Review by shbek1

"Put a puppy inside your DS!"

When Nintendogs was first announced, I was pretty skeptical that it would be anything worth buying, despite it's popularity in Japan. As time went by, I began to get pretty interested in Nintendogs and I even preordered Dachshund & Friends. A few days after I preordered it, I got an email from Nintendo saying that I could possibly get an advance copy of the game, obviously, I got it. I have since been kicking myself for ever considering not getting it.

I got Nintendogs Lab & Friends on August 4th, even though it arrived at my house on August 2nd, mainly because I wasn't at the house it arrived at. Living in two houses can suck sometimes. Anyhow, when I finally got my box, I ripped it open, and threw in my copy of Nintendogs. I then had to go grocery shopping and do a few chores for my grandmother, when I was finally done, I ran upstrairs and turned on my DS. Right away I was taken to the kennel and told to select a dog to adopt. I was going to get a lab, because my real dog is a lab, but then I saw the Shiba inus. I haaaaad to get one. I ended up choosing a black male shiba inu with white and brown markings, I named him Sammy.

Right after naming Sammy, the game taught me how to teach Sammy to sit, which took me about fifteen minutes to get him to learn verbally, mainly because I felt really stupid talking to my DS so my voice kept drastically changing, that feeling goes away after about fifteen to twenty minutes. Normally it takes maybe five minutes tops to get a Nintendog to learn a trick, so don't flip out and go 15-10 minutes per trick!?!?!? Anyway, after I taught Sammy how to sit, I pretty much just pet him and played with him for a while, which was pretty fun, but I wasn't that impressed or captivated by Nintendogs.

That was until I really found some things out about the game, like how to enter competitions, take my dog for walks, and actually teach my dog tricks without taking forever, complex tricks and sooooooo much more. Now I am completely obsessed with Nintendogs.

At first, I really just wanted one dog, then I thought I'd get other breeds that I wanted as I unlocked them. Within a couple of days however, I really wanted a second dog, mainly because I wanted to get someone for Sammy to play with, and I was getting a lot of questions on my Nintendogs thread that I needed multiple dogs to answer. I ended up getting another Shiba, who I named Sheena, she is brown and white.

This may sound a bit cruel, but I deliberately chose Sheena because her personality conflicted with Sammy's. Sammy is a very calm, obedient dog, Sheena is hyper and can't sit still to save her life. She and Sammy didn't get along very well at first, they kept on fighting. I eventually had the idea to give them a tennis ball to fight over, it's what I always do when my real dogs and another dog aren't getting along, it worked. They played with the tennis ball until they were extremely tired. I turned off my DS for about an hour, and when I came back, they were getting along pretty nicely. Now, several days later, they get along very well.

Just last night, I was looking at a breed I unlocked a couple of days ago, the German Shepherd. I really wasn't planning on getting another dog, but the kennel happened to have the exact coloration I wanted, and the personality I was planning on getting (spoiled/shy) so I bought it. I ended up naming him Shadow. I feared that when I brought Shadow home, I would face the same problem that I had when I brought Sheena home, that my other dogs would bully him. So, I immediately put Sammy and Sheena in the Dog Hotel, and spent time with Shadow.

I taught him a few tricks, took him for a walk, stopped by the park, taught him how to play Frisbee, entered him in a Disk Competition, which I got 1st in, as well as other things. Shadow was acting really comfortable with everything, so I let Sammy out. To my amazement, Sammy and Shadow got along GREAT. Within five minutes of letting them play, I felt that I could get Sheena out of the hotel without anything bad happening, I was right, Sheena loved Shadow too. All today I've been letting them play, they get along great.

I hope I have shown how realistic Nintendogs is, I feel really bonded to my dogs, almost as though they are real. I continually have to remind myself that they are just programmed pixels, because there is nothing in this game that keeps you from believing that they are not real. It's incredible. I can totally see why Nintendogs is so popular in Japan.

Anyhow, all of the pictures were also taken by me, because each dog has a very specific personality, and I wouldn't feel right using someone else's pictures, it would be like showing someone a picture of someone else's dog, it just isn't right. That and if you are really looking forward to Nintendogs, chances are you've seen all the official ones, I've looked around, the selection isn't that great. On with the review!

The story in Nintendogs is fairly simple, you train as many as eight dogs to make money. Sound simple? That's because it is. However, do not mistake this game for being shallow just because of that. This game reminds me often of Animal Crossing and the Harvest Moon series, anyone can play them, age really isn't a factor, not only can anyone play Nintendogs, anyone can love Nintendogs. While the story may seem a bit lacking in text, this is one of those games that really doesn't need much of a story, and the story that it has is more than adequate to meet the needs of the game.

It's a virtual dog simulation, if it can't exist without a good story, explain to me why The Sims and Animal Crossing are such fun addicting games. If Nintendogs actually had any more of a story than in does, it would probably make the game bad.

I give the Story a 9.0/10.0

Gameplay is what I call the heart and soul of any game, without good gameplay, even a game with the best story, sound, and graphics would be terrible. Okay, less lecturing, Nintendogs has the best gameplay. It's really hard to explain it in words, I fear if I try to explain it, I will end up messing up… Ah, I'll try my best.

The controls in this game are really easy, you use the touch screen, and the mic. The touch screen is used for everything from petting your dog, to buying food for it and competing in competitions. The mic is used to give verbal commands to your dog (tricks) or to call it to you by name. The buttons on the DS don't need to be used at all if you don't want to use them, though the A, B, X, and Y buttons can be used to change the camera view in your house, and the D-pad can be used to scroll around on the map that you plot your walk on.

Obviously the main concept of the game is to train a puppy. Well, to get money, you have to enter competitions. There are three competitions, Disk, Agility, and Obedience. You can only enter three competitions a day, it doesn't matter which category it is. For each competition, you have to try to beat other dogs scores to get ranked, at the beginning of each competition, you will be told the scores of the dogs ranked in 1st and 3rd, so you will have a general idea of what you need to get to get ranked. Each competition category has the following levels, Beginner, Open, Expert, Master and Championship. While the Beginner level is insanely easy, the Championship level is insanely hard. It took me two tries to win the Championship in the Disk Competition.

The Disk Competition is where your dog has to catch a Frisbee, depending on how far the dog had to run to catch the Frisbee, and whether it jumped to catch it, points are awarded, as many as ten at a time. While the first level, beginner, really only requires your dog to get maybe 14 points, you may need to get 50 or more points to win the Championship. To train for the Disk Competition, you have to go to the park while on a walk.

The Agility Competition is like a doggy obstacle course, you guide your dog around the course with the stylus, over, through, across, and back and forth through various obstacles. For the Agility Competition, you are judged on how fast you complete the course, and how many mistakes you made, like not clearing a jump. As you progress through the levels, different objects will be added, like a seasaw and these scary pole things that you have zig back and forth on. You train for Agility Competitions in the Gym.

The Obedience Competition tests how well you have trained and groomed your dog is. For the beginner level, you will just have to do your basic sit, lie down, hold shake for three seconds, whereas the Championship level has you doing tricks like roll over, beg, spin, sit, shake… basically all the basics, and holding tricks for as long as 30-40 seconds. You train for the Obedience Competition at home.

Those are the three competitions, there's more than that however, you can take your dog for a walk and potentially find cool items, or just stuff to sell. How walks work is like this, your dog can go a certain distance, which increases as you take it for more walks, anyway, before you go for a walk, you use the stylus to mark a path on the map that starts, and ends at your house, along the way, you can walk to question blocks, which are either a gift or another dog, stop by one of the parks, one of the discount shops and or the gym depending on how far you doggie can walk. This way your dog can never collapse on you. While walking, you may find gifts on the ground, if you show them to your dog, it will pick up the box and give it to you, these boxes tend to hold rarer items than the question boxes. The Firehat, which unlocks the Dalmatian, is found in a box on the gound, so really look out for those.

Beyond that, there's still tons and tons of stuff you can do, you can teach all of your dogs 14 tricks each, upgrade your house, or just play with your dog, which is really fun.

Gameplay gets a 9.7/10

Ahh, graphics, what many people think can make or break a game nearly as much as the gameplay. The graphics are in one word, incredible. Seriously, the dogs literally look like dogs, I'm sure most of you know that, however, the graphics go beyond just the ridiculously realistic dogs, there seems to be detail in everything. For example in my house, which is up in a really tall building, there's this huge window that you can look out of, and you can like see all the other buildings, in realistic detail, it's insane.

On walks, the background is pretty cool, you basically have a scrolling background, that changes based on where you are walking, like if you walk by the bottom of the map, which is a ocean, the background changes to infinite amounts of water, if you walk by the gym or park, the background also changes accordingly. I just explained that really badly, seriously, it looks awesome.

There are two areas where graphics are a little sloppy though, one would be in competitions, the crowds “watching” you are still, very blocky, and fuzzy. You don't see them much though, and that isn't the main focus of the game, big deal. The second down fall, is a little bit more irritating, but again isn't that big of a deal and doesn't happen often. For some reason, when you randomly run into a dog while on a walk, the game might lag a tiny bit. You really only notice it if you're paying super close attention. I find that one kind of funny considering that the game can handle three gigantic dogs, running around like maniacs while chasing a soccer ball on one screen at home of in the park, but it can't handle two dogs with leashes barking at each other… Again, it isn't much of a deal and has only happened to me twice on over 50 or so walks.

That said, graphics get a 9.5/10

The sound effects, like puppy barking and panting, are unbelievable. I turned up the volume while I was playing a couple of days ago, and one of my real dogs looked like she wanted to rip my DS out of my hands because it was growling (this happened right after I brought Sheena home, Sammy was growling his head off). I think if you blindfolded someone, and turned up the volume, they would probably think there was a real dog in the room. Seriously, the sound effects for the puppies are insanely good.

My only problem with the music, is that the sound level changes when you enter competitions, I like my volume down really low, and I got deafened a couple of times when I entered a competition. In Competitions there's loud music playing at the very beginning, if you're expecting it, it's fine, but if you aren't, and you're relaxed, you may jump a little bit.

I have heard of a few people that dislike the music in Nintendogs because it's repetitive… that makes me wonder if they've actually played the game. In your house, you have a record player. With the record player, and records you find on walks, you can change the music, record your own sounds, or possibly turn the music off all together. The music every where else is… for lack of a better word, springy. It's really fun to listen to and hasn't gotten old yet, it really goes well with the game.

Sound gets a 9.0/10.0

Replay Value
Replay value is insanely good. If the game ever starts to get old, you simply have to get another dog, and it will be like it's new again. Right now, I don't think it's possible for Nintendogs to get old, though I admit, I've only had the game for about eleven days, so I'm not in the best position to give a valid score to this section.

As of right now however, replay value is incredibly high. I haven't unlocked everything, and I don't think it's possible too. I have probably over a hundred items, and there are s many more that I don't have yet. That's just the items, there are tons of other things to unlock, like 14 dog breeds (including the Jack Russell and Dalmatian). I really don't see myself getting tired of Nintendogs any time soon, replay-wise, it reminds me of Animal Crossing, you keep coming back because it's addicting in a fun way, and there's always something new and different. Will it eventually get old? Probably. I doubt it will stay old though. That and a puppy is depending on you to feed it… what would happen to it if you never came back?

I give Replay Value a 9.7/10.0

Overall, I think that Nintendogs is something totally unique that nearly everyone, gamer or not, will probably enjoy. I mean, it's puppies. You know, the cute furry things that lick you to death? I understand that some people may not like the game, for reasons such as not liking dogs and such, but still, at least give the game a chance. In Toys r Us, Gamestop, and other stores, there are demos of Nintendogs, I suggest you try the demo out if you aren't 100% certain, and remember, the actual game is a gazillion times better, because in the demo you're just playing with three dogs in the kennel, you can't even teach them tricks….

Nintendogs has been the most enjoyable game I have played in a long, long time. I think it will be the best game on the DS, or at least until Animal Crossing DS comes out. Even after all the incredible games that are coming out come out, I can easily still see myself playing Nintendogs every day
My Final Score: 9.0/10.0
(it really deserves a 9.5, but I can't use fractions for the final score and I refuse to give it a 10... no game deserves a perfect 10)

In Short
Nintendogs is an excellent break from normal games, I think that anyone who likes puppies will love Nintendogs, and if you don't like puppies, you are a cold, heartless b- I mean, I suggest you at least give it a try. It's a really, really fun game that I doubt will die easily, totally worth $30

Story 9.0
Gameplay 9.7
Graphics 9.5
Sound 9.0
Replay Value 9.7
Overall 9.0

Thanks for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed it :)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/16/05

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