nintendogs + cats: French Bulldog and New Friends
My first few hours of playing Nintendogs + Cats was so dominated by a feeling of déjà vu that I went in the Game Informer vault and pulled out the original. It turns out my gut was right – there are precious few differences between the two. You get a dog at the kennel and start training it, with breaks for feeding, baths, and going on walks. As before, you can enter competitions; the only new one is a simplistic lure competition where you turn a crank to move a fuzzy lure down a series of ropes to guide your dog through a roped off race course. Once again, you are very limited in what you can do each day – a couple of competitions and a handful of new tricks are all your dog has the energy for. That’s true-to-life, but aggravating from a player’s perspective.
Of course, there are lots of little touches like new side areas to explore while on walks, the ability to rotate the camera around your puppy while petting or bathing it, new design motifs and furniture to buy for your house, and being able to trade items with other owners via the 3DS StreetPass. Welcome additions all, but so minor in impact that the game feels like little more than a graphically enhanced version of the first. I did appreciate the improved voice recognition, which made teaching tricks less frustrating.
The addition of cats to the franchise also falls flat. Cats aren’t very malleable; you can’t teach them tricks or take them for a walk. Mostly, they do their own thing, purring when you pet them, eating when they are hungry, and playing with various toys like a feather lure or a bubble ring. However, watching them hiss and bat at your puppy is amusing.
By far the biggest improvement over the original Nintendogs is the presentation. The dogs and cats are animated beautifully, and show nice subtleties like realistic fur texturing and responsive eye tracking. The most fun I had with the game came at times when I was just watching my cat and dog play and fight. However, I’m not sure that’s a good thing for a video game, which should be interactive above all else.
The 3D effects aren’t terribly impressive, but that’s more down to the very simple and static environments in the game. The trick competitions are done with AR Cards, so you must set one down on a table and view a 3D image of your dog through the unit’s camera. It’s a nice visual effect, but also means you have to have an AR Card with you if you want to participate in them.
Nintendogs + Cats definitely retains the inescapable charm of its predecessor, and I expect that will be enough for many of the younger and casual fans loved the first. For me, I expect more than marginal improvements after a six-year layoff.
Nintendogs + Cats retains the charm of the first game, but shows little advancement or innovation.