Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale - Staff Review  

I, Recette, Like, Sold Stuff. To People.
by Sam "Nyx" Marchello

Less than 20 Hours
+ Addictive gameplay.
+ Strong, humorously quirky localization.
+ Hilarious cast of characters.
- Randomized dungeons often work against the player.
- Last two weeks can get brutal.
- Old Men and Little Girls are too darn stubborn.
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   Everyone wants to get their hands in the capitalism pie at some point in their lives. Whether it's dreaming of winning the lottery or making big bucks in stocks, we've all had a fantasy of becoming fabulously wealthy. If money grew on trees, then no one would ever have to work a day in their life, but of course most of us have to submit to the daily grind to make ends meet. Even worse, sometimes unforeseen situations occur, money becomes tight, and we even have to fight off the possibility of our assets being seized, and our homes being swept from under our feet. Recettear: An Item's Shop Tale happens to be one of these stories.

   Recette Lemongrass's life was perfect. She never had to work a day in her life, and could spend all her time sleeping the days away and dreaming of sweets. Life seemed perfect until one day a fairy from the Terme Financial by the name Tear, threatens to seize her house as collateral. Why? Because Recette has no idea that her father who ditched her to become the ultimate hero has left her with an enormous debt that needs to be repaid. Tear, however, isn't a heartless loan-shark, and realizes that this debt has nothing to do with Recette, but since she is the current owner of her father's estate, she must repay his loans in full or else suffer the consequences of becoming homeless. How does Tear suggest Recette repay her debt? By turning her home into a place of business: an item shop.

   Despite the dire financial situation, Recettear's story is full of humor, and its strength lies in the localization provided by Carpe Fulgur. Throughout the game, players will be barraged with jokes and find charm within the game's eclectic cast of characters, from Charme the drunken adventurer to Louie the cheapskate who wants everything at the price of "free." Each character is quirky and amusing, but Recette steals the spotlight. She's dense yet loveable, and spouts some of the most memorable lines in the game. With the game's hilarious cast of characters, its strong localization and its overall humor, Recettear's story never feels like a dull experience.

Oh noes! It's a trap! ...of snowflakes? Oh noes! It's a trap! ...of snowflakes?

   The game's main strength lies in its complex gameplay. Players will take on the role of owning a typical RPG item shop, with the ability to control all aspects of the business, from what items will be stocked to visual appeal, and of course haggling with customers to ensure the greatest possible profit. Each day is separated into four "slices" of time, and how players use that time is completely up to them. With only thirty-six days within the game, however, time-management is crucial to success, as each week Recette must pay an installment to Tear, meaning each week she must reach her target payment or risk having to live in a box for the rest of her life. The installment increases drastically each week, so it's important to pay close attention to what items are being stocked, as prices increase or decrease based on popularity. The final two weeks of the game can be exceptionally brutal if the markets are working against the player, but there are ways of working around a market disadvantage such as filling expensive special orders for customers. The more Recette sells, the more experience she gains as a merchant. When Recette's Merchant Level increases, she gains new skills that can be applied to her shop, such as being able to appraise unidentifiable objects, fuse new items through crafting, and modify the appearance of her store.

   Selling items is in itself an art form. Each customer that comes into the store has a target percentage that they are willing to pay based on the items they select to purchase. Customers will often try to haggle to get the best deal possible, so it's up to the player to accommodate their needs without getting ripped off. Some customers, however, are exceptionally stubborn, and often will try to haggle for next to nothing for the items they wish to purchase, but since players have full control over each situation there are a few ways it can be done. One way is by lowering the initial price to something that's 2-5% cheaper, or by giving it to them at a heavily discounted price. Customers also often try to sell items they don't want to Recettear, hoping to receive a hefty amount for what they consider their "treasures." The challenge in running an item shop comes from how much the player is willing to fork out and how well they pay attention to changes within the markets. If the price of sweets inflates, then stocking one's store up completely with sweets equals a bigger pay load at the end of each day, and when a price is inflated, customers will pay more than double for that specific item. Taking advantages of these situations allows for better success at making the target installment each week. These market changes keep Recettear engaging and challinging, as some days one can make a killing, while the next day money may be barely trickling in.

   There are three ways to acquire items. As previously mentioned, players can buy items from the customers, but they can also go to the Merchant's Guild or Market to make large purchases of common items. The best way to ensure that you can sell unique items at a large profit is through dungeon delving. Recette and Tear cannot fight, but by contracting an adventurer, they can traverse through dungeons, seeking out the best treasures to sell within the store. There are eight adventurers total, each with their own unique play style. Players immediately start out with Louie, a swordsman, but as more dungeons open up, so too do the number of adventurers one can contract.

Wah! But I dun wanna live in a box! Wah! But I dun wanna live in a box!

   Dungeons are by far the most challenging aspect of Recettear, as they are randomized. By entering a dungeon, the adventurer must collect as much treasure as they can while finding the gate to the next floor. More often than not, players will find themselves being transported to the next floor and placed right next to trap. Since combat in Recettear is a simple hack-n-slash affair, learning how the enemy moves is critical to not getting hit. Unfortunately, players will often find themselves being completely swarmed and will take plentiful damage purely because they cannot get out of the way or have triggered a trap that gives the enemy free range to smack the player's adventurer about. Each adventurer has a special move they can use to manipulate the situation, but they require hefty amounts of SP, so they have very limited use and SP items are far more difficult to come by than healing items.

   Another aspect that makes the dungeons challenging is the fact that players can only exit a dungeon every five floors. This means that if the adventurer barely has any healing items, it becomes a challenging experience to make it out of the dungeon alive. If the adventurer falls in a dungeon, Tear and Recette will only be able to bring back one item from the dive, whereas if they are successful, they can bring up to twenty items back to the town. Dungeon diving has obvious advantages, but it also consumes two slices of time, leaving only two slices to sell items. But if an adventurer falls unconscious in the dungeon, the day is completely shot, at which point players might as well reload an old save file so as not to waste valuable time. This can be a regular occurance. The starting point in each dungeon is as randomized as the dungeon itself, and players may find themselves reloading save files simply to get themselves into a better position. It also doesn't help that certain enemies come in swarms, and can easily destroy an adventurer if there's no good way to hit them all at once.

   Visually, Recettear isn't exactly remarkable, but it sports exceptionally cute graphics. In fact, they look far more polished than some of the games on the original PlayStation, but that isn't saying much. The still portraits, however, are bright and colourful, while the still backgrounds look vibrant and cheerful. Players also have free range to design their item shop based on their own personal preferences, which is a nice added bonus for those who wish to deck out their shop in their own individual style. Sound in Recettear is fairly average, as a lot of the music doesn't exactly stand out as anything exceptional. The voice acting in the game is entirely in Japanese and is quite good, adding to the overall experience.

   Recettear can be completed in less than ten hours, though the time will vary based on how successful players are each week at meeting their deadlines. It's also important to note that getting a "Game Over" in Recettear can work to the player's advantage, as while one may have to start back on Day 2 of the game, a huge chunk of their progress comes with them. Once the game is completed there are also some New Game+ features, including an Endless Mode where deadlines are non-existent and players can run their shop to their heart's content. In Endless Mode there are also new dungeons to explore and adventurers to acquire. There's also a Survivial Mode, for those who want an increased challenge. There's so much replayability in Recettear that those who are addicted to the gameplay can find countless hours of enjoyment.

   Recettear is a shining example of taking the RPG-simulation genre and extending it to greater lengths by giving the player free rein on nearly every aspect that the game offers. The game thrives in its complexity, but the challenge never feels daunting if you manage your time well. While the game does have its frustrating aspects in its randomization, particularly the random dungeons, there are always ways to work around the challenge; it just often requires more careful planning. For those looking for an exceptional simulation-RPG experience chock full of great humor and charm, Recettear may be that diamond in the rough that you've been searching for.

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