About six and a half years ago, Recettear: An Item Shop Tale was released for the PC in the US. It had been out for three years prior to that in Japan, meaning the game is ten years old this year. Recettear is a game where you don’t play as an adventurer; instead, you play as the proprietor of the item shop those adventurers frequent. I heard about it around the time of release and thought it sounded pretty cool. Some number of years after it came out, I bought it during a Steam sale, kind of on a whim. I played it for a few hours, again thinking it was pretty cool, but didn’t keep up with it and it quickly found its way into that part of my Steam library that I scroll past without even thinking.
Well, for some reason, it came up in a conversation a friend and I were having recently, which sparked my interest in it again. I loaded it up, hoping to actually stick with it this time.
Some 40-odd hours later, I find myself having finished the game, but still unable to put it down. Recettear is a brilliant little management sim that basically stole the last four days of my life from me.
Recettear‘s success doesn’t come off of the strength of any one aspect of it, rather, it’s how all of its parts come together that make it such a fantastic game.
Recettear‘s success doesn’t come off of the strength of any one aspect of it, rather,
it’s how all of its parts come together that make it such a fantastic game. The shop simulation is relatively simple, and can be easily abused later in the game, and the action-RPG elements that play out when venturing into dungeons are light. But when these simplistic systems are layered on top of each other the way they are in Recettear, you end up with an experience that feels complete; whatever weaknesses the individual elements may have are compensated for by the rest of the systems. Honestly, I wish there was a bit more content in Recettear so that I could have this fantastic experience for even longer than I have.
That’s not to say Recettear is lacking in content or anything, because it isn’t. I’m not even all the way through everything it has to offer after the main story is completed, and I’m 40 hours in. I can see the endgame from where I’m at, but it could be another 5-10 hours before I actually get there. Recettear has quite a bit to do. Sure, a lot of it is nothing more than slight variations of previous stuff, but the simulation aspect that runs underneath it all keeps everything from getting stale.
Where Recettear really gets its hooks in you, though, is the “days” system. Each day, prices fluctuate, sometime swinging from unprofitable to almost game-breakingly valuable on a moment’s notice, encouraging players to stick around for one more day to see if they can make a huge profit in the morning. Also, since much of the initial progression is based on the passage of days, it can be very easy to convince yourself that you’ll put the game down after you see what happens in the morning. This leads to a “one more turn” sort of mentality, keeping you going even when you have other things to do. Like, you know… eat. Or sleep. That sort of thing. It’s a lot like the Civilization games in that way, though that’s maybe the only resemblance the two series’ share.
Recettear is a lot more active than a game like Civilization is. When you run low on funds or things to sell in Recettear, the best way to procure more is by hiring an adventurer to go into a dungeon with you. How this ends up playing out is that the player is given control of the adventurer, taking them through randomly-generated dungeon levels in search of valuable treasures. The combat is very simple, but the promise of picking up an extremely valuable item was always enough to distract me from what honestly isn’t an incredibly fleshed-out system.That said, the very presence of it adds to the experience in Recettear, taking what could be a very passive game-experience and turning into one that the player has a very active role in. And in spite of the less-than-kind things I’ve had to say about the system itself, it is still fun; the combat isn’t unenjoyable by any means.
Recettear is a fantastic indie game that still holds up even ten years after its release. While I’ve seen a number of games centered on the idea of running a shop or town in a fantasy world, none that I’ve played have quite hooked me the way Recettear has. I wholeheartedly recommend Recettear to anyone and everyone, but I especially encourage those looking for a less stressful RPG experience to check it out.
[Cross-posted as a user review on giantbomb.com]