Thanks to Lightning Ellen for this piece of inspiration -I genuinely struggled to pick a game beginning with N that I had played. I was close to choosing browser based Neopets (suggestion courtesy of NekoJonez), which hit the big time in my primary school years. That site was a large part of my childhood, and I even made a couple of friends in real life from there.
A last minute entry from Ellen made my choice a bit easier, although I am going to briefly look at Neopets later.
I was late to the DS party. I’ve always been a home console player first and foremost, and didn’t really get into the DS until the release of the DS Lite. In fact, the release was so close, I had to opt for the black DS Lite over a blue DS. I’m glad I did – my little Lite still works today (although I have since upgraded to a New 3DS). It has a slight issue with the right shoulder button and two small scratch/dents in the touch screen, but it still plays fine. I’m always really impressed with Nintendo hardware.
I bought two games with the DS. Animal Crossing Wild World – a game that I love but hasn’t aged all that well, and Nintendogs: Dalmatian and Friends. The fourth iteration of the game, it brought nothing new to the fore, but gave you slightly different dogs to choose from. I started with my favourite dog breed – Alsatian. Otherwise the core game is the same; choose a puppy, interact with it, walk it, play with it. Nothing special, and no real “end game”, but the Nintendogs games were something special for Nintendo.
Firstly, it was one of the early games that utilised in some way, most of the DS gadgets and tools. You used the touchscreen (nothing special) to do most of the tasks. The microphone was used for teaching your new puppy its name, and also for calling out tricks for it to learn. The internal clock and calendar allowed time to pass for your dog to eat food, or get mucky. You could use the wireless capabilities of the DS to play with other Nintendog players and meet their virtual puppies, and if they have a breed you don’t, unlock it.
Secondly, it was a massive draw for casual gamers. It was a cute, cuddly and easy game to play, and opened the doors for more casual gamers to access our favourite hobby. From there, Nintendo only rocketed upwards.
Why is it in my A to Z? I don’t have the nostalgic fondness for Nintendogs as I do for other games from my DS days. But I think I wanted to acknowledge its presence in my youth, in my gaming library, and in gaming history. It’s not a game I think anyone now needs to seek out, but thank you Nintendo for letting me have a puppy for a while.
Honorable mentions: Neopets
I said I’d briefly discuss it. Neopets is still around, in a slightly different form. Gone are the days of bright yellow banners and dead eyed 2D drawings. Nowadays Neopets is owned by Jumpstart, has a form of microtransactions and loot boxes, and has tried its best to cling to life in the modern world. Having said that, I go back occasionally to see what’s occuring (my account is 15 in November) and how things have changed. I owe more to Neopets than Nintendogs – as I mentioned I have a few real life friends from there, and I learned (as many have) basic HTML from the guides on there. Every now and then I am reminded to go back and wallow in the entirely fictional relative success I have on there, and return to a simpler time.
I mourn for some of the changes, and I think the move to JumpStart wasn’t the best. But I understand why, without the numbers it had 15 years ago, Neopets needs the support. If anyone has any plushies though, feel free to ping them my way.