Mineko’s Night Market is one of the cutest games to come out in 2023. But the reviews are super polarising… What gives?
A little bit of backstory before we get into this review for Mineko’s Night Market. The game was first teased back in 2015. Eventually the 2019 release date came and went and then…
Boom. Finally out in 2022 after we’d all thought it was never going to release.
So in short, I waited 7 years to play it!
What is Mineko’s Night Market About?
You play as a kid, Mineko, who’s just moved to a small Japanese village with her father. Mineko isn’t very happy about the change.
It doesn’t take long for her to start warming up to the other kids in town, though. Especially when there’s mysteries to solve!
This town also has a few fun quirks. First of all, every Saturday residents attend the Night Market (more on that later). Second, the town is also home to the legendary Nikko, a cat god who helps the townsfolk.
Most of what you do in Mineko’s Night Market is gathering resources, crafting, trading with the townspeople or selling items at the Night Market, and rescuing cats,
Gathering starts with picking up flowers and hairballs (yes, from cats) but later expands to include more items.
You have a limited amount of energy for collecting but can use three items a day to replenish hearts. This is important because you can only travel to one area each day.
That means you have to plan ahead and make choices count!
Resources are used in crafting, which is done one at a time with a little mini game. There isn’t much to make at first; you’ll need to unlock more blueprints, supplies, and resource areas to expand your wares.
You’d think based on the title the Night Market would be the biggest part of Mineko’s Night Market’s gameplay, but it really isn’t. The Night Market is only open on Saturday evenings.
Once your booth is set up a set number of customers visit one by one, each with their own tastes. These are broad and I always seemed to make money as long as I had some items, even from the start.
Selling includes a bartering mechanic. To be honest, I rarely paid much attention to it. Sometimes you can get away with asking for more but I didn’t find it worth it to lose the sale.
As you reach certain sales goals the Night Market levels up and will be upgraded the following week.
After you’re done selling you can shop. Here you can buy unique items that can’t be crafted or bought in town.
Tip: Always buy things if you can; these change and might not show up again for awhile!
The market caps off with a rotation of four mini games (one each week) that you can win.
When you enter a new area it needs to be unlocked by freeing cats that are held captive by evil agents!
Sneak by the agents to free the cats and don’t get caught.
This sneaking does break up the gathering-crafting cycle but feels a bit out of place in the game overall.
Can You Pet the Cats?
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Compared to Games Like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley
I’ve seen Mineko’s Night Market compared to Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. Yes, they do have some things in common, but since Mineko’s Night Market is a linear story vs open-ended game it feels very different.
Gathering resources is similar to these games but there’s a much bigger focus on crafting in Mineko’s Night Market. If you like to collect you’ll be happy to know you’ll find three different museum-like buildings in this game for food, fish, and gems.
Unfortunately, Mineko’s Night Market is a much smaller and less fleshed out game compared to other more popular options.
Aesthetic, Music, and Characters
The art and style of Mineko’s Night Market is so good. The characters are absolutely adorable and I found myself going through my inventory to look at the drawings of each item.
Music is a tough one for indie games to get right so you really notice when it shines. While I wish there were more songs (especially during the sneaking parts) the jazzy soundtrack was a nice change from typical video game music.
Most of the story is driven around Mineko making friends, AKA the characters. It’s these friendships that drive the game’s story and eventual ending.
If Mineko’s vibe clicks with you it’s enough to balance other areas that make the game less fun.
Difficulty and Pacing
I’m a fan of challenging games but when I jump into something cozy I just want to relax. Generally speaking, Mineko’s Night Market is not a hard game to play or beat.
The pacing of this game felt strange to me. It started off great but each time I found my groove I’d get held up by something that was inaccessible.
I also had to look things up that should have been explained in the game. Brown dye from an black and red looking urchin is not intuitive!
Mineko’s Night Market struggles at its core mechanic: making work fun. Gathering and crafting do feel satisfying at first but quickly lose their lustre.
I also felt the developer used already tedious mechanics to extend the length of the game.
The majority of what you’ll be doing, especially later into the game, is gathering large quantities of the same resources to progress. Sometimes these include seasonal resources like flowers, which is super frustrating if you hit them in the wrong season like I did.
By the time the end game rolled around I was already over the gathering and sneaking mechanics only to be bombarded with more—just as I thought things were wrapping up.
Pros: A calming aesthetic combined with a mystical storyline and adorable characters who drive the story forward, plus it’s not a hard game to finish.
Cons: The majority of the game is a grind. The Night Market is only a small part of the story and it didn’t live up to the hype.
Mineko’s Night Market is a cute cozy game that was clearly a labour of love from its developers. It captures your heart and has some great little moments throughout the game.
The calming Japanese village aesthetic combined with the mystical storyline with Nikko are what carry this game, although this is often at odds with other design choices.
If you’re going into Mineko’s Night Market expecting a game about crafting and selling items, you’re going to be disappointed.
While it’s super satisfying when the Night Market levels up and the crafting has some unique items, the majority of the game is grinding for resources and sneaking. This isn’t always a bad thing, but can feel like a slough later into the game.
Since it was both poorly fleshed out and artificially extended, Mineko’s Night Market ended up feeling like not enough and too much at the same time.
To avoid frustration I’d recommend new players keep a guide handy while playing. That way you don’t miss any important items or resources early in the game that will prevent progression later.
Although it didn’t live up to the hype for me, I still commend this indie developer for persevering and getting the game out. I really enjoyed the art and I hope they continue to work on other projects in the future.
Overall, I had a good time.
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