Sometimes we wonder what the creators of Harvest Moon are thinking. The series started as a beautiful little minority-interest RPG 15 years ago - and that's exactly what it remains today.
If we could send this latest version through a time warp to our 1996 selves, we certainly wouldn't be amazed at its futuristic gameplay innovations. We might wonder how the tiny cart was supposed to fit in a Game Boy, and we'd be disappointed nobody thought to include next week's lottery numbers, but Grand Bazaar is much the same as Harvest Moon was at the beginning.
While the series ploughs its lonely, anachronistic furrow, other games have developed its original concept in ways that really would have seemed futuristic in 1996. We're referring largely to Farmville, of course, the irritating Facebook phenomenon that's so much less charming than Harvest Moon but boasts probably a thousand times as many regular players.
Some of that social interaction stuff is in Grand Bazaar, but not in a serious, game-changing sort of way. You can visit a friend's farm to do a limited subset of the activities avalable in the solo game - namely buying and selling produce.
Elsewhere it seems that this instalment is aimed at a younger audience than some of the previous games in the series, so your farmer has a comparatively easy life. You start with a ready-made farm, complete with palatial farmhouse/mansion, and you can miss entire days of dull crop-tending without compromising your harvest (which is ready extremely quickly anyway).
The bazaar part is new, being a market where you set up every Saturday to sell the stuff you've accumulated during the week. There's no skill to the shopkeeping minigame, but it's more satisfying than just dumping everything in a shipping bin.
Speaking of which, there's a new type of bin to throw your goods into, and you can move it anywhere on your land so it's close to the harvest. Things you place in it are put into indefinite storage. And, er... Your farmer has a semi-auto lock-on hoe now. Never had that before. Oh, and he can jump.
It's cute, it's stress-free, but isn't it time for a change?
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You didn't expect innovation, did you? It's the same Harvest Moon in different clothes, which still makes it a lot better than the average DS game
- Tried and tested gameplay
- Nicely drawn backdrops
- Rudimentary characters animation
- Might be a bit too familiar for some