Have you ever wondered why the item shop owner of your favorite JRPG does not quit his or her life as a vendor and go off adventuring like the main character of the game? In Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, a PC game by the Japanese developer EasyGameStation, answers this question: being an item shop owner is an adventure in itself. This 2007 game was finally translated and released on steam by game company Carpe Fulgir and is possibly one of the most interesting games about economics you will ever play.
Recettear’s storyline involves a girl named Recette Lemongrass who has suddenly found herself in a massive debt after her father runs away to become an adventurer. Thankfully, in the small town of Pensee her loan-fairy-shark is kindly enough to allow her to pay off this massive debt in installments even resetting to day 2 with all your progress, other than debt progress, if you fail. Recette must turn her house into an item shop and struggle week to week to pay the bills. Along the way she will encounter a cast of quirky and interesting characters. These eight adventurers -which mostly play on anime and JRPG character stereotypes – range from a poor swordsman to a runaway princess lady-thief to an android.
Recettear’s game days are split into four segments which you must decide how to use. Shopping costs a single chunk and opening your shop costs another. Alternatively, you can also go dungeon delving for two chunks of time which allows you to find items which can be sold for almost 100% profit. Dungeon gameplay plays out like the average mystery dungeon. You start out with Louie, a basic swordsman type character, with a Link (from Legend of Zelda) style projectile blocking ability. Eventually you can manipulate the mood or style of your store or complete tasks to unlock the business cards of other adventurers who play their own way. These characters level up and equip items they buy in your store or you give them. Each level of the dungeon is separated out into 5 floors with the 5th being a boss battle usually. Dungeon sections are fun but even the thrill of discovering new items eventually gets repetitive. If you fail in the dungeon, you lose all but one item you brought with you. This makes it strategic to sell to the adventurers the gear you want them to buy or else they will end up losing stuff permanently if it is not in their personal set of gear.
The selling portion of the game is complex and fun. You may even find it more fun than dungeons if you are like me and are looking for something fresh. Basically, as you sell items you rack up combos depending on how good you are at guessing how much people want to buy items from you for or sell items to you for. With this XP, you gain merchant levels which unlock new features in the game from expanding your store to new options for conveying products to your customers. This part of the game is also made more interesting with a stock market-esque system of watching trends, booms, and downturns in the popularity or price of items. This means that using local town shops you can actually play the games market without ever setting foot into a dungeon if you are good enough. You are in for a rough ride in the later levels if you do not plan your sales properly.
Art in this game is incredibly adorable and quirky. If you are a fan of Japanese comics you will instantly notice the game is attempting to parody the art style of Ume Aoki, a manga/anime artist known for her wide faces and cutesy girls. The main character Recette’s voice is even a very close imitation to the main character of one of Aoki’s most popular series’ voice. Music in this game harkens me back to SNES – PS1 era which is not a bad thing. I am now on a search to find the soundtrack as many of the tracks are rather catchy. Overall, the art direction is very fun. Voices, additionally, are all in Japanese but are still pretty good despite being all amateur voice actors.
If you enjoy simulation shop gaming reminiscent of Animal Crossing and mystery dungeon games you will most likely love this game. If you want a fun RPG to waste hours and hours of your life on you will like this game. It’s a very solid title if you enjoy the JRPG genre mixed with cutesy fun.
- Very original shop keeping gameplay
- Hours of fun with bonus modes after the game ends
- Catchy music and cutesy graphics and voices.
- Slightly repetitive
- Can get very difficult depending on if you are very perceptive or not