Plenty of games give players pets to accompany them, assist them in adventure, or to help them in a fight - but few games foster the genuine emotional attachment between man and companion that exists in real life... except Secret of Evermore.
If you've ever played a Pokemon game, you'll probably be familiar with how much the series tries to portray humans and the little critters they train as lifelong companions, friends for life, pals through thick-and-thin. While it might work well for Ash and Pikachu (now on their twelfth movie), it never really comes across in the game. Oh sure, maybe you'd feel bad when you box your long-loyal Luxray for a more-useful Weavile, but those feelings soon fade and it isn't like your Luxray'll ever run away from home.
It's the same with almost every game. To a WoW Hunter, a pet might as well be just another skill you have to watch out for. In Chrono Trigger, you can have as many cats as you want, but they'll only just be there for the digitized mewls. Maybe they're window dressing, maybe they're useful, but the one thing that games just can't seem to capture about the relationship between master and pet is the emotional bond - the reason that a dog bounds to the window wagging its tail when it sees its boy coming home from school.
One game that manages to get it right, argues Austin Price in this week's issue of The Escapist, is Secret of Evermore:
In one particularly striking scene that suggests the real world legends of dogs that travel vast distances in search of their master, the boy crosses an entire desert on a vague rumor pointing to his friend. During his journey the game intermittently cuts to his dog, who is trying to escape a palace in order to reunite with his friend. Though a larger plot develops around this scene, the game devotes more time to the juxtaposition between the boy and his dog as they each make sacrifices to rejoin one another.
In fact, Price wonders, the fact that a game made during the Super Nintendo era could so accurately capture the emotional ties between pet and human (regardless of where else it fell short of the mark) - why haven't more games since followed in its footsteps?
Read Digging Up An Old Bone in Issue 211 of The Escapist.