When the Nintendo DS game nintendogs was first released, it became an easy target for some gamers. The dog ownership simulation title was easy to make fun of, with some saying that it wasn't really much of a game at all. Eyebrows raised when popular Japanese gaming publication Famitsu gave the title a perfect score. I even remember some dedicated Nintendo fans questioning the title.
But, just like with a real puppy, gamers slowly grew to love nintendogs. The title slowly caught on and has since become one of Nintendo's top first-party franchises. If you combine the various versions of the first game, Nintendo is going on 22 million copies of nintendogs sold. The lesson here? Never underestimate the power of puppies.
Nintendo lets the dogs out once more, and now adds cats for the ultimate pet sim. More realistic and expressive pets, more interactivity and -- of course -- 3D support. It's even harder to resist than before. I mean, just look at those little puppy eyes!
nintendogs + cats (Toy Poodle and New Friends tested) (3DS)
Those that played the original nintendogs will feel right at home with nintendogs + cats. This pet ownership sim has you doing many of the same things as before. You'll still play with your pet, train it, feed it, groom it, walk it and even pick up its poo on outings. And just like before, while none of that sounds like it would be fun on paper, Nintendo somehow makes it adorable and enjoyable. How do they do that?
There are plenty of upgrades in this new version aside from adding three cat breeds to the 27 dog breeds. The biggest upgrade is in visual quality. In this new title, the dogs look quite a bit more realistic than they did in nintendogs. I laughed out loud in a roundtable conference at E3 last year when Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto said that he was most proud of the fur technology in this new version, but now that I've played it, I get it. The fur looks really great! Don't laugh. It moves pretty realistically and actually looks soft, which is a huge change from the original title.
The in-game world, from the city walks to your "house," looks really great on the 3DS' top widescreen. I loved the last game, but there was no denying that it looked a little rough around the edges. The increased power under the hood of the 3DS makes nintendogs + cats a much better-looking game. Of course, there's 3D support in this title, but I found that it added very little to the experience. Beyond the first day of playing, I've kept the 3D switched off for this game.
The upgrades aren't just visual. There's more to do in n+c with your pet. As before, you can use the touchscreen to 'touch' your pet, and the microphone to speak to it. The voice recognition is much better this time around, and you can assign just about any word to a command now. With the 3DS' front-facing camera, the dogs are supposed to recognize your face, though I haven't really noticed any kind of marked advantage to this.
Dog walking can be done in a more literal sense with the 3DS' built-in pedometer. With the game cartridge in and walk mode set, the game will count your steps and advance your pet down the block in real time. Finally, you can snap 3D photos of your pet in action and save them to your gallery. The images in this article come directly from my Nintendo 3DS and my nintendogs + cats pets.
One of the more nifty upgrades in this version is the Augmented Reality application. Using the AR card included in the 3DS package, you can hold your little pet in your hand, or make it appear in your workspace. You can dress your pet up in hats and have it appear in your real world, and then use the photo button to snap and save an image. The AR card is also used in training, but it really doesn't add anything but a mild cool factor to the experience. You'll get more out of sharing pictures of your corgi in a Link hat with your friends.
Nintendo took the original game's Bark Mode and upgraded it using the 3DS StreetPass functionality. When you walk past other 3DS owners that have nintendogs + cats, you'll automatically collect gifts and pictures from them. Your information will be sent to them at the same time. This is how you'll open up new breeds to collect in the game. Through StreetPass you'll get a copy of their puppy for your puppy to play with. Visiting a place in-game will let your pet play with theirs, and you'll see their Mii watching on as they play.
nintendogs + cats is really cute. Ridiculously cute. That does wear off quickly, though. You could easily blow through all the game's features in a week if you wanted to. And while Nintendo did add several new features, it's hard to shake the feeling that you're just playing a better-looking version of nintendogs. If anything, nintendogs + cats is a fun diversion that you'll play for about ten minutes at a time for a few weeks.
It serves as a good system launch game that shows off the 3DS' new features. Don't go in expecting deep entertainment and you'll likely enjoy this. Again, what it lacks in depth it more than makes up for in cuteness.
THE VERDICT - Nintendogs + Cats
Reviewed by Dale North