Best Friend Forever (Switch) Review
If you’ve ever wanted to move to an idyllic location in pursuit of romance and adopting a beautiful canine companion, Best Friend Forever is what you need – even if the Switch version is currently a little ruff (sorry) at launch.
Set in the delightful Rainbow Bay, your character is a new arrival looking to reinvent themselves after burning out in the corporate world. It just so happens that Rainbow Bay features an abnormally high number of dogs, which leads to visiting the local adoption drive the day after you move into your new abode. Like a certain Pokemon protagonist, you arrive fashionably late and get to choose from the handful of remaining dogs. From here, it’s 15 weeks of puppy-training school, plus getting to know the locals via the regional dating app, Woofr.
Best Friend Forever takes the form of a dating simulator interspersed with light management elements, where you’re tasked with managing your social life while ensuring your dog passes Paws Academy. As with any dating-sim, Best Friend Forever is largely text-driven – with sprinkles of voice acting – where selecting dialogue options and menu inputs are the extent of your interactions. While, yes, you can pet the dog and have small moments of play, don’t go in expecting Nintendogs level of tangible involvement.
Which brings me to Best Friend Forever’s first minor misstep on Nintendo Switch: its slightly awkward control scheme. Clearly designed with mouse input in mind for PC players, everything is controlled via a cursor using the left stick. This means moving the cursor to navigate menus, make selections and give your furry friend the attention they deserve. Especially when playing docked to a TV, the cursor is a slow input method, even with the cursor sensitivity cranked to the max.
This is most apparent when you’re dragged between responding to dialogue and suddenly need to tend to your dog in a limited-time event. Especially during dog poop emergencies, moving the cursor from one side of the screen and back quickly feels clunky. Preferably, menu navigation would move between choices automatically, and dog interactions could be a hot-swap mapped to a shoulder button. However, touch controls in handheld mode are currently an alternative, but this is still linked to the cursor system.
Where Best Friend Forever excels is in its beautiful depiction of Rainbow Bay and its inhabitants – from both a visual and writing perspective. Despite my minor navigational grievances, every visual element is wonderfully designed. Bright and bold colours bring Best Friend Forever to life, from Rainbow Bay’s varied locations, the eclectic cast of characters, and through to the adorable four-legged stars of the show. Heck, even the menus are downright lovely to look at. Arguably even more impressive than the beautiful dogs on display are the diverse depictions of characters who appear to be snapshots of real people. Best Friend Forever eschews dating-sim tropes by including many different body types, alongside excellent and authentic depictions of race and gender. These characters aren’t defined by impossibly thin waists with double-Ds, or typically macho archetypes of masculinity, which is wonderfully refreshing.
Further reinforcing Best Friend Forever’s strong visual design is the equally strong writing, deftly weaving humour and emotional sensitivity throughout the story. Getting to know your Rainbow Bay neighbours is joyful, thanks to the consistently chuckle-worthy dialogue and relatable themes. I instantly took a liking to the protein bar-addicted urban planner, Maribel, and her fearsome pomeranian, Gravy. It turns out we both have a juvenile sense of humour – who knew? Realistically, I could list off each of Best Friend Forever’s major characters and easily state why they’re all interesting and fun in unique ways. Oh, and I can’t possibly neglect to mention that the many inappropriate times the dogs choose to fart never gets old.
Although Best Friend Forever regularly plays it light and breezy, it does occasionally deal with heavy themes such as the financial stress of pet ownership, navigating broken relationships, and discrimination. While many of these themes are explored sparingly, they are always done so with sensitivity and genuine care for the subject matter. This helps in creating a grounded setting, allowing for greater emotional impact when conflict arises. Despite the core narrative feeling comparatively thin, quickly gliding over key story beats, this is compensated by the rich character interactions. Repeat playthroughs are a must if you want to know what makes each person tick. Not to mention, the charmingly flirtatious lines they lay on you during dates.
Conversely, Best Friend Forever’s dog management system doesn’t quite hit the mark. At each in-game week’s end, you’ll schedule various training activities for your pup which impact various statistics measured in the delightfully-named ‘Bork Points’. Additionally, this is also when you ensure they’re adequately fed, watered and clean. There are some small interactive moments here, but the frustrating aspect is not knowing what will lead to success. My first playthrough resulted in Bazza not passing Paws Academy despite trying his very best – I’m a bad dog father! In a second playthrough, I mainlined as many training opportunities as possible, skipping many social events along the way, and only just scraped through. Perhaps knowing what benchmarks to aim for, or whether it’s best to focus on a couple of skills over others would make things easier. This ambiguity was confusing and a rather deflating way to end an otherwise delightful experience.
Thankfully, some dog training adjustments among additional bug fixes are coming via a patch which is currently live on Steam and inbound for the Switch version. Some of these other issues include in-game emails not updating, dialogue boxes disappearing and character models duplicating – all understandable teething problems for a small indie studio. Hopefully, further Switch optimisations are also on the way to streamline the experience.
Everything considered, Best Friend Forever is a joyous treat for dog-lovers and dating-sim enthusiasts alike. Currently, the Nintendo Switch version is a bit unruly, but nothing a trip to the vet and some patches won’t fix.
+ Gorgeous art direction
+ Witty and relatable writing
+ Excellent character depictions
- Limited Switch optimisations
- Frustratingly ambiguous dog training system
- Miscellaneous bugs