Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale reminds me of the Rune Factory series. It takes two completely disparate genres of games, an item shop sim and a dungeon crawler, and blends them together in a way that not only makes sense, but is also fun and enjoyable to play.
As you might expect, being an indie title localized from Japan, the story is delightfully quirky and unusual. You will play as Recette, a young girl who is forced into running an item shop when your father takes out a loan from a fairy finance company then skips town to become an adventurer. As you are the sole inheritor of your father, the finance company has come to you, requiring you to work to pay off his debts.
The tycoon aspects of the game are very thorough. You must manually purchase, make, or find everything you sell in your shop; you get to haggle over the prices you buy and sell items for; you can take advance orders for items; even customize the look of your shop. There are even economic fluctuations where items change in value, scarcity, and want. This adds more strategy to the game as well, as you’ll want to stockpile when things are cheap, and sell when they are expensive. Everything in the game can be bought or sold, just not immediately. Did I forget to mention that this is an RPG as well? Like all RPG’s, you must level up your merchant level, through successful bargaining and haggling, in order to gain access to everything there is to do in Recettear. Want to buy items from customers? You have to be level 2, tired of that drab wallpaper? Reach level 3 and you can change it. Advance orders? Level 8 will allow you to accept those.
The dungeon crawling is simpler than the item shop management, and for good reason- it isn’t the focus of the game. Dungeon crawling is simply a means to an end, finding new items that you can sell for 100% profit. It also features a leveling system where the adventurers you hire level up as they fight and kill more enemies. As they level up, they can fight longer and harder and make it deeper into the various dungeons, allowing you access to more and better loot.
Technically, the game looks solid. The graphics won’t blow you away, but they aren’t meant to. Everything is bright, cheery, and charming, and the music supports this feeling. The music reminded me of the Harvest Moon music as well. It is bright and cheery, but after awhile it gets very repetitive.
Recettear is a very hard game as well. The loan payments you must make come weekly, and the amount increases staggeringly. Knowing this, however, the developers made it so that you don’t have to start over from the beginning if you fail to make a payment. You can keep all the items you’ve got in inventory, 1,000 pix (the game’s currency), and start over from Day 2. The game will keep track of how many times you have to restart though. This provides plenty of incentive to try to reach those loan payments without fail, but you’ll also never feel that it is impossible, just very difficult. Once you beat the game, you’ll also gain access to more game modes, giving you a number of ways to continue playing the game even after you’ve beaten it.
I’m usually not a fan of indie games, but Recettear has won me over. The quirky story, the mild RPG elements, and the deep and enjoyable item shop management make this a worthwhile game. And for just $20, it is a great value for PC gamers as well.
Pros: Item shop management is engaging; Difficulty keeps you engaged; Dungeon crawling gives a nice change of pace; Multiple game modes extend the replayability
Cons: Music can get repetitive