YAYIFICATIONS! the Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale Review
It distresses me to say that, Japanese gaming isn’t as popular as it used to be. The creator of Fez responded to a question about current Japanese games by simply saying, “Your games just suck”. In a loud cry of fan boys and nerds alike, everyone was bashing on him for many things from slander to racism and of course, nerd rage. But to be honest, he isn’t too far from the truth. Granted yes, Japan is starting to get back on the boat with quirky games and okay-esque RPG’s; but the games aren’t how they used to be anymore. Considering that our childhood consisted of a ton of Japanese games that flooded the market, its easy to say that we were really swayed as children to like it. But as those children grew up, and made games on their own, perhaps we have now taken over the market and gave a new rise to modern gaming.
Now what does this have to do with Recettear? Well, in early 2007 in a famous Japanese anime convention, Comiket had released a doujin game, Rusettia – Aitemu-ya-san no Hajimekata (or Recettear: How to Start an Item Shop) which was a pretty popular game in Japan. Indie gaming company, Carpe Fulgar decided to localize it for American audiences to play. By simple word of mouth (and the power of Steam), the expected 10,000 sales was shattered when 170,000 online copies were sold. It was an unbelievable hit mixing the economic standpoint of selling items like in RPG item shops, along with having RPG elements mixed in with it. So what was the big deal with this game anyway?
In Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, Recette Lemongrass’s father decides to become an hero and leaves her all alone at home to go on an adventure. Tear (an advisory fairy/loan shark) comes over to Recette to inform her that her father has left her with a rather sizable debt and that she has come to collect it from her (how sizable? so much that she won’t even say). With the debt still existent and the possibility of losing her home on the line, she decides to follow Tear’s advice and becomes a pseudo merchant and sell things in her little item shop.
Along the way, she meets other adventurers interested in the wares of her shop and assist her in retrieving items in dungeons. That introduces the RPG portion of the game where the player can be the hero (with Reccette and Tear invisibly following along) and level up, fight bosses, kill porrings, get a ton of items, etc. And thus, you sell the items back into your shop or fuse them to make better items. In a sort of continuous cycle, you keep selling until your inherited debt is gone.
So what’s the best way to describe this absurd gaming concept: ADDICTING AS HELL. Seriously, I have played 4 Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts, Chrono Trigger, Star Ocean, Persona, and many other RPG’s but nothing has ever got me hooked like this game. Yes, its pretty repetitive with the purpose being to sell things. But the replay value and humor of this game is what makes it so easy to slink into.
The cutesy anime style mixed with real game elements make this game very approachable. It comes off to me like a slice of life anime with silly quips, and some character development with easy-going Recette and business-serious Tear. The story is hilarious and the likability of the characters keep me going in this game. Often times, I’d take the time to look for continuous character development by sarging dungeons. Which by the way, is how to get the main story going.
The game technically ends when you raise enough money to pay off your father’s debt (dont click if you dont want spoilers). And each week it gets seemingly more difficult when more money is needed and thus you spend a lot more time in the shop than dungeon crawling. I have no complaints about that, once you end the game there is ‘endless mode’ which continues you off from after the main story, and you can continue selling items at the store or continue with the adventure story.
Dungeon crawling in this game is very simplistic. Like in Legend of Zelda, it’s just, Z for normal attack and X for special attack (which you can toggle through multiple special attacks by pressing C). And that’s really it! Of course each character has different abilities with classes like mages and thieves. Each specialty can go through any level if you train them hard enough. That said, sometimes it gets really difficult in some dungeons, so remember to pack food (that you can get by getting items from sellers or other customers) so that you replenish your Health and Special Power bar, the randomized dungeons keep adding surprises to each level you encounter. There
are many times when I died too fast because I didn’t retrieve my items in time (ugh, it’s done by pressing escape), and in consequence you can only bring a single item from the dungeon you raided, as oppose to the entire load if you had survived.
Though the selling part of the game is the most addicting, the adventure mode is the meat and potatoes after the game is over. Although completing the story within the main game would be too difficult, to play it after is much more advisable. Then you won’t have to worry about making money and spend it either grinding or developing the other adventurers.
You run into a few characters that can be your adventurer; basically you sort of sponsor their quest and you get their items as they level up. At first you start out with Louie, the swordsman, and later down the line you will encounter multiple bosses or random characters that will then become a part of arsenal when you want to continue the adventure.
When you’re in the shop, your job is to sell things to the customers. As simple as it sounds, there’s a layer of customization that makes the game seem very fun to decorate, but also realistic in a sense of economy where you figure out what the customers would want with their general interests.
In the game (for players wanting to get into it) it’s advisable to sell things at 130%, about 30% more than its base price. As you play the game you start to learn about trends and times when items are in demand where you can sell things from 130% to sometimes 300%+ and it’s all dependent upon the people you sell to, along with your relationship with them.
At times, your hero will come into the store and it’s advisable to sell them items cheaper (make sure to sell the best weapon), so that they can use it when fighting. At first, the selling is difficult and the pressure is on when you start to see the deadline get closer. But once you get the hang of it, it’s very simple and fun
since you get to actually run your own item shop. I can honestly say that I have spent 80% of my time here and even spent time in real life at school just selling things in my item shop when I have free time. It’s very reminiscent of the Facebook games like Cafe World or Restaurant City where you unlock new items as you level up and micromanaging becomes key. At least in this game you don’t need to pay anything in literal cash, and there’s a coherent story to it.
The other modes offered is the Survival Mode (continuous debt until you can’t pay it off), endless mode and New Game + (keep your items, Merchant Level, Adventurers Level, but start the story all over). The game has a ton of replay value, so if you feel in the mood to keep selling to max out your Merchant Level or just finish the story adventure, you have a lot to look forward to.
There’s no real complaints about the story because it’s funny and engaging. But because of the fact most of the actual story is done when doing the dungeon adventuring, it strays away from the main purpose of the game: to sell items. So chances are, you will have finish the story after the main game.
It presents two concepts and successfully merging them together. The selling portion is addicting and brings out the inner storekeeper in you, while being the hero allows the player to still engage in fighting bosses and continuing a larger-than-life story.
The battle system is pretty simplistic, but for me a little more explanation could have been introduced. The system isn’t original by any means, but it gets the job done considering its equally accessible for all the other characters. The controls for it aren’t bad, but because of lack of explanation and inconvenience,my character died because I didn’t know how to get to items. But honestly, that’s a nitpick. And with the randomly generated dungeons, the game throws new things at you constantly.
As biased as that may sound, the music is repetitive but it has the same value as a Phoenix Wright game. At times, I can incidentally hear myself humming the music when walking to and from work/school. It sets the mood well and gives atmospheric sounds when dungeoning, but also regular item show-type music. The songs at the beginning and end of the game make it seem like an anime, as the original Japanese VA has her own solo song (skip to 2:46 to avoid spoilers!).
The top down view reminds me of any old-school dungeon crawler easy to recognize. The art of of the store and chibi/tiny versions of the characters are alright, but nothing particularly spectacular. The Visual Novel animation with the characters in their fully drawn form are pretty detailed though they don’t have any real animation aside from changing moods and looks.
For an indie game, this has a lot more character and originality than most of the main stream games being offered. And for a Japanese game, it certainly brings back some nostalgia with its RPG elements. It also brings a sort of relaxing economy portion of the game that keeps me playing it. As I’m still about 30 hours into the game, I still aspire to complete the game at 100% and see everything that the story has to offer. I will say that if you totally dig anime and classic RPG gaming, I’d say pick this up! After all, it’s pretty cheap to get on steam or their website, and heck I got it for really cheap thanks to those random Steam deals. I would like more games to be made like this, so let’s support the developer/publisher and get more of these unique titles back here in America.
I give this game a 4.5/5
If you like this game, then Id also recommended you check out Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters. It’s published and developed by the same company and brought over by Carpe Fulgar!