Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar – Staff Review

The Harvest Moon series boasts of a long history that hardly requires introduction. While detractors will likely only groan at yet another DS iteration, fans of the series will be tickled by the tweaks to the Harvest Moon formula that make Grand Bazaar a fresh experience.

A nice trend in recent Harvest Moon games is the option to play as a male or female farmer in a single game. Players make their choice and the story begins. You arrive in Zephyr, a town with a problem: once upon a time it was famed for its weekly bazaar, but in recent years the bazaar has dwindled to almost nothing. Mayor Felix sets you up on a ranch just outside of town and asks you to help revive the bazaar and make it the world’s finest (aim high, right?).

All right, people, I have 89 turnips to sell and I'm not leaving until they're gone.
All right, people, I have 89 turnips to sell and I’m not leaving until they’re gone.

Players will get to do most of the usual Harvest Moon tasks — growing vegetables, raising animals, fishing, cooking, courting — though mining is notably absent from this game. A significant change in Grand Bazaar is the way time flows. It no longer stands still when players are inside buildings or going through their inventory. The result is that the game moves at a faster clip and players must keep up with it. It help prevents the sort of tedium that can occur when perfectionist players fill up their barn with cows an spend half an hour (of real time!) tending to them. Speaking of animals, players can acquire cats and dogs who will help herd cows, sheep, and chickens, thus avoiding the tedium of trying to bring them in and out yourself as in many Harvest Moon games. A quirky new addition to the traditional game mechanics is the ability to jump. Now trust me, it sounds like the kind of thing every game has had since the NES era, but it’s a huge leap for Harvest Moon — if you’ll pardon the pun. There are several places where you can use jumping to move from one place to another more quickly, or just to reach otherwise inaccessible spots that are good for foraging. It also allows you to pursue a new activity in the form of bug hunting.

Movement is handled by the directional pad while menus can be navigated using buttons or the touch screen. The menus are all very clear and simple to use, which again is an improvement over some of the other DS games.

The major change to the game, however, is the way players make money. Instead of tossing items into a shipping bin that gets picked up every day, players in Grand Bazaar must save up their items and sell them at the bazaar at the end of each week. Nor do items sell automatically. You need to catch the attention of potential customers by ringing a bell, and when one stops to ask a question, respond appropriately. Having a wide variety of items also helps to draw customers in. Items stack, but only if they’re of the same quality and freshness level. This means that inventory and cash flow management are the chief challenges of the game. Extra items can be sold at the general store during the week, but at a much reduced price compared to what they would earn at the bazaar. Item quality (from half a star to five stars) influences the price an item will sell for. The quality of crops can be increased by giving them fertilizer; produce from animals increases in quality based on the animal’s fondness for you. Grand Bazaar also includes three windmills that can perform tasks such as upgrading tools, transforming items (e.g. turning wool into yarn, grapes into wine, etc.) or combining items to make new ones, such as oil and milk which make butter. These are important for producing higher quality items and raking in more cash. And making money at the bazaar is your chief goal in the game as it allows you to upgrade the bazaar. The bazaar can be upgraded three times. As it gains fame, new stands will added, allowing you to access new items and upgrades, and more people will attend, allowing you to sell more items.

It wasn't long before he became known as 'that guy with all the cats...'
It wasn’t long before he became known as ‘that guy with all the cats…’

Grand Bazaar uses a different, less cartoonish, animation style than the previous Harvest Moon DS games. It’s a bit strange at first if you’ve played the other games, but it’s bright and colourful, and fans will likely stop noticing the difference after an hour or two. The music isn’t especially remarkable but is typically pleasant and upbeat. As in all Harvest Moon games, the story is kept to a bare minimum, but the cut scenes are alway delightful. In addition to the regular cutscenes related to courtship, players can view random vignettes with other villagers if they have high enough friendship ranking.

All in all, Grand Bazaar does an excellent job of adding small tweaks to the series while removing the tedious elements from some of the previous iterations. In doing so it strikes a balance that makes it one of the most pleasant additions to the Harvest Moon series to date.

This game was played to completion and reviewed using a retail copy.

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