Recettear is an item shop simulation game developed by the Japanese game development company EasyGameStation and features the popular Japanese Anime art style. There's a bit of a twist to this simulation game, though. Pensee, the town that the main character, Recette and her father live in is an adventuring hub. Adventurers frequently visit her/your shop to purchase weapons, armor and accessories for their next escapade. Here's the twist and the thing that excited me most about Recettear: you can go to the Merchant's Guild and purchase stock for your shop OR you can head over to the Adventurer's Guild and hire a hero for some good ol' Zelda esque top down dungeon crawler action.
I was sold rather quickly on the idea of an item shop simulation/dungeon crawler game. I'm pretty bad about purchasing games before looking into the internet's consensus of the game's quality, but with Recettear, it was in my Steam library before I even noticed the price tag. Maybe I'm spoiled by all of the Indie developers selling their games for $1-10, but $20 seemed a little steep for how little I knew about the game. After starting the game up, it didn't take long for me to forget about my impulsive purchase. Recettear is full of humorous dialogue and a semi-complex game system that I enjoyed from start to finish.
The story in Recettear is pretty simple: Recette's father goes missing and a fairy named Tear tracks down Reccette to tell her that she is now responsible for all of his debt. Tear feels that she needs to help Recette if she ever wants to collect any money from her. She suggests to Recette that she should start an item shop on the first floor of her home due to it being in a prime location in her town that is full of adventurers. While the story may lack depth, the characters are very likable and I found the dialogue humorous.
Hidden under Recettear's cute anime exterior, there's a semi-complex and somewhat difficult game system. It's not difficult like They Bleed Pixels or your first play through of Dark Souls, but it can definitely catch you off guard, as it did to me. I had to reload 4 or 5 times before I could complete the final objective of the game. Recettear is comprised of two completely different gameplay elements: The Item Shop and Adventuring.
I found this part of the game to be quite enjoyable. Your shop has a few counters in which you get to place items to sell to your customers. You don't get to set their price, though. Each item has a base price and your wonderful customers will try to get them for as close to the base price as they possibly can. They initially ask you what you want for the item, but they almost never accept the first price you tell them. If you tell them a price that's too far above the base price, they'll get angry and leave and won't accept another offer.
After playing the game for a bit, people will come into your shop and try to pawn their old crap off to you. Even though you can get their items for as little as 40% of the base price, the best thing about this part of the game is the dialogue. It's a good thing, too. The interface for buying and selling are very similar and can easily be mixed up if you skip the dialogue. I paid quite a few people 130% of the base price by skipping the dialogue and thinking that I was selling the item, not buying it.
Each customer seems to have a maximum amount they will spend, a maximum markdown price on the items they sell and a maximum markup price they are willing to accept when buying an item from you. In the first couple of game days, you will learn the easier ones, such as the little girl that never has any money and will never accept a markup over 110% of the base price. Some of the other customers take a little longer to figure out. The items you place in your windows will attract certain customers into your shop. If you put weapons and armor in your window, you might attract adventurers. Put some candy in the window, and your shop will be full of little girls that will ruin your day. I found this part of the game very intriguing and had a lot of fun profiling each customer. I even kept a log to try to maximize my profit margins. Don't judge me, this game can be tough!
Both selling and purchasing items from people that enter your shop grant you experience toward your merchant level. Each merchant level unlocks new features, such as: expanding your shop, allowing you to customize the floor, walls and counters, the game's crafting system and much more.
I was a little disappointed with this part of the game. Recettear has just about all of the requirements of a good dungeon crawler: randomized maps, decent graphics, a lot of enemies to kill, bosses that require a strategy to beat rather than just having a larger health pool and of course, loot. There's loot in Recettear, but it's dreadfully boring loot. Accessories are kind of interesting, but there aren't enough of them to make finding a new one exciting. Every other piece of loot has the basic attributes of any RPG item, attack, defense, magic defense and that's it. The game is named Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale. So as an addition to the main item shop gameplay, I can't complain too much.
While there are two different gameplay elements to Recettear, there is only one objective: each week you must pay a chunk of your father's debt. Each game day is broken into four parts and everything you do in the game takes one or two of those parts. So you must balance your time between adventuring and selling items in your shop in order to be able to pay the collector each week. If you fail to make the payment, the game ends. There is an optional mode to start the game over and keep all of your items and money, but I chose to reload and figure out what I did wrong instead.
Recettear has both 2D and 3D elements. While in adventuring mode and walking around in your shop, the characters are 2D sprites but the environment is 3D. The 3D environment is pretty low quality and if you didn't care to look close enough, you might think that they're 2D as well. The character sprites and the character art is top notch, though. I think that if the 3D environment was better quality, it would take away from the style of the game, so I don't see it as being a negative quality of the game. The only bad thing I can say about the graphics in Recettear is the inability to play in different monitor aspect ratios, resulting in large black bars to the left and right of game while playing it in full screen.
The soundtrack of this game is very catchy, especially the main theme song. I found myself humming it quite often the few days after playing it. Each dungeon/area has it's own music and the sound effects for combat aren't great, but I didn't find them distracting or unfitting. It seemed like there was little variance to each skills sound effect. There's also a lot of short greetings, responses and reactions spoken in Japanese that I found to be quite endearing.
Fusing, Recettear's name for it's crafting system is a great way to greatly increase the value of equipment. While adventuring, you will come across quite a few different crafting materials required for fusing equipment into better equipment. The crafting materials are somewhat rare, so if you're into crafting, I would suggest not picking up anything else due to the 20 item carrying capacity while adventuring. New tiers of fusing unlock as your merchant level increases, unlocking higher value items that you can fuse.
After paying off the last of your father's debt, three new game modes unlock: endless mode, survival mode and new game plus.
Endless mode doesn't have an option on the start menu. To start a game in endless mode, continue from a save slot that has beaten the game. In endless mode, there aren't any weekly payments, so you can focus on decorating your shop and raising your merchant level as you please. This mode is not challenging, so if that's what you're looking for, read on.
In survival mode, you see how long you can go with never ending debt and increasing bill amounts each week. It's very challenging!
New game+ allows you to start a new game, but you get to keep your items, hero levels and merchant levels. It's not nearly as challenging as survival mode, but I still found it to be a lot of fun.
While the price tag of this game is pretty high($20) compared to other indie games, the replay value and all of the unlockable features from your merchant level make it worth it. It took me about 8 hours to complete the game, but I was able to spend 10+ hours on the game modes that are unlocked after beating the game. I beat the game at merchant level 16 and the max level is 50, so there's quite a bit of content to explore in the other modes.
Recettear is a really fun and unique game. Even though I was slightly disappointed with the dungeon crawler aspect of the game, I still enjoyed it and will continue to play after writing this review. If you like anime style art and games similar to Restaurant Empire, Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, you will surely enjoy Recettear.
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