|Release: March 27, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Nintendogs + Cats is nearly identical to its DS predecessor, Nintendogs. Other than the inclusion of felines, the gameplay is almost exactly the same, and if you were expecting dogs on rocket ships or some other huge game-changing feature, you'll be disappointed with this new offering. However, if you love the pet sim genre, and are ready to dive back into the virtual kennel of Nintendogs, you'll find a streamlined experience that captures the cutesy essence of its predecessor, while adding a few extra perks along the way. Though these perks aren't huge improvements to the series, they are enough to lure in eager 3DS owners, and anyone who has ever had a soft spot for all things cute and cuddly.
The game opens at a local kennel, where you can pick your new puppy from one of several "starter" breeds. These starter breeds will vary depending on what title you pick up, but once you complete several challenges and successfully raise several pups, you'll gain access to all 20+ breeds offered in the game. As I was playing the French Bulldog and New Friends version of the game, I decided to grab a Shetland Sheepdog, which is exclusive to that version as a starter. When you select a dog, a short blurb will appear, telling you the pup's gender, as well as their overall temperament. The temperament is especially important to note when selecting a dog, as excitable puppies will be easier to train, but hard to go on walks with, and conversely, easygoing pups will be friendly with dogs on walks, but require extra motivation to train.
Once you get your doggie home, the work begins. You'll need to teach the puppy its name first using the 3DS' microphone, and then you can move on to teaching it simple commands that have both vocal and gesture-based components. Dogs can learn a fixed number of tricks, and the interface is extremely simple to learn, making Nintendogs an easy choice for younger 3DS owners.
As you teach your dog tricks and take them on walks, you'll unlock new areas and gain the ability to compete in competitions with your dog. These competitions include obedience trials, flying disc catching, and lure races. You'll have to practice with your puppy quite a lot to get good marks in these events, and performing well is essential if you want to earn money to buy supplies and new pets.
Earning enough money for a cat was definitely high on my priorities list, and I was somewhat disappointed initially that I could not get a cat before a dog. However, once I was able to adopt a cat, I understood the reasoning behind this decision: cats are not very interesting pets. They don't do tricks, they can't compete in competitions, and aside from hopping up on furniture and interacting with other pets, cats are more like the screensaver of the Nintendogs world. It can be a little disheartening if you consider yourself a "cat" person, but realistically, I suppose I couldn't expect anything else. The real novelty from having a cat in your home is seeing it interact with your other pets, and occasionally petting it and hearing it purr. But if your only goal in Nintendogs is to have a pride of kitties, you'll find the game experience boring.