Let’s face it: RPG item shops are generally just a place for adventurers to dump the junk they find on slime #248, sell the kobold infants they stole from the warren and buy a few upgrades. Have you ever wondered how the other half lives? What drives the owner/operators of these item shops? Is it a compelling urge to buy random food stuffs sold by wide eyed little girls so their mothers can afford more sweets? Recettear is a look into the underbelly of your fantasy game item shop.
Recettear is the story of a girl named Recette. Recette is a cute young lass who has a love of candy and is skilled in sewing. Recette’s father left for a big adventure one day… and took out a huge amount of loans to pay for his trip. Recette’s father never came back and eventually the bank came to foreclose on Recette’s house because it was used as collateral for those loans. The fairy the bank sent to claim the house comes up with a plan for Recette to keep her home: turn it into an item shop. So now begins the tale of a young, charming but not wholly on the ball lass and her fairy banker trying to pay off a huge bank loan to save her home.
The premise and the story that unfolds is full of satire, clever translations and is true to the spirits of the characters. You can’t ask for anything more unless you are one of those stick in the mud literal translation lovers.
Story Rating: Very Good
Get ready for CUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTENESS! Recettear is a loli fest, with its cute heroine and cute faires and cute little girl shoppers. Gamers who are not fond of games that come straight at them wtih traditional anime looks, you’ll have to find a way to look past that bias or you will hate Recettear. The bright colors and pretty world Recette lives in can be off putting for some but it isn’t that bad to look at. The sprites aren’t so bad either. Nothing graphics card shattering but good, solid visuals.
Graphics Rating: Good
Although there is not a vast soundtrack to Recettear, the music works. Each tune hums along and does not intrude upon your gaming experience. While we would all like memorable soundtracks, a solid score to something does not get in the way and actually enhances your experience. Unlike some games I have recently played, I did not turn the volume all the way down on Recettear. What voice acting there is in the game is a treat. The voices do a good job of conveying the characters’ natures and are always welcome.
Sound Rating: Very Good
The game mechanics are deeper than one would think at first sight. Recettear rewards future profits over going for the big, early score with crap items. Customers have a set amount of money they can spend and you can either try to gouge your patrons for the most money, or you can build up your customers by charging prices closer to expected stickers.
If you choose the latter method, you gain experience as a shopkeeper, opening up new options to rearrange your store, expand, add vending machines or change the decoration. These changes influence which NPCs show up at your business. The NPC adventurers showing up can be a boon as you can then sell them upgrades so you can go into dungeons and reap more valuable items.
Dungeons are relatively simple. Each dungeon is randomly generated when you enter, meaning you cannot map them because that serves no purpose. As you go through different dungeons, you collect loot. Should your lackey… er, adventurer, that you have hired end up getting beaten to near death, you escape. Escaping means you leave with only one lousy item. If you brought items to help out your adventurer, you are up crap creek as you will probably have to abandon most of them. Should you succeed in your dungeon exploring, you get items to sell, items for fusion and experience for your adventurer for later excursions. Adventurers don’t come for free, so taking one down to the monster abodes need to be worth your while.
When you collect items needed for fusions, the ability to make better items from lesser ingredients can open a gateway to fash cash. The drops are random, though, and many times can pass before one stupid king slime will give you his slime liver. The RNG does no one any favors and because of this a person can be destined to make numerous runs of the same dungeon in hopes of getting one key ingredient. Of course, your merchant level also affects what you can identify from dungeons. Don’t make enough sales and raise your level? You’ll be looking at quite a few question marks.
Governing your item shop existence is the clock. The day is divided into segments and adventuring takes two of the four while selling things in your shop takes one. Going into town, no matter how many errands you run, takes one. This time management aspect adds a bit more to just buying and selling. Market flucuations also are present, with booms and busts happening for different items. After the first merchant level customers will begin to sell you things, ask for specific items and later put in orders for specific types of items. Specialization of wares is not your friend in Recettear. Combine all this and you have a game that has some fun, black humor as well as a deeper set of mechanisms for determing how you play the game.
Gameplay Rating: Great
Recettear is not a game the average person will play over and over again for a sustained period of time. Endless mode and new game+ help keep things entertaining and completists will go for filling the encyclopedia. Some will be satisfied that they keep poor, sweet, stupid Recette out of a cardboard box. There’s things to do after you have beaten the game but sometimes it felt not that compelling.
Replayability Rating: Above Average
Recettear is beholden to the Random Number Generator (RNG). Sometimes you’ll get hosed with a store full of cheap little girls early on while later on you may get crazy old men clamoring to buy sailor suits at inflated prices. In dungeon runs you can hit the jackpot with great items over and over or end up with tons of slime. Although later on, in the fourth dungeon, things become really good for drops, earlier dungeons are not always a pot of gold.
Balance Rating: Above Average
Running an item shop is not an entirely new game premise but it is a good twist on what is essentially a management game. Add in the dungeons and humor and you get a breath of fresh air. Really, isn’t that what originally boils down to anyhow?
Originality Rating: Very Good
The threat of having poor Recette thrown out into a cold, cruel world with nothing more than a tin of cat food and a cardboard box can spur someone on to keep playing. Even with a the extra modes, sometimes the magic wears out.
Addictiveness Rating: Above Average
People looking for a fun independant game that is actually easy on the time investment as well as being diabetes inducingly cute, look no further. Simulation people? You’ll find something too! Guys wanting bulky space marines sharing their most intimate moments with one another, huddled for warmth in the trenches while gently reassuring one another that what they are feeling is completely natural? Um… I dunno. Maybe not for yo. There’s enough in Recettear for a good swath of folks. The game was a hot seller when it was first released on Steam (I bought it from Gamer’s Gate though).
Appeal Factor: Good
The new game plus option, as well as the ability to continue your game after you have completed the main story are nice little extras. The humor of the translation really are endearing. Recette is just a heroine you can’t help but like, despite her crippling candy addiction and possible developmental disabilities.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Story: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Very Good
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
Final Score: GOOD GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Recettear‘s translation into English is the result of two people from Something Awful working hard to find a game to translate, convincing an independant Japanese devleoper into letting them officially release one of their games, then spreading the word to find an audience. You will not be disappointed if you take a smaller plunge than they did buy purchasing this game. Carpe Fulgur has captured lightning in a bottle and you should not miss out on this fun, quirky and refreshing game.