Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale review
This is my review of Recettear. It is a rather unique and awesome game. Go buy it now. End.
Well, I suppose I should explain things a bit better, but my abruptness should go some way to expressing the sheer love I have for this game. There truely are very few games quite like this, and fewer still done with the kind of addictive quality that demands you to play one more day. A shining example of what indepedent developers can pull off.
So then, what is Recettear? It is primarily a shop management game that reverses the usual RPG roles. This time you are the shop keeper happily ripping off adventurers risking their lives to venture into the most dangerous of dungeons. The game also throws in dungeon crawling areas that can help you in your playthrough. About the only comparison I can make is to Natsume's Harvest Moon Rune Factory games, but done so much better.
The overall goal of the game is to repay a debt, and this is done via weekly installments that grow in size. There are no random gold drops in this game though. Instead your entire cash supply (aside from the meager amount you start with) comes purely from selling goods to customers.
The selling mechanic in the game is pretty clever. First you have to arrange items on your shelf space. The selection and placement are very important, like window items are the things that will draw people in so putting desirable items there is best. Once done you simply go to the cash register and open shop. During this period customers will swarm in and will approach you. This is where it gets interesting.
Most of the time they will be trying to buy an item on display and will ask you for a price. The game will default to the default price, but the aim is to charge higher than the base without driving the customer away. Hit a price they like and you'll score a sale, netting some profit and a satisfied customer. If they don't like yor price but are not seriously outraged by it then you get a chance to make another offer. Some customers are just fishing for a better price and may still pay the original price, while others genuinely won't pay that much.
The key here is understanding the customers and just what you can get away with, with presents so much challenge in figuring out patterns and it is fun to do. Little girls tend not to have much in the way of disposable income and thus are unlikely to pay too much higher, while working men tend to have deeper pockets. As customers make repeat visits their willingness to part with bigger sums increases with successful sales.
Sometimes a customer will place an order and require you to supply the items at a later date. This system is easily tracked by talking to your fairy companion Tear. This can be a nice way to rake in extra cash by letting you source the goods in time for their pickup and the selling aspect still goes with normal means of altering the price at sale time.
There will also be customers that try to sell you stuff and the system works just like buying. You'll be presented with a base price and are expected to lower the amount so that you can make a profit from reselling, preferably without irritating the person enough to drive them away. Of course, while this can be a neat way of getting hold of some rare valuable items, you can also expect people to try and shove their cheap items onto you. One aspect that is a bit of a letdown is the absence of a flat out refusal to buy an item. Instead the most you can do is really irritate a customer by offering a really low amount, which also breaks your combo.
Sales can be affected by local events. During a time transition period a news broadcast can kick in that alerts you of what is happening, which can affect what prices people are willing to accept. A downturn in the market of sweets will make it hard to sell candy for much of a profit, whereas if swords become highly desirable then you can get away with selling them for over 200% base price. These can also affect purchases, with customers expecting more if selling you a desirable item. Taking advantage of these market changes is what will rake in the massive fortunes and is great to use to their fullest extent.
At first you start with a small shop and few options, but this changes depending on your merchant level. Every successful sale nets you experience points, and managing to make a sale on the first go nets you a bonus. Combos are possible by making several successful first offer sales. By levelling up you will be able to change the decor, access more items and expand the shop. It's a rather clever setup that can punish those too greedy.
Your shop management is assisted by Tear, a fairy that is helping Recette to pay back the loan. She serves as a central point of information, such as keeping track of recent news, orders and noting the current atmosphere. She is also the one to explain the various features as they become available, along with practice runs so you get the gist of it easily. Most of these services are extremely helpful so it is certainly handy to have her around. I do wish the store atmosphere elements was actually explained though. All you get is a chart that shows how plain/gaudy and light/dark the store is, but nothing really indicates what effect this has or what influences it to what degrees.
At first your primary means of getting new goods is to check out the wholesalers. The Merchant's Guid and the Market will sell various items lower than base value, which you can then sell on for a profit. It seems that this is the most profitable method, since even though you're initially paying out you can score some expensive items that can net a large profit, plus it is much easier to take advantage of market changes with these stable item sources.
Fusion is also available, although very hard to make much use of until much later in the game. Basically, you can fuse several items into one new one, but first you need to be able to identity the necessary items needed (via having a high enough merchant level) and then gather those items. The result does often mean a valuable item that sells well though so it might be worth some time looking into.
Another way of getting new items is through a very thorough dungeon crawling element. Players can hire adventurers to explore dungeons and thus bring back items to sell. Selling this means making 100% profit but the trick is finding the good stuff.
Even though you hire an adventurer, you will control them directly. Everyone has a basic attack depending on their chosen weapon, like a sword has a nice swing but doesn't have the lateral range of a spear. You also get special attacks, such as a wide spin attack or creating a duplicate that mimics your actions. These moves use up SP, which can be restored by levelling up or through items.
That sounds ridiculously simple and it is, but the execution is simply fantastic. Enemies will have to be taken on with different approaches. Slimes can easily be hacked away without much care, but knights will block frontal attacks with their shield and bees will swiftly fly about and hit you with minor paralysis given half a chance.
Bosses are certainly something special. Typically fighting these involves more than just slashing away at them, either because they have a way of padding out their defences you have to deal with as well or they have specific means of attacking that can make reckless assaults very dangerous indeed.
Level layout tends to be fairly good too. Generally, only the boss floors have preset setups. Every other floor has a random layout and will be filled with enemies, treasure and traps to deal with. Unfortunately, there are no real puzzles to figure out outside of exploiting the weakness of a boss but for something that is essentially an extra element of the game then it is not too bad. It does mean that dungeon crawling can become a bit tiresome sooner than other games, so it is good that this is not the sole aspect of the game.
Available adventurers are also quite varied. At first you only have access to Louie, who is an easy to use average sword fighter. Meeting specific conditions will earn you the guild cards of other adventurers, who will then work for you. With options including RPG staples like an archer and a mage then you are sure to find something to your taste.
The time mechanic is handled well in order to allow players to manage what they are doing. Tear, your helpful fairy companion, has split up each game day into four segments. Opening the shop takes one segment, visiting a dungeon takes two and returning to the shop after visiting anywhere in town takes one. Since time doesn't pass when you're simply browsing selections or sorting out your shop's layout then this makes for an ideal system to allow the player to keep on top of everything while still applying some pressure.
Recettear can be a rather hard game. While the first debt repayment is 10k, you will find that figure increasing significantly and it will take a player abusing as much of the game's systems as possible to meet each requirement. Manage to make the last payment on the first go and you're a fantastic gamer. Fortunately, the game does have something to help the more unfortunate gamers. Fail to remake a repayment and Recette is returned to the start of the game, but with all her merchant levels and items intact, thus giving her a better chance to meeting those repayment targets.
The story segment of the game does seem to wrap up faster than expected, but that's fine as there is a ton of post game content to enjoy. Players can opt for new game plus and restart the game with all merchant levels and items, much like if you lost, although this comes with the benefit of "true cards", which allows you to hire certain adventurers from the start. Endless mode lets you carry on with the game without any further repayments to make, which is ideal for exploring all the dungeons that you'd never have the chance to fully explore during the main campaign. For those wanting an extra challenge there is survival mode, which plays like the normal game except the increasing repayments don't stop, which can be a worthy challenge to those that scoffed at the difficulty of the story and want something tougher to get into.
The story of the game is certainly charming. Poor Recette has been lumped with a large debt thanks to her father taking out a loan and promptly disappearing during one of his adventures. Tear is a fairy working on behalf of the finance company to recoup the money, but rather than immediately repossess the house they come to an arrangement by turning the house into a shop and repaying in installments.
What makes it so compelling is the dynamic between the two stars. Recette is the honest trusting girl with a side serving of ditzy, but she's the kind of girl everyone comes to care about. This is balanced by Tear, the no nonsense fairy whose blunt observations can cut through the atmosphere but there is a clear side of her where she cares a great deal too. Together they get into all sorts of scenarios. The full cast, including the likes of poor adventurer Louie seeking out his next meal or the charismatic thief Charme with a wild personality, support them in making this a story worth seeing through.
Humour is a driving force here, and some of the set pieces will have you laughing out loud. Tear's pondering over how Recette knows which plants in the town square are edible, complaints over giving the location of their shop to a thief that just tried to kill them and fourth wall breaking jabs all mount up to an experience that sticks in the mind for some time.
Graphically the game delivers a bright cheery presentation. The anime themed style is present throughout, with conversations decorated by large character art that switch between a variety of expressions that convey emotions very well. The designs of the characters is amazing too, like how Tear really looks like a business fairy or Alouette's high class outfit.
When in the shop or dungeons the game adopts an overview view and mixes 3D polygon models with 2D sprites. These elements certainly are not cutting edge but they do look pretty good. The shop starts off with a nice rustic look to match the humble beginnings and then can be altered to suit the player's tastes. With a variety of wallpapers, floors, rugs and display cases on offer there is plenty to have. Dungeons can vary nicely from crumbling ruins to natural forests and gives the player incentive to unlock the next location. The mix of styles may be a little odd but it's nothing bad.
Animation tends to be good. Characters move around fluidly as they dash or plod around the game's locations. Special effects are very nice too, like rocks spewing out from defeated enemies or flashes from special techniques.
The music is definitely fitting for the game. There is a pleasant charm as you work away in the shop or visit locations in the village. Transition to the dungeons and the music changes to tracks suited to the treks through monster filled labyrinths.
For voice work all the Japanese sound bytes have been retained, although English speakers are not missing out any dialogue as all the important conversations are text based. The voice clips do help to boost the experience though and no one sounds out of place. In dungeons you get some too, although a couple can overstay their welcome. Having Recette ask if you're OK after every single piece of damage taken can start to grate.
The game appears to be quite light on hardware. I had no trouble having the game run under a variety of settings and it suffered no issues.
What more can be said? Recettear is a wonderful shop management slash dungeon crawler game that brings about a rare experience that I think anyone would just love, and with a low price attached to it then it is easy to go ahead and have some fun.
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