Nintendogs + Cats: Toy Poodle & New FriendsESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: 3DS, Family Fun
Playable in 2D or 3D
Touch Screen Compatible
It was not much of a surprise that my excitement Nintendogs + Cats was high and that it was my most sought after title to try for the Nintendo 3DS. Given my love for the release of the Kinect and Kinectimals it made sense. I am still unclear if it was the 3D options itself or the idea of seeing these cute little furballs in 3D that had me anticipating the title the most. Though priding myself on being a cat person, I do have a soft spot in my heart for dogs with their boundless energy, friendly demeanour and soulful eyes. I also find them especially easy to love when they don’t track mud into my house, don’t jump up on me and I can avoiding the loving yet extremely slobbery doggie kisses.
Though Nintendogs + Cats were created for the 3DS and makes use of the 3D graphics this is one title that succeeds in 2D as well as it does in its enhanced mode. Graphically there were three features that really stood out in my mind:
1) The puppies and kittens take on the mannerisms and appearance of their real life counterparts almost to perfection. The simple things you may take for granted like the way the puppies play with their toys, get bored and take a nap, get excited, pee and poop, even the way the puppy and kitten play together and antagonize one another was really realistic.
2) The scenery and attention to the time of day. The designers did a great job on the environments especially the outdoor scenery on the walks and the skyline. It was fantastic that the game took into consideration the time of day in which you played and the world outside. Playing mostly at night I was constantly greeted by a beautiful night sky full of stars or a gorgeous dusk sky full of orange and deep yellow hues.
3) Bathtime! At bath time, you truly saw the depth of the image in 3D, with the lingering steam layers, a puppy full of bubbles and a stream of water dousing him off, proving there are some benefits to the 3D graphics.
A few of the more disappointing features of the graphics in my opinion were the characters. The Nintendo 3DS has brought the Mii’s to the small screen and though the concept of the Mii’s is fun, I really don’t find them overly appealing to look at and prefer the more detailed less cartoony individual. Secondly, there were a few issues with the items in the game, the first being that you were unable to put down more than one item at a time. For example, if you fed your dog your cat had to wait for you to bring out the cat food, which wasn’t overly realistic. The second thing was the fact that at times it could be frustrating to feed treats to your pet having to wave the treat around without your pet responding to it. Overall though, the graphics created a fun and complete environment for your pup and kitten to explore.
Nintendogs + Cats features some basic sound effects from the expected barking and meowing, the street sounds on your walk, the rushing water from the shower head at bath time and even a range of competition sounds. There is also a very loud whistling sound that will call over your puppy when you are trying to get their attention. The game also makes use of voice commands to teach your puppy its name or teach it tricks. For my game I named my boxer Muffin. The first few times it recognized its name, but the following day I had more difficulty. Now I cannot be certain if it was just my inability to replicate the tone and inflection of my voice used the first time naming Muffin, or if Muffin had selective hearing, but the voice activated features worked maybe 50% of the time. This feature was also similarly frustrating when teaching my pup tricks. You almost had to write notes down in order to remember how the original command was recorded. For example, sitting up and six inches from the mic or if you were lying down or feeling a little sleepy in order to have a chance in recreating it. As a result, I could have passed on the voice command feature. The overall quality of the sounds in the game was good and it came complete with a nice little musical background noise.
The gameplay begins at the kennel where you are surrounded by the playful yapping and quiet curiosity of the puppies in attendance. As one might expect, the first step in the game is to pick your pup from a select bunch of breeds available. If you have a specific breed you would like to start off with you will want to try to get the game that starts off with that pup as there are three versions available. As a result of the different versions, not all breeds will be available from the beginning but there is the chance to unlock other breeds through gameplay or by street passing with someone who has a different game version.
As soon as you have selected the breed you want you can call over the puppies and can also specify the fur colouring you would prefer. For some really cute outcomes try hitting the surprise me option. After the puppies have come over you can pet the puppy and get to know it a little bit. It is only after you click on choose that you get to see more about this puppy and able to see their personality description. I feel the game would have benefited from having this information pop up in a dialogue box instead of forcing you to select each puppy to see its personality.
Once you have found your perfect four legged friend it is time to take him home. At home you must spend time with your puppy to get him used to you and your thread bare apartment (don’t worry you get to decorate later). Pet your dog by using the stylus on the touch screen and running it over your pups’ shadowed silhouette. Your furry friend will curve their body into your hand and show their appreciation. Once settled, you can name your puppy. I thought the voice feature was a really neat idea in some ways, sans the problems mentioned in the sound section of this review. Name your puppy and he will remember his name and the sound of your voice and ideally should respond to you.
From this point on your puppy will require the basic things out of life. You will need to take care of their day to day necessities and activities including: feeding, playing with toys, giving them a bath, petting them and teaching them tricks. You will know what your pet needs by checking on their current status which will be will be recorded under four categories: Physique, Hunger, Thirst and Coat status. If your puppy or kitten is in good standing you can do additional activities with them such as taking them for walks, teaching them tricks or even taking them shopping.
Taking your puppy on a walk can be a little on the difficult side as your pup will not always respond to your commands. Practice makes perfect and the more walks you take them on the easier it becomes. While walking, your puppy will stop to pee in a grass patch, next to a garbage can or in the middle of the road. He/she will poop and you will need to pick it up like a responsible owner. You will run into other dogs and their owners and if your puppies get a long you may invite them to play with you at the park together. There may also be hidden gifts along your walking route. Controlling your puppy during the walk involves either raising or lowering the leash, raise it high to walk faster and lower it to slow down. Tugging in certain directions will encourage your puppy to walk that way but they don’t always listen. If your puppy responds to your leash command you are able to give it a treat to reward it. For an extra-long walk you can turn the 3DS into a pedometer. You are rewarded for your walking by gifts that you find along the way, the more steps you take, the better the present you will receive. There are three areas that you can walk in: The Mountains where you can access the Park and practice flying disc, Downtown where you can access the Gym and practice Lure racing and also the seaside. There will also be unique shops that you can stop by on your walks to find some neat items for your pet or home.
While you have your 3DS set for the pedometer, or in sleep mode, you have the ability to StreetPass. Street passing is when your 3DS communicates with the 3DS of another individual on the street and records the puppy and owner information available. This information can then be accessed later through the journal feature of the game. By clicking on the image of the puppy in your journal you can see the information and even meet up with that puppy at the park to play. You are able to decide what information you make available in StreetPass and you can even post a picture of your puppy that you took during gameplay as well as have a present that you can select to give when a street pass is completed.
Other than walking locations you can also take your puppy or kitten out to a store. Stores can be accessed under the “go out” option and feature speciality stores offering pet supplies, accessories for your pet, interior furnishings, and second-hand items (with the option to get rid of items you no longer want). You can also go to the kennel to purchase new friends and go to the Pet Hotel that will care for your pet for a period of time if you cannot. One thing to keep in mind with the stores is to make sure you don’t spend all your money at once. If you are hoping to pick up a cat you’ll want to save a bit of your money as they become available the second time you visit the kennel. Otherwise, if you spend all your money at once, you may find yourself waiting a while to get a kitten as the only other way you can earn coins is through the competitions and it’s not big money right from the get go.
As mentioned, the game features a series of competitions in which you can test your puppy’s skill in three contests: Disc Flying (throw a disc and hope that your puppy will return it to you), Lure Chasing (entice your puppy to complete an obstacle course by following a lure) and Obedience Trial (perform learned tricks in a specific amount of time). The competitions have five levels of difficulty: Junior Cup, Amateur Cup, Pro Cup, Master Cup, and Nintendogs Cup with each level having different objectives to increase the difficulty level. As with walking your puppy, it takes a little bit of patience and some practice for your pet to get better and start achieving some good scores. In some cases, you may also benefit from upgrading your equipment from the basic disc or lure to a fancier one. The controls of the Disc Flying and Lure Chasing were pretty straight forward; however, I had a lot of difficulty with the Obedience Trial getting my puppy to do the tricks and stay in focus. This competition needs to be done in an environment with good lighting and you need to keep the AR card in focus while doing the actions for the tricks. Perhaps with a little extra practice this may have fallen together for me.
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