Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale Review
More than just an item shop sim...
By Harry Hughes
Price: USD $19.99 (AUD $21.31)
Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is a game which offers a lot more than face value would have you think. While it is without a doubt the most comprehensive RPG item-shop simulator around (and we're unsure as to the possible existence of others), further analysis shows that it expands into something much more and provides an experience which J-RPGs have become known for.
In all honesty, most gamers - even those into the RPG genre - will struggle with the first period of gameplay. It begins by showing you the ropes and having you put your newly-acquired skills to practice. This is a very repetitive process and it wouldn't come as a shock if some players felt ready to put the game down.. But this is one case where perseverance really does pay off.
Slowly, the buying/selling concept which gave the game its foundations begins to play less of a role, with a larger focus on characters and story-telling becoming apparent. This is where the seemingly-simple shopping simulation game expands and takes on a far more conventional RPG play-style, and really shines.
Through talking to other characters around the game world, you can acquaint yourselves with them and hire them to do different tasks.. Most of which revolve around the concept of entering dungeons and progressing through various floors to defeat bosses or find certain items. Each of these characters has their own statistics, which advance with new equipment and through gaining rank, as modern RPGs would have us expect. What's really good is that throughout your travels, you really feel like you get to know a few characters.
That said, story is not a strong point in Recettear. It is advanced in little scenes, which combines little animations with characters portrayed in anime-style art. This is very reminiscent of old point & click games, where we'd see two characters conversion on a still screen.. This is one of few frustrations in a game which, despite offering something new, is beginning to see the signs of aging.
Aging? Yes. Believe it or not, Recettear is actually an English re-make of a game released in Japan in 2007. This brings a few further frustrations to the table. Firstly, medium-high resolution monitors are not supported, so there is a high reduction in visual quality. The voice-overs, if they could so be labelled, remain in Japanese, and while this is a source of charm at first, it quickly grows old.. In fact, the need for voice-overs at all seems somewhat non-existent. The visuals, while outdated, hold up reasonably well
The price of the game, at $20, has been quite a strong talking point within the indie scene - with the age of the game being quite an important factor. In comparison to other indie games, it is a high price, perhaps unreasonable even, especially if taking into account the game's maturity. But what many seem to be missing is that there is plenty of content to play through here. As you advance, you have more work to do - your business growing in popularity.. you begin to take advance orders, and you'll need to learn how to set profitable, yet reasonable price for your items.
Your shop will expand in size. The option of changing the Décor of the store becomes available, and while this seems like a useless little add-on at first, it actually influences the amount/type of customers that will walk through your door. The ability to merge different items together in order to create superior equipment adds one more aspect we've come all too used to seeing in modern role playing games.
This is why Recettear has the potential to be such a successful game. The concept of running an item shop should be able to entertain any gamer for a while, and for those not impressed by the repetitive action and commitment this business required, then the adventure/RPG side of things should certainly be more appealing.. and while it sounds like a fall-back plan of sorts, everything is almost-seamlessly integrated into one charming little package.
The Final Verdict
It's the balance between simulation and role-playing that makes Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale such an interesting play. While there is little emphasis on story in the game, players will still feel as if they're learning and achieving something in the game world. The most questionable aspect of this title is its price, considering newer games which do more for the advancement of their genre can be found at the same price, if not cheaper. Despite this, Recettear is still a lovely little title which offers plenty of hours in gameplay, but more importantly, something new.
A unique, charming little game.