The Original Farming Simulator
If someone had told me in advance how much I would enjoy the latest Harvest Moon game, I don’t think I would have believed them. At the very least, I would have been skeptical that this worn out gameplay style could engage me. But, inexplicably I might add, it has.That’s not to say it has completely knocked my socks off, but in many ways, it’s a surprising game that has a great understanding of pacing and carrot-on-a-stick gameplay tactics.
I was skeptical that a series as old as Harvest Moon could still have tricks up its sleeve, and I had assumed it had played all of its cards long ago. However, the mechanic of the Bazaar has given new life to the series.It must be noted, that the game is still mostly comprised of the same gameplay this series has regurgitated repeatedly since the original game debuted on the Super Nintendo over fourteen years ago. This is one of over twenty Harvest Moon games that have been released, and there are precious few elements to distinguish it from its long lineage.
This amounts to a single fact: if you enjoy Harvest Moon, then you will enjoy Grand Bazaar. Conversely, nothing is going to change your mind if you didn’t enjoy previous games in the series. In some ways, this is a good thing though. Over the years, Natsume has paid close attention to the desires of its fan base and it is due mostly to that fact that Harvest Moon survives with such a loyal group of followers as it does.
This Harvest Moon begins like many of the other games in the series. You’re given a kind of mission statement and told you are to help achieve this specific cause with your farming prowess. In this case, we’re told that the town’s weekly market has recently fallen from grace. Since there are no more farmers in the town, customers have stopped coming there in as great of numbers, and so you are given a small stipend to start your operation. From there, it’s a test to see how much money you can raise.
The main way you’ll do this is by raising crops. You’ll start with the humble turnip, but that will soon blossom into more interesting and more difficult plants to grow. A turnip only takes four to five days to grow, whereas a cabbage might take up to two weeks. They won’t just grow themselves either. Every morning, you have to wake up and water each plant individually, and if you’re especially concerned about the quality of each plant, you can spread fertilizer on them.
As with previous games, this can get tedious. However, there is a certain type of gamer this greatly appeals to. Some people simply respond well to keeping things in order, as evidenced by the massive community around the Facebook game Farmville, which has a similar mechanic. Still, watering and fertilizing all of your plants can take several minutes, depending on the size of your crop, and all you’ll be doing is pressing “B” then stepping to the side and pressing it again, ad nauseam.
But the just reward for all of your hard work is the arrival of the bazaar. That’s the part where you get to sell all of your goods to the eager customers. There’s a childish joy to putting on your apron, standing at the farm stand, and ringing your little bell to attract customers. By ringing your bell with the B button, customers will wander over to your stand, and depending on which three items you’ve chosen to put on display, they might make a purchase. Other people will come up to talk to you, ask for directions, and try to barter with you. Depending on your reaction to these events, your customer service reputation may go up or down.
This is where the bulk of your money is going to be made. It’s easy to make more than 10,000 dollars after a few weeks. That’s when the real fun begins. Early on, things are fairly casual, and you can easily sell all of your goods before the end of the bazaar. But, once your farm grows in size and quality, there’s a lot of pressure to make large amounts of sales so you can continue to sell stronger at the next bazaar and meet the goals set forth by the town’s mayor.
There are some odd problems with the game though. To begin with, the immersion of the experience is completely broken by the terrible in-game clock. In the game, every minute that passes corresponds to about one second of real world time. It sounds okay on paper, but you almost never have enough work to last even until noon, let alone a decent evening hour.
More often than not, you end up waking up at six o’clock in the morning only to go right back to sleep at eight o’clock, and if it’s raining (meaning you don’t have to water the plants), then you might as well go right back to sleep. Even supposing you do have enough work to last a decent amount of time, there’s a stamina meter that prevents you from doing too much work. If you begin work when you wake up, that usually runs out around noon, forcing you to go to sleep. It gets better as the game goes on and you have to do more chores, but the beginning itself is annoying.
At this point, you can see that most of the compliments I have for this game are minor, and similarly, most of the complaints are quibbling as well. This is because the gameplay has mostly been refined over twenty or so games and they’ve pretty much nailed it at this point. Each person will have to decide for themselves whether this game is worth it for them, and that choice will rest almost exclusively on whether or not you’re sick to death of the Harvest Moon franchise. There’s plenty of fun to be had raising animals and tending to your crops, but that’s not going to change your mind if you’re sick of the formula.
It’s disappointing, but clearly Harvest Moon has a dedicated set of fans that will enjoy this game. So once again, if you love Harvest Moon, dig in. If you don’t, then don’t bother.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
At this point, we’re all familiar with Harvest Moon’s graphic style. This is nothing new, but it still looks cute. 3.5 Control
The controls work well for the most part. There are some nuances, but some oddities as well. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound is nothing particularly great. It works, but some effects, like the grunting of the boy, will get annoying. 4.0
There’s a good amount of game here for people drawn in by the concept. The gameplay mechanism of the bazaar is engaging and helps you keep going, although, a large amount of the game is a retread over previous versions.
3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.