First of all, before starting with my preview, I’d like to point out that it is based on the Japanese version of the game and that I don’t understand a single Japanese word, thus making it very difficult for me to fully understand it. I’ve still been able to enjoy Miyamoto’s latest creation and thought it would be a good idea to give our readers an early preview of the game.
So, with that in mind, let’s start!
Nintendogs has gotten heavy praise from the Japanese audience. The game has been selling A LOT over there and has become the fastest selling DS game ever. It has gotten perfect scores from Japan’s number 1 magazine, Famitsu, and some say it may be the next Pokémon. I don’t know about the last one, but I’m willing to bet this isn’t the last Nintendogs game we will see. While you don’t really need to be very smart to know that (just look at the sales numbers), the game itself has so much more possibilities that it will be very easy for Nintendo to make updates for it.
Do you remember Tamagotchis? Apparently, they still exist and are still somewhat popular as there are still new models being released in Japan. I remember playing these things when I was 13, so that’s about 7 years ago. The concept was new back then and it offered something fresh that really caught people’s attention. What was nice about them was that they not only captured the minds of the gamers, but also the minds of the non gamers. You had to take care of a little creature, feed it, have it take it’s bath, sleep, take it to the doctor if it was sick… and if you didn’t take care of it enough it would die. After playing with it for days you’d really get attached to it and really felt like it was real, even though it was made of pixels.
Another really cool aspect of Tamagotchis was that it all happened in real time. You could not stop the game or pause it so if you decided not to take care of it for a day or 2 it would die from starvation. These were all new concepts that have been copied by everyone now, but those concepts were what made this game stand apart from the rest back then.
So why have I taken the time to talk to you about this? Simple: Nintendogs is the evolution of Tamagotchis. Sure, it’s a big evolution, but it is based on the same concepts. You start off with a dog which you buy at the pet shop, and then you bring it back to your apartment. There, you name it and then start playing with it and make it understand what its name is. As for my dog, I named her Peach. Yeah I know it isn’t really original but I didn’t have any idea what to call my dog and I really wanted to play as fast as possible.
So there I was, scratching my dogs head, playing with her, speaking her name into the microphone, hoping she was understanding me. Well, after a few tries, she finally got it. It feels so great the first time as you think like you’ve really accomplished something. This is the first game I’ve played that used voice commands in that way and I think it is one of the most innovative things I’ve seen in my life. Whatever it is that you say in the DS’s microphone, the game will keep it in memory so that the dog can understand it. That means that whatever the name of the dog is, it will understand it.
But that’s just the beginning. I then had to teach her how to sit. I’m French so I used the French version of the verb to sit, but after nearly 10 tries (yes, it can sometimes take that much and even more!) of showing her how to sit and also saying it so she’d associate both she finally got it. This is actually the first thing you have to show your dog or you can’t advance any further in the game. You show your dog moves using the stylus. For example, to show her how to sit down I have to move the stylus down on the screen. If you want it to run after its tail, you’ll have to point it and at some point he will run after it. It simple yet it is very effective and there are lots of possibilities.
Once all of that is done then you’re free to do whatever you want! Sure, there are things you won’t be able to buy right now because you don’t have enough money or because it hasn’t been unlocked yet, but besides that you are free to do whatever you want with the dog. Whether you want to take it out for a walk, feed it, play with it, teach it some new moves, bring it to dog competitions, have it play with other dogs, wash it, or you could just leave it and not take care of it for like a week and then it’ll be angry at you and be full of bugs!
I really liked the fact that the dog reacts in a realistic manner. He will never act the same way so you are always living something new every time you play this game. It really feels like you are in that apartment and that you are playing with a real dog and because of that, at some point, you really start to feel some emotions you’ve rarely felt before because you don’t often get that much attached to a videogame character. I think this is where this game really succeeds and why it has become that much popular. You really feel like it is your own dog and that you are living something special with it. And best of all: it never dies!