Review by casualgamer01
"Very slow, very tedious and not much fun"
Let me first preface this review by saying I am a big Harvest Moon fan. Being from Europe this is not easy as for some reason we are very neglected over here when it comes to Harvest Moon games, so the ones I get to play are far and few between. For the casual gamer you can take this review as is but for the hardcore HM fan I might need to explain myself a bit more as all the other reviews here are 7-8/10, which I think is far too generous. My favourite HM games are the original SNES game and HM: Friends of Mineral Town for the GBA. With that in mind, you'll quickly see why I don't like this game.
There is nothing really to say about the graphics. The town is incredibly small (5 screens) lending itself to little variety and most of the environment is just 'painted' on. It all feels very flat and lifeless. The sprite work is competent enough but nothing stands out as above average.
The characters feel more lifeless than in previous HM games. The designs are very lazy and I struggle to remember each villagers name or care about them. Most repeat the same phrases day in day out ad nauseum giving you little reason to bother talking to them and a good portion of the villagers, including a few marriagables, go off to the city frequently. You can't go to the city and so they're essentially unreachable for good periods of time. Overall the characters just feel very lifeless and uninspired.
This is really where the game stumbles and is the main reason I do not like this game. For some reason in Grand Bazaar they took out virtually all sense of progression, which is really what made the other Harvest Moon games great. No longer do you work to upgrade your house, your bag, your town or anything really. Your house includes a kitchen, barn, bathroom etc at the beginning. You can go all over villagers' homes without having to befriend them first. Your fields are pristine from day one and require no weeding or other upkeep. There are no mines (!) and you can only upgrade two of your tools once.
They have basically taken all sense of progression and fun out of this game for no good reason. The only reason to really play this game is to upgrade the bazaar (the only sense of progression you'll get in this game) and once you've done that there's little left to do.
To make matters worse not only have they given you almost nothing to do, they have also slowed the game down. Now 1 minute = 1 second. This wouldn't be so bad as in HM SNES and HM: FoMT there were never enough hours in the day to get things done. Now that there's nothing to do though you'll struggle to fill your time. Since you can now water crops twice in one day (but with a 10 hour gap) I have found myself just waiting around doing nothing for in-game hours on end until I can water my crops again and go to bed. On days that it rains (no way to check ahead of time in this game for no good reason) I find my character going to bed before noon. There's so little to do here and the worst part of it all is that there is no reason for them to have taken out all the stuff that was in past HM games.
The festivals and events in this game are similarly pathetic. One festival in particular has you giving flowers to every villager for a few days, with your reward for winning simply being more friendship points. There's just no real reason to take part as with the exception of getting married there are no rewards really for befriending villagers.
To make matters worse, the game drip feeds you the tools and utilities you need to actually do a lot of stuff. You can't buy a lot of tools or items until year 2 or 3, so when you first begin you'll be bored out of your skull after you've planted and watered your crops because there's just nothing to do with the rest of the day. Anyone but the hardcore HM fans would be put off way before you've unlocked even half of your tools.
To sum up, everything about this game is slow, tedious and pointless. For Grand Bazaar the developers have trimmed down HM to its very core: all you can do is grow crops, tend to animals and wait until the weekend to sell your produce at the bazaar just to do it all over again the next week. This would be fine if we could do other stuff and if we had something to spend our money on. I'm still playing HM: FoMT years after I bought it simply because there's so much stuff to unlock. In Grand Bazaar you've pretty much seen everything there is to do within a few weeks and the rest just isn't worth the wait.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 04/18/11
Game Release: Harvest Moon DS: Grand Bazaar (US, 08/24/10)
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