"Wake up! Wake up I say! Oh what a lazy disappointment you are!" The Harvest Goddess shouts at your sleeping self. Yes, the Harvest Moon opening premise has changed slightly from previous installments. Instead of being left a farm by an old friend or relative, you owned a farm the entire time, but have just been too darn lazy to do anything on it. The Harvest King (a disembodied over-lord-y voice) shouts that it is the Harvest Goddesses' fault that you haven't been working, and as punishment he turns her into stone and sends all the Harvest Sprites to another dimension. You wake up and are told to get to work or else the Goddess and Sprites are doomed. Much more motivation than older Harvest Moons, right?
This game also allows players to choose from the two types of female characters previously represented in the Harvest Moon games: the brunette with the cute pony-tail from the GameCube games and the blonde from the GBA More Friends of Mineral Town.
Gameplay has become even more awesome than the last GBA installment Friends of Mineral Town. The controls remain mainly the same, only better, utilizing the additional X and Y buttons included. The D-pad is used to steer your character, while holding B will make you run, and Y will use the currently equipped tool. The rest of the main controls involve a combination of the R button and either A, B, X or Y to switch between tools, accessories and items. If this sounds too complicated, trust me, it is not once one gets accustomed to it.
The DS's handy touch controls also play a role in this game: they allow you to get up close and personal with your animals. You will be able to pet, brush and wash your animals to keep their affection up via the touch screen.
The game is very non-linear, and has not changed much from previous Harvest Moon games, but that is definitely not a bad thing for fans, since this reliable gameplay is what makes a Harvest Moon a Harvest Moon. Players grow crops, raise animals, mine for treasure, speak with the locals, and attempt to win the heart of their favorite male to start a family. That is the basics, and players have the ability to take the game entirely at their own pace. If players just want to grow crops and make money, completely disregarding the local towns-folk, that is completely fine. The only disappointing thing is that they didn't spice anything up: it is still a delicious cake, it's just the same old cake we've been eating for years. The uses of the touch screen are just a slightly new flavour of icing upon said cake.
Visuals within the game are quite nice -- but if you have played Friends of Mineral Town on the GBA, there really has not been much of a change from that, visually. If you have not played Friends of Mineral Town, then just know that it is a nice looking game. The conversations between you and other characters show off some nice character artwork, and different emotional facial expressions of the characters come into play depending on how the conversation is making them feel. Music within the game changes depending on if one is indoors or outdoors, as well as the season or location within the town. None of the music will get on your nerves, even though it is always repeated depending on your location.
Harvest Moon DS Cute is easy to interact with, and once one has the controls down the game is nothing but smooth to play. The menus in the game are all on the bottom screen and are easily accessible by a touch of the stylus, and if players do not want to use the R + (whatever) controls, they can always touch the item in the Rucksack menu to equip it instead. The learning curve of this game is definitely not steep -- in fact, once the controls are taken care of, the game is a rather pleasant walk upon a slightly inclining road. It is fun and allows players to go at their own pace.
Final Verdict - 7/10
This game took everything I loved about Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, upgraded it slightly and included fun touch screen controls to allow actual interaction with the animals. It is fun to play, the town is big and there are plenty of characters; if you plug in a copy of the GBA Friends or More Friends of Mineral Town, there will even be some character crossover, too. Top that off with the fact that this is the girl version and therefore ladies can court males, and this is one of the top Harvest Moon games I've played.