired a number of Pokemon trainers and their respective lineups for you to face off against? Nintendogs will bark if you are in the area of another user and import their puppy to your DS, letting you play with the two of them. It’s cute, but there’s no direct interaction as the game is locally simulated; head-to-head competitions or a game of tug-of-war between owner/pet teams would have been great, but is not here. There is an option for the DS to notify you if any Pictochat is going on in the vicinity, which was a feature I said back in my Kirby review that needed to be widely adopted.


The real joy of this game is not in playing it yourself, but rather by passing it to a non-gamer friend and watching them enjoy it. This is the best possible tool for luring non-gamers into the fold, and they will likely not mind the shortcomings for joy of their newness to videogames. For that reason I can advocate a purchase of Nintendogs, and maintaining it. Nintendo stated their corporate philosophy is to pursue non-gamers and hardcore gamers alike; how appropriate then, that they released this product that appeals to non-gamers and Advance Wars: Dual Strike on the same day. Most moms and girlfriends wouldn’t lay a hand on a turn-based strategy games, but everyone loves puppies, especially with no smell, no allergies, and no property destruction.

final score 7.8/10

Staff Avatar Matt McDaniel
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"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes"

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