Have you ever found yourself in an RPG, wandering into the local item shop and staring into the seemingly dead eyes of the shop vendor? If not perusing their wares, maybe you will find yourself contemplating their existence. Do they realize how much gold you actually have and could probably push their prices up? Why is their selection so sporadic, and how are they sourcing their loot? Do they have mouths to feed, or do they literally never leave this shop, shackled to it as it is not their destiny to be an adventurer — it is yours.
Have you ever wanted to be that very shopkeeper? Well, you’re in luck, as within this strange blend of dungeon-crawling and money-making strategy game, you get to play the starring role of that very shop keeper — in the form of an anime-esque little girl being hounded constantly like a fairy. Yup, this sounds like any normal RPG by any means.
Diving into the story of Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, we are met with the heroine of the so called tale, Recette. This girl, if given the chance, would spend all her ditzy days just lying in bed and sleeping yet she gets a rude awakening in the form of a stern fairy named Tear. Turns out this fairy is here to collect a debt belonging to Recette’s missing father, who skipped town and has left his poor daughter to deal with the debt.
With few skills under her belt and very little choice, Recette is left to run a typical RPG item shop in the hope of whittling away at the debt. She names said store Recettear (a blend of both her and Tear’s names) and starts her own adventure so to speak of shop management.
As far as our two main characters go, they do play off of each other rather nicely – Recette being the optimistic and cheerful girl despite her impending homelessness and Tear acting as the ‘straight guy’ to their dynamic and being the nagging tutorial giver. However, just like in any RPG, there is funky cast of other characters to support our main heroines.
By exploring the town, you get to meet other adventurers that can help you out, and as the days pass by, you can choose to get to know them more or just focus on one character in particular. The plot unfolds in a daily sequence, but if you don’t manage to meet your monetary goal by the end of an allotted time period, it’s an instant Game Over; Recette will be left to live out her days in a cardboard box. A sad image, we know, so you really want to focus on reaching that goal.
How does one do that exactly? Well in any given day you need to decide whether to devote your time between keeping your shop open or venturing out to get items for your store.
By manning your shop, you can watch as other NPCs begin to barter with you to lower your prices. There is a clever system in the game which is practically haggling.
You need to be aware of the age and, most noticeably, the class of the character you are selling to. A young girl isn’t going to be able to afford your 1000 gold treasure, after all, and an elderly gent might just be happy to pay that.
Also keep in mind that the adventurers that help you out in your journey will also pop into your store.
If they buy a weapon or piece of armor then they are more than likely to equip it to themselves, so you don’t want them leaving the store with items worse than what they already own, as that won’t help you next time you are dungeon crawling.
You can design the layout of your store and which items you will be displaying. To draw in more customers, having your best items in your store window is practically a must.
But how can we draw in customers if we have no items? Well, by choosing to go out to a dungeon, Recette and Tear can be escorted by one of many adventurers that you can befriend throughout the story. Each one is a different class (knight, assassin, etc.) and will use different weapons and armor.
Successfully defeating enemies and collecting items, as well as finishing off the dungeon boss, will allow you to keep everything you have collected to sell in your store. You have a limited space in your inventory though, so choose wisely.
The sound of the game isn’t something that will be very memorable to the player; it’s a run-of-the-mill blend of generic tunes, none of which stand out but still make for decent background noise.
All of the dialogue is in Japanese, so those who aren’t into playing games in their non-native language may find the story segments hard to connect to.
Some voices are more tolerable than others, but for those that are fine with this choice, then it is passable. The art style is cute, if not a bit simple, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Some sprites do appear to be either borrowed or copied from other games (mainly the enemy ones), so they look a little odd when compared to the sprites of main characters. The character design is quite appealing though, and the style of each character does suit their archetype within the fantasy setting.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is a refreshing take on the dungeon crawling genre with an injection of economic management. You get the options of both dungeon crawling and micro managing your own little store while also having the added pressure of a timer so it meets the requirements of at least being a challenge for the player.
Beating the game can unlock various new modes such as an Endless Mode which allows you to carry on with the game without worrying about a looming debt. There is also the Survival Mode that cranks up the difficulty with every rising debts and great fluctuation of item worth over the course of the story.
It’s nice to finally have another game that gives you something to do after you complete the main story and give you an extra added challenge.
For those looking for something different in the dungeon crawling genre of video games, then certainly give Recette and her quirky store a chance. At least then she won’t have to live in a cardboard box. Just think of the children!