Nintendogs for the DS was a revolutionary game; it was one of the first games to show off the full capabilities of the DS system. But how does Nintendogs + Cats for the 3DS measure up to its predecessor? To be quite frank, if you played the old Nintendogs and were not thrilled with it, you won’t enjoy this upgraded version, as it’s pretty much the same game with just a few new additions- the most obvious being of course, the cats. But while it does little to break out of the mould formed by the old Nintendogs, it’s still a great game that pet sim enthusiasts will find simply charming.

The game starts out at the kennel where you can choose from eight dogs breeds (which ones will vary depending on the version) to find your perfect pup. Once you pick out your dog, you can do a variety of activities with it. You can walk it, play with it, wash it, or train it for three different competitions- disk throwing, lure coursing, or obedience trials. Once you place first in a competition, you can move up a level until you reach the highest tier- the Nintendogs Cup. Competitions are the only way to earn money for supplies, home décor, or new pets. There are also some new features that take advantage of some of the 3DS’s functions. You can meet other trainers and dogs and even receive gifts through both spotpass and streetpass. You can photograph your dogs, making your own screenshots. You can also use your AR card to see your dog in real-life (don’t lose it because you need it for the obedience trials). These new features are nice, but if you’re not entirely convinced you want to buy the game, they probably won’t tip the balance.

The game is played entirely with the stylus. The controls feel natural and smooth. The only wonky controls come from the disk-throwing. It is very difficult to throw your frisbee a consistent distance. Fortunately, if you flunk a competition horribly, you can turn off the power without saving and try again.

In general, there aren’t any huge differences in the old and new versions, but the many small changes are all for the better. Walks with your dogs feel less tedious and more realistic. Instead of just watching your dog walk and pick up the occasional present, you now interact more with your environment. You can meet trainers you downloaded via spotpass/ streetpass as you walk, and teach your dog where they should and shouldn’t pee. There are several routes you can choose from, each wielding different items that you can trade at Mr. Recycle for special items (including the super elusive robopup). There are a variety of stores, parks, and even a gym where you can stop. Other improvements are mostly in making the experience feel more real, or lessening the frustration factor. Dogs seem more trainable and less forgetful. The lure coursing which has replaced the obstacle course is much easier, though still requires a good deal of practise.

Visually, the game is beautiful. Dogs and cats look more realistic, as do the environments. As for the music and sound, there’s nothing to complain about, though this series has some kind of fascination with snazzy French music.

The only real gripes I have for this game mostly centre around the cats. They don’t really do anything. You can wash them and play with them, and that’s about it. There’s no cat shows to enter them in to earn money. In all, they feel tacked on, like they were an afterthought. Maybe a lot of people feel that real cats don’t do anything either, but as a cat-owner I can say that this is not true, and they could have thought of more cat-activities other than waving about a feather now and then.

In all, Nintendogs + Cats is an excellent pet simulation. It may not venture far into new territory, but is an enjoyable journey to embark upon. The graphics and gameplay feel greatly improved on its predecessor, however, it won’t convert anyone who didn’t care for the first. But it is a great way for those who cannot own pets to get their dose of cute, and is fun for all ages.