I’ve got a brand new Combine Harvester…
Some distance from the city lies a small quaint town, known for it’s gentle winds and the sound of windmills that greet the local residents every morning. In Zephyr Town you’re introduced to Mayor Felix who wants you to get involved with farming. That’s fortunate!
As a new resident of the town, you’ll be shown around the local bazaar, where you will begin your trade of buying and selling various items you’ve made, grown or collected. To begin with you start off in your own house, where you’ll sleep, cook and grow crops in the surrounding fields. In your home you can store the items you’ve gathered, or sleep and save the game. It’s also in here that you can view your calendar, which lists what festivals and special events will be happening in the town. Outside your house is an empty field where you will be expected to grow crops. With the tools provided you till the soil, plant the seeds and try to remember to water your crops. Your’re given a watering can, hoe and a few seeds, just to get your started.
Money will be tight to start with, at least until you start trading at the bazaar. The bazaar is open every Saturday and you’ll have to set up your store. Mayor Felix shows you where to get set up and how items are sold and bought. At the end of the day, you’ve got to attract the local residents to your stall by ringing a bell and quickly distributing the goods when the number is indicated by the customers as they approach the stall. The chances are that most of your customers will only want a few items of your stock as you serve them up, but as time goes by you’ll need to be quick with your responses or they turn away feeling very dissatisfied, which results in your stall getting a bad reputation and you don’t want that do you?
Once you’ve sold all of the items on your store, you can take a break. The bazaar is an interesting place as you wander around, taking in all the sights and sounds of the local residents and stall holders. There is an opportunity to browse the various stalls and purchase animals and pets, or even buy a special gift box with a surprise present. While happily ambling around, I noticed the stall holder with a pen full of very lively animals such as cows, sheep and chickens. Choose carefully when picking your animal because some of them need a lot of TLC when you take them home. Invest in chickens and they will quite happily deliver an egg each day for you, or use them as ingredients to cook something nice. I was talking about the eggs there, not the chicken. No boiling any chickens.
Small fluffy white sheep produce wool for sheering every four days, but make sure you gather the wool and brush your sheep as they can feel very depressed if you decide to leave them out in the field for more than a day or two. The cute cows will provide you with milk eventually; players need to be patient as you have to wait for them to reach adulthood before they do so. When I bought my cows from the local stall, I thought it was going to be a great idea. They seemed relatively easy to keep, needed some love and attention every so often, and for you to occasionally talk to them. You need to feed them fodder on a regular basis and place them in the barn just to make sure they are receiving their daily requirements, or they get unwell and then you must rush out and purchase special animal medicine which cost an absolute fortune. All seemed to be going well, I shifted my cows outside on the warmer days for them to graze out on the fields. With my daily running around the town, picking up various rocks, wood, and weeds to earn myself some money, I had forgotten about them for a bit and then I had a sudden realization that you’re suppose to bring them in when it starts raining. I quickly ran back to the fields to see my cow looking very disappointed. Now, you can physically move your cow around by a simple button tap action, but would my cow shift. No, he just seemed to move out the way every time I tried to guide him back to the barn and avoid the barn at all costs. After some effort I managed to persuade him to retire to drier pastures, but for now I wouldn’t recommend buying a cow. They are more trouble than they are worth if the weather takes a turn for the worst and it decided to pelt down.
The local residents of Zephyr enjoy wandering around the town. You can interact with them by pressing the A button, but don’t expect huge conversations. I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t seem to give much feedback and, at times, would repeat themselves.
Growing crops in your field takes some time, but there is a nice selection to choose from once you’ve progressed through the game. In particular, I enjoyed growing tomatoes and cabbages, mainly because they earn good money; get them fairly large and then you can sell them on to the local shopkeeper in town. The game moves through spring, summer, autumn and winter. During these seasons you can grow a variety of crops and plants that will give you enough money to purchase other items and equipment within the game. It’s handy to buy the fertilizer, because it can help develop better crops, which in return will make happy customers who want to purchase them from your stall.
Walking around the town you’ll find and collect different bugs, which you can then keep in a cage or release. Most of the time, I managed to catch a good selection of grass hoppers and frogs throughout the game, which I made a good profit from. If catching bugs isn’t your favourite pastime within your journey in Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar, you can always opt to try your hand at some fishing, provided you’ve invested in a decent fishing rod. Throughout the town, there are a small number of lakes where you can fish. Selling fish makes a good profit, provided you can catch them in the first place.
So once you’ve sown some seeds, milked your cow and sold some goods to the local residents, you can try out using the windmills. The game has three windmills that become available as you progress in the game and inside each one is special machinery that ferments and pickles products or, in the later stages, grinds and shapes metals. It’s all very dependent on what resources you have and whether you have all the required ingredients to produce them. It’s worthwhile remembering to keep certain goods as they may be useful when making recipes instead of selling them on.
As the seasons turn from spring through to winter, the weather changes the environment a great deal. Some of your crops may become overwatered and wilt, while the dry seasons can turn your pumpkins into dry, ugly crops if you forget to water them. Each day, as you’re out in the fields tending to your crops or selling goods, your stamina is being constantly used up, so it’s good to remember to save and get some rest in your bed. Your calendar provides a series of anniversaries, birthdays and events which you should try and take part in. These may involve giving flowers out to every resident, or seeing who can be the best fisherman in town.
Whilst I’ve enjoyed playing Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar most of the time, after playing Rune Factory 3 with its monsters and adventuring, I did find it very basic. Growing crops and plants is relatively good fun. Through trial and error you can make some terrific vegetables. Watch the seasons come and go, and meet the residents. But I did find the game moved at a much slower pace than I originally anticipated. Conversations seemed very limited to the point where I couldn’t find a reason to chat with the residents and there were only so many crops you could grow before running out of field space and needing a second mortgage to pay for expansion.
If you have never played a Harvest Moon game before and fancy trying your hand at running a successful farm, then I would highly recommend Grand Bazaar as a good starting point. Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar does what it does very well and, as long as the player is not expecting excitement and adventure at every turn, will provide almost an infinite amount of peaceful entertainment.