Game Review

Harvest Moon DS: Grand Bazaar Review

USA USA Version

Posted by James Newton

Top of the crops

Harvest Moon games have remained largely the same since the series made its debut on the Super Nintendo all those years ago. You get up, tend to crops, care for animals, get married, raise a sprog, and continue forever. However, the latest title to hit North American shores, Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar, strays from the template slightly by introducing a weekly market – with mixed results.

The traditional Harvest Moon gameplay is alive and well here – farming veterans may be interested to know the game uses the single seed layout rather than the traditional 3 x 3 method, for example – and your usual day sees you ploughing, watering and harvesting, but with a few tweaks. There’s a storage area that lets you keep items fresher for longer, with fresh items worth more, though instead of a shipping bin there’s a store in town where you can sell any items you find. Fertiliser increases the level of your crops, raising their value, and you can water your plants twice a day if you like.

When off the farm you can run to a nearby town to make use of the hotel, small store and other shops, but compared to previous HM titles it’s a little bare. In fact, the same could be said of the game world in general, which offers only a few spots of real interest and feels smaller than previous outings. Most of the places you’d expect to visit in the Harvest Moon world – the carpenter, local farms, blacksmiths and so on – are only available once a week at the titular bazaar.

Each week, either on a Saturday or Sunday, you can attend the bazaar to sell and buy goods from a range of vendors. If you’re intending to make serious money in this game, the bazaar is the place for you, as all your items are worth more sold here than at the store in town. You lay out your stall with goods and ring a bell to attract customers, who then stand in front of an item and tell you how many they want to buy. All you do then is press A that number of times and they leave happy, with the occasional multiple-choice conversation to affect your customer service reputation.

In each bazaar you’re set a sales target, and reaching this total will increase the market’s reputation and draw in new vendors for the next week. Whilst this helps to keep you playing to see what the next bazaar will bring, it also slows down your progression as you’re only able to purchase upgrades once a week. It’s not a major problem as you’ll soon find yourself raking in the cash, but less patient farmers will feel it’s often as much of an obstacle as it is an opportunity to make money.

There’s a decent amount of activities to pass the time between bazaars, however, with fishing present and correct after your first spring, as well as the new addition of being able to catch bugs. With no insect net needed, you simply walk up to the bug and press B, but it can be fiddly to grab them without any visual indicator of how close you are to nabbing the little critters. They’re also worth next-to-nothing, so it’s not a very productive way to spend your time, but there’s plenty of different species to grab to entice completists.

You’re also able to fashion new items using the windmills dotted about the world, which function in a similar fashion to makers from previous games: choose a desired outcome, place your items in and wait for the results. Your items are constructed more quickly on windy days, but you can speed up the whole process by blowing into the DS’s microphone when stood outside the windmill. The range you can create grows significantly with each new windmill that becomes available to you, and learning to juggle these constructions alongside your animals and crops adds another element to the series’ time management angle.

Graphically the game is pretty pleasing, with clear, well-animated sprites and small but welcome details such as falling blossoms, smoking chimneys and more. The decision to use sprites rather than polygons keeps things clean and detailed, and although it’s not a graphical powerhouse it’s charming and cheery, as Harvest Moon games should be. There's a similar amount of sunshine in the soundtrack too, with some over-the-top voice samples to punctuate the chirpy tunes.

Grand Bazaar also offers local and online multiplayer co-operative modes, letting you tend to a friend’s farm and vice versa. It’s a welcome addition, though it’s hard to shake the feeling Marvelous Interactive hasn’t yet figured out how to turn a traditionally solo pursuit into a compelling multiplayer and social experience.

Whilst Grand Bazaar offers the same hypnotic (if repetitive) farming routine, one minor flaw becomes prevalent. Whereas previous titles have allowed you to save your progress by way of a diary at the side of your bed, letting you resume later on from the same point, here you can only save your game at the end of the day, automatically forcing you ahead when you load the file. This means you always must finish your day before taking a break, and although it’s not a massive problem, it’s still a pain to have to wait until dusk before you can save your progress.

The script is also lacking, with characters only having one or two phrases that they repeat every day, regardless of the season – until you get to know them better, that is, though this can take weeks of in-game time. That said, it’s good to see a brand new cast of characters replacing the regular Harvest Moon crowd, even if they’re sometimes just the same character types with different names and faces.

Conclusion

Small gripes aside, Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar is a strong showing for the farming franchise, with the addition of the eponymous market bringing a nice weekly structure to proceedings. The ability to save games only at the day’s end is the only fault of any consequence, and if you’ve enjoyed previous outings in the series, there’s no reason you won’t like this one too.

Sponsored links by Taboola

More Stories

User Comments (14)

James

#5

James said:

There's usually a plateau where everything's taking care of itself, but there's always a new upgrade or item to work towards, so it stays compelling. Just a shame you have to take it a whole day at a time, I quite like being able to dip in and out of days as I like. Still, great game!

shinesprite

#7

shinesprite said:

Wow! Fast review James!

How far do you guys get in a game before reviewing it? (eg. Beaten /completed/ ?%/ ?hours)

Also do you generally continue to play the game after the review, or do you set it aside and tell yourself you'll come back to it one day?

Burning_Spear

#8

Burning_Spear said:

James: I really appreciate that the review was written by someone who enjoys the series and has experience to its roots. Only an HM vet would understand the importance of being able to save at any point in the day. Thanks for a great review. I'm glad they took a chance and changed things up somewhat. I like each version to have some unique elements, and it sounds like this is a strong edition of HM.

James

#9

James said:

@Burning Spear Thanks, I appreciate that! I think I've played almost every Harvest Moon game ever, so I'm pretty experienced by now. It's definitely one of the better handheld ones, though Sunshine Islands turned up today I'm looking forward to getting to grips with that.

@shinesprite There's no hard and fast rule for how long we play before we write a review, and it depends for each reviewer. In a game like GoldenEye or Sonic Colours for example it's not too hard to complete the game before you write the review. In HM there's a huge amount to get through but the basic formula doesn't really change as you proceed, so you can get a feel for its qualities pretty early on. I think I put about 12-15 hours into this before writing my review - I love me some Harvest Moon :) Also, it's very rare for me to go back to a game after I review it unless I really, really like it - Little King's Story and the Sonic games are the only ones I've played solidly after the review goes out.

cheesedude

#11

cheesedude said:

Picked this up on import a few days ago. It's certainly a bit different from regular HM, although the town does feel very small in comparison to some of the other titles. As always the character conversations are fairly uninteresting and take an age to progress. All in all, not a bad HM title but if I had to choose I'd get Sunshine Islands over this.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...