Review by Dorfl_2

Reviewed: 02/04/09 | Updated: 05/28/09

Yet another Harvest Moon. Play or play not, it makes no difference

As usual you play a stranger who just moved into a town. The mayor shows you to a ranch, tells you the previous owner is dead and gives you free run of the place. This time the catch is that the previous owner used to run a very popular bazaar stall that made their town bazaar the best in the country. Now he’s gone their bazaar has fallen on hard times and they want you to be the one to revive it.

Unlike most Harvest Moons, pretty much everything has been done for you by the time you move onto the ranch. The animal pens are built and ready, you have a full house complete with kitchen, bathroom and toilet, and your farm patch is clear of weeds and stones. Your job is to take this big healthy farm and make it even bigger and more prosperous by adding more fields, growing crops and rearing animals. Which is fine, I guess. Still, I felt a tinge of sadness at not getting to build up the place myself, especially later in the game when I had oodles of money and nothing to do with it. On the other hand, this makes it a good game for beginners, seeing as they can jump straight into the action.

Bright and colourful patterns are always a hit with me when it comes to Harvest Moon, but the main girl’s super pink-and-purple outfit made me go euhhhh… The graphics themselves are great but the character designs leave a lot to be desired, not least because all the guys look 5 years old, and dress like it too.

I (stupidly enough) chose to play as a girl, which I instantly regretted once I saw the lame line-up of bachelors the game had in store for me. I was promised a series of handsome debonair figures and I ended up with kids who look like they just escaped from the Magic School Bus. The only one who looks remotely adult is Lloyd, and he’s got this stupid lobotomy patient turban thing on his head.

I don’t know what possessed me to play as a girl. I never do that. It’s offensive to my sexist sensibilities. As far as I’m concerned the guy should be the one chasing and proposing to the girl, not the other way round. I felt silly picking flowers for Agi and making him omurice every morning just to get him to like me. I’m a millionaire rancher! Bum artists like you should be crawling all over me, not vice-versa! He didn’t even get me anything for my birthday! And after the wedding he putters around my house half the day doing nothing while I bring home the bacon. This marriage is so not gonna last.

So if you play, play as a guy instead. The girls are super CUTE with generally pleasant personalities. Forget about lovely, sweet Mina though, I hear she's not marriageable. The game includes a set of twins (TWINS!!!!), but they're too young to marry. If Marvelous deliberately set out to frustrate the player, it works.

One last thing about marriage in this game: it’s usually not enough to raise affection, buy a double bed and get a blue feather. This time for certain characters, you need to raise the affections of their relatives before they’ll agree to marry you. For example Dirka won’t marry you unless his brother Yuris has at least a blue heart for you (I think?). In essence you’re chatting up two guys just to get one. DO NOT WANT. Just keep that in mind if you go for certain candidates.

The opening theme is “I saw three ships come sailing in.” You know, the Christmas tune. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the music, nothing will.

GAMEPLAY: New and old elements

The Bazaar
On one day every weekend in this game, a bazaar is opened and faceless NPCs come from other towns to do their shopping. You’re given your own (expandable) stall in the middle of the bazaar to meet a certain sales target, and also to endear yourself to the NPCs. Your aim every week is to sell enough goods, and to raise your stall’s rating by responding to NPC questions correctly.

The game tries to stop you from selling items you buy from other stalls in your own stall. Fortunately or unfortunately this only applies to the very day you buy it. So conceivably you can fulfil all your bazaar goals by buying up stuff from other people and reselling it the next week at a loss. It’s an option to explore, certainly.

What I like most about the bazaar system is that everything can be sold, even trash like empty cans and old boots. In fact you get a better rating for having a variety of items for sale. Some food, some ore, some jewellery, some seeds, a little lumber, etc.

Most HM games, you grow your crops, you ship your crops and you’re done. But in Kaze no Bazaar e, the real money is in processing. So instead of selling grapes (360g each) you can process the grapes into wine using the windmill (1310g each) and then pour the wine into a wine glass in your kitchen to sell for 1500g each. You can even add fruits/veggies to the wine to make, say, tomato wine. Or try another crop: tea. Tea leaves go for 560g each, but you’ll get 1140g each for making them into canned tea, or 1310g for turning them into cups of tea. I’m pulling these numbers out of my <rear end> but the real numbers aren’t far off.

There are hundreds of ways to meet your sales targets. Discovering the best ways to meet your targets is very fun indeed, and will probably keep your mind churning for hours after you’ve put the game off.

Unfortunately, what I like least about the bazaar is that the final target of 150,000-200,000g is way, way too easy to reach. Once you get the hang of the windmills, get all the fields and master a few other little tricks, you’ll be making 300,000g weekly in sales easily before the end of Year 2. But the bazaar will keep giving you the easy-peasy goal of 200,000g for game-months on end, as if they thought there was no way you could ever make that much. Don’t look down on me, developers!
Edit: okay, there's a target of 500,000g after that, but it seems to be there for just bragging rights.

Another thing: why can’t you fix your own prices? It’s your stall and your goods, you should be able to set your own prices. If not at the beginning then certainly towards the end of the game. Maybe they can give you a suggested price and you can go above or below as you see fit. You can try selling high early in the day, then as time runs out you can lower your prices and try to clear your remaining goods. In other words, I would have liked it if selling was more complex. Like if you had to arrange your items in a special way to catch the customer’s eye better, or if you got penalized for selling trash, or if you could hold special sales. Something to add a bit of challenge to the bazaar, not just standing there all day nodding your head and ringing your bell. It all got a little too easy and repetitive for me after a while.

Long-time Harvest Moon players are already familiar with the concept of processors like cheese-makers and mayonnaise makers. This game takes that idea and runs with it. You get three windmills scattered around town, one for powdering things, one for fermenting things and one for creating stuff. Once you unlock all three mills, they will probably become your main source of cash, since you can make about 150 different items in them. You can upgrade your tools, make seeds, make jewellery, honey, all kinds of wines and teas and pickles and lots more. The cool thing is that you can blow into the DS microphone to make the windmill fans turn faster, which cuts down on the time it takes for your items to complete. The other cool thing is that you can put “wonderful stones” (if you’ve played Island of Happiness you’re familiar with these materia-like items) into the windmill to change the way it works: cutting down the time taken, increasing the number of items, etc. Since you can only use one stone at a time and you can’t put them in when the mill is in operation, the uses of wonderfuls are rather limited.

I already mentioned blowing into the microphone to make your windmills go faster. This also works with the windmills on the starting screen, and on leaves and petals floating in the wind around town. I think it’s one of those things they added just so they could put some more BS on the back of the box about “taking advantage of the DS’s capabilities” or something, but it’s fun the first few times you do it. The looks you get on the train are priceless! Now if only you could blow some skirts up…

Press A to jump. Why? I don’t know, just do it. You can get to most places just by running or walking, but jumping breaks up the monotony and lets you access a few shortcuts around town [Let me just add here that there whole game is only 5 screens big, which stinks] There is a long river/stream that flows throughout the town. Apart from fishing, you can also just plain jump into the rivers over and over and over again until you run out of Guts. One, it kills boredom. Two, and more importantly, you will occasionally get useful (read: sellable) items from it. Usually it will be junk, but once in a while you’ll get a nice, shiny lump of gold out of it. I love the design of the lump of gold, so rich and yellow and thick and lumpy. But gold or no gold, eventually jumping in the river gets real old and you stop. It’s a…unique addition, I suppose. Could have done without it, really, but whatever.

Item levels
The idea of items having varying levels of quality and being priced accordingly is not new to Harvest Moon. In recent memory Rune Factory, Island of Happiness and Shining Sun and Friends have all had that system. However, if I recall correctly, in SSaF, you could combine items regardless, leading to an averaging of quality but saving space in your rucksack. Alas, that option is not present in Kaze no Bazaar. Accordingly, if you have 6 cows and they’re all giving you different types of milk, you’re going to need six item slots to carry them all in. Now, your rucksack is forever limited to 36 slots, so you can see how things can quickly get out of hand when you’re foraging around town. The only saving grace is the next point…

No Littering
Anything you drop on the ground stays on the ground for several hours, for you to pick up again little. No accidental littering here, kids. Even stuff like eggs and milk can be thrown down without breaking. All they’ll make is a cute little “boing-boing” sound as they bounce around the screen. This is one HM addition that is long overdue. I mean, why should my 128,000g brooch be lost forever just because it slipped out of my hands once?

No mining
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! No…mining? Nope, sorry to break it to you like that, but there are no mines in this game. This is a really sore point with me because I like to mine. They already took away half of the things to do in this game, now no mining either?

If you need a certain metal or ore, there are three things you can do. One, find lumps of ore lying around in winter time and break them open. This will usually give you junk ore. Two, jump into the river until you come out with either a lump of gold (8000g!!) or junk ore. Usually junk ore. Three, buy it from Lloyd at the bazaar. If he's not selling them that day, tough! Now, if there are no mines within easy reach of town, where does Lloyd get them from? I knew that cat was shady!

Time moves at the incredibly slow pace of 1 real-time second to 1 game minute. This was bad enough in Rune Factory 2, but it’s even worse here because there’s nothing to do after like 12pm. BUT, since your crops grow faster and better if you water them twice a day, you need to keep playing somehow until 5pm where you can water them again and go to bed. This is incredibly tedious and those extra 5 minutes every day really add up. I tried to idle the time away by horse racing (30 minutes), talking to the townspeople (they say the same thing over and over again), playing with my pets (5 seconds), jumping in the rivers... nothing works. Once I decided to close my eyes for a few seconds while waiting for 6pm and fell fast asleep.

Important note: Time doesn't stop when you're in your house. It doesn't stop when you enter a shop. It doesn't stop when you're talking to someone. It doesn't stop when you rummage in your rucksack. It only stops for you at rare, selected moments in the game. On bazaar days you have to be careful with that and arrange all your items in your rucksack ahead of time.

You can only save once a day in Kaze no Bazaar e, and that's when you jump into bed for the night. There's no such thing as a quick save. When you start a day in this game, better be sure you have the time to finish it, or you'll be forced to save prematurely and there's no going back.

Animals can only be bought at the bazaar, never hatched from eggs or crossed. They cannot be sold. They do have a HILARIOUS reaction when you hit them with your axe or hammer, though. (Umm, not that I would ever do such a thing intentionally <_<) You get the usual assortment of chickens, sheep and cows, which you have to feed, pet, brush and milk every day. Brushing takes about 3 seconds in real life and milking takes about 4, not counting the extra second or two it takes for your character to straighten up and raise the milk above her head before you can move her again. It might sound minor, but when you’re taking care of 5 or 6 cows in a row and it’s taking about 15 game-minutes per cow and you’ve still got watering and crop picking to do it can get very irritating. Still the items you get from them are useful enough that it’s worth going through the charade every day.

You get a free horse in Year 2. Cats and dogs are unlocked at the bazaar once you have enough animals. For this game only you can own up to 10 dogs and cats each!! Why you would ever want to own that many is beyond me, but well, the option is there. Every morning your dogs will take your cows out to pasture and your cats will take your chickens outside to feed. The dog part I get, but I’ve never seen cats herding chickens before. It’s useful because then you don’t have to feed them, so I recommend getting at least one dog and one cat, but no more.

Why no more? Because they’re creepy, that’s why. The horse, the cat, the dog. Once you raise their affections to a certain level, they start stalking you. Every time they spot you they run up to you and rub against you and follow you around the screen. In your bedroom, in the kitchen, in the fields, in the town… I’m, err, flattered y’all like me, but if the townspeople see my horse all over me like that I’ll get a reputation, ya know? So, like, back off.

Meh. I’ve never liked fishing in Harvest Moon games. The only jRPGs that make fishing fun for me are the Breath of Fire games. Fishing in HM is always the same old formula: toss the line in the water, wait till the fish bite, reel in. Grilled fish and sashimi sell for a decent amount of money at the bazaar, but again item levels come into play. Two herrings of different levels will take up two precious slots in your rucksack, so if you look at it that way it’s better to go with 99 sacks of seed or tea or produce instead. To add insult to injury most of the townspeople hate fish so it’s not even good for giving as a present. And the fish take forever to bite, so while it’s an efficient time waster it’s also very dull.

There are some new festivals and contests in this game, all of them extremely easy to win. Pierre from IoH makes an appearance as a cooking competition judge. There's a tea festival and a wine festival. There's also a flower festival, where you give flowers to as many townspeople as possible over a week. Then there's the snowboarding competition every summer and a horse race in a different season every year. If I had to complain about anything, it would be that there aren't enough festivals and events in the game. Since the days stretch on so long, it follows that the weeks and months drag on as well. If there could have been something special going on more regularly I think it would have livened the game up a lot.

Bug catching
Every season has a couple of new bugs to catch. You can sell them for a small amount of money or just imprison them in little cages and drown them in the river when you’re feeling sadistic. All you get for catching the bugs are bragging rights, I believe. Add that to the fact that most bugs look like each other and pretty quickly you stop bothering. If the money had been good, like in Animal Crossing with the bees, I might have kept going.

You buy bags of fertilizer (organic, don’t worry) at 10g a pop and sprinkle them on your crops once a day. This raises their quality, which causes them to sell for more. If you sprinkle them on your trees and bushes they yield more fruits and leaves. It’s a nice, modern touch to the game. Not really necessary, but nice. I like the little sparkly effect you get when you use it, very pretty.

Cooking ingredients like oil and curry are only sold at the bazaar. Recipes are obtained when you buy meals from stalls or the cafe. Or you can just throw ingredients together and hope they work. So long as the ingredients are right the recipe will come out correctly. Experiment away.

I think Harvest Moon games are coming out a little too often nowadays. As a result the gameplay is starting to get a little stale and the character designs starting to get a little uninspired. Unless you’re an incurable HM addict like me, it won’t hurt your wallet to skip a few games once in a while. This game is nice enough, but not a must-play by any standards. You won’t regret playing it, but you won’t regret not playing it either.

Looking at GameFAQs' scoring system, 8/10 = "fun to play, some minor but no major problems." That's pretty accurate for this game. It's fun for a while, and there's nothing really wrong with it. But there's nothing really outstanding about it either. When all is said and done it's pretty bland and pedestrian, just another Harvest Moon game. I can't in all sincerity give it an 8/10, so think of this 7 as a 7.5 if you will.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Bokujou Monogatari: Youkoso Kaze no Bazaar e (JP, 12/18/08)

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