Nintendogs: Chihuahua & Friends

Puppies are cute. Don't try and deny it, because it is one of those undeniable truths we hold to be self-evident, much like freedom and liberty. However, not all of us have the luxury of owning a puppy. Maybe it's because you have allergies, or your penchant for cats has you blinded to what is, famously, man's best friend. Whatever the case might be, Nintendo has you covered this August with Nintendogs, a doggy simulator packed full of puppies, playthings, and bunches of love.

With Nintendogs, you start out by choosing just exactly what breed of puppy you want. In the final version of the game, there will be over 15 different breeds to choose from like Chihuahuas, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, German Shepherds, and more. The American release will also have some dogs that weren't included in the Japanese version of the game. This means importers and early adopters of the Nintendogs craze will actually have a real reason to pick up the localized version.

Nintendo may offer different versions of the game with a unique dog to start with, just like in the Japanese release. Don't worry, though, as you won't be required to purchase three copies of the game to access all the various breeds. You just have to wirelessly exchange with other Nintendogs owners, thus unlocking other breeds of dogs. However, since it might be harder to find someone in America walking down the street playing Nintendogs, the game may just offer the complete package from the get-go once it hits these shores.

The demo we played allowed us to choose from three different breeds: Dachshund, Chihuahua, and Golden Retriever. Each of them already had a name as well, so we didn't get to try out the naming process, which is where you say the dog's name three times so the DS will recognize it upon future input.

Now that we had selected a dog, the cute little Golden Retriever named Daisy, we had the chance to test out some of the various functions of the game. We were content, however, just to pet Daisy for a bit and watch the reactions to us rubbing the dog with the stylus. It's great to watch these dogs come to life before your eyes.

The dogs are so lifelike, the only sensory input this game is really lacking is smell, something we doubt even the Nintendo Revolution will likely change anytime soon. Otherwise, it'd be truly easy to forget that this pup was purely virtual. And really, who wants to have the developers waste their time coding in what dog feces smells like, especially when they can spend time coding in more party hats to adorn our puppy's head?

When you start to pull away from the dog during an intense petting session, they'll show you just how realistic they are. Like a real dog who'd be content with you rubbing their belly all day long, these Nintendogs will try to follow your departing stylus in order to find just a little more love. It's so cute, it could make the most hardened criminal mastermind coo - and coo, I did.

Nintendogs isn't the type of game that will appeal to every gamer, but those who are willing to take a chance on it will find themselves emotionally attached to their virtual puppy. It does rely on the most basic functions of the Tamogachi, but it goes beyond that with voice recognition, beautiful graphics, and touch screen implementation. Nintendo has always been about trying to bring gamers and non-gamers new experiences, and they've accomplished that with Nintendogs. A hit in Japan, can that same success be duplicated across the Pacific? We'll find out this August, but we'd bet our kibble on it.