Best Friend Forever Review
I really wanted to like Best Friend Forever. It seemed like it could be such a wholesome experience--finding love with your cute little doggo at your side. Best Friend Forever seems like the type of game that couldn't do any wrong, but unfortunately, this visual novel fails on multiple aspects. What little there is redeemable here is buried under a myriad of bugs and rushed writing that makes everything feel wildly incomplete.
The problems begin right when you boot up the game. Best Friend Forever is optimized for a PC, which means for someone playing on the Switch, you're stuck trying to control a slow moving cursor on a system not really built to provide that mouse-like precision, even with touch screen support. The use of a cursor over basic controller support baffled me at first, until the introduction of a quick time event mechanic that likely explains why developers stuck with the pointer control.
This use of a clunky cursor on the Switch coupled with tiny text while in handheld mode (unsurprisingly the easiest way to control the cursor) made it clear that the developers didn't really have the console in mind. The gameplay issues, though, extend far beyond just these awkward control problems on the Switch.
Multiple times in my short playthrough, I was stopped in my tracks with a myriad of glitches and bugs. The game always said I had new mail in the inbox, despite never receiving any additional emails beyond the three at the start of the game. I had certain events saying I was raising a skill for my dog, but a double-checking of his stat screen showed it didn't actually do anything (more on the dog raising part later). I was locked completely out of one character's path because a conversation flag would catch me in an endless loop and fixing it required not one, but two reloads, as the first reload would freeze whatever other conversation I decided to do. Other times, reloads would have the game act strangely, instead of simply restoring my previous save.
If this review is starting to sound like a QA report, that's because it practically is. The amount of problems, typoes, bugs, and glitches in Best Friend Forever is astounding, particularly for a title that's for the most part a visual novel with a short playtime. In speaking with the publishers, they confirmed that there is a patch on the way, but it won't be available for the Switch on launch (it appears to be available on PC, though).
But with no knowledge of what the patch will even fix, or what the fixes might break in tandem, it's hard to give Best Friend Forever the benefit of the doubt, here. No one can review a game based on the potential it has--you can only review something based on what you're given. I was given a game that I was concerned I wouldn't even be able to complete due to the issues I ran into; a game where at points I was wondering if certain mechanics were even meant to work that way or if they were bugged as well.
The thing though, about games these days, is that developers can always push out patches and fix problems. Even though the version of Best Friend Forever I've played felt taped together with duct tape and prayers, that doesn't mean it'll be the same three months from now. If a patch released tomorrow that fixed every single bug, cleaned up the typoes in the script, and introduced controller support, Best Friend Forever would probably be a better game. But in this case, "better" still means it would just be wholly mundane and average.
The set-up for Best Friend Forever is that you're tired of working for a soulless corporation, and you're moving to Rainbow Bay for a fresh start. Rainbow Bay is an extremely dog-friendly town, with boasts of practically everyone in town owning a pet and many places being pupper friendly. So, it only seems natural that you adopt a good boy of your own… and who knows, may you'll get a good bae along the way as well.
There is a twist, however. Your good boy is not quite the best boy, and you'll need to spend the next fourteen weeks training him in order for him (and you) to pass at the Academy. The pet raising aspect is clearly influenced by raising sims like Princess Maker and Long Live the Queen, with you picking specific activities to raise skills, while also making sure your dog is happy and healthy.
At first, I was excited to see the dog raising aspect of Best Friend Forever take inspiration from these titles. However, it quickly became apparent that this pup sim failed to capture what makes Princess Maker fun in the first place. There doesn't really seem to be any actual purpose of raising your dog's stats, beyond some check-ups. I'm not entirely sure you can fail out of the Academy. It may be possible, but given all the ways you can raise your dog's stats, it shouldn't be an issue.
If they all work, that is. There are two additional mechanics in Best Friend Forever that can raise your dog's stats: Pawspirational Events and Dog Events. And frankly, they're both pretty awful. Pawspirational Events are things you can do with your pup in lieu of chatting up Rainbow Bay's singles, and a great way to spend your social points week to week if you've picked what characters you're going to romance. But, Pawspirational Events are bugged, sometimes simply… not counting the experience for them, making them a literal waste of time.
Dog Events are quick time events that'll happen during scenes. You'll have a limited time to react to your pup doing something--failure to complete the Dog Event will lower stats, while completing them theoretically gives you a big stat boost. I wasn't able to confirm if the stat gains and losses were bugged. On paper, it sounds kind of like a neat way to replicate actual dog ownership. Your dog won't always abide by your rules and your comfort, and sometimes he'll tug at his leash or suddenly need to poop RIGHT NOW.
As you might expect, though, this doesn't work in its execution. Dog Events are so random that it actively interrupts you reading dialogue to take care of whatever's happening. If you let the game idle on a line, Dog Events can still occur--they're only occasionally scripted events. These events are also probably why the developers kept a cursor for the Switch version of the game, as these events require you to tap your dog or move things across the screen. But, well, the clumsiness of a Switch point and click control scheme really shine through here, and there were more than a few times I both failed a Dog Event and pushed cutscene dialogue ahead a few lines trying to frantically tap on something.
As for the romance? It's there. You will talk to the diverse cast of eligible Rainbow Bay singles, raise some (invisible) affection ratings, and go on dates. You can date multiple people at once, until about the 2/3rds point of Best Friend Forever where you'll have to pick your partner.
Just like the rest of the game, though, this all feels disjointed. I don't know why Robin wanted to date me so fast while it took multiple interactions with Sacha before he dated me (before the aforementioned bug locked me out of his path entirely). I don't know if a choice I made with Anders cut me off future dates or if I had a bug there as well. All the dates and scenes as well seemed written in vacuums, not really taking progress into account and feeling rather meaningless as a result. My ending with Robin didn't feel like any sort of decent payoff, either--despite hanging out with her the most, I feel I only learned the bare minimum of the character, and got no actual development.
The writing in general leaves a bit to be desired, as well. Best Friend Forever's tone is very rooted in Millennial humor, and while a few of the jokes got a chuckle out of me, it all got very tiring very quickly. Scenes often failed to give me a reason to care, which is far from ideal when I expected to enjoy the game's diverse cast of characters. They just never get the chance to shine.
Honestly, Best Friend Forever feels like it's having a constant identity crisis. Mechanically and story-wise, everything feels incredibly disjointed. It feels like developers were throwing things at the walls to see what stuck, but then decided the pile of thrown stuff now sitting on the floor was good enough. There's no way I can recommend this title in its current state, and even if it was bug-free, Best Friend Forever still wouldn't be worth your time.