Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is a delightful little indie game wherein the player controls an ever-optimistic little girl named Recette Lemongrass, whose father vanished and left her with an enormous debt to the Terme Finance Company. The company sends a kindly fairy named Tear to collect the debt. Seeing that Recette does not have the money to pay the debt, Tear suggests to Recette that she open an item shop to make money to pay off her father’s debt. She is given a month to repay the company, paying money in weekly installments that increase each week.
The game’s art is in done in a cartoony anime style. When characters speak, still images of the speaking characters appear on the screen. Dialogue is written out instead of spoken, though much of the original spoken Japanese dialogue is still in the game. Character models in the game are vibrant and colorful. The art in the game gives it a very cheery, upbeat atmosphere, perfectly complementing Recette’s demeanor. Enemy models and character models alike are very meticulously shaded and colored. It is clear that a lot of hard work went into the drawing of these models, and it has paid off; the game is bright and inviting.
The game’s characters are most certainly interesting. There is Recette, the overly upbeat item shop owner, Tear, the micromanaging but kindly fairy, Louie, the kindhearted and ever-destitute adventurer, more adventures of various types, and the store’s odd customers. Some of the game’s characters are clearly one-dimensional, such as Euria, a conniving merchant girl who sells items to unwitting consumers for far more than they are worth. Other characters such as Caillou, an adventuring magician, receive far more development. Caillou had a difficult childhood and frequents the local church despite a very evident distaste toward the church’s policies and perhaps even the town’s religion. Dialogue between characters is fun to read and interactions are often very amusing. Some of the characters are clearly annoyed, impressed, or confused by Recette’s upbeat attitude, and many of their reactions are priceless.
The game’s main plot is very straightforward. Once Recette pays off her father’s debt, Tear bids her farewell and begins to depart. During the game, however, the player is encouraged to explore the town and discover new plot elements. The player is forced to meet an adventurer, a destitute swordsman named Louie, who Recette and Tear hire to explore their very first dungeon. The more that a player alternates between running dungeons, selling items in shops, and exploring the town, the more story elements they will uncover. Many of the game’s characters have interesting interactions and relationships with others, and discovering these relationships is a lot of the fun of playing the game. However, if the player neglects his or her item shop duties, he or she will not be able to pay off the debt. The player need not fear, though. When a player fails to pay off Recette’s debt, the game gives an option to start a new game in the same saved game slot, and the player is allowed to keep all of the items that he or she possessed when the game was lost.
The game’s mechanics are very intriguing. The player is encouraged by Tear to haggle with customers, but the player is also shown a ‘Merchant Level’ experience bar in the lower left hand corner of the screen. Selling items to many customers in a row without haggling gains the player far more experience than haggling does. When the player’s merchant level is increased, the player receives rewards. One reward is the ability to hire an adventurer to take into the game’s dungeons. Other rewards include store expansions, the ability to use vending machines, and access to in-game news that causes the market to fluctuate, raising and lowering the prices that customers expect to buy and sell items for. The market fluctuation is part of what makes the game interesting. A player may receive an order for an item several days in advance and then realize when the customer arrives that the price of the item has gone down. The player must then choose between selling the item to the customer at a loss, or refusing to serve the customer in order to save money.
Unfortunately, though dungeon crawling is very fun, it is nearly impossible to meet Recette’s weekly payments through adventuring alone. This makes the normal game mostly about money management and keeping customers happy. Fortunately the game has several types of postgame, including a New Game+ that works in the same way as failing and restarting the game on the same save file, a Survival mode where Recette’s payments keep increasing each week until the player is forced to lose and the player’s longest run is recorded, and an Endless mode in which players are allowed to continue playing the game, debt-free. Endless mode is very enjoyable, as it allows the player to explore dungeons without consequence and complete any story elements that may have missed while attempting to repay the debt. There is also an Endless mode exclusive adventurer that the player can recruit. Endless mode is great for players who enjoy plot and the game’s dungeons, and Survival mode is great for players who enjoy challenges.
In all, Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is a wonderful management game that also doubles as a dungeon crawler. Character interactions are amusing, the art is good, the plot is well-scripted, and the gameplay is phenomenal. Fans of management games such as MMOs and The Sims, as well as this site’s weaboo population, would be well advised to purchase this game. It is a great investment, and will not disappoint its players. Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is available for purchase via Steam, Impulse, or GamersGate.