Earlier this year, we featured a demo of a little game called Recettear, a Japan-only RPG/simulation title released by EasyGameStation in 2007. Carpe Fulgur was working on localizing the game for an English-speaking audience, and in order to gauge interest for a full release, tested the waters with a demo. The response was grand, and just a few months later, the full version of Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale has arrived!
In Recettear, you take on the role of Recette and the knowledgeable fairy named Tear. Recette's father vanished after taking out a massive loan, and unfortunately for our heroine, it's time to pay up, and she has to foot the bill. Tear works for Terme Finance, the owner of the loan, and decides to help Recette earn money by turning her house into a storefront, selling items to adventurers in town.
Instead of playing the usual part of "hero who saves the world", Recettear fits you in behind the scenes as shopkeeper, the thankless job of stocking and selling an endless supply of items. You'll haggle with customers, trying to sell your wares at a tidy profit without scaring shoppers away. You stock your store with items you buy at the market or guild, and demand (as well as prices) for items waxes and wanes as time goes by. If you're tired of sitting behind the sales counter, you can always hire a hero and head out on an adventure, crawling through dungeons in an action/RPG-styled loot fest. Anything you find in the catacombs is yours to sell at a 100% profit!
Recettear is metered out in four chunks of time each game day. Opening up your shop eats up a time period, so you can only sell a few items each day. Heading out to the dungeons eats up two time periods, so you can really only adventure in the morning if you want to make good of the loot you nabbed. This parceling out of time gives the game a deliberate, gradual pacing that forces you to make smart decisions and use your time wisely. And while it seems you can never get enough done in one day, when your next loan payment is suddenly due, you'll realize time passes quite fast. Just like real life!
Analysis: There's so much to say about this well-stocked game that it's impossible to cover it all in one tiny review. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale starts out simply enough with a few items to find, a few stores to visit, and a dungeon to run through. Before long, you've got multiple heroes to adventure with, hundreds of items to manage, several dungeons with different floors to visit, customers making special requests and trying to sell you items, and even a little "friendly" competition! Despite the intricacies of the experience, Recettear never feels too complex, and each time something new appears, you'll eat it up with vigor.
It's true you'll spend most of your time in the dungeon or behind the counter at your shop, but the nature of every day of gameplay is always different. Recettear never feels stale, everything evolves as you play, adding more and more to experience (and deal with) as you progress. And just when you think you've seen it all, Recettear throws something new at you in the form of random events or completely new twists to the story. It's a little piece of brilliance how the game keeps things fresh even after many hours of play.
Also, Recettear is something you can get compulsive about. Even though it's billed as an item selling game, there's so much more going on that selling items becomes something of an excuse to do everything else the game offers. There are hundreds of items to find, price, and sell, many with unique characteristics when used in battle. Adventurers also level up, and outfitting them with awesome equipment is a game unto itself. Then there are individual upgrades you can nab for your shop to spruce things up a bit. Bet some pine wood flooring would look nice!
New, original games are something of a rare commodity in today's saturated gaming society. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is one of these marvelous gems. Love it for its smart design, love it for its mixing of game concepts, love it for how everything comes together in a complete, time-absorbing package.