I am a Harvest Moon addict.
I have mentioned this before and I will say it again every time I am forced to endure another gruelling day playing and reviewing the sequels to the series.
Oh, woe is me.
At last year's E3, I practically skipped to Natsume's booth upon hearing that they had a giant stuffed cow taller than me. Not to be outdone this year, they had a miniature windmill and a plethora of giant plushie farm animals. All this to say, yes, there is a new Harvest Moon game and I want it.
Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar on the Nintendo DS is (as always) a bright, colourful, vibrant farming sim game. The player can create a male or female character and set out to make their ranch the best in the neighbourhood. This version is located in Zephyr, a windy town that features an open market, and the usual assortment of rivals, other farms, shops and characters. As a rancher, your character can raise animals, plant and harvest crops, go fishing, chop trees, make friends, get married, have children...just about everything you would in real life, but without the work or waiting.
In past iterations of the franchise, the player would drop items they wanted to sell into a shipping box, where the local shipper would sell the items and the player would receive the money upon waking the next morning. This time, Mayor Felix wants Zephyr's dying bazaar to thrive once more and he sets a weekly financial goal for the inhabitants of the town (i.e. you). Instead of dropping your items into a shipping box, you bring them to the once-a-week market and sell your wares. At the market, you can also buy rare and hard to find items and even get things gift wrapped. Of course, as you improve in the game, the bazaar prospers as well, with new vendors and even more rare items.
Because Zephyr is such a windy little town, the use of windmills is very effective for creating power. They allow the player to ferment wine, tofu, yogurt and other food items like sangria. You can also mill seeds and grains, make items and jewellery and upgrade your tools. I'm not sure if the windmills are available immediately when the game is started, but I imagine they must be unlocked.
Fans of the franchise will remember the greenhouse of Harvest Moon 64. The fragile, often-destroyed-by-hurricane structure enabled the player to grow crops year round. Grand Bazaar has a house upgrade that allows you to grow crops in the basement out of season, using specific types of stones, similar to the sun stones of Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands.
My favourite thing of this newest release is probably the movement. Fans have been waiting for 14 years to be able to walk diagonally and jump and finally, our prayers are answered. No more grid-based movement. Rejoice.
The game is expected to be released July 27 on the Nintendo DS.