Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is a cute anime-styled action role-play game crossed with a business/shop simulator created by EasyGameStation. It follows the antics of a girl named Reccette who is tasked with running an item shop to pay off her estranged father’s debt or else lose her house. A fairy named Tear visits Recette to collect on her newfound debt and offers to help get the shop running. Together they run the shop named Recettear while enlisting the aid of adventurers to gather their supplies.
Gameplay in Recettear comes in two halves. The first half is the shop simulator part of the game. Inside the store, you put the items you want to sell on display then sit behind the counter and open shop. Various NPC’s will ask to buy one of your items, and then you haggle with them to sell at the best price you can. This is the primary way by which you get the money you need to make the weekly debt payments. At first it almost sounds boring, but there’s a fairly complex system that makes your placement of certain items matter. The best example is that you want to place your most eye-catching stuff by the front window to attract more customers. Once you get the hang of the haggling, it gets more and more fun as you make more money. There’s a limited number of NPC’s in the game, but they each have their own hidden level that determines how much they are willing or able to spend. You can raise these levels by not screwing them over too much and by visiting events throughout the town. There are also news events that will have an impact on the price of certain items. The haggling does eventually get repetitive, though, and eventually you won’t even have to look at what they’re trying to buy, because you know that they’ll always buy at a certain percentage of the base price.
The second part of the game is the action-adventure dungeon-crawling that nets you various supplies and goods to sell. You leave your shop and head to the adventurers’ guild to hire an adventurer. These adventurers will go into the dungeons and kill enemies for some sweet loot. The gameplay here is insanely fun and very reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda’s top-down games. Combat is simple, but satisfying. The biggest drawback in the dungeon-crawling portion of the game is that the enemies are very unoriginal. The monsters are all generic like slime monsters, bats, knights and those little tentacle monsters, and as you progress, you just come across different colored versions of enemies that you’ve seen before with bigger health pools and slightly different attack patterns.
Altogether, both sides of the gameplay are satisfying and enjoyable, but there is a balancing issue in the game that can ruin the whole thing. It is far too easy to simply buy from the shops and sell for a huge profit. This is especially noticeable once you start to make enough money to buy and sell the really expensive stuff. You can buy a treasure for about 17,000 pix (the in-game currency) and sell it at your own shop for 25,000 or more. Eventually, buying and selling renders the dungeon-crawling obsolete, and the huge jumps in your weekly payments make doing so very attractive if not necessary. It effectively turns one of the most fun elements in the game into a big waste of time.
The story in Recettear is basic but also sad and cute. Recette’s father goes missing after setting out in a grand adventure, and Recette is suddenly left to pick up the pieces that he left behind financially while also becoming an orphan. In true anime fashion, her mother is missing but never really mentioned, and Recette doesn’t seem to have any friends of her own until she meets Tear. Whether this is good storytelling by emphasizing her loneliness is or really bad storytelling by lazily omitting characters is unclear. Either way, the story becomes really cute when Tear slowly but surely transforms from a cold, distant miser to a kindhearted friend and sort of mother figure for Recette. Along the way, Recette begins to find many new friends ranging from the delusional to the quirky. The story is not deep or even all that interesting so much as it is just plain cute. That is until you realize just how sad and desperate it must feel to be Recette herself. After all she does have to cope with the loss of her father while trying to keep herself from a very tragic fate.
Poor little homeless girl
Everything about Recettear’s graphics is anime. All of the characters are cute anime characters. The dungeons and their monsters are all anime-styled. It is a very cute style that perfectly complements the main character’s personality and pretty much everything else about the game. Basically, if the entire game itself can be described in one word, that word would be “cute.” Each of the items has its own unique sprite, which is neat considering that the items are Recettear’s main focus, and it is more than some AAA titles can say. The worst thing about the graphics is that the enemies all look the same.
The music is very impressive for such a small game. While it is just as cute as everything else when in the shop and the town menu, the music in the dungeons has a mysterious and dangerous feel to it. In either setting, the music is definitely catchy.
The voice acting is, yet again, extremely cute. It is all voice-acted in Japanese, which I personally find enjoyable. The Japanese voice acting might bother some people, but odds are that if it did, then the whole game itself might not be for them. I find it to be fun, and it does well to further catch Recette’s overabundant cuteness, and that of many other characters.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is currently available on Steam for $19.99. As of now, I have spent about 16 hours on it, and while I may decide to play it more, it does get repetitive after 10-12 hours of gameplay. Unlocking new dungeons takes a rather long time, and by the time you do, you’d be better off just buying and reselling everything. It is the type of game that you can play and have five or so hours go by without your noticing, though. I’d recommend waiting for a sale to bring it under at least $15.
Recettear is a fun and cute game that is perfect for those who enjoy the art style. There are very few games that employ a good hybrid between the shop simulator and the more traditional action or RPG style gameplays, and this is one of them. It is something that I wish there were more of, so I might have had much more fun with this title than I would have if there were more like it. It is a decent game that has few major flaws in gameplay, but those flaws are overshadowed by the uniqueness of the game as a whole. The idea and overall execution of the game itself is even fun enough to ignore the buy-and-sell balancing problem that I highlighted earlier and just play the game as it was likely intended to be played. Otherwise, the gameplay is fun; the graphics and the sound are insanely cute; and the story is sympathetic and interesting enough to care about the characters.
Score: 3 / 5