You shouldn’t overlook Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. The indie JRPG by Carpe Fulgur came out of nowhere and stormed our hard drive right before it stole our hearts. It’s not often that we see such an excellent JRPG on the PC that’s not an MMO or a console port and we just can’t recommend it enough.
The game finds you playing the role of Recette, a young girl with an irresponsible father who abandoned her to pursue a career as an adventurer. The problem is that Recette’s father left her mired in debt. Enter the loan-shark/fairy Tear, who helps Recette transform her home into an item shop to help pay off her loan.
Recettear starts off simple. You’ll purchase items at a discount from the Merchant’s Guild and marketplace – and then display them in your shop window to lure customers. Then the haggling begins as you attempt to maximize profits on each sale. But don't be fooled by Recettear's straightforward appearance. It quickly blossoms into a surprisingly complex and challenging simulator, requiring careful planning as you develop your quaint store into a bustling super center.
Above: Recettear puts a neat twist on the usual JRPG format, placing you behind the counter of an up-and-coming shop
Each week, you’ll need to earn enough money to make a payment to Tear. The amount of these payments increases dramatically each week, making time your most valuable commodity. And that's where Recettear really takes off. How you choose to manage your time each day will determine if you'll be able to pay off Tear for another week as you chip away at the huge debt owed by your father.
Above: As you level up your Merchant Level, you’ll be able to purchase expansions, new decorations, and even vending machines to lure in more customers
It may seem like a good idea to just buy low and haggle with customers to sell items for as much as you can. But there are always other elements to consider in Recettear. You'll want to turn a profit on every sale, but haggling too much can drive customers away, leaving them with the impression that you're a stingy shopkeeper. But offer a deal that's just the right price or haggle back-and-forth just the right amount, and the word will spread around town that you always sell items for a fair price. Selling low to adventurer friends is also something you'll want to consider, as it will wind up with them being better equipped the next time you hire them to dungeon dive for you.
Above: It's easy to pay off Tear's weekly debts at first. But as she becomes more demanding, you'll find yourself scrambling and scheming to come up with the cash you'll need
You’ll meet new adventurers and if you manage to befriend one, you can hire them to go dungeon diving. The adventurers you hire get to earn experience points while you get to keep all the free loot. Dungeon diving is a great way to increase your store’s inventory with free items, but it also takes up time that could have been spent keeping your store open for customers.
It's also one of the most annoying parts of the game. Dying is way too easy for adventurers until you level them up – and since you lose most of the loot you find when you die, you'll find yourself hitting the reset option way too often. Fortunately, once you level up one of your adventurers, dungeon diving becomes much more enjoyable. There's also a fun Boss Rush mode that opens up once you've cleared all the levels of an area, and the loot you find can help you restock your store shelves cheaply.
Above: It's always good to have a wide selection in your store's inventory. Not everyone needs expensive broadswords. Some customers just want something to eat for dinner
It's regrettable that Recettear is so short. But the extra New Game Plus and Survival Modes help remedy the game's brevity. Start a New Game Plus and you'll get to keep your Merchant Level, all your inventory of items, the character level of all the adventurer friends you've made. Starting with a high Merchant Level and seasoned adventurers means you'll be able to take full advantage of the game's Fusion system, which we barely touched during our first playthrough. This will allow you to craft lots of unique and high-quality items from ingredients found while dungeon diving. The Survival Mode pits you against a never ending wave of increasing debt payments with the goal being to see how long you can keep paying off Tear.
Above: Dungeon diving is a pain at first, but the battle system really opens up during your second playthrough
The extra modes sound tacked on. And they are. But that's okay, because the core gameplay of Recettear is so much fun that it's easy to continue obsessing over your profit margins and status of your store during multiple playthroughs as you continue to further expand your shop while improving the quality of your wares.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is deceptively simple. Don't be fooled by its cute-sy look and playful trappings. This RPG is hard as hell and incredibly addictive. Plus, with the extra post-game modes, it manages to deliver an excellent amount of value for your gaming buck.
Sep 16, 2010