Steam sales, Steam sales, lovely lovely Steam sales! Yes, there were many an interesting title on sale, and I decided that the quirky title about running an item shop in a JRPG asking for five of my dollars and about 17 hours of my time. Was it worth it though? Short answer, undoubtedly, but… I feel like I did this opening recently. Either way, On with the actual review.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale Review
Release Date: 10/9/2010
Platforms: PC (Steam/GamersGate/Impulse)
Publisher: Carpe Fulgur
Rig: AMD FX-8320, 8GB of RAM, Radeon HD 7770, Windows 7 64-bit
Recettear is the tale of a girl of an undescribed age named Recette, who one day is approached by a fairy named Tear. A seemingly whimsical, except for how this universe’s interpretation of fairies has them as accountants mixed with loan sharks, and Recette’s father had several unpaid debts. And seeing as how the man is nowhere to be found, Recette is tasked with obtaining a little under a million “Pix” or her home will be taken from her, and she’ll be forced to live in a box. And the most profitable way to pay debts is apparently to take advantage of Capitalism and become a shop owner.
In terms of an overarching narrative, Recette is fairly vanilla. The main character is surprisingly good at their job, the leering figure turns out to not want to depart, and there are several other characters thrown in either as rivals, or allies in the mighty quest for money and freedom. Yet, what makes the game feel like something special is a bit hard to place my finger on. Something about how the Recette is a delightful ball of mildly dim joy placed in a situation that is rather stressful as it determines the remainder of her life. Along the very simplistic, but never wholly generic cast of characters create a very quaint little world.
Aside from being one of the few titles that manage to properly invoke that Animal Crossing-esc feeling of responsibility driven mellowness, Recettear is a simulation game at end of the day. Which may sound dirty, despite how stuff like Euro Truck Simulator 2, Surgeon Simulator 2013, and even Farming Simulator 2013 have all done well considering how niche they are, but Recettear is also a very simple simulation game. You’re a shopkeeper, so you buy and sell a randomly selected assortment of times, trying to figure out the best price to charge for them in order to maximize profit and minimize losses.
Or in other words, place out your most varied and expensive, but reasonable given your progress through the five weeks of debt, wares and try to gauge how much a specific character or character type will pay above the base price. Guessing where in the range of 120-135% the customer will pay, assuming the good has been increased in value or devalued due to market fluctuations given out by brief announcements. Which are more or less instructions to stock up on the discounted stuff or sell everything you can get away with for selling at 250% of the base price during demand spikes. In addition to shopping for your own wholesale goods to sell back, or going off into a dungeon and getting them yourself.
When not going through the remarkably addictive guessing game of haggling, and getting experience so you can finally add a vending machine or get a shop renovation. You have the option to spend half of your day hiring an Adventurer to go through some randomly generated dungeons. Of which I encountered five, all of whom have their own unique abilities and equipment that you can lend them. Which you will certainly need, because the mix of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon and a poor man’s 2D Zelda is not afraid to thrown in oodles of baddies and a very limited space for inventory, nearly all of which vanishes if the Adventurer happens to fall in combat.
A notion that was more than a bit common for me, due to how the characters seem to slide through the floors, and right into enemies, at least unless you try to hit them at a bit of an angle, with whatever weapon the Adventurer has. Climbing your way through hoping for the replenishing level up and a door so that you can leave with your spoils and fuse some goodies. Although, I did have trouble with one specific character, a mage who was very clearly built for the special attacks I seldom found use for, because the basic attack takes a good half a second to hit, and only what is right in front of him. Which more or less undermines any claim that “Once you figure him out he is SO powerful.” Seeing as how I never really needed power throughout the three dungeons I traversed.
Not that dungeon spelunking is not fun, it is a very welcome difference to go with the otherwise straightforward simulation gameplay. Which certainly keeps everything together until the credits began to roll, but as they ended, so did my time with the game, not that it didn’t try and do everything to give itself one of the best New Game+ systems I’ve ever seen. The kind that makes a week of planned playtime into a month.
Where the game throws survival modes, and endless continuation of the campaign, and the ability to restart with all of your previously gained inventory and Adventurers. Though, the latter is apparently also what happens when you fail to meet your debts in the vanilla playthrough. Yet with 37 levels unearned, 73% of the item compendium empty, and no Adventurer even close to their full potential, I knew it would lead down a path that would multiply my playtime of 17 hours fourfold.
A feat rather impressive for a development team that could fit in a taxi, which is fairly evident when looking at it. Not that it looks bad by any means, having a series of well drawn anime characters and cute sprites to represent items, it actually does look cute. Yet, especially when looking at the Donkey Kong Country-esc sprites for the enemies and very distinct looking sprites for all other characters. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this was originally a PSP game that was given just enough of a graphic kick for a PC release so that you don’t see the character portrait’s pixels unless you look very hard.
Recettear is a rather delightful stroll through what might be one of the hardest premises anyone would have to sell, but it is more fun than it should be at the same time. It might seem or might very well become monotonous, but there is enough variation, tension, and general cheeriness to be something that I wholeheartedly recommend. It’s one of the few games that I wanted to go back and while just writing about it, which is the best thing I could probably say about this, or really any game.
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.