Nintendogs: Chihuahua and Friends review
Fantastically executed dog simulator with the best graphics a DS can handle.


A launch title for the original Nintendo DS, Nintendogs is a fantastic if not revolutionary real-time pet sim that really set the bar high for others to follow. The game is based around caring for and playing with puppies that never age, die, or have more puppies. You will have to care for them, play with them, walk them, and enter them into competitions to earn money. If you like simulation style gaming and/or dogs, this is the game for you.

First of all, gameplay. There are plenty of factors that go into life as a dog owner, but I suppose the main ones are caring, walking, contests, and tricks.
Firstly, caring. You'll have to purchase items and/or find them on walks to be able to access them in your Supplies. Your Supplies carries everything from food and water to Santa Hats. You'll need to feed and water your dog to keep it happy and wash it/brush it with the right kind of shampoo/brush. After your dog is all taken care of, you can play around with some of the toys you've found such as tennis balls and meteorites. You can even play dress-up with your dog using the various different puppy accessories.
Next there's walking. Walking is possibly one of the most in-depth aspects of the game (excluding graphics), and is really very stress-relieving and fun. First you must decide which dog to take (you can have up to three in your household and then another five in the handy Dog Hotel), and then you must plan your route. You will be able to draw with a yellow line exactly where on the map (which is random each time you reset the game (the all-the-buttons method)) you would like to go, and the amount of line you can draw depends on how much stamina that specific dog has. You can build stamina by going on more walks. The line must in the end return to your house, and then the walk begins. Any ? boxes the line went through will either be a present (like a toy or an accessory) or another dog with an owner that will gladly talk to you while your dogs play around. The neighbors and their dogs are (mostly) very friendly and cute (though you can't actually see the owners, they're all just floating leashes), and you'll have fun meeting them. Your dog may also stop by some trash in the road and try to eat it. Pull it away if this happens. There are various places to go when on walks, like the Gym for practicing Agility, the fields for playing with other dogs, or the Discount Stores for buying regular items for cheaper prices and getting some special items! Oh, and one more thing. You may at times need to touch poo.
Then there's competitions. You can sell items, but otherwise competitions will be your main source of income. You will, however, only make money if you place either First, Second, or Third. There are three different competitions you can enter your puppy into. They are Obedience, Agility, and Disc. Each competition has various levels, starting with Beginner and ending in Championship. The higher the level, the harder it will be to win, and the more money you'll get if you do win.
Obedience is simple; teach your puppy tricks (see below), practice them, and enter. Each level has certain tricks that you are required to perform in order to impress the judges, along with a Free Performance round, allowing your pup to perform any and all tricks he/she know in the given amount of time. Having a clean coat also helps to impress.
Agility is possibly the easiest out of all of them and subsequently the most popular. You must go to the gym and train on a walk at least once before you can enter your first contest, and basically it consists of you guiding your dog around a preset course of obstacles, the quantity and difficulty of the obstacles depending on your dog's level. The training course changes to fit your needs as you become more advanced, as well.
The final competition, Disc, will earn you the least amount of money, but is actually pretty challenging. This one relies mostly on your abilities at disc throwing, rather than your dog's ability at catching. Provided you've practiced in the park where there's room a bit and your dog is fast enough, pressure's on you to throw that thing straight or Fido may not get there. It's also apparently one of the rules of the contest that you must use the disc you last practiced with.
Now for tricks. Tricks are really only used to show off to friends and of course for Obedience Trials, but they can also be fun and let you spend quality time with your puppy. The game does have tutorial books that you cannot sell that can be found in your Supplies List, but the Tricks book only explains the very basic tricks, like Sit Down and Shake. Here's a tip: Spend some time and practice lots and soon you'll be getting your dog to do backflips, handstands, and even breakdancing. You can have a lot of fun playing around with what constitutes a trick and what doesn't. Just experiment. The basic tricks are taught with the stylus by moving around the dog until he/she gets it right, and the more complicated ones are done through combos. Once you get your dog to do a trick, like when you named them, you'll have to speak the name of the trick into the mic and then say it again afterwards to get your dog to perform it. Teaching tricks is really a great example of the fantastic use of the DS' features. Sure, the mic sometimes misunderstands you, but it's sturdy and reliable most of the time.

A standout feature of the game is the wireless capabilities through something called Bark Mode. Bark Mode can be accessed through the Go Out menu and will allow your DS to connect to another DS which is also in Bark Mode in Nintendogs, and you will exchange profiles, gifts if you so choose, and White Record messages. However, considering it's highly unlikely you'll find anyone Bark Mode-ing around the streets in this day and age, the Bark Mode feature is now only really used in planned meetings. Also for what it's worth, when your dog meets up with the other person's dog, they will get to play in a little plaza for a bit, though the games are not synced.

A big factor of the game unfortunately is the limitations set, like only being able to walk your dog every half an hour, only being able to teach your dog three or four tricks a day, and only being able to enter your dog into three competitions in one day. These limitations make the game much better for short spurts of playtime scattered throughout the day, as there will be a point when your dog is happy, you've taught him all the tricks he can learn for that day, you've entered all your contests, and you've just gotten back from a walk, and you hit sort of a brick wall where nothing really happens.

Now for what you've all been waiting for... the visuals and audio section of the review. I have to say the game does not fall short in any of these categories. Though it sometimes suffers a few minor graphical glitches like heads doing creepy 360 degree turns and paws sometimes seemingly sinking into the ground, the graphics are in short wonderful, nicely portraying the adorable pups and the environment. The game seems to use every last inch of the DS' possible graphics quality. It's obvious some hard work went into this. The puppies look and act adorably realistic, and you'll find yourself attached to them real quick. The movements are all very smooth and match that of a real puppy almost flawlessly. The environment can sometimes be a bit plain and simple, with rooms having weird white stuff all around the edges, but it seems most of the focus went to the dogs themselves, which is really how it should be.
When it comes to audio, the game features a cute, friendly, and memorable sound track, along with varieties of records which you can find on walks and have fun listening to. That walking soundtrack is permanently etched in my brain now and has been since I first got the game. The puppies' barks and yelps and the ambient sounds are nice and realistic, tunes are varied and crisp... what can I say, the game really makes good use of all the best features of the Nintendo DS in the best possible ways.

Overall, the game really deserves all the praise it's gotten, and if you're not melting inside whenever those puppy dog eyes look into your soul, there's seriously something wrong with you. 9.7 for me for how much of a difference this made in the pet sim world when compared to games like Tamigotchi. Splendid.

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