Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale
Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale Cover
Platforms Windows
Genre Hack and haggle RPG
Score 6  Clock score of 6
Buy from Steam

We have time to slip one more review into 2011, right? Let's talk about Recettear: An Item's Shop Tale, a quirky Japanese RPG released last year. Blending traditional dungeon crawling with running an RPG item shop, Recettear is unlike any game I have ever played, and probably ever play again.

I played the first hour of Recettear in October, determining that the opening was interesting enough to go on. This was probably a fair decision, as it is a rich game full of dungeons, companions, and items, but it is not without issues. If the review intrigues you, look for it on Steam sale in the next day or so, it was about $5 a few days back and may be available again.

Recettear is made up of two distinct game types: the classic dungeon crawler with randomized floor layouts, spawning bad guys, and big bosses; and an item shop where you lay out equipment, haggle with customers, and even buy items from them. Let's talk about what each type did right and wrong.

Most of the game takes place in the dungeons, which are populated by about a dozen different enemy types with variations in attack type. Once you enter a dungeon, you've committed to at least five floors, four of which are randomly generated layouts and the fifth generally a boss battle. The regular floors contain treasures scattered about that either contain something relatively worthwhile, absolute junk, or a trap of some sort.

Enemy patterns are usually very easy to pick up, and generally the only time you ever get hurt is through your own carelessness. The character I usually selected was able to run quicker than the other adventurers, and while it was useful to zip around, it also meant running into enemy attacks as they quickly appeared on the screen. This is one of my beefs with the game, the camera is too far zoomed in, and your viewing range is very limited, especially when running south on the map.

Item management is also a big pain in the neck, as you can only carry a maximum of 20 items at a time for most of the game. That's only the starting number, if you equip your adventurer with any additional items, that number is reduced even further. Want to bring in some healing consumables? Before you even step into a dungeon, you're typically down to only 15 slots, you're lucky to make it two floors before having to make decisions and start dumping objects. As you can guess, this is tedious and time consuming. If you're absolutely going to limit me to N number of items, then let me collect everything as I go along and then get rid of things after the dungeon, just a thought, though it would imbalance carrying and use of consumables.

Recettear Dungeon Crawling

Experience is gained by killing enemies, and each adventurer levels up independently from each other. As you can only use one hero at a time, it's easy to become attached to one or two characters and neglect the others, especially as they generally use completely different weapon and armor sets. I had a thing for Charme, a quick thief with short weapon range who was able to see what treasure chests had traps in them.

Finishing off the dungeon aspect are the bosses, which I found to be pretty ingenious. Almost none of them are straight up slash-fests, but require more strategy and thought. Funny enough, actually knowing that you know absolutely nothing about the upcoming boss makes everything that much scarier. The bosses are the highlight of the game for me.

Let's discuss the other half of the game now: the item shop.

The story driving the game is that Recette, our heroine, inherited her father's huge debt after he ran off to fight a dragon. The debt collection agency comes calling and Tear, a fairy debt collector, teams up with Recette to run a shop in town. Tear requires a certain amount of payment every week, and the only way to earn that money is to sell items you found in your dungeon crawl or bought in town. The payment starts small, and week by week pretty much doubles. The game is so well paced, the debt always seems insurmountable early in the week, but is usually easily achieved by the due date.

As for the actual item shop, you start with a small store with about a dozen different "slots" for you to place items in. A few of these slots are by the window and are considered showcase items, what's placed in the showcase will slightly affect what type of customers your store attracts. You always want to fill all the slots around the store before opening it, and then hope you attract enough customers to make some sales.

When you open the store, you are committing to keeping the store open for a quarter of the day, another quarter is consumed whenever you head into town, and adventuring requires a half day. The order of your actions can be combined however you like, and it's perfectly reasonable to open your store four times in one day, as long as you have the stock to keep refilling items.

Recettear Selling Wares

Customers filter into your shop, and the haggling begins. There are about a half dozen different types customers, plus your adventurer friends, a rival, and a local guild master merchant. Each type of customer has a different amount of buying power: little girls will usually go only a few bucks over the actual price, while the guild master is usually willing to pay over 30% of the cost of the item. The percentages remain relatively static throughout the game, so once you've got the hang of what a character type is willing to pay, it's pretty easy to make a sale.

The trick is what to place in your showcase, and how to manage items that are in and out of demand. The game announces basic fluctuations in the economy, like armor is in high demand or candy prices have dropped, at this point, it's generally a good idea to stock up on the cheap stuff and unload on anything customers will pay 200%+ for. Simple market economics, I suppose. Customers will also periodically sell you items, allowing you to buy equipment for a pretty cheap price (only to unload it later that day for a huge profit!).

Recette also gains experience as she sells, and chaining sales yields some huge exp bonuses. As she levels up her merchant skill, she unlocks more store slots, the ability to customize the look of the shop, and some more haggling techniques, nothing too important, though. I would have liked the ability to buy a much bigger store, or at least do something cool with the large amounts of money I had besides just pay off my debt.

You can visit a few places around town during the day and have conversations with various characters, these range from boring to brain-meltingly awful. A few of the conversations are required to recruit characters, but 90% of them are totally worthless and don't even do much to expand upon the characters besides re-enforcing their character tropes. There are also two stores to purchase items from, but oddly enough you're not allowed to haggle with the owners, they're treated as straight RPG stores.

Graphics are pretty simple, with big character profile pictures and basic 3D graphics in the dungeon and shop. This isn't a taxing game on any modern computer, by any means, but it doesn't need to be by its nature. The real draw of Recettear are the two gameplay modes.

Recettear dad Disappeared

Overall: 6

I had quite a bit of fun with Recettear in the first few hours of the game, but then things began to wear on and become repetitive. You're basically forced to crawl through the same dungeons over and over as it takes a long time to unlock them all during normal gameplay. Your character will quickly become overpowered until a new dungeon is reached, making the action more of an annoyance than anything.

Recettear does two things pretty good, but neither one of them great. The action could have been deeper with less annoying limitations, and the shop could have been less tedious with more customer and item variation. I would definitely like to see more unusual games like this translated into English, however. I don't regret my 15 hours with the game.