For years, Mineko’s Night Market had a release date of ‘TBC, coming soon.’ I know this because I’ve been eagerly anticipating its expected release since 2021. However, after so much waiting, the end is finally in sight, as it will be launching on September 26th, 2023 for Nintendo Switch and PC. It’s then getting a console release for PlayStation and Xbox shortly after, on October 26th, 2023.
I’ve been waiting so patiently, so I was thrilled when I had the chance to play the demo during my recent trip to Gamescom, Cologne. It was tucked away in the corner of the ID@Xbox booth, and I couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted it. After a short queue, I was finally playing the game I’d been dreaming about for years!
The demo was relatively short, about 20 minutes, but it was long enough for me to learn a lot about what to expect from the game. So, did it live up to my expectations? Is it a title that should be on your radar? Read on to find out!
An Adorable Setting
A game like this absolutely needs to be cute, and thankfully Mineko’s Night Market delivered on that front. The artwork is adorable, with cozy vibes and vibrant colors abound. The demo throws you straight into your new town, where you’ve recently moved.
You’re immediately introduced to a fun new character, Bobo’s Mum, and the game makes a funny joke about that being her real name, so it’s lucky she ended up having a kid named Bobo.
After the initial introduction, you get to explore the town, where you discover loads of fun NPCs. I love the range of personalities, and you can tell a lot about the townsfolk just from a couple of lines of dialogue.
Most of them have little side quests that they give you, and whilst you can’t complete most of these in the demo, it’s exciting to know that that will be an option. Meeting all the NPCs gives so much character to the town.
My favorite part is all the beautiful artwork. The buildings have a lot of charm, with cute designs and cozy color palettes. There are all kinds of homes and shops, each with a distinct aesthetic.
I can’t wait to discover more locations in the full game. I’m especially excited for the night market, which we don’t see in the demo, but which is sure to be beautiful.
Where Have All the Good Cats Gone?
Even though the demo isn’t particularly long, it does a great job of setting the scene. You’re introduced to a boy named Bobo, who quickly becomes your friend. He’s precocious, definitely the kind of guy who gets himself into mischief… And gets you involved with it too!
Bobo tells you about the intriguing disappearance of all the neighborhood cats. Apparently, there used to be plenty of kitties around, but one by one, they started disappearing. A lot of the townsfolk have turned a blind eye, but Mineko (your character) insists that Bobo reveals all that he knows about the cats.
It turns out that some shadowy agents have been spotted around town lately, and that’s when everything started going weird. Apparently, the cats started disappearing soon after the agents came to town, and of course, that can’t be a coincidence. Bobo takes you to a park on the outskirts of town, which has been the source of a lot of agent activity.
In the park, you find that the agents have indeed been kidnapping the cats! The poor things are trapped in cages, heavily guarded by the agents, and it’s your job to free them. As a cat-lover myself, I love this concept for the story, and I’m excited to see how it develops throughout the game.
Smooth and Enjoyable Gameplay
One thing I always worry about with these kinds of cute games is whether the gameplay will match up to the visuals. Too many times, I’ve been presented with a beautiful-looking game that feels boring and repetitive to play.
Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Mineko’s Night Market. Everything that I experienced in the demo makes me feel optimistic about the full release.
The first thing I noticed is how responsive the movement is. Honestly, I was prepared to give it some leeway on the movement given the 2D graphics in a 3D world, which I thought might prove tricky for them to effectively animate. However, they clearly put a lot of effort into getting it just right, as Mineko consistently moved exactly where I wanted her to.
Movement is one of the most important aspects of a game as far as I’m concerned. After all, it may be basic compared to more exciting mechanics, but it forms the basis of nearly all gameplay. As such, it was a big relief to see how perfectly it’s been implemented here.
I also enjoyed the other aspects of the game (although I’ll be talking about specific mechanics in the next setting). There’s a good balance of exploration, collecting, chatting to NPCs, and undertaking quests. All that was evident just from the demo, so I can’t imagine how awesomely detailed the full game is going to be.
During the demo, the main quest that you undertake involves the kidnapped cats that I mentioned in the previous section. Bobo takes you to the park, where you see a couple of agents blocking the gate, armed with flashlights.
This mission involves stealth, and it reminded me of a game I used to play as a kid called The Classroom, where you had to dodge a teacher’s gaze to cheat on the test. Not only was it a great burst of nostalgia, but it was genuinely exciting to play.
I loved the fact that the mission involved using your brain as well as just stealth. You had to solve puzzles to distract the agents for long enough that you could free the cats. That involved picking up items you found, as well as interacting with objects in the vicinity.
For example, you freed one cat by playing classical music on the radio which made the agents fall asleep. I loved the variety needed to complete the mission, and I can’t wait to see what other fun adventures you get up to in the full release.
Did Someone Say… Crafting?
One thing about me – I love it when a game involves crafting. I really like collecting items in games, so it’s great when I can actually do something with them. Obviously, there are some genres, such as farming sims, where crafting is expected, but with other genres, it’s less common. That’s why I was so excited to find it in Mineko’s Night Market, and I can already tell what a great fit it’ll be for the game.
As you can tell from the title, your character runs a night market. You don’t get to experience that in the demo, but you do get an idea of the types of items you’ll be selling.
Near the start of the game, Bobo’s Mum gives you a workbench to keep in your room at home. You can use this bench to craft products using items that you’ve collected. In the demo, you could only craft various flower bouquets, but I don’t know whether there will be a wider selection in the full game. Either way, it’s excellent, as you can pick different types of flowers that you find in your surroundings.
Even though I knew I couldn’t keep my progress, I still dutifully picked every flower that I saw and was pleased to see that there didn’t seem to be a cap on my inventory.
Another aspect that I feel goes hand in hand with crafting is customization. Although you only have one outfit in the demo, Mineko’s room contains a working wardrobe where you can choose outfits.
This tells me that you’ll be able to find clothes throughout the game, and can customize your appearance. I love her default design, but I’m still really looking forward to changing outfits as I play through the game. I find it helps to keep things interesting, and it allows my personality to shine through.
Question: When is Mineko’s Night Market releasing?
Answer: Mineko’s Night Market is coming to PC (Steam) and Nintendo Switch on September 26th, 2023. It will then be coming to PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/X, and Xbox Series X/S on October 26th, 2023.
Question: Who developed Mineko’s Night Market?
Answer: It was developed by Meowza Games in partnership with Humble Games as their publisher.
Question: When was Mineko’s Night Market first announced?
Answer: It was originally announced in August 2018 and was expected to release in 2021. However, there were delays with the launch of the game, meaning it was pushed back until September 2023.
Of all the amazing demos I played at Gamescom, Mineko’s Night Market is the one that I enjoyed the most. It ticks all the boxes for things I like to see in a game – It’s cute, the visuals are beautiful, the NPCs have distinct personalities, there’s humor, you can craft things, there are side quests, the movement is smooth, you can collect items, etc.
Seriously, from what I saw of the demo, I have zero complaints. I already think that this could be a strong contender for my personal Indie Game of the Year, and that’s saying something given how much I enjoyed Sea of Stars and how excited I am for Paleo Pines.
If you enjoy cute indie adventure games, then this celebration of Japanese culture is definitely one to watch. You won’t have to wait too long either, as its full release is coming to Switch and PC on September 26th, 2023, and then to Xbox and PlayStation a month later.