Saturday, 26 March 2011

Nintendo 3DS: Nintendogs + Cats Full Hands-On Review...

Last month Mini Gamers wrote an article about the fact that the new Nintendogs + Cats 3DS game would only feature three breeds of cats and twenty-seven breeds of dog, which was very disappointing news as we had expected a lot more kittens than that. Thus, we were understandably nervous about how good the actual game would be. Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised by what we found.

Nintendogs + Cats comes in three different versions: Golden Retriever, Toy Poodle and French Bulldog. Each version of the game differs in the nine breeds of dog that are immediately available to own, but all twenty-seven breeds of dog are eventually unlocked and are the same regardless of which version you have.

For owners of the original Nintendogs title, there will be a lot of familiar elements to the new game, but there are also quite a few surprises too.

As with the first game, players start at the kennels, where they can choose their puppy from one of the nine starter breeds. Here is where the first differences between this game and the original become very noticeable.

In the first game, puppies from one type of breed (eg. Golden Retriever) all looked exactly alike, but in this game, there are inter-breed fur colour options, and this means that each dog looks unique in its fur colour and texture, which adds to the overall realism of the game.

Only puppies are available when you first visit the kennels, but kittens will become available on your next visit to the kennels. Players are given a budget of £2000 at the start of the game to buy their first pet.

 Kittens cost between £880-£1400 to buy, and puppies cost around £1200-£1600,which means that it will take quite a long time to gather all the necessary funds in order to purchase a cat or another dog.

As with the original game, there are a few different ways of making more money, but they won't necessarily earn you an abundance of wealth. The first way of earning money is to sell unwanted puppy and kitten supplies and accessories back to the second-hand shop. You can also sell items that your puppy finds on his or her walks.

The second way of earning money in the game is to enter your puppy into some daily competitions. There are three competitions:
  • Disc Competition -  players may remember this competition from the original Nintendogs game.
  • Lure Coursing - players encourage their puppy to chase a Lure along a racetrack until the finish line. This replaces the Agility Course competition from the original game.
  • Obedience Competition - also an original Nintendogs competition, which now uses the 3DS Augmented reality card.
Puppies start off in the Junior Cup in all competitions and must try and beat their canine opponents in order to gain entry into the coveted Nintendogs Cup. The first-place prize money ranges from £100 in the first cup to £500 in the final cup. Each of the competitions can be entered twice a day.

There are also two ways to walk your dog in Nintendogs + Cats. Firstly, players can simply choose to take their dog for a walk in the traditional way. There are a few changes to this mode however. In this game, players no longer select the route for their puppy before they go on the walk.

Instead, a  location is chosen by selecting a signpost in the street which leads to one of the three new locations - the Mountain TrailSeaside or Town. Each of these locations has its own visitor hotspots, which players can choose to take their pet to.

For example, the Town includes the Café, where they can meet their first cat, and the Gym, where dogs can practise for the Lure Coursing competition, whereas the Seaside has a Beach to practise for the Disc Competition, and the Mountain Trail has a green Park for playing fetch with a wooden stick or a ball.

Also, the graphics on the walks have changed. Now you can expect to see birds pecking the ground and butterflies resting in the flowerbeds or flying around. Furthermore,  you will also see other people walking down the street or standing around chatting and you will also get the chance to meet other dogs and their Mii-style owners! The 3D graphics help to make the whole journey really interesting and realistic.

Another way to walk the dog is by using the in-built Pedometer function. This means that you can put the console into Sleep Mode by shutting down the lid and walking around with the console - ideal if you are out and about for a day. When you re-open the console you will be rewarded with a present from your dog.

Most of the presents are actually treats for your puppy or kitten, which can either be used or sold back to the second-hand store. However, the Pedometer Mode has the added function of helping players to unlock their ten daily Bonus Coins for you to use in the Mii Plaza, and there is even the possibility that they will have unlocked a new breed of dog via the StreetPass function as well.

Unlocking new puppies and accessories is available through extended gameplay (as in the original Nintendogs) or from using the game in Sleep Mode and meeting other players with different starter breeds to you via StreetPass. This adds an interesting element to the game and can speed up the time that it takes to unlock all twenty-seven breeds of dog, especially if you happen to have a large circle of friends who all like Nintendogs + Cats!

For example, if you meet someone who has a Labrador puppy (Toy Poodle and Friends version) on their console, and you happen to pass by them whilst you are both using the Pedometer Function on your respective games, there is a good chance that you will have unlocked the Labrador Retriever breed the next time you start playing again.

In conclusion, Nintendogs + Cats definitely has the cute factor and is certain to appeal to animal lovers of any age. The fur and eye colour customisations for both kittens and puppies really does help to create a unique identity for your chosen pet.

It is disapointing that there were not more actual breeds of cats in the game, but fur patterns include solid colours such as completely black, white, grey or ginger kittens, amongst others, and also include calico fur patterns, Tabby patterns and bi-colour patterns, which actually means that a lot of different and distinctive kittens can be created from the three breeds on offer.

The 3D graphics add amazing depth to all of  the in-game environments and are especially visable during the various dog competitions. However, we found that the effect can be quite subtle at first, so it was best to turn the Depth Slider up to just above the halfway point to get the full 3D effects, but this is a matter of personal taste and may not suit everyone.

Mini Gamers loves the new features and environments and thinks that Nintendo has done a brilliant job in bringing one of their most popular pet simulation games onto the 3DS. If you have ever thought about owning a pet but did not want to deal with messes or expensive vet bills, then this is definitely the game for you. Overall rating: 9/10.

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