Had a ruff day? Well, we’ve got a gem of a game for you with ton of quality puppy time from our very own Wellington studio, Starcolt.
It’s also a human-dating simulator, but that’s not important. Best Friend Forever is out now on PC and Nintendo Switch. I adopted my own best dog friend forever on the PC version.
Hot diggity dog
Best Friend Forever is a stats-managing dating-sim, in which you, the new kid in town, adopt a dog and get to befriending/flirting/dating/smooching most of the people you meet. Rainbow Bay is a feel-good place, where owning a dog is expected and dates are plentiful. It’s the Wellington Sunday market turned up to eleven.
Unusually for a dating-sim, the in-game stats-management has nothing to do with your love-life, but instead represents your dog training progress. There are four different dogs to adopt from, each with a backstory and different strengths. Starcolt have also ensured that all the breeds of dogs in game aren’t ‘boutique breeds’ or breeds known for health issues.
Before you stress too much out about choosing the optimum pup, it’s unclear what effect, if any, there is of choosing between dogs or of reaching different trait levels, other than feeling bad about yourself in comparison to the other dog-owners at the adoption centre check-in. The weekly activity descriptions are also identical, and trying to optimise can lead to some heavy repetition.
Is it a comment on how every dog can be trained with the proper love and care, no matter their background? How every dog is a good dog? Am I thinking about this too hard? Do I just secretly really wish my apartment allowed dogs?
Your player avatar can be customised to an extent, with customisable name, pronouns, star sign and blood type. Avatar portrait choices are pre-made, but I really appreciated that there were a mix of body types to choose from – something that is also reflected in the varied design of everyone you meet in Rainbow Bay.
A principle which also applies to the love interests themselves, with an admirable mix of looks, genders and personalities. Cuties come in all shapes and sizes, yo.
And while you’re pursuing your cutie of choice, your pup is with you every step of the way. Pulling at their leash, barking, needing pats. And farting. A lot.
The barks and farts come in the form of quick time events that affect your dog’s trait scores depending on how quickly you deal with them. These events caught me out when I was looking at my phone and not my PC, meaning I needed to be active and present while playing. Which I suppose is like looking after a dog in real life?
Hot under the collar
The fictional setting, Rainbow Bay, is quite clearly modelled after Wellington. Well, aside from the weather. While Wellington has a good day maybe ten days a year, Best Friend Forever is Wellington on a good day every day. The aesthetics are wholesomely bright – a match with the game’s overall sunny disposition.
With Starcolt’s obviously talented character artists available, I would have loved for Best Friend Forever to include CGs – the one-off illustrations of key story events that are standard-fare in many visual novels. CGs could have given us more emotional bang for our buck out of the dates, while providing more adorable drawings of dogs.
It’s more of a “Please give me more” critique than anything.
Another standard feature that was missing at time of writing was a “log” feature – a way to read previous dialogue. Due to a small click hit-box, misplaced dog pats sometimes skipped through dialogue with no way to go back.
A rare breed
I haven’t covered much in the way of story in this review, and there’s a reason for that. While each love interest has their own tale to explore, Best Friend Forever is story-lite compared to other comparable visual novels on the market.
Maybe that’s because the real story here isn’t between you and your dating life. It’s about chosen family, whether in the community or in a dog adoption center. You love to see it.
While it could use a little bit of fine-tuning, if you like dogs, you’re from Wellington, or you’re just keen on a genuinely inclusive dating-sim, this game could be your new … best friend forever.
Sorry, had to do it.