Review by Hsieh

"Simplicity Remains Good"

Before I start off my review, let me say one thing: although Nintendogs is indeed a dog game, it is no true dog game.

What I mean is, although Nintendogs itself is a dog simulation, everyone can play it, even without an open mind. I have known people who have despised dogs since the day they first laid eyes on one, and yet played Nintendogs with the utmost gusto. What's even more curious is the fact that people that don't play video games at all - for instance, my mother - seem to play Nintendogs even more attentively than the casual gamer. This concept of togetherness - or rather, openness - is at the heart of many of Nintendo's games, ranging from the heralded Animal Crossing, to this very game. And believe me, it works.

Nintendogs is a game in which one takes a puppy, and adopts it for one's own. After choosing one of five dogs - all of which are unique to that particular version, unless you unlock them - you take care of it. Literally. You pick up its droppings, you teach it tricks, and feed it food and water whenever your puppy demands it. You'll bring it to various places, from parks to stadiums, and train it to perform in frisbee, agility, and dog show contests. And your puppy will become your pride and joy - the apple of your eye.

But it's not going to be easy. Your puppy demands attention - and it demands a lot of it. If you're going on vacation for even just a few days, you had better remember to put your puppy(ies) in the hotel, because if you don't, you'll find them starving and desolate by the time you get back. By the time you're even slightly attached to your puppy, you'll find yourself saddened when your puppy is saddened, and angry when your puppy seems to lose against other puppies. You will become - in virtual reality, at least - a dog person.

Realize, however, that this would not be possible normally. Many games have tried and failed to live up to that zenith known as "realism" (such as Dogz and Catz for the GBC, as well as Tamagotchi, from ages past). Nintendo, however, built Nintendogs from the ground up with exactly that point in mind. They designed incredibly realistic puppies that would express genuine emotion (genuine for a game, anyway), and make you feel emotion as well, not unlike Miyamoto's Pikmin. Nintendog's soft, expressive visuals will draw you even more into its world - save the backgrounds of the park and house, which, although at first seem to be well-designed, become droll and drab when you've stared at it for a couple hours too many. Other than that, the visuals are excellent.

However, even with realistic visuals, Nintendogs would be a failure if its control was horrible. Due to its simulative nature, without good control, Nintendogs would quite possibly be in the same league as its predecessors, if not worse than them. But not to worry - Nintendo has summoned up excellent voice and touch control, with varying methods of changing their sensitivity (the options screen is very well done). When you call your dog's name, the dog WILL come to you, and when you record your voice to teach it tricks, it'll recognize it. However, just like certain other voice devices, if you speak to close to the DS, your voice will come out as static, and your dog will be quite befuddled. However, as I mentioned before, you can adjust the sensitivity to fit your needs - and you can also just stop speaking so close to the Nintendo DS - so the voice recognition "problem," actually shouldn't be one.

Overall, Nintendogs is an excellent game - and although it's not your everyday bestseller, it's still a game in its own right. Like Animal Crossing, Nintendogs may well be a game not just for gamers, but for those non-gamers as well (and those non-gamers may well be even more engrossed in Nintendogs than the impatient gamers, used to their Zelda and Halo). Give Nintendogs a chance, and try something new for a change. Who cares about what people will say about you behind your back? They're missing out.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/15/05

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