PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Nintendogs + Cats

Arun Subramanian

Anyone with an affection for cute pets will find something to like about Nintendogs + Cats, but its longevity as a title is questionable.

Nintendogs + Cats

Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1
Price: $39.99
Platform: 3DS
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 03/27/2011

Nintendo's take on the digital pet phenomenon, Nintendogs, came in 2005 for the Nintendo DS. The touchscreen added some flair to the pet sim genre, and the title contained the characteristic Nintendo polish and charm. Nintendogs quickly became regarded as a successful property, and with the relative dearth of launch titles for the 3DS its sequel, Nintendogs + Cats, is one of the higher profile releases for the system to date. Among the system's launch titles, Nintendogs + Cats is clearly the one most directly marketed to kids. It doesn't do too much differently than its predecessor, but it's sure to serve as an interesting diversion, appealing to children of all ages.

Technically speaking, Nintendogs + Cats looks much sharper than its predecessor, taking advantage of the beefier specs of the 3DS. The animation is better, and the animals themselves look much more realistic than before. While the 3D effects work well, they don't add that much to the experience, and its not hard to believe that most players will opt to disable them completely. The pedometer of the 3DS means that it is possible to more realistically "take your dog for a walk", which is a nice touch. The StreetPass functionality allows for interaction with the virtual pets of others. Further, the AR cards allow you to project your pet into the real world, which has its own unique charm.

Though, as the title suggests, Nintendogs + Cats adds felines to the mix, the cats are simply not as much fun to interact with in the game. Given the large number of dogs available, cat breeds are woefully underrepresented. However, it can be argued that it wouldn't make sense to give cats their own game either, given that much of the fun in Nintendogs stems from teaching your pet tricks, interacting with them vocally and taking them for walks. Cats can be adorable pets and make for great companions, but the relationships and interactions between cats and their owners are as much on the terms of the felines as of the humans. When pet ownership is represented virtually, then, it makes a good deal of sense that the relationship of dog and master would be much easier to represent in broad strokes.

While there's a decent amount to do in Nintendogs + Cats, it doesn't foster a compunction to visit it for a few minutes day after day, the way that games like Animal Crossing or Brain Age do. There isn't the same obsessive need to either collect everything or periodically demonstrate progress. In that way, it's less of a game than either of those two, though that's certainly not a negative. It's almost more a stress-relieving diversion than anything else, and in that sense it actually has more in common with titles like Electroplankton.

Digital pets occupy something of a bizarre space in multimedia. There is a long history of games that allow players to somewhat realistically experience things for which the barrier for entry in real life is relatively high. Flight and racing sims come to mind rather easily when considering these kinds of titles. But those are still certainly games with clearly defined goals. Although pet sims have long been popular, articulating the reasons why is somewhat difficult.

While some titles, like the Pokémon series, have minor pet rearing aspects wrapped in other recognizable genres of game, others, like Nintendogs + Cats, are simply about the simulation experience of owning and raising a pet. In essence, these entertainment experiences are about attempting to make responsibility fun, by virtualizing and reducing both tasks and consequences. Games like The Sims that fit into the virtual doll house or god-game subgenres engender connections to the characters by making their reactions to player generated stimuli interesting to observe and, at its heart, Nintendogs + Cats is no different. It could be argued that the nature of the interaction with the pets in Nintendogs + Cats gives them the illusion of personality, which fosters affection.

Nintendogs + Cats is likely to be enjoyed by either fans of the original or children of any age. It's arguable that the most pleasure will be derived by those new to the series, given how similar the title is to its predecessor. That said, anyone with an affection for cute pets will find something to like about it for a while, but its longevity as a title is questionable.

Nintendogs + Cats was the first piece of software for the 3DS that broke one million sales worldwide, so it's undoubtedly been a financial success for Nintendo. But the pet sim genre seems to have built in creative boundaries, and as such it seems unlikely to be a franchise they can revisit as much as the main Nintendo pantheon.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.