History of "The Dog" in Video Games
“Man’s Best Friend” is a moniker that you should not take lightly. Some historians believe that dogs were crucial in developing human civilization, (dogs are critical for herding domesticated animals) and as such the taming of dogs can be perceived as one of mankind’s greatest achievements. Dogs have been used as protectors, warriors, friends, family, and a host of other various roles. It’s no surprise then, that they have taken prominent roles in a host of games stretching the entirety of video games themselves.
While there have been some notable games with dogs in support roles (Dead to Rights), there are some games where dogs have stepped up to serve as true companions. Here are some of the most notable games involving these lovable (and not so loveable) canines:
I think we all remember this one. As one of the key pack-in games for most NES consoles, Duck Hunt is remembered with a combination of nostalgia and frustration. In what might be the only game that literally makes fun of you for screwing up, Duck Hunt’s famous pooch is one of the most reviled pets in the history of gaming. Those downbeat notes, in conjunction with the Duck Hunt dog’s signature snicker, are among some of my least favorite gaming moments. Countless parodies and discussions have been raged over this brown menace, and the popular consensus is that, “The game would have been better if we could have shot that stupid dog.”
Check the full history after the jump:
Shinobi: Shadow Dancer
Some of you may have missed this classic Shinobi title, yet it remains one of the first true examples of dogs being used effectively in video games. Yamato, the dog in Shinobi, could be used to hold down an enemy until the player could get in range to kill them. If the player took too long to kill the enemy, or if the dog was hit by a stray bullet, Yamato would shrink down to puppy-size, unable to fight until the player found the correct power-up. It’s one of those great classic gaming experiences. Yamato’s heartbreaking cry when he gets hurt will force the player to protect his faithful companion in any way possible.
Secret of Evermore
One of the lesser-known Squaresoft titles for the SNES was Secret of Evermore. This excellent action/rpg remains one the greatest uses of dogs in a virtual medium. Your canine companion would even transform based on his surrounding locations, making him one of the most critical elements in your arsenal. For example, in the prehistoric world your faithful mutt is transformed into a feral wolf, and in the future he turns into a robo-canine capable of firing lasers. The player could control either the boy or the dog, with the AI controlling the current non-selected character. Your faithful pet would level up, gain items, and a host of various abilities, all this making Secret of Evermore one of the most extensive usages of a dog in a lead role to date.
Nintendogs took virtual pets to a whole new level. It’s no surprise then that this acclaimed Nintendo DS title remains one of the most successful handheld games ever made. Using the touchscreen, the player can interact with his puppy in a multitude of ways, with the idea being that your little canine friend really is alive. You must do all the necessary chores, such as feeding him, taking him for a walk, and train him for a variety of different activities. It’s sort of like, “The Sims for Dogs”, and to those of us hopelessly addicted to its cutesy nature, this is a game we will be playing for months and years to come.
Looking at how dogs have been used in the past, it seems that Fable 2 is trying to bridge the gap. It is projected to be both a pet-simulator, and an action title. Fable 2 looks to blend interactive behavior with your pet, while he provides vital support for the player. This may be one of the most ambitious uses of a dog to date, and time will only tell if the canine in Fable 2 will be a nuisance, or a marvel.