Review | Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale
Format: PC | Genre: RPG | Publisher: Carpe Fulgur | Developer: EasyGameStation | Release Date: 10/09/2010 | Price: £12.99
Jennifer Allen buys low and sells high with RECETTEAR: AN ITEM SHOP’S TALE.
BESIDES WRITING words such as these, I (unfortunately) work part time in retail. It’s sometimes fine, sometimes soul destroyingly dull and almost always a hard slog. It pays the bills and funds my gaming habit though which is the main thing. So we come to my ’spare’ time and I’m playing Recettear a game about running a shop in a JRPG world. On the surface it’s a little too close to reality for my liking. Of course it’s much deeper than that, and in real life I don’t have to dungeon crawl in order to find suitable wares to sell in my store. Instead I label lots of items and quietly long for the day when I can say goodbye to the many, many stickers I deal with.
Recettear however is charmingly positive at all times. Perhaps surprising considering that young Recette is the daughter of a missing adventurer who’s left her to run the shop. Even worse, she’s been left in a hell of a lot of debt and it’s down to her/you to rectify this. So begins the cruel path of capitalism and buy low/sell high. Actually that sounds a bit more like my current job. Throughout the game, the cheery and cutesy visuals belie the somewhat harsh beginnings for young Recette.
Aided by a fairy called Tear, Recette must run her shop to the best of her abilities without even the chance for a day off or a lunch break. It appears relatively simple at first. The game does a good job of introducing all the necessary elements. There’s your shop of course, a quaint little store that as the game progresses, you can add various extras to. As you’d expect, customers wander in and ask to buy items. They like to haggle though which is where early elements of Recettear’s depth come into play. Sometimes it’s not always useful to eke every precious penny out of your customer. Keep them content and you earn more experience thus increasing your merchant level and gaining new skills and other bonuses. There is a strong purpose to the game to encourage you to work hard, you have to keep up your debt repayments otherwise it’s game over, or so you think….
Then there are the town staples: a town square, pub and chapel. More obviously useful are the market, merchant’s guild and adventurer’s guild. You can buy items from the market and merchant’s guild. At times this is particularly useful as you can buy low then sell for a higher price another day when demand is especially higher. However the real excitement stems from the adventurer’s guild.
The adventurer’s guild is where you can hire adventurers to explore dungeons and bring back the treasures they find for you to sell in your store. Recettear turns into a dungeon crawler for this part of the game. Think of it as like a simpler version of Diablo. In the early stages, it’s rather hard to succeed in these dungeons. At first, your adventurer is weak and frankly, a bit rubbish. It doesn’t take many blows to finish the poor sod off. This is where Recettear feels a little like Dead Rising though.
You see, when you fail to succeed at keeping up your debt repayments, you get another chance and another chance and, well you get the idea. The game loops much like Dead Rising. You restart on Day One with your previous merchant level and shop upgrades intact. Even your adventurer retains his level. This instantly makes things a little easier as you’re already that bit stronger. Plus of course you’re that little bit knowledgeable in how to succeed the next time.
Much like Dead Rising, while it’s ultimately repetitive, it’s also damn compelling. The nuances to all the characters and the various ways to acquire the money you need makes for a surprisingly deep experience. At a surface level, Recettear seems simple but the more you play, the more you realise there’s more to it than meets the eye. Just when you think that you know it all, an item or character experience appears to surprise you. Once you do eventually complete the main storyline, endless and survival modes are unlocked giving you more to play.
As clichéd as it may sound, and it is utterly clichéd, Recettear is an acquired taste. While there’s an argument that all games are repetitive, Recettear is particularly so in terms of what it requires of players. You will spend much of your time doing the exact same thing. It’s fun though and at its budget price, it’s well worth a look because it feels so different from any other JRPG. It’s wonderfully ingenious and the sort of subject that makes you wonder just why someone hasn’t attempted it before.