We've recently received a finished North American version of Nintendogs: Chihuahua and Friends, which is scheduled for release on August 22. The game, in case you're not familiar with it, tasks you with training a new puppy in ways that would be impossible on any system other than the Nintendo DS. In other words, you'll be petting your puppy using the touch screen, calling him or her using the microphone, and risking mockery any time you play the game around other people.
Puppy Diary: Day 1
How much is that doggy in the window?
A dog is for life, not just until the next great Nintendo DS game comes out, which is perhaps why we were encouraged to spend time with a group of puppies at the Nintendogs: Chihuahua and Friends kennel before committing to one of our own. Specifically, we were able to play with three dogs named Daisy, Maxwell, and Lucky who, although not for sale, gave us at least some idea of how we'd be interacting with our own puppy once we got it home. The puppies were mostly more interested in convincingly playing with each other, actually, but we were able to spend time with each of them individually before settling on which of the three breeds we preferred.
Satisfied that we'd made the right choice in ditching the Tamagotchi for a Nintendog, we made for the kennel armed with $1000. Our preferred breed of the three that we'd played with wasn't available, unfortunately, but we were still spoilt for choice. There were six different breeds available for us to buy, including Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shetland Sheepdog, Boxer, and German Shepherd. Furthermore, there were three different puppies available for each breed, and every one of them boasted a different appearance and personality. After much deliberation, we settled on a brown female boxer who was described as a "fiery young female" who "is a bit naughty" and "requires constant attention and supervision."
With a wallet some $520 lighter, we took our new puppy home and watched her milling around aimlessly for a while before being prompted to comfort her with some touch screen petting. Once she'd settled into her new home we were tasked with choosing a name for our new pet and, crucially, training her to respond to it. After repeating the word "Dogzilla" around 20 times (the puppy didn't always hear or understand us) the only thing left for us to do was enter the name of our puppy into the Nintendo DS using a touch screen keyboard. Disappointingly, we were only allocated seven characters for our puppy's name, so we're now the proud owners of a puppy named "Dogzila."
After spending a few minutes interacting with Dogzila and saying her name repeatedly, we were given the opportunity to teach her the "sit" command. Training a puppy in Nintendogs is actually a lot like real life, only with a stylus, a touch screen, and a microphone. To teach Dogzila to sit, for example, we first had to coax her into sitting by petting her head and then quickly moving our hand (the stylus) down her back (the touch screen). When Dogzila sat down, a small icon appeared on the screen indicating that she had performed an action and was ready to associate a voice command with it. It took at least a dozen attempts for Dogzila to associate the word "sit" with sitting down, and once she did, we were able to call her over and have her sit down straight away by saying "Dogzila, sit" without any need for pauses between words.
Quickly tiring of sitting in the middle of the GameSpot office and having a conversation with a Nintendo DS, we decided to grab a tennis ball from our supplies menu and see what Dogzila would make of it. The ball was a big hit with Dogzila, and although it was initially distracting to the point that she was ignoring our voice commands, it wasn't too long before we managed to get something resembling a game of fetch going with her. Dogzila seemed to have endless energy reserves where the tennis ball was concerned, so, in an attempt to tire her out before turning the game off to write this diary entry, we decided to take her for a walk.
After selecting the "walk" option from a menu screen, we were presented with a map of the local area and prompted to draw the route that we'd like to take with the stylus. In addition to points of interest indicated by question marks, the only considerations we had to bear in mind were that Dogzila's little legs were only capable of walking a certain distance, and that our route needed to start and finish at our home. We managed to plot a course around the local area that would push Dogzila's endurance levels to the limit, and which would take in two of the several points of interest indicated on the map. The walk also afforded us our first opportunity to interact with Dogzila via a simple leash mechanic, and to see that her (ahem) bodily functions were working properly. There didn't appear to be any way for us to clean up after Dogzila after she planted her first number-twosies in the middle of a sidewalk, and if there was, well...we're sorry.
Both of the points of interest on our walk route turned out to be other dog walkers that we could interact with. Jack was walking Wanda, and Carmen was walking Chelsea. Their leashes, like ours, floated in midair in the absence of any human character models. While our dogs messed around with each other, we made light conversation about our respective pets, and were complimented on Dogzila's demeanor. One of the other dog walkers even suggested that we enter her into an obedience competition. One step at a time, eh.
When we got Dogzila home, she was tired, thirsty, and, judging by the speed at which she wolfed down an entire bowl of food, pretty hungry. She seemed happy enough when we hit the save button and turned off the Nintendo DS for the night, but I guess we won't know for sure until we switch her back on tomorrow.