Today I'll be taking a look at Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale by the Japanese developer EasyGameStation and published in the U.S. by Carpe Fulgur LLC. This game was originally released in 2007, with the English translation coming out on Steam in 2010. This unique title is an oddball mix of anime-styled visual novel elements, a shop management simulator, and a 2-D action dungeon crawler.
Back in the early 1990's, I was playing through Dragon Warrior IV (also known as Dragon Quest IV) on the Nintendo Entertainment System. That game is initially split up into chapters where you play through introductions to the various characters. In the third chapter you play as Taloon, a clerk working at a weapons shop in this fantasy game world.
When you start playing as Taloon you initially get to run the shop. People come in to buy new weapons or sell ones they found. After playing through the previous three games in the series, where you were always the customer at such shops, I really enjoyed this little mini-game of running a shop instead. This is the primary reason I picked up Recettear. I had not run across many other games that explored this idea of being a merchant in a fantasy game world.
The Japanese origins for the game come through in the art.
In Recettear you take up the role of Recette Lemongrass, a young woman (girl?) forced to turn her home into an item shop, after her father decided to take up adventuring and disappears for several months. His debts end up falling to you. The family house is basically mortgaged leaving you with the choice of trying to turn it into a shop, in order to earn enough money to repay the debt, or to be out on the street when the bank repossesses your home (you don't actually get to make a choice in-game).
The game starts off with a sizable amount of backstory being told and an introduction to the basic mechanics of running the shop. With the help of a loan shark fairy, Tear, you are then off to try to earn enough money to get out of debt! The debt repayment is split up over multiple weeks. Right off the bat, you have one week to turn 1,000 pix (the in-game currency) into 10,000!
If only making 10 times your money in a week were this easy in real life...
Each day of the week is broken up into 4 time slots. Within each section of time you can either open up the shop to customers, go into town to buy items from whole sale vendors, potentially find further cut scenes out in town, or go explore a dungeon. During the first week, Tear doles out a good bit of advice on how running a shop works.
The chapel right next to the pub, where it belongs.
Running the shop consists of putting items purchased from other vendors, bought from customers, or found in dungeons on display and then haggling with customers over the price when someone wants to buy something. If you manage to sell an item, you get experience points that can eventually raise your Merchant Level. As your level increases, you unlock new abilities/features such as: customers selling to you, combining items, or taking orders. You can also eventually unlock shop expansions or redesigns.
Trying to price items and haggling with customers is a big part of the game. If you get close to their target price then you will get bonus experience, and may increase how much they like your shop. If you experiment a bit with percentages, you can eventually figure out what people are happy with.
Her smile says, "Overcharge me and I'll murder you".
Then there is almost an entirely different game, where you can make friends with adventurers and go hunt for treasure in dungeons. You control the hired adventurer, while Recette follows along collecting loot into her bag. It takes up a couple of time slots in a game day to go to a dungeon, but it is a good way of stocking up your shop for free. Plus, there's a fair amount of story that you'll miss if you skip over the dungeon portion of the game. However, you can actually ignore this part of the game completely and still complete the main campaign to repay your debt.
Multi-colored slimes are part of a healthy, balanced dungeon.
Your hero friends level up in the more traditional fantasy role-playing game manner - by killing monsters. You can loan, or sometimes randomly sell, them better equipment making dungeon clearing easier. If they are defeated, then you are forced to flee the dungeon and can only keep one of the items that you found.
The dungeon crawling portion is a simple action combat system reminiscent of older console-based action role-playing games. You typically have a basic attack and a special attack that uses SP points. There are various food items that you can use to restore a hero's health or SP points... unless you sell them for profit instead of using them.
Recette, and by extension the game, both have a lot of heart. The game doesn't take itself too seriously. There's a lot of silliness in various conversations throughout the game... Or, throughout the game in general.
There are a couple of things I should note that may be negatives for some players. There is a lot of little snippets of untranslated Japanese voice-overs in rather high-pitched voices. This can either be cute or annoying depending upon your point of view. They can come up a lot in the dungeon crawling, so if you don't care for them, it may get old REALLY fast.
The music is also fairly upbeat. There are a few tracks, but they repeat constantly. So if you do not like the music, you are also going to get sick of it pretty quickly. This can also apply to the art style. If you don't care for Anime-style artwork, then this may not be the game for you.
One thing that I should note is that, after playing through the main campaign, there are additional game modes that unlock. They let you keep playing the game as long as you can keep up with constant debt repayments or allow you to start again carrying over items and money from your last game. This adds longevity to the experience and lets you keep running your shop for as long as you want (or can stay solvent). You can rush through the game by just buying and selling to pay off the debt. But there is a lot of content in the dungeons and random events around town that you will miss if you take this approach.
Never have I felt so accomplished as making my first loan repayment.
Personally, I really enjoy this game. I am likely to check out anything in the realm of a fantasy shop simulator. But this goes well beyond a simple store sim. The dungeon element and silly characters make this a game I highly recommend. I'd give it an "A" or 9.75/10 rating.
Granted, it is not for everyone. If you only like first person shooters, then this may not be the right genre for you. But if you do want to check it out on Steam then it can be found right here.