Being a "dog person" carries a daunting number of responsibilities: food, exercise, vet’s bills, the necessity of owning a property with a garden. So while many critics are quick to cite the Nintendogs franchise as either "children's entertainment" or low-maintenance time killers, I've always felt that the pet sim has a built-in audience in the twenty-something, rent-hustling urbanite crowd that, for one reason or another, has been forced to go pet-less.
However, it can be pretty tough to ignore the disconnect between the in-game sandbox where your pups play, and the real world that leaves you tapping on a touch-screen. Nintendogs + Cats, the franchise's first foray into the third dimension, puts the 3DS’s capabilities to good use, offering the illusion that your handheld console's canine is pawing, scrapping, and licking but inches from your face.
If you've played a Nintendogs game in the past - and hell, even if you haven't - you'll have no problems jumping headfirst into Nintendogs + Cats. You pick from a diverse list of dog breeds before taking a newly adopted pup back to their painfully contemporary but eventually customizable abode. There, you can feed, pet, bathe, train, and play with your pup, occasionally venturing outside to shop, walk, train some more, and enter into competitions. And that's pretty much it.
Once you've wrangled enough cash from lure coursing, disc throwing, and AR-based obedience competitions, you can re-visit the kennel to pick from three breeds of cats - a notable step down from the 20+ pups, but this is "Nintendogs + Cats," after all. The cats add a bit of welcome variety, but, like their notoriously sassy real-life inspiration, there isn't a whole lot to do with the virtual felines outside of grooming, feeding, and dressing them up like tiny fashionistas.
True, it's 100 percent understandable that my Oriental Shorthair isn't willing to learn to "sit", but I just taught my French bulldog to "sneeze" on command. Cats could have added a novel new angle to the Nintendogs formula, but they generally serve as little more than an inconsequential add-on.
Nintendogs + Cats does boast one of the better implementations of the handheld's 3D effects, though, and while I wouldn't recommend venturing outside of your virtual house with the 3D slider at more than half-mast, the "diorama" effect does let you appreciate the improvements to the presentation over the franchise's DS iterations.
The bottom line is, if you enjoyed Nintendogs on your DS, there's still plenty to love about its 3D debut. And even if you're new to Nintendo's pet sim series, you could do much worse for a 3DS launch title. There isn't an awful lot of new content, but what's here works as well as it ever has.
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