Best Friend Forever is a dating simulator with an unusual premise: everything revolves around dogs. Developed by Starcolt and published by Alliance on Nintendo Switch and PC, Best Friend Forever is a cute and fun narrative experience that unfortunately drops the ball in its most important moments.
In Best Friend Forever, your character moves to Rainbow Bay to get a change of pace after leaving a draining corporate job. Rainbow Bay is a unique little town where almost everyone owns a dog. To fit in, make friends and get used to living in a new place, your character adopts a dog and hops on Woofr, a dating app for dog lovers. Throughout the game, you build up your relationships with townspeople, eventually finding a long-term partner and create a bond with your new pet.
One of the best things about Best Friend Forever is the amount of minority representation in the game.
When you start Best Friend Forever, it asks for your name and pronouns, offering she/her, he/him and they/them as player options. A fair number of the people in Rainbow Bay are people of color, too, and the game doesn’t restrain who you can date based on the pronouns you pick for your character.
That said, I was disappointed at the aesthetic options available for the player character. There were only three appearances to pick from and each was coded as masculine or feminine, despite asking for your pronouns and including a non-binary option. Plus, there were no darker skinned choices, making the inclusivity feel surface-level and predominantly focused on gender and sexuality instead of the minorities who might play the game.
The dogs, of course, are super cute, which is the main gimmick of the game.
To build up your bond, you select activities to do that raise certain stats throughout the week. Afterward, you get some quality one-on-one time, cleaning and feeding your pup to ensure it stays happy and healthy. At the end of the game, the vet checks in with you to make sure you took care of the dog. If not, the dog is taken away and you’ve failed to make a forever friend.
I wanted to love the pet mechanics in Best Friend Forever, but it felt way too shallow. All I did was focus on one stat per week and I was able to beat the game with no issues.
It didn’t take any foresight, planning or real gameplay – all you did was press buttons and run a simulation. In fact, I think to fail the end of the game, you’d have to purposefully try to fight the bonding mechanic. Even then, however, I’m not sure if you could fail since you have to pick five activities a week and each activity boosts two stats.
I wasn’t expecting Best Friend Forever to be a challenging game or anything, but I was at least hoping that I would need to interact with my dog and make an effort to build up our relationship. I was left feeling disappointed that a contemporary game focused on pet ownership had an even simpler dog care gimmick than the original Nintendogs, which is now 15 years old.
My relationship with my dog isn’t the only thing that left me disappointed, unfortunately.
The romantic relationships with Rainbow Bay residents also lack a satisfying conclusion. I was excited about the romance when I first started the game, hoping that aspect would deliver if the dog training wouldn’t.
However, while the dialog was incredibly well-written, the end of the game rings hollow. I knew who I wanted to romance on my first playthrough immediately and focused on interacting with her and going on dates with her whenever I could. Of course, she eventually became my partner and after the vet told me that I could keep my dog, giving my character a reason to stay in Rainbow Bay, I was hoping there’d be some cute scene wrapping the romance up, too.
Instead, I was greeted with a scene that wasn’t even as romantic or as serious as the first date event had been. Essentially, she told me she wanted to spend more time with me and then we hung out in my apartment.
This caught me off guard because, after the vet approves the bond between you and your dog, there’s a time skip to a few months later. After a few months, our relationship had only progressed to the point of spending “more time” together? It didn’t really make sense to me and made the romance feel kind of pointless.
Overall, there were a lot of things I enjoyed about Best Friend Forever. The dogs were cute, the dialog was well-written and witty, especially during the dates and more serious scenes, and the amount of minority representation was heartwarming to see. However, as great as all these things were, it unfortunately couldn’t save the gameplay, which often feels hollow and pointless, even after beating the game or trying different routes.
Aesthetically, Best Friend Forever is a lighthearted, fun experience, but if you’re looking for a game you actually want to play, you’d be better off waiting for something else.