Ever since Nintendogs launched on the original DS back in 2005, people have been half expecting a Nintencats spin-off. But why settle for two different pets sims when you can have them both compiled into one!
Nintendogs + Cats is one of Nintendo's launch titles for the just-launched Nintendo 3DS (which we've reviewed at your convenience). The franchise's first series of instalments turned out to be a huge success for Nintendo, and they are following suit with Nintendogs + Cats. The new Nintendogs is more of what people will expect from the infamous pet sim, but that's also the game's biggest flaw.
Nintendogs + Cats starts off similar to the previous games. You're an excited and (hopefully) young future pet owner who has made your way to the Dog Kennel to purchase a new puppy. Depending on which of the three versions of the game you purchased (Toy Poodle & Friends, Golden Retriever & Friends, or French Bulldog & Friends) a variety of different breeds will be available to adopt. After selecting a breed, players will jump into a brief tutorial the requires them to name their newfound friend and teach him/her to "sit down".
Teaching pets using voice commands now seems to be a lot easier to accomplish in Nintendogs + Cats then in games past. Tricks are taught to your pet almost identically to how they were in the original games, but this time there's no need to repeat yourself 15 times in an extremely dull and monotone voice. This certainly makes training your dog a lot more fun, and this upgrade addresses one of the biggest problems that has plagued the series. You have freedom to name your tricks whatever you want too, so that can make for some original and/or inappropriate names for some of the puppies' stunts.
After learning how to teach your dog tricks, there are a few tips that pop up whenever an option that hasn't been selected before is chosen, but other than that, the player is basically on their own from that point on. At this point the game shifts focus to collecting money to buy toys for your dog to play with and new pets to run around alongside your puppy. The game allows you to collect money by selling things that are found whilst on walks around the neighbourhood, but money can be more easily obtained by entering your dog in different types of competitions. Competitions can only be entered twice a day though, so the money that can be earned is limited.
The gameplay is very cute and playing hours of the game in an attempt to earn enough money to purchase a new pet is something you'd assume would be extremely rewarding, but this just doesn't seem to be the case. Getting another dog doesn't seem to unlock anything, and all it really does is just add another dog to walk around the neighbourhood. Cats seem to be an even bigger waste of money than the dogs in Nintendogs + Cats, which is really a bit of a disappointment. All the cats do is sit around the house and, for the most part, ignore you all the time. Cats can't be taken on walks, entered in tournaments, or anything at all. The game's title really does say it all and the game makes the felines feel like it's all about dogs... oh and "+ Cats".
Nintendogs + Cats has received a nice visual upgrade since it was last seen, and that's much appreciated. The one thing I noticed when comparing the original Nintendogs to the sequel is that it looks like the dogs have actual fur, and not beige-colored skin. The graphics as a whole aren't overly impressive, and the Nintendo 3DS is certainly capable of better, but they are still more than acceptable and will satisfy visual expectations of the demographic the game is made for. The 3D effect in Nintendogs + Cats works extremely well, and literally appears as if your dog is popping out of the screen when you play with it.
Multiplayer is present in Nintendogs + Cats, but it's a little different then you may remember. If you and a friend both have a copy of Nintendogs then it's not as easy as hitting the multiplayer button and connecting with their dog. Instead, people can only interact with other dogs and people via StreetPass. This is done by selecting the pedometer option, and physically going for a walk with the Nintendo 3DS in your pocket. If you run into other people wandering the street doing the same thing as you then you'll exchange information and you can even invite the puppy and his trainer to play in the park. This will unlock new breeds of puppies in the kennel, and will score you some cool items.
While Nintendogs + Cats is a great game for kids who want to see what it's like to be a pet owner, after playing with the game for a while it just feels like more of the same. There aren't any challenges to strive towards accomplishing, and after a while of playing the game I realized that there is very little substance to keep me entertained. The puppies and kittens are indeed adorable and that's what the game lures you in with, but after a while even that gets old. Earning money is very challenging due to the limitation of only enter competitions twice a day, so I really only found myself firing up my game to enter competitions and bathe/feed my puppy. The game does offer up a few minutes of gameplay per day, but a $40 game should bring more to the table than that.
Anyone who has yet to play the original Nintendogs will be surprised by how intuitive and adorable the virtual puppies are and they should absolutely check the game out, but those who played the original six years ago are going to find very little to keep them entertained in terms of new content in Nintendogs + Cats.