Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar DS
Published by Rising Star Games
Developed by Marvelous Entertainment
In Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar, playing as either a boy or a girl, you'll arrive in Zephyr town ready to run a small farm. On arriving in the town you're greeted by the Mayor, Felix, who makes you aware of the town's bazaar and underlines the importance of it to the town. Once a week, either a Saturday or a Sunday depending if a festival gets in the way or not, a bazaar is held in the town to attract visitors, at least that's how it used to be. Now the bazaar is pretty much dead with hardly any visitors at all. In fact the citizens of the town are even considering closing it for good. Felix wants you to open a store at the bazaar in an effort to give it a bit of a boost. With this being a Harvest Moon game you'll have to run your own farm too, and you can even sell some of your produce at the bazaar and earn fame as being a grower of tasty produce.
One of the key differences between Grand Bazaar and other Harvest Moon games is that you won't simply toss your produce into your shipping bin and make money shipping it every day. You can sell items at the local store but the best way to make money is to sell your stuff on your stall at the bazaar. In essence this means that you'll have to prepare everything ready for bazaar day and attempt to make as much money as you can on that day. You're not going to want any of your produce to spoil of course, so you're going to need to be aware of how long it takes for vegetables and flowers etc., to grow so that you can time their harvest so that it's not too far away from a bazaar.
On bazaar day it's up to you to ring your bell and attract people to your stall. To begin with you can only sell three things at once on your stall. On the bazaar you can sell your vegetables, flowers, wood, stone, herbs, honeycomb, mushrooms, bugs, fish and much more including goods that you've baked or manufactured. The bazaar also gives you the chance to purchase goods that you otherwise wouldn't be able to purchase such as tools, gems and even chocolate. During a bazaar you'll have some customers ask you a few questions. You'll need to take care when answering these questions as your answers can both improve and damage your reputation. At each bazaar a sales goal is set for you and the idea is to try and make the amount of money required at each bazaar. The best sellers at a bazaar are also rewarded for their efforts. If you do well with your stall it can also be expanded, so that you can have more things for sale at any one time. The bazaar adds a real twist to the Harvest Moon experience.
Whilst the addition of the bazaar adds a welcome twist to the Harvest Moon experience, the addition of windmills is a little disappointing. There's nothing wrong with windmills of course and it's great to see them in the game but unfortunately they have been used to simplify the game. There is no need to buy any product making machines in Grand Bazaar or visit a blacksmith (in fact there isn't a blacksmith in the game). Essentially there are three windmills located around the town and these will do various tasks such as making teas, pickles, wines, shaping metals, creating jewellery, extracting seeds from fruit and upgrading your tools. The advantage of using these windmills is that you don't have to save up to buy expensive machinery but the disadvantage is that the town has one shop, a café and a hotel and little else. I would rather have had a town full of shops that give you additional things to do and extra folk to converse with during the course of the game.
In fact one of the areas where Grand Bazaar disappoints is in its social interactions. Even when you are able to plant a variety of seeds, go fishing and use the windmills, you'll find that there is a lot of free time on your hands. In previous games it was fun to use your free time to improve relationships with the various folk around town. Whilst Zephyr town does have some interesting civilians they don’t say more than a few words to you at a time and what they say is usually repetitive. With a lack of shops to visit and interesting conversations to have with the various people, you'll probably want to concentrate on finding someone to marry (there are five bachelors and five bachelorettes) and possibly have a child with them.
During the first in-game season that you'll spend with Grand Bazaar you might come to the conclusion that it's a Harvest Moon game that has been overly simplified. This is primarily because the game doesn't initially give you access to everything that you can do in the game. In fact for the first few hours there's not a lot you can do as you don't have access to all of the tools. After the first season the game begins to open up and becomes more satisfying but it's still not going to fully satisfy seasoned Harvest Moon fans. There are still vegetables and plants to grow and animals to care for. There is no mine to explore in Grand Bazaar but there are ore stones that can be smashed so that you can acquire the minerals. You'll usually find these in the river but they are also randomly scattered around in winter. On the whole the experience is not as enjoyably complex as it has been in the better Harvest Moon games.
Up to four players are supported in the game's multi-card (meaning you'll each need a copy of the game) multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode allows you to show your friends how your farm is progressing and also gives you the opportunity to exchange items, which is certainly welcome. You can also fish, talk to various folk or play with snowballs if you’re in the mood. As enjoyable as it can be, the multiplayer mode doesn’t really provide anything other than a short diversion from the main single-player experience.
Grand Bazaar's presentation is actually quite impressive. There can be little complaint with how the game looks. Grand Bazaar is easily the best looking Harvest Moon game on the DS to date (that we've seen here in the UK) and everything from the character portraits to Zephyr town itself really looks good. The dialogue in the game is in text, so you'll have no problem following the game's storyline and the conversations that occur during the game. All tutorial messages are in text too. There aren't any captions in the game for the various sound effects but I like the coloured musical notes that appear when you ring your bell whilst you're on your stall at the bazaar. The game makes good use of icons to convey information. For instance yellow stars are used to show you the quality of an item when you're at the bazaar. I should also mention that the game comes with a collection of impressive art cards showing characters from the game which is actually a pretty impressive bonus.
Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar is one of the better games in the series to appear on the Nintendo DS but there's not enough here to make it one of the more memorable games in the series as a whole. Veterans of the Harvest Moon series will enjoy the novelty of the bazaar but at the same time they will not be too happy with how some of the core series elements have been overly simplified. Those who are new to the series won't notice this simplification of course and will see the game for the mildly enjoyable experience it is. Had the bazaar simply been added to the formula found in the better games in the series, Magical Melody, Back to Nature, Friends of Mineral Town etc., we would certainly have had a special addition to the series.