It seems as though publishers just can't get enough horse related games released on the 3DS, with Best Friends - My Horse 3D being the sixth one; you'd think by now that horse racing simulator games would have been mastered, but you'd be sadly mistaken. Best Friends - My Horse 3D does absolutely nothing to improve on its less than stellar predecessors, delivering a lifeless and tedious experience from which only hardcore horse fans could glean long lasting entertainment.
There are three basic game modes to be accessed upon booting up: Story, Instant, and "Shape Your Horse". Story Mode has you run a basic operation of caring for and training horses as they prep for competitions. What this means is hours of leading a horse around a small complex and performing "fun" chores, like grooming and washing the horses. Instant Mode skips all the tedium of prepping the horses, allowing players to enter into any one of the nearly identical courses and race against the clock for a best time. Shape Your Horse Mode is a rather strange and pointless addition - you're given a black horse that you can decorate with any combination of accessories and then you just look at it.That's all this mode offers, which really makes one wonder why it was given its own mode and not just made as a feature of the stable in Story Mode.
As one has come to expect from these games, the gameplay is dull and unrewarding. Anyone who played Life with Horses 3D and didn't enjoy it can certainly give this a pass, as it appears that all the minigames were almost literally cut and pasted into this game. You still buy horses and other supplies from a generic "online store" and basic chores like scraping dirt off of a horse's hooves with the stylus or hosing down the horse with gyro controls are mildly entertaining at first, but quickly become tiresome after dozens of repetitions. Fortunately, the developers knew how boring this is, so included the option to let you buy your way out of playing these minigames by spending Play Coins. Considering that the only thing Story Mode offers on top of Instant Mode is these chores disguised as minigames, it really makes one wonder why they even bothered with that mode at all.
The competitions are easily the highpoint of the experience, but that still isn't saying much. It's pretty simple, the horse must traverse a linear course dotted with jumping fences under a time limit. Repeatedly tapping the A button makes the horse run, tilting the 3DS when approaching sharp turns maintains the horse's speed, and tapping the L and R buttons makes the horse jump over fences. For the first run or two this is decently entertaining, but none of the courses are particularly hard to beat and the only thing that supposedly makes the later courses more difficult are more fences and turns.
Presentation is basic and soulless, with simplistic graphics and repetitive music limiting enjoyment. The ranch in Story Mode, which looks suspiciously similar to the one in Life with Horses 3D, is completely devoid of other NPCs and feels rather isolated and lonely. The horses still barely make any response to interaction, with the occasional lift of a hoof or bowing of the head thrown in to convince you it's a "real" horse. Animations are stiff and models are simple, though it can be said that the frame rate is pretty solid and the 3D effect is rather impressive. The same few music tracks that are always playing in the background never rise above elevator music quality, however, and will likely have you shutting off the sound after a short while.
Overall, Best Friends - My Horse 3D is a good example of how not to make a horse racing sim. It gives you all the work of running a ranch and owning a horse, with little to none of the reward that should be coming from that work. Reused assets from previous games and poor design decisions weigh down the experience significantly, leaving players with a half baked game that feels more like work than play. Some especially devout fans of this genre may find some modicum of enjoyment, but everyone else is best advised to steer clear; it's a neigh from us.