- Developer: Starcolt
- Publisher: Alliance
- Release Date: 27/08/2020
- Price: £15.00 / $19.99
- Review code provided by Alliance
Introducing: Best Friend Forever Switch Review
Best Friend Forever is an adorable little simulation/visual novel that captured my heart from the moment I knew it was coming. A dog-raising sim with dating elements? Sign me up!
Welcome to Rainbow Bay, an idyllic little town that’s full of character with a huge, paw-print-covered heart. Thanks to a series of unfortunate events, and a rather fateful encounter, we join our chosen protagonist as they arrive at this beautiful town with the intent on starting fresh. Our very first day sees us greeted by a very interesting pair – Sacha and the Italian Greyhound, Marshmallow. After a little introduction we’re handed a flyer for a dog adoption drive, and so begins the road to canine-fuelled happiness!
Along the way, you’ll meet a whole host of interesting characters and their four-legged buddies. From reliable Robin to the enigmatic Fox, each one is bursting with personality and individuality that brings the beautifully imagined town alive. Just from the 4.5 hours it took me to complete one of the 6 possible stories I know I’d love to move there; it seems like such a warm, friendly place, and everywhere is dog-friendly – as a relatively new dog-mom myself, it sounds like a haven!
A Doggone Good Time
Best Friend Forever is wonderfully simple to play. You have a cursor, and everything is done with that. If playing with a controller this is done by moving the left control stick and pressing A to interact, or my preferred method of play was to use the touch screen as it felt much more natural. There are three main gameplay mechanics: friendly interactions, pupper interactions, and weekly planning.
Each week (the game moves entirely in weeks, rather than days) you’ll be presented with a map and 5 interaction points. On it will be a selection of markers: a grey dot is a friend interaction, a yellow marker is an extra training opportunity, a turquoise marker is a special event, and a pink marker is a date opportunity. Friend interactions, special events, and dates occur in a visual novel format, where there’ll be a conversation and occasionally you’ll have a choice of responses. These are fun little time-spenders, and give extra insight into Rainbow Bay and its inhabitants.
Pupper interactions take place during the visual novel sections. They’re quick-time events in which your pupper is up to something and you’re required to intervene; it may be that they’re pulling at the lead, need some reassuring pats, or about to drop a stinker that needs picking up! These are fun little segments, but I recommend pausing whenever you’re not paying attention to the screen because there is only a small window of time in which to react.
The weekly planning segment consists of setting up a schedule of training activities for your pupper. These cover the improvement of the 5 performance stats: manners, sociability, trust, fitness, and smarts. These are the stats that you’ll get marked on for your evaluations, so keep an eye on their progress! After running the week’s schedule you’ll also get a little bit of quality time with your pupper to fill their mood, hygiene, energy, satiation, and hydration.
I loved the slightly simple, but cute and nicely-coloured graphics. They gave a wonderful feeling of life to each of the characters – both two-legged and four-legged – and each location popped. Adjustments to the scenes depending on the time of day an interaction occurred were a nice touch; for example, I visited a location at night during one scene and then later again during the day and the visual difference was quite pronounced. The text was a little small for handheld play, which was unusually my preferred mode for once, but it was manageable.
I love the little bits of voice acting that have been dropped here and there. There’s a very light background track that changes based on the location and event in progress. It adds a bit more relaxation to the atmosphere of the already laid-back game, making a perfect Sunday-morning-with-a-coffee experience – I have a soft spot for visual novels for that exact reason, but Best Friend Forever does it so well!
I played mainly on my Switch Lite, as 10 minutes of playing docked had convinced me that touchscreen controls would be much easier. While the game sometimes takes a little longer than expected on initial load I never noticed any responsiveness or load issues once it was running. The only real issue I did encounter was that sometimes the text advanced instead of my cursor interacting with a pupper event, but I’ve reached out to the devs and they’ve informed me that that is fixed in the upcoming patch – it’s just taking longer to roll out on Switch than on other platforms.
Im-paws-ible To Fail?
Visual novels and simulation games are generally difficult to fail, but I’m pretty sure Best Friend Forever is impossible to fail. That said, I’m not sure how I could have done better either. I managed a successful romance on my first playthrough – which was nice and easy, but I wasn’t trying to fail – but only ever achieved bronze for my progress. I’m not sure whether this can only be improved by focusing more on one statistic, rather than trying to balance the progress, or if I’m missing a trick somewhere, but I still passed and got my Paws Academy certificate of completion so that’s a win!
A Furbulous Time
Best Friend Forever is a completely wholesome, relaxed experience that I can easily see myself replaying purely for the enjoyment factor – I’ve still got a few relationships to work through after all! It was easy to play, looked gorgeous, and at 4.5 hours for a single relationship run (out of the 6 potential ones) there are plenty of hours to be had out of it. I couldn’t put it down, with the heart-warming escapism keeping me smiling long after I’d turned my Switch off.
- Gorgeous art
- Relaxing atmosphere
- Fun characters and storylines
- Issues with the text box interfering with pupper interactions, but these should be fixed shortly
A heart-warming and unique little sim/visual novel, Best Friend Forever deserves a home on any Switch.