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Posted on Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Dave!A friend of mine is really into the online gaming world, and convinced me to buy an Xbox so we could play games together using their Xbox Live internet service (despite living on opposite sides of the country). It's a nifty idea, because that way we could interact with each other in a more exciting way than distance would normally allow. The problem is that I am not home that often to play it, and can't take it with me when I'm gone. Even worse, most of the games are massively complicated, requiring you to memorize the functions of a dozen buttons and two control pads, which is far more than my brain is willing to learn. With the exception of an occasional game of Lego Star Wars, the Xbox spend most of its time collecting dust.

Earlier this month, he decided to try one last time to get me into gaming, and sent me a brand new "Nintendo DS" as a holiday gift. And it's not just any DS... it's the cool limited edition red one that was bundled with the game Mario Kart...

Nintendo DS

Even though I had seen both the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation Portable, I had long-since decided to not buy either one of them. The DS didn't look any different from my GameBoy Advance (except for the dual screens)... and the PSP was too expensive and didn't have any games I wanted to play. But since my friend was footing the bill, the least I could do was give it a try. After two weeks of sitting unopened, I finally got around to turning it on this past Monday.

And then I realized why he sent it. The thing has Wi-Fi! (and unlike Xbox, you don't have to pay extra to play over the internet). Using a public wireless connection, Nintendo Wi-Fi enabled games will let you play with anybody in the world. Once I traded "friend codes" with my buddy back on the East Coast, we can race little go-carts against each other no matter where I am. It's far, far cooler than I can describe here, and really has to be played to be believed. Ultimately, the joke is on my friend though, because I totally suck ass at the game (and have won only once in the twenty races we've played).

But Wi-Fi is not even the coolest thing about my new DS.

The really cool thing is that you can talk to it with voice recognition AND control the game using a touch-screen! This simplifies things in a huge way, and is much easier for me than trying to figure out the dozen buttons on my Xbox controller. And the game I got a few days ago shows off exactly how amazing this can be... it's called "Nintendogs" and is a puppy simulator.

You start out going to the puppy farm and picking out a mutt to call your own. Once you take him home, you can pet him, play with him, talk to him, buy him stuff, dress him, teach him tricks, enter him in competitions, take him for walks, and do all kinds of other things you could do with a real-live dog... but without having to clean up after him. The touch-screen and voice recognition makes all this possible in a way I've never seen before. And, as if that weren't enough, the dogs are mind-numbingly cute...


My dog is a German Shepherd boy puppy that I've named "Barky" (he looks like the dog in the upper-left square above). I couldn't get any photos of the screens to turn out, so I've nabbed some from IGN to show you what the game looks like...


When I call out "Barky", my puppy comes wandering up, and I can then use the touch-screen to pet him or teach him tricks... even feed him or give him a bath. It's absolutely bizarre just how life-like he is. Barky acts just like an actual dog who has somehow become trapped in my Nintendo!

The game is even stranger when you realize that you can interact with other dogs using "Bark Mode". With this feature enabled, any other Nintendogs owner who wanders in your wireless range (100 feet) will cause your Nintendo DS to start barking. Then your dogs can play together and trade gifts and stuff. I've only been able to try it once, but it opens up the simulation to an entirely new level and is very cool.

There is a down-side, however...

Your puppy demands attention.

Unlike most games, time passes with Nintendogs. For real. Even when you turn off the game, the clock is still ticking. If you forget to turn on your game for a few days, the puppy will be all whiny and hungry and need a bath. I'm told that if you wait too long, he may even run away for a little while to teach you a lesson. Because of this, I am sure to keep Barky by my night-stand so I'll remember to goof around with him each day. I would be very sad indeed if he were to run away on me.

Unfortunately, Nintendogs is not a Wi-Fi game, so I can't visit other puppy owners via the internet. Hopefully this is planned for 2.0 or something, because it seems like it would be a nifty addition to the simulation (and something you can't do with real dogs).

All-in-all, I have the give the game system a big "thumbs up". Nintendo has done an amazing job of revitalizing video games (again) and I'm truly frightened at the amount of time I will undoubtedly be wasting with this thing.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Barky and I will be going for a walk...

Categories: DaveLife 2005Click To It: Permalink


  1. Anonymous says:

    As soon as I got halfway down the article and realized you were talking about dogs, I jumped up on my feet and screamed “Barky lives! mwhaha!” Funny how a Lego calender could join with a Nintendo DS to bring a dog to life.

  2. Pauly D says:

    Put down the DS.

    Go to a place called “the pound.”

    Save a dog.

    (Just a helpful suggestion, and once you follow it, please promptly send me your DS and the game so I can enjoy it.)

  3. Marc says:

    AFAIK (been told by a DS owner), the game is capable to detect other Nintendogs in the area around it, so the device might go off barking in your pocket when another user is nearby. So it may even use the WiFi to some degree while not bringing you online.

  4. Dave2 says:

    Barky is too good a name to waste, and my German Shepherd seems to like it. 🙂

    Go to pound. Save dog. Dog dies of neglect and starvation while away traveling. Go to jail. No games allowed. Pauly gets my Nintendo DS. You sir, are one clever bastard! 🙂

    Yes, that’s “Bark Mode”. It uses the Nintendo local wireless protocol (100 ft. radius), but does not allow Wi-Fi internet visitations with other Nintendog owners. 🙁

  5. alice says:

    ha! i just got a nintendo ds recently. i was not very imaginative w/my puppy’s name (i named him Puppy). it’s a good game. it’s a constant thing to keep the puppy trained. mine goes through stages where it *listens* and when it *ignores* all my commands.

    i haven’t used the Bark or Pictochat feature yet. i probably use the Bark so i can get a dog from the other person. i doubt i’ll use the pictochat.

  6. Belinda says:

    You may not be too creative with the dog names, but you sure are cute when you’re playing with your toys. Barky.

    We just snipped tail tips and dewclaws tonight–do you have to do that, or are the dewclaws done for you at the time you select your puppy? ‘Cuz that would suck. “Dave cuts off wrong toe, puppy turns out to have vonWillebrand’s Disease, bleeds to death before being named or played with.

    I really need some sleep.

  7. Dave2 says:

    PictoChat is kind of cool… but won’t be taking the place of email anytime soon!

    The puppy can get sick if you let it eat garbage while walking. And I just found out neighbors will yell at you if you don’t pick up the doggy poop. That’s okay, because virtual doggy poop I can handle.

    I am a bit worried about how often Barky pees. When we go on a walk, he’ll stop and pee gallons three or four times… very upsetting, because I’m pretty sure I’m not giving him that much water. I can only guess he’s drinking from the toilet when I’m not looking?? Probably not… Barky will ONLY drink bottled water, so I have no idea where the pee is coming from.

  8. Wade says:

    I too received a DS System with Mario Cart as a holiday gift (mine is a cool PowerBook silver). Mario Cart has a game where you must blow (yes, BLOW) into the built-in mic to inflate balloons. Already having a GBA-SP, I find the DS a bit bulky and clumsy in design, but I’m thoroughly impressed with the potential of the unit.

    At the suggestion of a friend, I ordered the rumble cartridge off the Nintendo website. Should they ever release Nintencats, I figure it should at least rumble when they purr : )

    Happy New Year!

  9. sandra says:

    Have you ever read “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs” (by Chuck Klosterman)? There’s a chapter in there about something vaguely similar (the Sims)…

  10. Art says:

    That’s just great. So there’s going to be a whole new groups of you,(until I get one), idiots screaming, “fetch”, and “turn right dammit, turn right”, out in public. That’s nice. Just what we needed. There’ll be virtual dog sheeit all over the place. Random pocket barkings and an answer from across the room. Down Barky down. Sheesh…………

  11. lizriz says:

    Damn, now I want a new toy! 🙂

  12. SJ says:

    This is genius! A puppy my daughter could actually afford to maintain! And that wouldn’t mess up her flawless house.

    I gotta get her one of these.

  13. Kevin says:

    Okay, now that I know that the wireless on the DS is free, I think I really want one. I had been pretty turned off as well, but then the Mario Kart package came out. I want one. I’m a Mario Kart addict on my GCN.

    Is this Nintendogs thing a subscription that is automatically downloaded to your system or do you have to keep the cartridge in all the time? What if you pull the cartridge out? This sounds like a bit too much commitment to me. Scary.

  14. lilmissgem says:

    Ahh… it doesn’t wifi – that explains everything!! I’ve been sitting in vain with my wifi usb (well, boyf’s) plugged in wondering why I couldn’t find anyone.

    how stupid is that?? They do all this wonderful technology, using the mike to call and train your puppy, even to blow bubbles, but don’t make it a wifi game.

    That is the only thing I find disappointing with the game – everything else is just flippin fantastic!!!
    Sadie (my chiuahua) is the cutest little thing I’ve virtually seen!! (LOL)

  15. tiamia says:

    i just totoly love nintendogs!

  16. Destiny says:

    i think that i will love nintendogs even though i havent got the game yet!
    i am only 11 but i think i will be playing with it until im 18!!!!
    I LUV DOGS!!!!!!!

  17. Nati says:

    I LOVE nintendogs- all me friends have one, ( 5 of them) and myself.. They are AMAZING!!! SO CUTE:)

  18. celeste says:

    sssssssssooooooooo pretty

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