Yes, it’s true, I think it’s the best Nintendo published game from the launch, and maybe the best 3DS game so far. This both goes to show you how weak the game selection is for the system, and maybe how underrated Nintendogs + Cats really is.
It is a pet sim. You take care of puppies and kittens. You feed them, water them, take them on walks and enter them into competitions. Through competitions, you get money — which in turn leads to you buying more pet food, water, toys. Maybe furnishing your virtual space. Or a pair of Elton John glasses for your cat. Almost whatever you like. Almost.
It is an experience that grows day by day, too. New, interesting toys will be unlocked (like a helicopter that you can fly around the apartment — well, the room — in glorious first person), more breeds will become available, secret paths to walk on will magically appear, pets will become better at certain things and remain stubbornly the same at others, etc.
It is almost akin to a game like the Sims or Animal Crossing, but on a much, much smaller scale with a defined sense of limited replayability (there’s only so many times you can take your dog out on a walk before it gets boring) and, naturally, only about pets.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a light hearted game — so much to the point that it will turn droves of hardcore types off. The music is cutesy nonsense, the menus simplified and kind of dull. The presentation, which is serviceable, disguises the fact that there is actual hidden depth in its design.
Depth that of course doesn’t pan out for too long. After winning many of the competitions and getting a lot of cash, there’s little reason to go back to your virtual pups and kittens. I’ve gotten more than a month out of Nintendogs + Cats, more than I ever thought I would have, but I don’t know if I can go back much longer.
As for the stars themselves, they are animated perfectly and have incredibly realistic mannerisms. It is the perfect gift for a mom who can’t afford the new puppy her daughter and or son wants, and the way said critters react whenever they see/hear you is absolutely heartwarming the first few weeks.
Another bright spot about the game, is that it uses a lot of 3DS features extensively. StreetPass, a feature in which you can walk around (with the game in your system or not) and exchange data with other passersby, is absolutely amazing every time it happens. Unfortunately, it won’t happen too much if you live in a more rural area, or basically not in a big city. Even my visit to NYC last month only yielded one StreetPass for the title. Most of the nerds walking around were playing Pokemon.
Nintendo will also regularly deploy rather minor downloadable content at random times — just this past week every Nintendogs + Cats owner got a play date with Teddy Roosevelt’s really dumb dog, and a giant wooden stick. Yeah, I don’t know. At least it was something, I guess. (Not to mention it came with the message “Got a big stick?” — wait until the kids ask mom what that means.)
There is no online, but I’m not quite sure how that’d really be possible or fun.
Now, the 3D in the game is great. It doesn’t change gameplay whatsoever like in Pilotwings Resort, but it makes the parks and buildings you enter seem like actual rooms with a nice amount of space. It’s all about depth here, literally. And the pets look amazing when they jump on the screen and drool flies out at you. Sounds gross, but hey, that’s the price you pay for GLASSES FREE 3D.
I genuinely got moments of happiness from the game. There were many times I smiled. And this is all coming from some dude who really didn’t like the first Nintendogs iteration in 2005 — this sort of sequel is what it should have been all along, polished and refined and addictive. It might not last much longer than a month, but if you are a patient gamer who loves dogs and/or cats (by the way, the cats are HILARIOUS in this game), then give this title a second chance.