Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale Review

There are two groups of people in this world: the rich, and the poor. The bourgeoisie, and the proletariat. The capitalizers, and the capitalizees. And then there’s the socialists, but they’re irrelevant to our American history. Recettear is a game that allows you to experience the joys of screwing people over with immorally-priced goods. You play as Recette, a little girl accompanied by a fairy named Tearcan you guess where the shop name came from? As you can infer from the title, the game revolves you running an item shop and managing the sales and stocks of your store throughout the whole day. It may sound mundane, but through the power of anime, they managed to make Recettear a very fun game to play.

Capitalism, ho!

Going through the introduction, you’ll swiftly discover that you’re in a whole lot of debt thanks to your vanishing father. It’s a huge debt, but rest assured; Tear’s got your back. Every week, you need to pay off a progressively increasing portion of your debt, and you will by buying low and selling high. At the start, you don’t have much capital on you, so head down to the Market and Merchant’s Guild to buy some starting merchandise. Head back to Recettear and put your new products on the shelves. When you’re ready to start the work day, flip on the open sign and let the customers flow forth.

Each customer, be it a little girl or an old man, will have their own range of how much they’re willing to buy or even sell an item. A big portion of the game revolves around you trying to figure out how much to sell an item for to a specific character. Perhaps in one deal, a man will agree to purchase something for 120% of the price. If you try 130% in another deal, he will attempt to bargain the price down. And perhaps if you tried to sell the item at 140%, he will outright refuse the deal. There is a specific cutoff percentage for every patron where they will always be guaranteed to purchase without hassle, and it’s your job to figure out what that percentage is (hopefully without looking it up).

And it pays to find that sweet spot as every successful transaction results in merchant experience. When you successfully haggle at that sweet spot, you get a bonus to that merchant experience that can be chained to create a combo giving even more experience. The merchant experience will increase your merchant level which unlocks new features and mechanics for you to discover. In addition, getting that bonus will net a significant gain to customer reputation. There are a few benefits to increasing customer reputation, but the primary one is that their spending budget increases when it is leveled, meaning that the little girl who couldn’t afford a cherry now has the expenditure to do so.

There are plenty of other mechanics that simulate what a real-life economy would be like. You often get announcements proclaiming when an item or category is having a price increase or decrease. With that information, you either buy an abundance of the item or category for future sales or sell the items for an exorbitant markup. Sometimes an announcement will inform you of a potential boom which, if the right conditions are met, will result in a ton of sales in a single period. You can even cause a crash in the market for an item if you sell too much of it in a short amount of time. Indeed, there are plenty of intricacies in the free market you would never encounter in one of those backward command economies.

Adventure and profits!

Besides the item shop, the other main component of the game is the dungeon crawling experience you receive from the Adventurer’s Guild. Throughout the game Recette will acquire the business cards for various adventurers; you will require one to enter the dungeons. Every dungeon will have multiple floors with a different layout every time you enter it. Each floor is populated with chests, enemies, and a single exit you need to find, with every fifth floor involving a boss fight. The combat is rather generic and the enemies aren’t challenging to go against either, not to mention that it is a chore to trudge throughout the floor to find that one exit. Still, the boss fights are a fun break from the monotony of the dungeons and there exists story events and characters you have to go on an adventure to find.

The primary reason to go to the dungeons outside of story-related events is for the drops monsters provide. While you could sell these drops on their own, they can be kept to be used as fusion material. Fusion items include food, equipment, consumables, and decoration. While most of them are generally profitable to sell, the rest, especially equipment, can be worthwhile to keep and use for yourself. Fusing items tend to be a late-game activity, especially since fusion ranks are unlocked as leveling rewards, but the items you get are unique to the mechanic and can be the best equipment to get in the game.

Outside of the shop and dungeons, you are able to travel to other parts of the city of Pensee like the Chapel and Town Square just to see events. They don’t do anything gameplay-wise, but the interactions between different characters are joyful scenes to watch as they become more like story characters than just walking piggy banks. Of note are the scenes between Recette and Tear as they become more than just partners but also friends. Sometimes these events will provide bits of information about the world, sometimes they are there for pure comedic effects. I just like seeing them since it’s kind of like playing through segments of a visual novel.

This is a cute little game with a simple concept executed amazingly. There’s a surge of dopamine that you get every time you perfectly rip off a customer and flooding your cash register with pix. When you’re not hard at work selling candy apples to little girls at outrageous prices, it’s heartwarming to see the scenes where Recette and Tear get along with each other, even if Recette says something really silly. Play Recettear, and you’ll never pick up another Karl Marx text again.

This game can be found on Steam here.

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