Game: Best Friend Forever
Genre: Indie, Other, Simulation, Role-Playing
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer|Publisher: Starcolt | Alliance
Age Rating: EU 12+|US Teen
Price: US $19.99 |UK £15.00 |EU €16,99
Release Date: August 27th 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to Starcolt
Bork Bork, BORK!
Best Friend Forever has managed to solve the age old equation of: what does dogs plus romance equal? The answer: a video game!
Best Friend Forever will place you into the shoes of a trendy, pink-haired, aspiring photographer who is leaving behind a dead-end job in the big city of New Yonk. We join our protagonist on the bus to Rainbow Bay: the most dog friendly city in the whole country.
It’s been a long bus ride, made even longer by the tacky radio personalities, but finally you disembark and hop an Awoober to your new apartment.
Woof Woof! Grrr!
I don’t know about you, but I love taking silly personality quizzes. From “Which Fruits Basket character are you?” to “Your favourite cheese will tell you who your perfect match is”, I’m always ready to discover what my love of gouda means!
Luckily for me, the game starts off with a cute – and witty – little personality quiz via the “Woofr” app. Woofr is Rainbow Bay’s own special version of Tinder, and by simply answering a few (hilarious) questions you’ll get matched with the local, dog-loving, singles.
While I loved this little part of the game, and found it to be delightful and cute, I’m not sure if it actually affects the game much. I played through the game several times, and I was matched with all of the romance-able singles for the same reasons, no matter what I picked. For example, I was always matched with Maribel for our shared love of pomeranians.
Now, while I do love pomeranians, I’m not sure if every single one of my characters (who all chose different quiz answers) would have loved them. But hey, it didn’t diminish the fun of the game for me… woah, maybe that’s the point: that cheesy personality quizzes really have no effect on a person’s life at all… Touché Best Friend Forever, touché.
Ruff! RUFF RUFF!
Best Friend Forever is a visual novel with stat-raising gameplay. So controls mainly consist of reading and pressing the A button. Once you’ve adopted one of the four available dogs, the game will cycle through three phases.
The first phase will show you a map of Rainbow Bay, here you can move your cursor (via the joystick) to hover over, and eventually choose, the available activities. These activities are encounters with the romance-able characters, and activities you can do to raise your dog’s stats. You have five MP (Motivation Points) to spend on these activities, so you have to choose wisely who you want to spend your precious time on.
After you’ve spent your five MP, you will then move into planning your doggo’s week. You’ll choose from several available activities that will raise your dogs stats: manners, sociability, trust, smarts, and fitness.
After that, you’ll be at the end of the week where you can give your dog things like food, water, or baths in order to keep their hygiene, mood and energy up.
Sit! Good Girl!
The stat-raising gameplay is a nice idea, but I’m not sure how well it is integrated into the romance and visual novel aspects. To me, they felt like two separate things that didn’t influence each other.
It is fun that, while you are talking and having your interaction with your chosen cutie, your dog’s face will be on the right side of screen.
While you’re reading, “dog events” will randomly happen. Your dog might get scared and you’ll have to give pets to comfort them, or your dog will poop and you’ll have to pick up the poop bag and move it over to the waste bin that appears. These little events, once completed, will flash a stat change at you such as: “mood+++ satiation–”. Honestly though, I don’t think my dog’s stats were ever significantly raised by these minor events, as I found the stat-raising to be quite tough (more on that later).
Dog events, while cute and can make use of the touch screen (if you’re into using your Switch’s touch screen to game), don’t seem to affect your romance at all.
There were so many times I’d be chatting up my chosen beau, and I would hear a fart noise and the words “Twiggy did a biiiig fart” would appear (I named one of my dog’s Twiggy); or my dog will bark and it’ll say “Twiggy borks at Maribel”. Usually, the conversations just keep moving on regardless. I found it hard to believe that everyone was so good at ignoring how much my dog constantly farted.
I feel like there should be consequences for being a bad dog owner; things like your desired human partner deciding you’re not a good match for them because you can’t really take care of your dog. You know?
FETCH… Me Some Good Stats!
The stat raising gameplay was fun enough. I liked watching the bars rise and level up after doing particular activities.
HOWEVER… it seemed like no matter how hard I tried, or how much I did, my progress reports were always coming back that I was barely trying at all. SIDE NOTE: I have been on the Best Friend Forever Discord channel, and I guess this is a known Switch-version bug that has a planned patch coming.
Perhaps I should have tried to hard-focus raising only one or two particular stats, rather than trying to raise them all equally? Three times throughout the game you will get your Paws Academy dog-training update, and three times throughout the game I got the Bronze Award for “barely trying at all”.
To which I say: “Whaaa?” I was distinctly trying a LOT. I did all of the dog events during the day, I was leveling up everything equally… so, I’m still unsure as to how you actually do well at dog training. I mean, even if I tried to focus only on raising one particular stat, the vet would get mad at me. She would always point out the lowest stat I had and say something about how she was disappointed and I could be doing better.
To top it all off, I don’t really understand how having a dog with high stats affects the romance or story at all. It’s fun, it just feels – as I said earlier – like two separate game mechanics that don’t interact or affect each other.
Who’s A Handsome Boy? You Are!
The visuals are stunning. Each character is so cute and different, and I absolutely LOVE all of the positive representations from across a wide variety of spectrums! From race, to gender, body image, to able-bodied-ness, I can’t give Best Friend Forever enough praise for showing humanity in all of it’s delightful-differences-glory.
I loved all of the characters, albeit some I loved a little more than others. But each character is well written, and feels like a real human being with a past, emotions, and hopes and dreams (or snark: looking at you Fox). The writing is really what makes or breaks a dating-sim, and Best Friend Forever is doing a good job of landing in the “make” category.
The artwork for all of the dogs is absolutely adorable too! Like you, every character has a dog that they take everywhere, and no two dogs are alike. A lot of different dog breed representation going on as well! I personally found the lack of corgis to be a smidge distressing, but I suppose you can’t win ‘em all, eh?
The music is nice, and really makes Rainbow Bay feel like the trendy dog-lover-only town that it is.
The game (at least on Switch) still has a bunch of bugs and things to figure out, but I feel like once that’s all ironed out, fans of the genre will not want to miss Best Friend Forever.
Like I said earlier, quality of life enhancements and bug fixes are incoming, and if you find something you can always pop onto their Discord and let them know. I found this one!
The game is quite short, you could easily get through several runs in a day, but that shouldn’t be an issue for too long as (again, discovered via their Discord) they have already announced plans to add additional content. There is even a handy little form you can fill out on their Discord channel where you can suggest things and give your input on what you’d like to see eventually added into the game.
I really like how interactive the developers are with their audience, and I really liked their game. After some quality of life and bug improvements for the Switch version, this will definitely be a game you don’t wanna miss out on.
Final Verdict: I like it!