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Everyone loves the Nintendo Switch, but I’m nostalgic for a simpler time.
For the first time since 2011 I rebooted my Nintendo DS and visited the kennels in Nintendogs to pick out a pup. Why? Well, it’s not for the graphics. If you’ve ever felt burnt out by Instagram or TikTok, the ads on this page right now, Black Friday messages – any of it – then maybe you’ll understand.
In the kennels of Nintendogs, I loved watching all the puppies run around the playpen. I’ll gloss over the fact that when I first opened the game, my old dogs from 2007 were parched, famished and generally pissed off. Rather than earn back their trust after ten years and get them to like me again, I wanted a new dog and a clean slate.
I was charmed by the description of one Miniature Dachshund in the kennel: “This naughty little boy just can’t stay still, and loves getting into things and causing trouble”. Meanwhile, in the real world, my mind drifted to a date I’d been on last week with another said “naughty little boy”…
Image Credit: Videogamer / Romilly Cotta
Anyway, once you’ve chosen a dog and returned home, you’re prompted to name it. The built-in microphone lets the Nintendo DS come into its own. To teach the dog its name, you have to say it repeatedly, kind of like setting up Siri on an iPhone. Unable to shake the date I mentioned earlier from my head, I did what any normal person would do and named the Nintendog after him.
And there kindled my renewed love affair with the Nintendo DS. Unlike the comparatively massive Switch handheld, the DS is small enough to fold and slip into my pocket. It’s also robust enough to survive the daily drops I put it through (both as a child and adult). It may not have thousands of individually lit pixels exploding onto the screen like the Switch OLED model, but it does have a built-in microphone that I use to teach my Nintendog tricks using my own voice.
After a week of playing, my dog and I made it to the Expert Class of the Obedience Trial with the chance of winning £1,000 prize money. That’s right, in just a week, Fabio has learned to sit, lie down and shake – all while the real boy has low-key started ghosting me. But do I even care? Playing Nintendogs doesn’t compare to the thrills of a hot date, but it has stirred a newfound respect for the game and the Nintendo DS in general.
When there’s no signal on the train for Instagram reels, I can just whip out my Nintendo DS and give Fabio a bubble bath. Why would I endure Instagram ads wedged between ASMR-type reels when I could listen to the satisfying sound of Fabio eating a jerky treat? I also love that Nintendogs is actually a bit boring to play once the novelty of revisiting a childhood game has worn out. Unlike using the allure of Instagram or TikTok, there are no algorithms or viral trends – just the simplicity of caring for a virtual pet. It’s easy to put down and return to the real world, knowing the worst that can happen is your Nintendog barking at you until you show it you care again.
I was still annoyed when Fabio came last in the Obedient Trial, though – that was real. He just didn’t want to “lie down” when he was supposed to, something I tried not to take personally. Looking on the plus side, Fabio’s naughtiness kept things unpredictable and closer to the guy he was named after.
So, returning to a game like Nintendogs after 10 years has reminded me of a couple of things. To find a form of escapism that’s silly, and nostalgic but also a bit boring is precious and shouldn’t be left behind any time soon. Second, is that boys come and go, but a Nintendog will always stick around, even after ghosting it for ten years.