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Nintendogs + Cats: Golden Retriever & New Friends (Nintendo 3DS) Review
Review by 
6.93/10 from 4 user ratings
'Playing' Nintendo's latest take on the Pet Simulation genre has been quite the journey. My initial experience with the game was wholly positive; embroidered with a new perspective - quite literally- on caring for virtual pets. However, having played the previous installment in the franchise, aptly titled Nintendogs, I felt that it would be a fun experiment to hold off on a full review until I've played the game the way it was meant to be played. Harking back to the previous game, my initial impressions and final thoughts regarding the quality of the game were quite different. With this experiment, I felt it would only be fair to assess the quality of the game after at least a few months, due to the nature of the game's design, which is intended to be played on a day-to-day basis.

Now that the experiment has come to a close, as I suspected, I have mixed feelings about Nintendogs + cats. On one hand, I can see that a lot of care and attention to detail has went into this game, especially in reference to the behaviors of both the dogs and the cats. On the other hand, there just isn't that much to do, and what is there, frankly, feels like a retread of the previous game. Sure, there a some nice little additions in an attempt to keep things fresh, but ultimately this game fails to deliver something truly compelling to warrant the dedication of taking care of these pets on a daily basis. Because of the lack of compelling features and ideas, I have ultimately and completely neglected to care for my pets.

Have a look for yourself...

You have to wonder...is he sleeping due to neglect, or genuine fatigue? Maybe he's trying to sleep to escape the reality of him not bathing for at least a week?

Is it...dead?

Now before you navigate away from this review thinking that you've read everything you need to know about this game, let me just say that it's not all doom and gloom, and there truly are a few redeeming qualities about this game that just may make your investment into it worthwhile.

A new way to interact

One of the new features in this game, brought to fruition by the networking capabilities of the 3DS, allows you to periodically receive content through a service called Spotpass. So far, these 'Spotpasses' have consisted of encounters with dead presidents and their ever-so-adorable puppies (if they can even be called that as big as they are), typically sending you a gift, as well as offering a chance to meet up with them. As lame as that sounds, I actually look forward to the Spotpasses. I think it adds a refreshing dynamic to the gameplay, where you have the opportunity to share your unique experiences with your pets with someone else, albeit a virtual someone. A similar feature occurs in Streetpass tags, where you exchange data with someone else who owns both a 3DS and Nintendogs + cats, and can then have an encounter with them as you take your dog for walks.

Awww, look at that cute puppy face! That's a healthy looking pup. You can tell that's not my pet!

A dearth of activities, but the ones on hand make sense

When I first booted up the game, and received a hearty welcome to adopt a new puppy (once again), I immediately knew this wasn't going to be anything remotely like a fantasy pet sim. Taking that into consideration, it is understandable why you're not knocked over the head with an overabundance of activities. To sum it up, this is what you can expect to experience in this game:

- Teach your puppy new tricks
- Pet, bathe, groom, dress and feed your pets
- Walk the dog
- Play 'fetch'
- Compete in Disc Competition, Lure Coursing, or Obedience Trial (AR trick show is what I call it) for money
- Go shopping for items, furniture, or houses
- Exchange materials found on your walks to get new items
- Rinse, Repeat

Aaaaand that's about it as far as activities go. When you think about it, these activities aren't much different than what you would do with a real pet, but this is one of those situations where 'real life' tactile interaction is the crux of the fulfillment in these activities. Instead of focusing on being realistic, I think this game should have played to the advantages of using a virtual game environment, and done something cool and innovative as a fantasy pet sim. Maybe next time? Probably not. Oh well.

"Hey, Milo, the lure isn't attractive enough for you?!...Oh wait, you're probably looking for food."

"Soak it up, Milo"..."You never know which walk is going to be your last!"

What a champ! If only he was this happy at home...

Now THAT'S what I call 3D! Can't get more 3D than real life! Too bad I can't feed him real food...

A soulful experience

The core compelling aspect of this game is the experience you have through the interaction with the pets, and observance of their interactions with each other. There were many a time I would just smile at my puppy and kitty for doing the cutest things, whether it be my cat, Whiskers, sleeping in my puppy's bed (in true cliche fashion, I named him Milo) despite her having her own, or my puppy trying to get Whisker's attention when she starts to eat her food (why he waits until that time, I'll never know). Successfully teaching them tricks; having them respond to your voice appropriately, is also very gratifying. I also appreciate the nice touch of using the 3DS' camera to allow the dog to recognize you as their owner. In fact, there was one hilariously cute moment where I showed my wife my puppy, and as soon as he saw her, he barked and ran away! Several of these little precious moments add up to something special, and it's the one reason that there is still some part of me that is still attached to these pets, even though I'm bored to death with the game overall.

See! Cats and dogs CAN peacefully coexist. As long as there's something that can join them together; in this case, a bowl of water to recover from malnutrition...


While not exactly pushing the hardware, there are a few accomplishments worth mentioning. Many of the surfaces in the environments are produced by procedural textures (i.e. wood floor, walls, etc.) which allow the surfaces to be displayed at super high resolutions. This is accomplished by using fixed-function algorithms to generate color 'noise' when the textures are rasterized, instead of using image data. Not only does this technique allow for more detailed surfaces, but also saves on memory space. It's a technique that I'd like to see used more often on the 3DS, as it will help alleviate issues with memory constraints, without necessarily having to sacrifice texture detail (though the art of the textures themselves will be very limited). The 'fur shading' has also been well implemented through the use of multi-texturing.

On the downside, the poly budget seems a little on the low side. While the 'fur shading' helps to hide this, it's very noticeable when the pets move into certain positions. You can literally count the polygons in a given arm or leg. For the most part though, it's not a huge issue.


The 3D in this game is pretty impressive. It looks very natural, and I'd wager most users will be able to push the slider to max. Not too much pop-out, even with the puppies licking the screen, but the 3D is very eye-popping. In fact, I have to say the 3D really makes the graphics come to life, and when go back to 2D, everything looks flat in dull. I never, ever play this game in 2D.

However, one thing I noticed about this game, and a few others, is that when certain things are simply textured, and not polygonal, it is distractingly obvious in 3D. As an example, the grass in 3D looks like the ground is made out of flat cardboard and has been painted to look like grass. I think whenever a developer plans to make a game in 3D, this is an issue that needs to be addressed, because it ruins the intended look of the game.


The music is cute and serviceable. Nothing to write home about. To be honest, the sound design in this game is pretty unremarkable.


Essentially, this game at its core is all about 'replaying'. The problem is that the appeal of replaying it doesn't last that long.

If this is your first venture into the realm of Nintendogs, then I think there's some quality experiences to be had with Nintendogs + cats. However, I don't think there are enough compelling features to warrant a purchase of this game for those who've already played the previous one, and they may even feel cheated by buying this one. Of course, if the 3D seems like a compelling feature for previous Nintendogs owners, then I say go for it. Hopefully, you'll care for your pets much better than I ended up doing.

The supreme master race. Whiskers wears the pants in THIS house! Except when her stomach gives her a reality check.

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 Good  7.0 / 10
08/25/11, 09:46   Edited:  08/25/11, 23:14
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Sorry about the image mishap. Everything should be in working order now. Make sure to check out this review on your 3DS Browser!

Posted by 
 on: 08/25/11, 10:06   Edited:  08/25/11, 10:07
Should I be reporting you to virtual animal control?

Posted by 
 on: 08/25/11, 10:50


If there was such a thing, I'd be guilty as charged!

Posted by 
 on: 08/25/11, 10:53
Man that dog was 3D. I had to magic-eye gaze to see the face right.

Posted by 
 on: 08/25/11, 12:58
Excellent review casper, it's well written, and you do a great job walking us through every aspect of the game, giving us your own personal experience of caring for these virtual pets over an extended period of time, as Nintendo intended.

I used to play the first Nintendogs daily on my DS, though indeed there came a time when I simply didn't feel any motivation to continue doing so anymore. It was technologically a very good game, and it's cool to see some of that same appeal making it into the 3DS version.

casper884 said:
So far, these 'Spotpasses' have consisted of encounters with dead presidents and their ever-so-adorable puppies

Really? Who shows up in this game, George Washington?

I like the captions. What is going on with the kitty in the second picture? There's, like, decay going on, or something. Ew. Those poor polygonal creatures...

casper884 said:
I think this game should have played to the advantages of using a virtual game environment, and done something cool and innovative as a fantasy pet sim.

Do you have something in mind for what constitutes a 'fantasy pet sim?' One game that comes to mind is something like Kinectimals. I don't know much about the 360 game (and I'm sure Microsoft looked at the success of Nintendogs for inspiration), but that seems like a game that delves deeper into the fantasy aspect more than the realistic.

And as expected from you, a very good technical breakdown on the game's graphics. I don't understand all of it, but it's interesting to read about what goes into creating the visuals.

Awesome job on getting mpo's in your review, I'll check out the 3D images later tonight!

Posted by 
 on: 08/25/11, 17:47
Nice review! And kudos on the use of 3D.

I had somewhat the opposite journey with this game, starting from a more pessimistic place, and slowly getting back into the Nintendog groove. I mean, it IS sort of like Groundhog Day, the game. But with small differences each time out. I feel like Nintendo has done a good job with the walking, game economy, and connectivity. There are some randomized elements and branching paths in the walking now. Successfully navigating cones for a prize always gives me a thrill, especially with the new crafting system. I feel like the items in this game are also pretty nice carrots. Operable Mario Karts, Iridescent frisbees, Rainbow wigs, helicopters, working pianos, Mario-themed makeovers... There are a lot of tasty items to get, and they're handed out at a nice pace. StreetPassing is fun, and it's always amusing to get a new President/Dog combo through SpotPass. Seeing those dogs when going out on walks also provides a modest thrill.

Could there be more? More activities, more variety, more locales? Sure. But I'm enjoying the churn. For now, at least. I'm kind of a Stage Mom, though. I might sell my Chihuahua. He's a fucking terrible athlete.

Posted by 
 on: 08/25/11, 18:05
Thanks for the kind words everyone! I'm glad I waited to do the review, because it probably would have been completely different if I had reviewed it just after a couple of days of playing, when I first got it.


It is a bit strong! But so many people ask for pop-out 3D when looking at 3D pictures, so I figured I'd pick at least one picture that shows why it isn't such a good idea to have super negative parallax on such a small screen.

roykoopa64 said:

Really? Who shows up in this game, George Washington?

Teddy Roosevelt is one that stuck out to me, so I remember him. I can't remember which of the other presidents have been done so far.

roykoopa64 said:
I like the captions. What is going on with the kitty in the second picture? There's, like, decay going on, or something. Ew. Those poor polygonal creatures...

Her two front paws are crossed over each other. That gap that you see is the space between her front legs and hind legs. If you look at it in 3D, you'll easily be able to see what I talking about.

roykoopa64 said:
Do you have something in mind for what constitutes a 'fantasy pet sim?' One game that comes to mind is something like Kinectimals. I don't know much about the 360 game (and I'm sure Microsoft looked at the success of Nintendogs for inspiration), but that seems like a game that delves deeper into the fantasy aspect more than the realistic.

Mmm, I dunno, something like pokemon, but more emphasis on taking care of them? Maybe more like spectrobes or the chao from the Chao Garden in Sonic Adventure 2 Battle for the GameCube. I say they should go all out with it and do an adventure game. I also feel that seeing them grow (or transform/evolve) is also a very important aspect to have in a video game concept like this. I would be compelled to take care of my pet if there was always a sense of progression. In Nintendogs, they will always remain puppies/kittens.


Well, that's really cool that you had the opposite experience. I guess it's one of those YMMV things. How you feel about Nintendogs + cats is how I felt about Animal Crossing: City Folk; it was the little things that maintained my enjoyment of the game. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about Nintendogs + cats.

Posted by 
 on: 08/26/11, 01:34   Edited:  08/26/11, 01:37
I viewed this with my 3ds last night but couldn't get the images in 3D...what's the trick?

Posted by 
 on: 08/26/11, 15:49

You have to hold the stylus on each image for a couple of seconds, and then the top screen will display each picture in 3D, in full screen mode. Make sure the page is not moving when you press down the stylus.

Posted by 
 on: 08/26/11, 20:24
And I had the opposite experience with City Folk!

The loss of the NES games really hurt the series for me.

Posted by 
 on: 08/27/11, 17:02
Damn, the 3D looks good.

Except for the AR one... three-eyed freak!

Posted by 
 on: 08/27/11, 17:13

FOCUS your mind!

Posted by 
 on: 08/28/11, 00:46
While I was reading the review, I was thinking of Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii. It seems that, just like with AC:CF, Nintendo basically took the core game added a couple of features and called it a new game. Nintendo really needs to stop doing this.

On a positive note, though, I have always been interested in this series, and your review has only rekindled my curiosity. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to play it, though. I tried playing the first game in my room once. When I got to the part of naming the puppy via voice, one of my real dogs stood up in my bed and started looking at me as if he wanted attention from me. I felt guilty for playing with a fake dog, put the game down, and started playing with my real dog. That was the extent of my playtime with Nintendogs.

You try playing Nintendogs with these two in the room.

Posted by 
 on: 08/28/11, 11:00   Edited:  08/28/11, 11:01
Awesome review, I viewed the pictures with 3DS webrowser and the pictures were great. Some of them though were kinda hard to see the 3D.


Those pictures are great, they're really cute..and...adorable. I wish I could have one, but I may not have the luxury of time to feed and play with it.

Posted by 
 on: 08/28/11, 17:35

Your dogs are adorable!

I totally understand how you feel about Nintendogs. It's just a game where, imo, it loses much of its appeal by being a virtual simulation instead of being a fantasy pet sim. There is just such a huge difference in experience when you interact with dogs (and even cats) in real life that it's not worth pursuing in the virtual realm unless the premise and implementation is really fantastical.

Anyway, it's funny that people bring up City Folk, because I actually really love that game. I mean, I can totally understand where they're coming from, but I guess that game is just more appealing to me. So even though it feels mostly like the same game we've been playing for years, I feel it is the superior version of a really great franchise.


Thanks! Yeah, the 3D is different for everyone, and it's hard finding a good balance that works out for everyone.

Posted by 
 on: 08/28/11, 21:20   Edited:  08/28/11, 21:20
Thank you @Snorlax and @casper884. I used to have a female, but she died last year of old age. The white one can be a big pain when we are watching TV. He hates animals on TV, flashlights, and subtitles.

I actually like Animal Crossing: City Folk but I get bored pretty easily with it. It's just more of the same. And the whole "No running on the grass thing" really irks me. If it grew back in a day or two it wouldn't bother me. But it takes such a long time to grow back and you need to play it every day for that. But that's just one of the things that I don't like. Another one is the city itself. I was expecting something grand, not a few stores, half of which were stripped from the Village in Wild World. This is one series Nintendo needs to change drastically.

Posted by 
 on: 08/28/11, 22:49
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