Mineko’s Night Market is a game that’s been on my radar for years now, so I was so excited to finally have the chance to play it. Having given the demo a go at Gamescom 2023, it had only increased my anticipation for the full release, and I’m delighted to now be able to give my full thoughts on the game.
I’m a huge sucker for cozy games, and Mineko’s Night Market immediately grabbed my attention as it has so many of my favorite gaming elements – crafting, collecting, cute graphics, and of course, cats. You play as a young girl called Mineko who has moved to a new village with her father. The game is steeped in Japanese culture, from the outfits to the foods, whilst still being relatable to those from other countries.
Although I had high hopes for this, I’ll admit that the game is certainly not without flaws, and I’ll be addressing those throughout this review. Nevertheless, there are also a whole lot of positives about this title, so without further ado, let’s get into it!
Mineko Saves the Day!
I didn’t know how much story to expect with Mineko’s Night Market, but it’s actually pretty decent. It’s not overly complex, but it’s clear and consistent and perfectly fits the vibe of the game. The initial cutscene sets the background for the lore, starting with Mineko reading a story whilst driving to her new home.
The story tells of a father and daughter who one day discover a giant cat in a sakura flower floating down the river. The cat causes their farm to magically flourish, which makes the other farmers jealous. They chase away the giant cat and permanently banish him.
Without delving into the realm of spoilers, that story becomes very relevant to the premise of the game. When she arrives in the village, Mineko meets a precocious young boy named Bobo, who is obsessed with discovering someone named Nikko.
Nikko is a Yokai (Japanese cryptozoology, such as their equivalent of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster), and Bobo is convinced that he’s real and in their vicinity.
He enlists Mineko’s help, and together, they investigate. I adore Bobo as a character; he has no filter and just says what he thinks, but he does so in an endearing way rather than a rude way. There are several great NPCs, but he’s definitely my favorite.
However, they’re not the only ones poking their noses about. Some mysterious agents have moved into the area and are blocking off large swathes of the map.
As you progress through the game, you discover new areas and have to rid them of agents. The way you do this is by rescuing the cats that the agents have kidnapped, and once you do this, cats will permanently return to the area.
You go through the game, freeing cats and progressing the story, discovering more about your local villagers as you go. I really loved the simplicity of the story; it was fun to get my teeth into without becoming overwhelmed by detail.
The NPCs add so much charm to the game, and even though there’s a lot more to the game than just the story, I think it’s a vital part of what makes Mineko’s Night Market so enjoyable.
If any of you are familiar with the Indie Game Culture Podcast, you’ll know that one key thing I look for in indie games is whether or not there’s anything for me to collect. Well, Mineko’s Night Market delivers on this front, and then some.
Pretty much everywhere you go, there’s something you can collect, and the way that the currency and progression systems work means that you’ll be set for ages.
Your village has 4 different museums, all dedicated to a different subset of collectibles. There’s one each for flowers, fish, food, and gems.
The flower museum is slow to fill up as the flowers are seasonal, and with the limited access to areas at the start of the game, you can’t find a lot of the different types. Fish are also seasonal, but there’s a wider pool of them initially (pun intended).
With gems, you start finding them several hours into the game, but they’re not common, so it’s exciting when you discover a new one. And finally, food is the toughest of all. You need to buy items from the Night Market, which are not only expensive but vary each week, and you need to unlock new stalls throughout the game.
There are also lots of other resources for you to gather for help in crafting, as well as various key items necessary for progressing the story. All that’s to say, you’re never going to be stuck for collectibles.
There’s always going to be new flowers for you to pick, new fish to discover, new gems to mine, new foods to buy, new resources to harvest, etc. This game’s got you covered. They even have their own blind box collectibles called Boximals!
Let’s Get Crafty
An awesome feature in any game, the ability to craft is one of the things that drew me to Mineko’s Night Market in the first place. In the game, you can craft several different items which you can then display on your stall at the Night Market.
You can also sell excess stock to the shop for a lower price if you need of money. It’s really fun creating my own crafty items, and I love the range of crafts available.
There are 6 different types of crafting in Mineko’s Night Market, each requiring its own separate bench. These are:
You can buy these from the craft store, which is owned by Bobo’s Mom (her genuine legal name, it’s hilarious). At first, you only have access to the Flower Work Bench, but you unlock the others as you progress.
However, to actually create stuff, you need recipes. These can be received at random by completing side quests for NPCs, or by fishing up bottles. You’re not limited to recipes for workbenches you already own, so you may well get recipes you can’t yet craft.
It was really exciting getting recipes, and whilst there are plenty, there simply aren’t enough to sustain you long-term. I haven’t even bought the last 3 benches yet, but I already have all the recipes.
This means that when I complete a side quest, I just get food items, which aren’t worth the cost of the items I’m giving to the NPCs in the first place. Even worse, when I fish up a bottle, it’s just empty junk.
One pretty cool thing is that each workbench has its own minigame to create an item. They rely on reflexes and precision, which was fun for me as I have great reaction times.
However, I think this could be an accessibility issue for slower players or children. At some points, you can’t progress without creating specific items, and I do think certain subsets of gamers would struggle with this.
Another downside is that you can only craft one item at a time. I don’t mind redoing the minigame each time, but I wish you could queue crafting requests.
Every time you make an item, you’re taken out of the crafting menu, and have to reselect the workbenches, then the item. It’s a slow process which gets annoying if I’m trying to make multiples of the same item. I’ve also had issues with severe freezing when trying to use the Sewing Work Bench.
Come One, Come All… To the Night Market!
The best part of this game, by far, is the Night Market, so the title is very apt. I really love it; I get so excited each week, just waiting for it to be Saturday again so I can peddle my wares and explore the curiosities on offer there. I think the fact that it only happens once a week helps to keep it fresh and exciting; the developers made a great choice by making it feel so exclusive.
You can attend the Night Market by walking through the entrance once you’ve done everything else that you want to do that day. As long as you don’t go to sleep before going, then you can’t miss it, which is excellent. It means you still get to have a full day of gameplay before committing to the festivities.
The Night Market is the best way to make money, as you can sell your items at a considerably higher price than usual. When you get to your stall, you can choose which products to lay out and then call customers when you’re ready. For each one, they’ll tell you what you want, and then you choose a price on a scale of cheap to expensive.
You can try to push your luck and get more money, or offer it at a lower price to ensure the sale. You get a finite number of customers each week, so you have to be smart about striking a balance.
Once you’re done selling, you can look around the other booths. Initially, it’s pretty limited, but the Night Market grows as its popularity increases, so after a few weeks, there are loads of things to choose from. You can purchase rare foods that can’t be found anywhere else, as well as find specific items that NPCs are looking for.
You can even buy resources for yourself. As well as stalls, there are games such as Ring Toss or Octopull where you can try to win prizes.
Each Night Market has its own theme and an associated event. Taking part in the events is really fun, as it offers a different minigame experience each week. My favorite is the flower hunt, but the race is fun too.
The parade is a bit boring, but they can’t all be winners, I guess. I think the events were a really clever way to make the Night Market even more exciting, and I applaud the developers for including it.
You Can’t Handle the Cute!
I couldn’t do a review of Mineko’s Night Market without pointing out just how adorable the graphics are. The illustrations are truly stunning, with gorgeous hand-drawn art everywhere you look.
The color palette is vibrant without being overwhelming; there’s just the right amount of saturation. The designs really pop on screen, and you can tell that their artists really understood color theory.
I really enjoy how each area has its own unique aesthetic. The Gardens are light and beautiful, with bursts of color and an open environment. In contrast, the Dark Forest is gloomy and shadowy, with gnarled tree trunks and no flowers whatsoever.
It makes it more interesting to visit the different areas, as you can really tell the difference as you’re exploring.
The NPC designs are super cute as well. They’re easily recognizable, which makes it convenient when I’m looking for a specific character to talk to.
The designs also reflect their personalities, and you can tell a lot about the characters by the way they’re dressed. Speaking of, you’re able to customize your own look by earning or buying new outfits for Mineko to pick out from her wardrobe. The default one is my favorite, though.
Whilst the graphics are undeniably delightful, the audio deserves a shout-out too. Just like with the art, the music for each area perfectly captures the vibe, creating unique soundscapes for an immersive experience. It’s also reminiscent of Japanese folk music and stays true to the cultural aspects of the game.
The music isn’t the only great thing about the audio, either. Whilst, sadly, there’s no spoken dialogue, we do still get great sound effects at each stage of the game.
In fact, the night-time ambient noises are so realistic that I genuinely couldn’t tell if they were coming from the Nintendo Switch or outside my room… I had to turn the volume down to check! Games rarely have sounds that are so spot on that I doubt my own hearing, so huge kudos to their sound designers.
There are so many other things I want to discuss that don’t really fit in the other subheadings; seriously, you should see my list of notes that I made while playing! I’ve decided to do a quick-fire round right here so I can cover a few of the other topics that crossed my mind for this review.
You have a journal that supposedly tracks various elements of your progress, but it’s underwhelming in terms of function. You can see all the people in the village as well as their friendship levels.
However, you can’t see any extra information about them, including what their side quests are. That means you just have to remember what each one of them needs.
I can fully appreciate that they don’t want to give you unlimited energy, as otherwise, there’d be no incentive to end the day. However, the starting amount is way too low, and you also don’t get the opportunity to increase it often enough.
You start out with only one heart, and believe me, that depletes ridiculously fast. I’m over 15 hours in, and I still only have 2 hearts, which severely limits what I can do in a day. You can eat food/ drink to replenish your energy, but you can only eat 3 times each day, so even then, you’re still limited, which is frustrating.
There’s a subtle message of environmentalism throughout Mineko’s Night Market, which is refreshing to see. It’s not overly preachy, nor is it depressing; it simply reminds players of our communal obligation to respect nature and to take care of our planet.
The default walking speed is too slow for my liking, so I run everywhere instead. That would be fine were it not for the fact I have to constantly hold down the run button. They should’ve either made the walking speed less unbearably slow or enabled a toggle mode for running rather than having to hold the button all the time.
I really like the main story missions where you have to liberate all the captured cats. It makes me feel like a spy, which is a feeling I crave in every aspect of my life.
I always wanted to be a spy as a kid and never really grew out of that, so I love living vicariously through games. Plus, rescuing cats is as admirable a cause as any. The balance of stealth and puzzles in these missions was expertly done.
If you like the sound of Mineko’s Night Market but it’s not quite right, then maybe one of these other games would be worth checking out.
The OG, whenever you have a cute game with collecting and crafting, your mind goes here. With NPCs galore and a wealth of customization opportunities, Animal Crossing games give you a delightfully cozy experience.
Campfire Cat Cafe
It feels kind of dirty putting a mobile game here, but I can’t lie; the vibes are so similar that I can’t help but include it. While the gameplay is very different (you run a cafe and have to serve customers, create confectionary, and buy upgrades), there’s also plenty in common.
They both focus on cats, they’re both based around Japanese culture, and they both have beautiful 2D graphics in a 3D world.
If the adventure and collecting aspects appeal to you, but you don’t fancy something as overtly cute, then this could be a great alternative. There are quests galore; there’s great humor, and plenty of opportunities for exploration.
Verdict – 8/10
I play a lot of games to review, and most of the time, they fall somewhere between ‘pretty good’ and ‘just okay’, rarely making it to the realm of ‘great’.
A lot of the time, I’ll play something to write my review notes, and then never return to it again. This won’t be the case here; in fact, right now, I’m literally thinking about how I can play Mineko’s Night Market again as soon as I finish writing. I’m antsy to finish this review so I can play more of it!
Although the glitches were frustrating and did somewhat slow down my gameplay, they weren’t enough to diminish the enjoyment that I got from playing.
I loved discovering new areas and banishing the agents that plagued them. The story intrigued and delighted me, as did the adorable personalities of the NPCs, particularly Bobo. I loved collecting and crafting new items, and every in-game week made me feel so excited for the Night Market on Saturdays. It was so cool how they each had different themes.
Overall, this was easily one of the best games I’ve played in 2023, and will almost certainly be in my top 5 personal picks for Indie Game of the Year. I just really hope the developers can patch out the lag issues, as those are the only major flaws in an otherwise really decent game.
Pros and Cons
- Unlimited inventory – I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see that I could collect as much as I like without the game preventing me from picking up more items.
- Adorable setting – Between the lovable NPCs, the gorgeous graphics, and the intriguing Japanese cultural elements, I loved my time spent in this game.
- Accessible for all ages – The story is fun enough to hold attention for older audiences, without being so complicated that it would exclude younger players.
- Very glitchy – I’m hoping they’ll patch this out. It was constantly freezing, the cutscenes were lagging, and the loading screens took forever with the music glitching and cutting in and out.
- Energy too limited – I like the idea of earning more energy as you progress, but it starts too low. You’re even limited by how much food/ drink you can have each day to replenish your energy.
- You can’t track NPC quests – The NPCs give you side quests to increase friendship, but there’s no way for you to track those quests without just remembering them or constantly asking the NPC.
Question: Which consoles is Mineko’s Night Market on?
Answer: Mineko’s Night Market can be played on PC and Nintendo Switch from September 26th 2023, and then on Xbox and PlayStation consoles from October 26th 2023.
Question: What genre is Mineko’s Night Market?
Answer: Mineko’s Night Market is a narrative-driven indie adventure RPG with collection and crafting elements.
Question: Where is Mineko’s Night Market set?
Answer: Mineko’s Night Market is set in Japan, specifically in a fictional village near the base of Mt Fugu (presumably based on Mt Fuji).
Melika played Mineko’s Night Market for 16+ hours over 4 days and fully intends to continue playing this game well into the future.