Harvest Moon DS Cute
Reviewed by Minna Kim Mazza
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-07-05 Nintendo DS Simulation E (Everyone) Natsume

I've never played any of the Harvest Moon series, so this is entirely new for me. As strategy-puzzle type games go, this has been a popular title. While definitely "cute" as its name suggests (though it is named as such to denote the female lead character rather than male), I found the game play a bit tedious, at least in the beginning. Of course it becomes strangely addicting as the game progresses. I'd have mixed feelings about actually completing this game since it feels like the end is nowhere near in sight.

You start out having to name yourself, and answer some questions about things you might like, which will determine how your character appears. It seems sort of obvious for some of the questions ("do you like blond hair?") so there's no need to take it too seriously, of course. Once you've been set up, the story begins and you're being chastised by people for being lazy, etc. and having to live up to the standards your dead father upheld while tending the family farm.

So, off to work you go, 6 a.m. sharp! You start your day by pulling up weeds, clearing rocks, chopping wood, to make room for your crops. Then you till the soil and plant some turnip seeds which you get free to start the game. You'll need to water them with a watering can, which you fill up in a little pond on your property. If it's raining outside, you don't have to water that day, which leaves you free to do some exploring in town! After a few days you'll have some ripened crops, which you can pull up and throw into a shipping bin next to your house which gets picked up and you'll earn some cash!

Time goes by quickly, so basically a day ends up going by in about 15-20 minutes, depending on how much time you spend outside buildings (time stops when inside). You also have to live with the fact that the Harvest Goddess has been banished to another dimension, along with her harvest sprites. One by one you can "discover" harvest sprites throughout the world, which bring them back to this dimension and unlock different parts of the game, such as a casino or other bonuses.

I had a problem with lack of quick gratification by playing the game, which could turn off a number of people. There is not much immediate reward to your efforts, because you start off with pretty much a bare plot of land with weeds and rocks to clear, and not much money to buy more than seeds. But of course, seeds are important for planting crops and earning money, so at least it's a start! You get all sorts of help via in-game tutorials, and a bookcase with information about when to plant certain crops, and how long they take to ripen. It just takes quite a long time to build up enough cash to start buying more interesting things like animals.

Some other activities (if you have time to spare from all the farming) are marked on your calendar which is on the wall in your house. They seem to involve some kind of contest for your farming abilities. Of course when the game starts you haven't gotten far enough to get to that point, unless of course you're super efficient and not a novice at Harvest Moon like myself. The first contest I observed was a cooking contest, where if you have learned how to cook, you can enter in a dish and have it judged against your village peers. In order to cook you need to have ordered from the supermarket enough over the phone. The game manual has some starting recipes for you to try. It's also important in the game's ultimate objective? getting a MAN.

Having the social/dating aspect and marriage in this game was pretty weird also, considering this game is also released with a male main character. And of course things are much simpler in the game? certain male characters you encounter have a little heart meter on their screen when you speak to them. The game manual provides information about each of these characters and their likes and dislikes. So I was able to give hippy-dippy looking guy some flowers I found on the ground and that seemed to please him. Funny stuff!

Considering I would have to spend hours and hours trying to get anywhere in the game worth more reviewing, I feel that this is somewhat of a cursory introduction to the Harvest Moon world. I also feel that the capabilities of the DS are fairly limited here. I found myself using the button controls more than anything else to interact with the game. Once you get some animals in your farm you can purchase some kind of "glove" to "pet" your animals and make them happier? sounds somewhat tedious to me. Harvest Moon DS Cute is a cute game with some very anime-ish artwork, but nothing terribly cool or groundbreaking, though. There are probably plenty of other games that are more entertaining and interactive to play out there for the DS.

Special thanks to Graham Markay and Natsume for providing a copy of this title.