Recette is a nice little girl with nary a worry in her life. Holding a job has never even crossed her mind until a fairy named Tear comes knocking on her door. This little blue fairy (who has a strict demeanor reminiscent of Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist) delivers the wonderfully fortunate news that Recette’s father has disappeared off the face of the planet with a debt the size of Olympus.
In Tear’s words, the debt is so large that she can’t tell Recette exactly how much it is for fear that Recette will faint on the spot. Because no one else can pay off the debt, Recette now has to either run an item shop and pay everything back … or sell the house and live in a cardboard box for the rest of her life.
As you can probably tell, the story behind the Recettear, developed by EasyGameStation and localized by Carpe Fulgur, isn’t overly serious. In fact, nothing in the game is really serious, from the art to the fact that, when you fail to pay off the debt, you just start at the beginning of the month with everything you had still intact. Much of the dialogue is drenched in humor, and while I admit that I’m not a big fan of games saturated with witty remarks, the localization does a great job in lighting everything up with their slightly out-there jokes.
The game is mostly split into two different parts: the shop-managing and the dungeon-trekking. Let’s start with the shop first. The basic of running the store is setting your own price. You get to choose how much to sell each item for when a potential customer brings it up to you, and you can choose to the price to buy items that the customers sometimes sell to you. Of course, if you’re too extravagant, the people will just walk away angry, so it’s usually in your best interest to stick fairly close to the base price.
Something interesting I noticed while playing this game was that each set of customers seemed to have their own likes, dislikes, and tolerance levels. The little children can’t afford to part with too much money, and will even try to bargain with you until you give them a price that leaves you with absolutely no profit. And while you’ll do okay with the older men and the senior citizens, the housewives are hard to haggle with. After you’ve built a rapport, though, they’ll start to be more tolerant of higher prices, so customer service is important!
To start up a shop, first you need to have something to sell. There are generally three ways to get stock: have the customers sell things to you, buy them at another store, or to go out adventuring and sell whatever you find there.
Customers sales are entirely random, but are a good way to buy things cheap, and it’s almost always in your interest to buy them whenever possible. There are exceptions, though. Quite a few times, I received strange looks from people around me when I started yelling at the poor old men trying to sell me their “treasured” fishing poles the day before the weekly deadline came around…
The usual way to acquire items is to go to a store and pick things up. This usually nets you the item at a base price, and then you can sell it for a profit. It’s more complicated than that, though. There are times when an item jumps or falls in price, and you’ll want to respond according to your best judgement. Stock up on shields when they drop to around half their original price, and then wait for the jump and sell them at twice. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as that.
(compare the percentages between this picture and the previous one… hehehe…)
As you complete more sales, your merchant level goes up, which unlocks different features in the game, including the ability to customize your shop’s flooring and carpeting, as well as expand your store so that you can sell more things at once. More merchandise becomes available to you in the stores as well, and the ability to fuse items is unlocked sometime in the earlier levels, although you can’t do anything until you get the ingredients from the dungeons. The fused items sell for much higher than each ingredient would alone, and as you level up, you can fuse more items.
The game also tests your time management skills. Each day is split into four quarters. Tear calls these “slices”. Like the slices of a pie because Recette likes pies. Say you open your store in the morning. After a certain period of time — I’ll explain this in a second — the store closes, and one of your four time quarters is used up.
Following this, you can choose to either re-open your store (which will use up another time quarter when it closes again), or go out. Like running the store, going outside also takes up a single quarter, whereas going adventuring takes up three quarters, leaving you with only one quarter to run the store (or go shopping). Also, you’ll sometimes have to plan a couple days in advance since some customers will place advance orders. If your store’s not open when they come to pick up the items, you just missed out on a chance to sell big.
Keep in mind, the length of a quarter can vary, as can the number of customers your shop can cater to. The number of customers will change, depending on the size of your shop, its layout, the time of day and so on.
Finally, we get to the adventuring part of the game. While adventuring, you can go collect items you wouldn’t find elsewhere (usually ingredients for fusions), get certain stock items for free, as well as take in a change of pace.
To start, you need to find adventurers who are willing to go dungeon-trekking with you. These people usually appear throughout the game either in random events throughout the city or when they visit your shop. After you’ve found the character and built something of a friendship (by talking more to them as well as selling them items), they offer to make a contract with you. Later on, some of the events in the game also help you learn more about the characters through additional short dialogue.
You can choose between several party members. Each one has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. In the end, though, choosing which person to use is more a matter of preference than practicality because I didn’t find much of a difference in terms of how difficult the dungeon was with one character as opposed to another.
In a dungeon, the game adopts another set of controls. The directional keys are used to walk, and one button is assigned to attack and another to special attacks. A third to cycle between different special attacks, and a final to the menu. The controls are amazingly simple, but this works to keep your head focused on the dungeon itself. The many types of enemies and traps in the dungeon spice up the journey a bit.
For a great part of the first few times you wander into a dungeon, you’ll be spending it learning the quirks of the enemies and how to dodge each of their attacks. The traps can be avoided by watching and learning as well. Just charging headlong into battle is just going to get you killed very quickly.
The dungeons are divided into floors, and on every fifth floor is a boss. Defeating it will lead you to a door that allows you to go back to the town, or you can take the next portal to the next set of five floors. Should you decide to go back, you can sell the items you found in the dungeons (either in treasure chests or as drops) or take them over to the guild to fuse.
Overall, the game starts off pretty interesting and exciting. This was my first time playing a shop management game (…OK, that’s a lie. But I did so bad in Style Savvy that that doesn’t really count…) and I was rather proud that I got others to buy from my store. However, as the (game-time) weeks passed, and I got a handle on the pattern, it was merely a matter of repeating the same actions over and over again. I admit that after a while, I wasn’t even really watching how much I was upping or lowering the prices since I was so used to the haggling system.
On the other hand, I also felt that a lot of the game works off the concept that “the world is as big as you want it to be.” It helps that after you finish the game (i.e. finish paying off your father’s debt), you are allowed several options. One is to repeat the game in a New Game+, with the same items, levels, and money that you had before. Another is a sort of free style mode, where you can just do whatever you want for as long as you want. The final is a survival style game, where you play through as many weeks as you can until you lose to the debts. If you wish, you can expand as much as you want, use as many characters as you want, find as many items as you want. But really, to just get by? You only need the smallest version of the store possible and only one adventurer throughout.
The art is cute, and the voices, when they appear, are perfect. The music is also great. The design of the economic system demonstrates a lot of thought, especially with the trends and the preferences of the different types of customers, that added a different spin on things. Sometimes the game got a little monotonous, but it’s really as fun as you make it.
Food for Thought:
1. The official site states that increasing the size and manipulating the style and atmosphere of the shop (which you can check by talking to Tear) can unlock “something Big.” I wonder what that is? It’s certainly not possible to reach that point in the story portion of the game, though…
2. In fact, it seems like there’s a lot of material that you can get if you have the freedom to move around without worry of deadlines. You can see lots of teaser images in the ending sequence of characters that you’ve never met before.
3. All the scenes are skippable, making replaying a cinch. That was a nice move on EasyGameStation’s part.
4. What if the game had an online component? Selling and buying from other players as well may be fun.
5. Sometimes it’s a little difficult to tell if a person wants to sell an item or buy something. There’s been so many times I’ve paid extravagant prices for an item because I thought that that person wanted to purchase it…