Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

Recettear Cover
Platforms Windows
Genre Sell and slash RPG
MtAMinutes to Action 18
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Steam

2011 is turning into the year the Japanese RPG redeems itself in my eyes. Radiant Historia is still my favorite for game of the year, and Xenoblade: Chronicles had such a fun first hour that I can’t wait to play it in the evenings. Heck, even Golden Sun: Dark Dawn wasn’t that bad. So let’s give another one a try in Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, the tale of an item shop and whatever a Recettear is.

Recettear is a Japanese indie game (known as “doujin”) for Windows that was translated and published outside of Japan by a pair of Something Awful users. Released last December on Steam (after a 2007 release in Japan), Recettear has seem surprisingly brisk and successful sales that will reportedly open up the market to other doujin games.

I picked up Recettear on Steam during a fire sale and it has been calling to me ever since. How the heck does a game about an item shop work? Are these screenshots showing action fighting for the same game? Let’s find out and play the first hour of Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale.

Minute by Minute

00 - Before the game starts, I load the configuration tool included and set up a gamepad instead of the keyboard. We’ll see how the game plays with a PlayStation 2 controller. I select New Game and the first hour of Recettear begins. There’s a really quick loading screen and then some bouncy music begins playing and we get a view of a bedroom. An anime-drawn portrait appears on the screen and mutters, “mattaku.” Her name is Tear. Apparently Recette is still sleeping.

01 - Tear wakes Recette up and her portrait appears, she looks and is dressed like a nine year old girl scout. Tear and Recetter are going to open a store today.

02 - “Let’s open the store! Capitalism, yo!” We’re looking at a top-down view of their store, looks pretty empty of merchandise though.

03 - Tear says we should introduce ourselves at the Merchant’s Guild, they act as a local wholesaler.

Recettear Town map

04 - I’m looking at the town map now, I can go to the pub, chapel, market, town square, merchant’s guild, or adventurer’s guild. I have 1,000 pix (money?) and it is day 1. To the merchant’s guild! The guild master calls Tear a loan-shark, nasty.

05 - Along with buying or selling, I can talk to the guild master about a number of things, I’ll take a quick read-through for anything important sounding.

07 - All right, the guild will sell me items, but I can also talk to the adventurer’s guild about hunting for “phat lewt” in the nearby areas. I also have a merchant level which will let me buy premium items from the guild along with being able to identify mysterious items.

08 - Woah, the guild shop carries a ton of different types of items: swords, daggers, staves, bows, spears, gloves, clothes, robes, breastplates, armor, bracelets, shields, hats, helms, and charms. Each appears on their own screen, but scrolling is very fast, no UI lag here. Tear recommended buying about 10 items, so I’ll take about one of each.

09 - Only 55 pix left! Time to head back to the shop, I think. The guild master also gives me some Walnut Bread, thanks!

10 - Back at the shop, Tear is going to run Recette and I through the basics. I need to place the items I bought around the store, first, the sword. I place the worn sword by the window and Tear tells me that items here should be flashy to attract customers. Makes sense.

Recettear Selling Wares

12 - Everything is on the shelf, Tear is now explaining how to greet a customer and actually sell them the item. Sounds weird, but this is an item shop RPG.

14 - I can negotiate the price of an item at the point of sale, and selling them item will earn me experience, cool!

15 - Recette is now haggling over the price of a longsword with Tear, she mentions that most stores sell at 30% above the base price.

18 - My first customer! She wants the walnut bread, which is kind of lame since it was given to me for free. I end up selling the bread for 120, twenty over the base price. After the sale the shop gets a warm look to it, must be sunset.

19 - Resette narrates the end of the day in Japanese, it all sounds very endearing.

20 - “EasyGameStation presents... A tale of a fairy, a girl... and how to run an item shop... RECETTEAR”.

Recettear dad Disappeared

21 - From the flashback we’re getting, it sounds like Recette’s dad took off to be an adventurer, and then Tear the fairy shows up from the Terme Finance Company to collect on a debt. Ouch!

22 - Oh no, her dad disappeared while exploring some volcano. Tear was actually sent to help me earn the money, and not just be a ruthless debt collector.

25 - DUH, so that’s how Recettear got its name: Recette plus Tear. Duh, Greg. Tear pronounces it with a hard K-sound, so she notes it almost sounds like “racketeer”.

27 - Time for day two in the item shop, I can open the store or go shopping, think I’ll open the store and make some dough. I end up making two sales and one customer walks, this ends part of the day.

29 - Let’s visit around rest of town, starting with the town square. Uh, no one there.

30 - The market carries a few different items than the guild, more expensive things, however, bit out of my price range. The pub is closed right now and no one is in the chapel. Well, let’s head back to the market and spend some money.

Recettear Merchants Guild Adam Smith

32 - Too bad I can’t haggle with this shopkeeper, seems like a given. I buy a necklace and some candy and leave myself with only 5 pix. Time to reopen the shop.

34 - Even though about eight people came in only two sale attempts were made: one failed and one sold. Hmm... only 175 pix in hand.

35 - A man comes in and tells me his wife said he had to buy a sword, haha. Wow, just made 500 pix profit on that necklace I bought across town, not bad! 1615 pix total!

37 - I think it’s high time we head to the adventurer’s guild!

38 - So Recette doesn’t just head out herself, she needs to make inroads with an adventurer and earn their guild card. Looks like we got our eye on one already.

40 - He’s a new adventurer in town who needs to pass the Hall of Trials to gain entrance into the guild, but it sounds like he needs some kind of sponsor to raise the funds, that’s where we come in!

Recettear Louie Stats

41 - His name is Louie, not much of a name for a swordsman. Sounds like I need to buy him some restorative items now.

43 - I buy some bread and head back to the guild, you can actually load up to 20 items on an adventurer!

44 - All three of us are in our first dungeon, Tear explains that Recette and her are actually invisible to the monsters, Louie: not so much.

45 - Woah, fighting with Louie! I’m actually surprised I get direct control like this, I was half expecting to just watch an A.I. go to town.

47 - Louie and I beat down on some slimes and he levels up rather uncerimoniously to level 2.

48 - Defeating an enemy reveals a ton of gems along with an item periodically. This is actually quite fun!

Recettear Dungeon Crawling

50 - All of a sudden a ton of rocks almost fall on Louie’s head! That was odd, I guess there are sometimes non-bad guy dangers here.

53 - Enemies seem to contiuously spawn as you leave a room, so you can grind for a long time if that’s your thing, but there’s only so many treasure chests on a floor so it pays to keep moving.

54 - Oh, Recette has ran out of room to carry things, maybe we can eat some of this walnut bread I didn’t need.

57 - So what if I don’t want to go up any more floors? Or is it the trial to go all the way through a certain number of floors? Might as well keep trucking.

59 - Found a longsword to replace Louie’s worn sword, seems like the right thing to do instead of pawning it off.

60 - After a few more floors, we reach the top/bottom and find some adventurer’s guild cards in a chest, Louie immediately gives one to Recette. That’s the end of a successful trip in the Hall of Trials and the first hour of Recettear!

Recettear Inventory

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 18 to selling, 45 to slashing

Bias: Feeling quite endeared to Japanese RPGs lately, but the overt cuteness of Recettear can be off-putting. I also have a soft spot in my heart for indie developers, even if they call themselves EasyGameStation.

Would I Keep Playing? Yes!

Overall, Recettear’s first hour was very fun and quirky. I enjoyed laying out the items in the store along with haggling with the customers, but really had a blast with the dungeon crawling. The anime-style portraits are cute and even the Japanese interjections of “yatta” and “mattaku” didn’t bother me too much (they probably sound a lot better than bringing English voice actors to basically record new exclamations like they’re dubbing over a martial arts movie).

I do have a few concerns that began rearing their heads. For one, haggling over an item’s price seems pretty straightforward: take the base price and add 30%, when they undoubtedly don’t like that price go down to somewhere between a 20-25% margin. This worked most of the time, though I’ll have to keep my eye out if certain customers visually react different ways.

The combat wasn’t perfect either, with a few questionable attacks from enemies sneaking through my defenses, and the isometric view blocking out portions of horizontal hallways doesn’t help. Item management felt tedious once I was maxed out my inventory, but people love searching for treasure and that is Recettear’s core action gameplay.

Looking at how long my friends played Recettear on Steam, I’ve got about a dozen hours to go, which seems like an appropriate length of time for a game like this. Looking forward to it.