On the last MAP, we briefly discussed Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, and the surpriisngly positive feedback it has received from reviewers and the gaming community at large. Overwhelmed by the pure kawaii of the game’s title and description, I hurried to Steam to purchase it and subsequently beat it into the ground. Please consider this an extension of our brief MAP discussion. Feel free to praise my professionalism by linking my weekly post with our podcast. No, really, please do. Lusipurr is threatening to fire me, and when he fires someone, he literally sets them on fire. So without further delay: Capitalism Ho!
The game was originally created by Japanese indie developer EasyGameStation back in 2007. It was recently localized by Carpe Fulgur, another itty bitty indie company. The original Japanese release was for Windows, with the English version currently available via digital distribution on Steam, Impulse, and GamersGate. The game exemplifies the story of “the little engine that could”. It is the little game that could, brought to gamers by the little companies that could, and the game itself is about the little girl who could. There are so many heart-warming success stories, it will make Darth Lane sick.
Recettear: An item Shop’s Tale is precisely what its name implies. It is a typical dungeon-crawling JRPG, set in a quaint little medieval-style town, surrounded by mysterious ruins ripe for exploration. The hook is that the player does not step into the shoes of the brave little adventure. No, instead the player finds out what life in a JPRG might be like for the cute little peasant manning the item store. The item store in question here is Recettear, owned and operated by Recette Lemongrass, and a fairy named Tear. Recette is the daughter of one of the aforementioned brave little adventurers. Unfortunately he was not a particularly good adventurer. He appears to be misisng in action, and Tear has been sent by the finance company Terme to collect on her father’s large debts. Rather than boot the dear little thing into the streets, Tear proposes that they turn Recette’s house into an item shop to raise the funds needed to repay the debt. Tear installs weekly payments which become increasingly more expensive over the course of 37 days. Recette approaches this challenge with excessive optimism and cheerfulness, full of “yayness!” as she might put it.
There are two primary aspects to the gameplay in Recettear, The first is the earning of money, the second is the exploration of dungeons and befriending of adventurers. To earn money, Recette simply adheres to the time-honored tradition of buying low and selling high. Items are available to purchase from the market, the merchant guild, and even from customers (who get royally ripped off) and are sold to customers at a decent mark-up. Customers can and will haggle to try to make poor Recette’s life even more difficult, and of course the market is not exactly stable. The market value for various items can and will fluctuate greatly so one must always be prepared to stock up when items are inexpensive, and economically violate the townsfolk when an item is expensive. The key to success is knowing how much certain NPCs are willing to pay (everyone has their own range), and maintaining enough stock to exploit market prices, without having too many resources invested in inventory, and not enough money left to actually pay the debt.
The adventuring, dungeon-crawling element of the game is what likely boosts the experience for most players (though it is not always the most economical way to spend a day). Essentially Recette can befriend local adventurers, and accompany them as they explore nearby ruins and dungeons. Recette cannot actually fight, but she can supply items and equipment so she tags along at a safe distance, inside an invisible protective bubble. The player actually controls the adventurer, hacking, slashing and burning their way past monsters and bosses, collecting loot for Recette along the way. The adventurers gain experience and levels as in any JRPG, and can outfit themselves from Recette’s stock. Savvy players will make it a point to sell items to adventurers at good costs, both to ensure they are well-equipped, and to become more friendly with them, as that is often the only way to recruit them.
One criticism that can be leveled at the game is its random factor. The aforementioned market fluctuations are random, and it is very possible to be in a situation where hardly anything can be sold for a reasonable profit, making the game virtually impossible. It is also possible to receive very favourable market changes, and make money hand over fist. The same is also true with adventurers. With the exception of Louie the swordsman, the other adventurers are available through random events in the shop or particular locations in the town or dungeons. This is mitigated somewhat by the endgame and game over options. After paying off the debt, the game can still be played in a New Game + mode, an endless (endless until you fail) Survival Mode, or the original game can be continued with no more debt payments, so it is still possible to see and do everything, and the player is given several avenues to pursue continued playtime, even after seeing what happens when Recette pays off her father’s debt.
All in all, the game is extremely pleasant and sweet, and great at what it is: a chance to step into the shoes of the oh-so cute and cheerful item shop girl that we all know from so many JRPGs. Now she has a name, a history, and an adventure all her own.