The unexpected popularity of Nintendogs in both Japan an the United States quickly signaled to Nintendo they were onto something with their push into the confusing non-game video-games genre and told other publishers they better cash in on the concept before Nintendo completely cornered the market for cute pet simulations. Ubisoft is the first company out of the gate with Dogz, a hurriedly translated effort from Japan that’s actually designed for the Game Boy Advance, which means it’s forced to make up for all of vNintendogs’ innovative touch-screen features in other ways.
Regardless of quality, releasing Dogz on GBA works to the game’s advantage. Nintendogs was released on Nintendo DS in order to capitalize on the hardware’s unique interface, but in spite of a thriving market for the company’s previous portable, there aren’t any options for gamers who haven’t made the upgrade. Even though Dogz loses much of the hands-on interaction that makes Nintendogs special, it’s bound to receive attention simply because it provides a similar experience on a handheld with a far bigger user-base. Simultaneously, much of Nintendogs’ attraction lies in its hands-on interface, and though Dogz tries desperately to re-create some semblance of interaction between you and your pet, it definitely falls short both in light of its competition and simply because it’s far less engaging.
Based on a few basic questions, the game assigns you a series of canines you choose at the pet store with your parents. The choice doesn’t actually doesn’t change the gameplay much; it’s more of an aesthetic particularity than anything else. Once you’ve picked, though, it’s back home and into the swing of raising the beast. After you’ve experienced a day in the life of training your pet, though, you better get used to it; nothing really changes on a day-to-day basis except there’s trash in different places of the house, your dog poops in other areas of the house, conversations will sometimes feature a new sentence, and the tricks your teaching your beast will start to evolve. It doesn’t help that the actual method of teaching isn’t particularly stimulating, as it’s basically relegated to praising or scolding them for performing (or not, in many cases) an act of obedience or tapping the A button over and over and waiting for the pet to inevitably catch on.
At the end of each day, you can see the graphical progress of how your dog is learning, allowing you to switch up your approach for the next day. Sure, there are variations in the basic day-to-day formula in terms of eventually allowing your pet outside to walk around allowing for the potential interaction with other animals, getting shots from the doctor, etc., but for the most part, there’s gross repetition involved in Dogz, proving its biggest downfall. Whereas Nintendogs physically limits the amount of daily progress you can make with your pet, obviously reducing boredom simply because you literally can’t move forward, Dogz doesn’t attempt any sort of limitation, which encourages older gamers to shut off the game out of monotony, or younger gamers to burn out on the gameplay faster than normal. It doesn’t help that Dogz comes up with mundane reasons like vacuuming rooms in order waste time when in-between teaching your pet. Puppy Reversi, a bizarrely complex mini-game (compared to the rest of the game, at least) that you can play with in your room, is actually one of the most compelling gameplay moments outside of training your pet, and you’re not even interacting with your companion.