A breezy and cozy game that struggles with performance issues.
For many people who enjoy games on the cozy side, Mineko’s Night Market has been on their radar for years - myself included. Ever since I caught a glimpse of the game at the Nintendo “Nindies” stream in 2018, I have had this game in the back of my head as one of my most anticipated games. Now, after several years of development, Mineko’s Night Market is finally coming out and I had one question in mind - is it worth the wait?
Mineko’s Night Market centers around a young girl named Mineko, who moves to an island with her father. The island and house they reside in have seen better days, and quickly Mineko takes on the task of revitalizing her home and town, especially through the Night Market, a weekly event on Saturday that at one point was a highlight but now is rundown and sparsely attended. There are also many secrets on this island, including agents from some outside entity capturing cats, and a large mythical cat named Nikko that is seen as just a legend to most but some children swear it’s real.
The aesthetic of Mineko’s Night Market is what drew me in at first. The art style is beautiful, with a warm palette that feels appropriate to play this autumn. Every element of the game looks like a picture book painted with gouache, and it is very appropriate to the focus on folklore. Everything is charming and intentional with the art style, and I just wanted to see more. I also ended up loving the music, which matches the environment perfectly. The music for the Night Market is upbeat and quirky, while the day to day music is calm and relaxing. Every aspect of the presentation seems like it was done with a lot of care, and I love spending time in this world.
The gameplay is a life simulation where each week is set up preparing for the Saturday Night Market. Throughout the week you collect materials, do quests for people, and unlock new areas and items so that you can craft things to sell at the Night Market. Once the Night Market comes you present several items and haggle with villagers as they check your wares. Once you are done you can explore the Night Market, which upgrades through multiple levels after you reach various sales milestones. The Night Market has always been a highlight of my playthrough, as I love seeing it expand and grow as a result of my labor. There are also some small puzzle and stealth sections, usually as a part of opening up new areas to explore, but the bulk of the game is in collecting materials, crafting items, and selling them.
The crafting is especially fun, as the system is focused on actual arts and crafts as the base. You start with a workbench that allows for flower arranging but you can buy more workbenches for things like papercraft, sewing, and woodwork as you progress. You also collect recipes for crafting by completing side quests and fishing them up, so it’s fun to unlock more quests. The actual action of crafting is usually a timing-based minigame, though each craft works differently. Since so much of Mineko’s Night Market is focused on upgrading the town, crafting fits in nicely as a mechanic. While I love a good farming game, I hope Mineko’s Night Market and its crafting mechanic shows people that there can be creativity in the mechanics of cozy, non-violent games!
The downside of my time so far with Mineko’s Night Market is that, unfortunately, performance on the Switch has been frustrating. While performance issues rarely impact gameplay, they are present on an almost constant basis. Load times are long and frequent, which make progress frustrating. Entering a shop or home, for example, might take over ten seconds. This might not sound like much, but this happens every time you enter or leave a building. Traveling home after collecting materials regularly takes about 25-30 seconds. Certain crafts (like sewing and art) might have a delay of 20 seconds after finishing the item before doing anything else. All of this adds up to a lot of time waiting for things to load. There are also some visual glitches, such as items loading later as you run through the town or shadows appearing as large blocks while in a cave. These don’t affect how you play, but they do make progressing through the game much more tedious than one that's do thoroughly pleasant deserves. It's possible that the performance issues are limited to the Switch hardware, but it’s frustrating when so much of Mineko’s Night Market feels geared towards being played on this platform. It’s hard not to be disappointed that the game was launched in this kind of a state when it’s been delayed for four to five years.
I also wish that there was a bit more for dialogue with the townspeople. Each sidequest involves fetching items for each person in the town, based off their own wants and desires. But beyond that there’s no real dialogue with anyone. I noticed this with Mineko’s father, as well, where he has a couple canned responses but nothing much of substance once you finish all your tasks for the house. There’s some good characterization in cutscenes and main story beats, but I wish there was more to these people than just being vessels for quests.
The biggest endorsement of Mineko’s Night Market I can give is that despite the issues I have with it so far, I really do want to spend more time with this game. I am very invested with the ongoing story; I love spending time in this world. I adore so many elements of this game, and I really hope that a future patch can address some of the technical issues with it. At its core, Mineko’s Night Market is an endearing life sim that deserves attention, but for the moment, technical issues make it difficult to fully endorse this game on Switch.
This is a review-in-progress due to some technical errors that were fixed prior to launch. At this point I believe I’m about halfway through the story and wanted to fully progress through the story before making my final, scored review.