Review – Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale
Developer: EasyGameStation
Publisher: Carpe Fulgur
Platform: PC
Genre: Strategy RPG
Release Date: Out Now

Don’t bother trying to pronounce the title of this game, nobody really knows how. Recettear was originally a japan-exclusive indie game but localization company Carpe Fulgur took it upon themselves to translate the game and release it to the west. The game was released in Japan at the end of 2007 so we’re quite late in receiving it. It’s debatable if this can be looked at as a mile stone but it’s worth mentioning that Recettear is the first indie japanese game to be distributed via Steam. Hopefully it opens up a path for more games to follow. Hit the jump for the review.

Recettear is a rather odd game for those not familiar with how glorious nippon works. You take control of a young girl named Recette who has been forced to pay her father’s debt. With the assistance of a fairy by the name of Tear, Recette opens up her own item shop to bring in enough money. Simple plot, stupidly addicting gameplay. This is where most people will turn their heads away. Not everybody likes the idea of having to play as a young girl in their video games. Only in Japan I suppose.

The game is actually split up into two different kinds of gameplay. Throughout most of your game time, you’ll be buying and selling items in your store. This is the strategy section of the game. When you’re not raking in the cash, you’ll be exploring dungeons, hunting for new items and ingredients. For now, we’ll focus on the strategy.

On each day you have a choice of things to do, mainly opening your store or going out to buy stock. Each choice takes up 1/4th of your day. At the end of each week, you have to pay off part of the debt so you don’t have time to waste. When you decide to open your store, customers will come flooding in. If someone decides to purchase an item, you can choose to sell over the recommended price. Customers won’t like it if your price is too high, but you can haggle with them to still make a profit. As you advance through the game, you’ll be given more tasking ways of selling, such as taking in orders and requests. Customers may also come  to you with items they want to sell, which is a good way to gain stock without leaving the store. Be careful what you accept though, it may not sell as well as you’d think.

As you buy and sell from within your store, you are awarded experience points based on how much you charge and offer. As you level up, you gain access to new items, bigger storage spaces, the ability to customise your store and shop upgrades. I wonder if Animal Crossing’s Tom Nook goes through the same thing? As I mentioned, you need to visit other stores in order to purchase stock. You can buy a number of products here, such as weapons, hats, clothing and food. If you obtain the right items, you can fuse materials together to create even more valuable items which can be sold for a pretty big profit. There are plenty of ways to rake in the money, but how you go about it is all up to you!

Now, onto the dungeons. For a small fee, you can hire an adventurer, complete with their own set of special moves, to escort you through dungeons and collect valuables. Entering a dungeon takes up half of your day, so be sure to leave plenty of time. As you keep playing, you’ll unlock more dungeons and meet several other adventurers to help you out. The gameplay in dungeons is very similar to the Mystery Dungeon games, minus the annoying hunger system. Each dungeon is randomized every time you enter, as well as the contents of treasure chests. The goal of each floor is to find the warp panel to advance through the dungeon. Along the way you’ll be put into combat with several types of foes, such as slimes (not of Dragon Quest variety), mushrooms and knights. You gain experience for your adventurer as you defeat enemies, as well as a chance for items to be dropped. The higher the level of the adventurer, the more expensive it is to hire them.

There are several treasure chests scattered on every floor, but not all of them will give you items. Some chests will spring traps, calling forth enemies, inflicting status effects on you or making the dungeon more difficult to navigate. It doesn’t stop there with traps. Some sections will automatically activate a trap which can actually be used to your advantage. If you walk into the trap with enemies nearby, they will be caught in the impact. Area traps are most commonly falling rocks or … flying salmon. Yes, you are attacked by flying fish. Game of the Year? To some people that’s enough.

In most of the dungeons, you’ll face a boss every 5 floors. I’m actually quite impressed as the bosses actually take a bit of strategy to defeat, instead of  just hammering the attack button on their weak spot. Upon clearing the boss floor, you are given the choice to return to town or continue through the dungeon, depending on how far down you are. There is a limit to how much you can carry so it’s always safer to return to town.

Recettear isn’t a difficult game, unless you make it so. It’s user-friendly to those relatively new to strategy games and can be forgiving at times. If you fail to meet the weekly goal and get the heart breaking bad end, you can start all over again with all your stock and level upgrades. The more you play, the easier it becomes. Upon clearing the game, you are given new game modes to further expand your playtime. You can play new game+, which is essentially the same as getting game over, or you can continue your save file which starts endless mode. Endless mode is exactly what it says. You can continue to buy and sell in your item shop without a debt to pay. Think of it as a fun time waster.

If you’re still after a challenge, then survival mode is for you. In this mode, you are constantly working towards paying off an increasing debt until it overwhelms you. There are two types of survival modes for you to play, drastically altering the difficulty. Normal survival allows you to play with all your stock and level upgrades, where as in survival hell, you start  from scratch. It’s impressive to see a game going out its way to tailor to those in need of a challenge. You can’t say games are getting easier anymore!

The visual style of Recettear is, as you can expect, bright and charming. The art style doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it helps set the atmosphere for the game. The in-game graphics make use of sprites, so it gives the game a bit of a retro feel to it. Your dungeon locations are the same as any other RPG. Forests, castles, caves, the usual deal. Regardless, it’s still very nice to look at. Recettear actually features voice acting, but not fully. Small phrases and words are voiced, but outside of that it’s all text. Voices are in japanese, as you would expect, so that might be a negative for some people. The soundtrack isn’t anything memorable, but it does add to the game. I guess that’s a good thing though. There’s nothing worse than a catchy BGM being stuck in your head for days on end.

I must say, I really enjoyed my experience with Recettear. I’m not a big fan of strategy games but I had so much fun with this game. Don’t let the visual style put you off, Recettear is a fantastic experience and a fine example of how addicting japanese games can be. Why it’s more addicting than American or European made games I don’t know. One of the many mysteries of the world I suppose. Should you buy it? Yes. Yes you should. Now, I’m off to go make stupid amounts of profit in my virtual store. Capitalism, Ho!

Final Score – 9/10

Look beyond the cutesy art style and you have a stupidly addicting game that keeps you busy hours after finishing the main story. One of the finest indie games released this year … despite being 3 years old.


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