A unique spin off of the Japanese RPG that’s half shop management, half dungeon-crawler.
Have you ever wondered where all of the item shop owners in role-playing games get all of their stock? Yeah, me neither, but somebody sure did because EasyGameStation’s difficult to pronounce (and even more difficult to classify) Recettear is based on just that premise. A bizarre mix of dungeon battling action and bartering with customers in-store, Recettear defies classification.
It’s a unique hook that could bridge the normally wide gap between those that enjoy shop management games and those that enjoy dungeon crawling action games. The only problem is that Recettear is neither a Jack-of-all-trades nor a master of one. Fans of each genre will find better games elsewhere, but in all likelihood there has never been one that melded the two extremely disparate styles.
Oddly, the best comparison is the long-running Harvest Moon series, the granddaddy of the modern farming simulator that has been around since the mid-1990s on the Super Nintendo. The style is different, but the mechanic is the same: use produce (or in Recettear‘s case, weapons and armor) that you’ve acquired during your work-week (dungeon adventures) to gain more money to buy new upgrades and better crops (items to sell in your shop.)
The central mechanic of the game revolves around managing your shop, which is truly a lot of fun. You first acquire items by either purchasing them from a wholesale market or finding them on your adventures. Then you return to the shop and place the items in display cases. One of the most fun parts is that placement in the store actually kind of matters. If you place an item in the window it becomes a premier item that represents your shop.
When you open the shop customers flood in and will ask you about items. From here it’s your job to barter with them to get the best profit possible. However, if you give them an initial price too high they’ll get angry and leave. So you must be crafty about your opening offer and how long you spend haggling.
The dungeon crawling sections are less noteworthy, and definitely feel less polished. You move through sections of dungeon, slowly revealing the area while fighting monsters with a fairly rudimentary combat system. It has the potential to be something like a Diablo or FATE clone in that you can equip your soldier with items you’ve found/purchased, but it never reaches that level of compulsion. Mostly these sections are ho-hum but add a good level of attachment to your items and an indefinable pride in your store.
Many games of this ilk will lean on the nostalgia crutch until it snaps and the game stumbles, but Recettear doesn’t fall into that trap. It’s a much better game as a result. The only true complaints I had with this game were a somewhat annoying (yet oddly endearing) protagonist and cut scenes that go on entirely too long. However, every one of them can be skipped so it’s never a big deal.
Recettear is nothing if not unique. It’s central mechanics may not be as compelling as games that focus on them exclusively, but the synthesis of the two ideas proves to be a solid new type of genre fusion that has rarely before ever been imagined.