Game: Nintendogs: Chihuahua and Friends | Nintendogs: Dachshund and Friends | Nintendogs: Labrador and Friends | Nintendogs: Best Friends
Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: EU: 10/07/05, JP: 04/21/05, NA: 08/22/05
Genre: Pet-raising simulation
Players: 1-2

I haven't owned a pet simulator since Dogz for the PC. I wasn't sure what to expect from Nintendogs*, but I was pleasantly surprised at this cute, quirky title. There are three versions of this game, but the only differences between versions are the breeds available to start with and optional item availability (exclusive items can be traded a la Pokémon, however). All breeds can be unlocked with time, so if you can't train a Corgi from the start, save a slot (you can have three active and five inactive), and you can get one a little later.

The breeds available are:

Gameplay: Nintendogs really shines in the gameplay department. The use of the stylus and built-in microphone to interact with your puppies feels so much more real than just pressing buttons that a real bond can be made between the player and the virtual pet. If you want to get your dog's attention, you can actually talk to it and call it by name. The controls are intuitive enough that just about anybody can pick up this game and play. Multiplayer, or "Bark Mode" allows your virtual pups to play with your friend's puppies. This gives your dog another outlet to socialize and net you more points toward opening up newer breeds. It's also just plain cute to watch the puppies play together.

Fun Factor: Nintendogs's puppies are cute and friendly, and they make you want to spend some time with them. There are competitions to enter, and it's rewarding to teach your puppy new tricks and commands. It's also entertaining to watch your puppies interact with one another, friend's pets, and you. The interaction feels genuine, and it's fun to watch or participate in the puppies's playtime.

Graphics and Sound: The puppies look fairly real (especially for a handheld). The graphics as a whole are adequate. They don't get in the way of the fun, and you never forget what you're doing because you catch yourself just looking at the game. The sound is good. I enjoyed the music, but there isn't enough of it. The only complaint I have with the sound is that the barks sound artificial. It's a small nitpick because the barks are artificial, but it's the only nit I have.

Replayability: Firstly, replayability is completely unnecessary in Nintendogs. Each day can bring something new as the game is open ended. If you do choose to start over with a new puppy, though, it can be a bit tedious to teach the dog all of the tricks and commands again. The only reason I can think of to replay this title is to enter the contests again. Other than that, I would recomend just playing with your current dog. Besides, you'll build a rapport with it, and it'll be hard to erase your pup and start over!

Overall: 8.5/10 Nintendogs is definitely one of the strongest titles the DS has to offer. I recommend it to all DS owners that are simulation fans, dog fans, and especially to those who are fans of both. This title really showcases the stylus and mic controls. It can be quick, and it's difficult to put down once you get into it.

Update (10/20/05): Nintendogs has proven to be so popular that a new edition, Nintendogs: Best Friends is planned for an 10/24/05 release. The new edition will feature the most popular breeds from the original three titles, and it will be sold bundled with either pink or teal DSs. This colorful DS puppy bundle will cost $150 USD.


*I wasn't sure what to expect because I didn't read any reviews prior to reserving this game. EB was running a promo where you could trade any 3 GBA titles for Nintendogs, and I just happened to have 3 GBA carts I no longer wanted.