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Sunday, August 14, 2005
  best- Nintendogs, a superb substitute

From Digimon to Tamagotchi, there are dozens of choices for the virtual pet lover. The latest, Nintendogs, is exclusive for the Nintendo DS handheld game machine.

available in Japan for months, Nintendogs is a lifelike digital rendering of perhaps the most university admired off all domestic animals – puppies.
It’s a superb example of just how interactive the DS can be with its microphone, built-in wireless and two screens – one of them touch sensitve.

As in the real world, obtaining a pet starts with a visit to the kennel. After toying around with several breeds, I settled on a Shetland sheepdog, named Huggy.

The dogs are shown in 3D and do an amazing job of mimicking the real thing: they’ll sniff around, pant and bark when excited. (They even engage in some unpleasant but necessary business)

The DS touch screen and microphone are ingeniously used. You can “rub” your pet by stroking it on the bottom screen.

You can teach your pet various tricks by speaking into the microphone, then rewarding your dog with a rub on the back or behind the ear.

Huggy has only mastered the basics so far, including sit, lie down and shake.

The trick for owners is to say each command clearly and consistently. Barking orders, in my experience, prompted tail wags but not much else.

In bark mode, your DS will scan the wireless airwaves for fellow pet owners to play with. (I never had the good fortune to bump into other players, however)

In real time

Nintendogs is real-time, so it’s important to frequently check on your pup.

I neglected Huggy for two days and returned to find him thirsty, hungry and in no mood to play.

Guilt-ridden, I gave him a bowl of food and water, which he quickly gulped down. he then curled up and took a nap. I quietly saved the game and turned off my DS to give him some dreamtime.

Checking on Huggy isn’t the chore I thought it would be – its fun teaching him how to beg, shake, play catch and take walks around the virtual block.

After only a few weeks, I’ve already formed an emotional attachment with my pixelated pup.

It’s this sort of bonding that ultimately makes Nintendogs the perfect test run for families considering a real dog – on anyone uncomfortable with the thought of pet dander, pooper scoopers and veterinarian visits.

There are three versions of Nintendogs, each with different breeds.

Clearly, pets are becoming more high-tech that ever. In the real world, South Korean scientist recently cloned a dog – Snuppy, an Afghan hound.

Last years, a Texas woman paid US$50 000 for a kitten engineered from the DNA of a pet cat she had owned for 17 years.

Nintendogs certainly won’t replace out love and devotion for flesh-and blood creatures – but it’s paws down the cutest virtual pet I’ve ever cared for. - AP


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