The cosy games that are all the rage at the moment are possibly approaching critical mass. You either like them or find them boring, and that’s not to say there aren’t farming games and life sims that can spark enjoyment, but often they need to do something special to keep my attention. I was immediately intrigued by the rural Japanese vibes of Mineko’s Night Market, so decided to take a risk and give shop keeping a go.
The game starts with our adorable protagonist Mineko arriving with her dad to her new home in the country. Life here certainly seems slower than city living, but there are plenty of charming locals and handy shops ready to welcome the new family to the community. It doesn’t take long for Mineko to make a friend who is convinced that the local legend of a giant farming cat is true, and Mineko is dragged along to investigate an area that is guarded by suit wearing guards. There’s certainly something fishy going on in the sleepy village, but to discover more you’ll need to get some money to buy some new tools.
“How do you make money in a tiny village?”, I hear you ask. Well, you open up a stall at the night market that runs every Saturday of course. Mineko is great at crafts, so stocking a stall full of bouquets and paper decorations should be easy for her. You can’t make appealing stock without raw materials though, so gathering the bits and bobs you need to create something worth selling is what you’ll do on the other days of the week.
This is where it quickly becomes apparent that Mineko’s Night Market is going to involve a lot of busywork. You start the game with two crafting recipes for floral decorations, which require two different types of flower to make. This means that every day you’ll need to wander around the village and pick up flowers until you have enough to craft the stock you seek, and it gets tedious really quickly.
It makes sense though I suppose, gathering flowers for your crafting has to be part of this gameplay loop. What doesn’t need to be a part of it though is your miserably small stamina meter. Unless you bring some expensive food with you (which really isn’t worth the cash) or have reached a point in the game where your meter has been upgraded, you’ll only be able to pluck about fifteen flowers from the earth before Mineko runs out of energy to gather any more. It makes an already fairly simple activity even more frustrating, and when you start gathering paper and stone you’ll have similar issues.
Whether you’ve had fun doing it or not, you’ve now got your raw materials and are ready to do some crafting. Making items in Mineko’s Night Market is simple but engaging enough, with different minigames to partake in to make the perfect stock for your store. Early on this means timing a button press to cut flowers to the right length, but this changes to folding when making paper products and so on. Doing well in these minigames will mean you produce better items, and can sell them for more at the market.
It’s always exciting when Saturday comes around and you can start selling your wares. After selecting which items you think will sell well, different villagers appear at the stall and will start trying to haggle for a good deal. By giving them a nudge in the right direction you’ll usually earn a bit more money, and before you know it the time for selling is over. Before the market ends though, there’s an event you’ll get to compete in with the other kids which is a nice change of pace.
The events change every Saturday, and are usually based on some sort of village tradition. Whether you’re racing around a track, putting on a play, or collecting flowers as fast as possible, these little events give you something different to look forward to in an otherwise pretty repetitive experience. There’s even a trophy up for grabs in each event, which will be proudly displayed in your room if you do a good enough job.
After making a nice wedge of cash at the market, you should hopefully have the funds to buy some new equipment. New crafting tables will enable you to make new types of products (if you have the recipes), and tools will enable you to gather new things. It can take a few weeks to get the moolah for the axe you require, but once you have it you’ll be able to start harvesting paper and will have an excuse to go somewhere new.
Perhaps the weirdest parts of Mineko’s Night Market are the sections where you have to sneak around a new place that’s teaming with guards. With a little help from your friend you’ll be tasked with freeing all the caged cats in any newly opened area, while staying out of the sight of the mysterious agents. To say it was a surprise to find stealth sections in this cosy crafting game would be an understatement, but I was happy for anything to break up the monotony of gathering.
Once you’ve started exploring a bit more, you’ll start getting requests from the villagers to work towards as part of your crafty life. Usually these just involve buying them something from a shop or at the night market for them, and as a reward for completing these requests you’ll be given a new crafting recipe. This would be a cause for celebration if the recipes you were given ever involved items you knew how to obtain, but the rewards I received almost always felt like I’d been given a random late game recipe that I had no real use for yet.
Although I didn’t have the greatest time playing Mineko’s Night Market, it certainly isn’t without its charm. The visuals are absolutely gorgeous, and fit the playful and relaxed vibe of the game perfectly. The writing is great too, and there are plenty of endearing and often amusing characters to interact with.
Mineko’s Night Market has a lovely vibe, which unfortunately just isn’t matched by its gameplay. The night market itself is a great part of the game though, that unfortunately is only around for one day a week. If you really want a cosy game to play and don’t mind a bit of mindless gathering you might have a better time than me, but don’t go in expecting any thrills or spills.
The night market itself is great
Gathering materials is tedious
The stamina meter is too strict
New recipes are rarely immediately useful
Money is so scarce