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Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

Since it was first announced, Nintendogs is one of those games that had most gamers either scratching their heads or laughing out loud. Even the game's phenomenal success in Japan wasn't enough to convince some gamers over here in the states. In fact, many had written it off as being "too Japanese" and doubting it's success in North America. Now that it's out, the opposite is proving to be true, and after playing Nintendogs, it's not hard to see why it's just as much as success here as it in Japan.

It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that Nintendogs is a cute game. When a game is based around puppies, it's hard not to have the game look cute unless, of course, you're pitting the puppies in barbed-wire, steel cage death matches. Then again, puppies could probably make that grim scene look cute. What should come as a surprise is just how good the game looks. The DS is not a system that has been known for it's graphics, least of all it's 3D ones. However, Nintendogs manages to pull off a really clean looking visual style that works within the confines of the DS's capabilities which end up making it look like it's on a much powerful system. All of the dogs are really expressive and animate very smoothly. Animations are especially neat after seeing the number of animations that are included in the game. This is especially apparent when you begin to teach your dog some of the more advanced tricks.

Sound isn't much of an issue. Other than your dog barking and the random squeak of a toy, there really isn't that much noise going on in the game at all. A few brief pieces of music pop up from time to time, but overall Nintendogs is a pretty quiet game.


Nintendogs comes in three different versions: Chihuahua, Dachshund and Labrador. While each version has its own signature dog, you are not limited to just that one and can choose from a selection of six dogs at the start. Eventually, all 18 breeds (which are the dogs found in the other three versions) are unlockable through gameplay. Breeds can also be traded between players over a WiFi connection.

It's important to mention that Nintendogs isn't necessarily a game; at least not in the conventional way of thinking. Instead, Nintendogs is more akin to the virtual pet craze that swept the country in the late 90's. The "main game" is based around training your dog to do tricks as well as feeding it. The process begins after you choose your breed and name your dog. Once your dog responds to it’s name, you can then begin teaching it to perform tricks on command.

After learning a few tricks, you can then enter your dog in one of three competitions: Disc Toss, Obedience Trials and Agility Races. Like every other aspect of the game, you have to teach your dog how to compete in each competition. Of the three competitions, the only one that really depends on how well you train your dog is the Obedience Trials, which has your dog performing a certain set of tricks in each division. The other two are based more on reflexes and feel more like a “game” than any other part. Disc Toss uses the stylus to toss a Frisbee, with your dog catching it. Agility Trials have your dog working through a timed obstacle course.

All three competitions add some goals to the game, though once you've gone through them, there isn't much else to Nintendogs -- leading to the game's biggest shortcoming. Since the game is a “non”-game, there's really no overall goal other than training up a dog, earning money and eventually training up other dogs. At first this is fun, but after awhile you may find yourself spending less and less time with your dog. Because of the lack of goals, Nintendogs isn't a game you can spend hours playing; it's better in short bursts. In fact, you're actually limited on how much you can do per day with your dog. Dogs can only learn three tricks a day and need to wait an hour between walks and play sessions, introducing a lot of downtime where you're simply just playing with your dog or feeding it.


The bulk of gameplay revolves around training your dog’s A.I. The system is tricky when you first begin though it becomes rather easy after thumbing through the included Trainer's Manual. Personality also plays a part in both the training of your dog as well as how easily it will get along with other dogs you may meet. Some dogs take to tricks really well, while others take a little more time to learn things. Dogs can also be overly aggressive or passive. While dogs won't tear each other apart when meeting, dogs that are a little more aggressive will have a harder time getting along with others, which could make some situations a little more difficult.

One of the more difficult aspects of training dogs is figuring out how to do certain tricks. The Owner's Manual gives some very good instructions on how to do basic tricks, but more complicated ones are left up to players to figure out.

Game Mechanics:

Nintendogs' voice recognition system is the game's key control mechanism, at least later on the game. After teaching dogs tricks, which involves using the stylus to show them what to do, you'll be prompted with a small light bulb, signaling that your dog has learned something. Next you'll press a microphone icon and clearly say the trick's command. Generally, it takes about three times before your dog catches on, but it will take a little longer for some dogs. The system is very easy to use though it does have some drawbacks.

The main one shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who has tried a voice-controlled game; sometimes the A.I. has a hard time picking up what you say. In order to get your dog to pick up on the command, you need to say the command the same way all three times; otherwise the trick won't be learned. This adds a frustrating element to the game that can, and more than likely, will tick you off at times. Thankfully, it's not too common a problem, but it does happen.

Voice commands can range from generic commands like "sit" and "beg" to your own personalized ones. For example, after teaching my dog how to play dead, I assigned the voice command "Trip". Commands can be anything, with the only limitation being ones that sound too much alike.

Like Kirby: Canvas Curse, Nintendogs is one of those games that could only be done on the DS. I’ll admit, when I first saw the game, I made just as much fun of it as anyone else. After playing it, my perspective has changed. There are some rough patches, but Nintendogs is one of those clever, innovative games that will help to draw non-gamers as well as gamers. Even if you already own a dog, Nintendogs is still a fun game to spend a few hours with after a hard day.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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