The English-localized version of Recettear launches today. I played through the demo, and I wanted to share a few thoughts. Put me down for “weakly recommends.”
Recettear is “an item shop’s tale.” You know those merchants back at town in your fantasy adventure games? Recettear is your shop, and you are Recette. Your father was one of those adventurers, and he went missing (presumed dead) after taking out a substantial loan with your house as collateral. Tear is your partner, an accountant fairy from the financial company who provides you with advice and collects periodic, increasing loan payments.
The basic game is an economic sim. You run a shop where you buy and sell items. The demo introduces working with the merchant’s guild, selling in your shop, haggling, buying from customers, and helping customers find that special item. This is rather slow-paced, although I imagine it goes more quickly in the full version after you run out of tutorial.
It also comes equipped with a console-style dungeon crawl. I would say “Zelda-like,” but I am several consoles behind on Zelda games, and maybe there is a better example these days. It has a top-down view, and you take your swordsman through a dungeon with bouncing slimes and other enemies. I presume they get harder at higher levels.
How do the two interact? First, you visit the dungeon when you hire an adventurer. You sponsor his trip (and play it, rather than watching how he does) in return for items for your shop. Buy low-sell high is stochastically dominated by “kill things and get their stuff for free”-sell high. Second, you are an item shop owner, so you can equip your adventurer with your wares to improves his performance. Third, adventurers will shop at your store, so it is even better when they pay you to improve how well they work for you. This links to “helping customers find that special item” when you want your swordsman to have this sword. Post-tutorial, you will have adventurer and dungeon options.
Save before visiting the dungeon. Adventuring is surprisingly unforgiving and consumes most of your in-game day. There is no “I am done, let me out of here” button, so your adventurer must keep going to an exit; failure means getting 1 item instead of 20. Save your game.
The full version promises crafting, complete with ingredient and item quality. You also level up as a shop keeper and level your adventurer(s), but I did not advance enough in the demo for that to matter much. The end of the demo also promises more plot.
The style is very Japanese. It has anime art and random bits of Japanese voice acting. Cute reigns. Recette is very genki.
I hope the full version has a manual. Much of the demo is a VERY talky tutorial. Despite that, it does not tell you which keys to press or what they do. If you know which keys to use, it is straightforward, but you open the game at a menu with no indication of how to start. You cannot click with the mouse, and nothing tells you that Z is the primary key. It is, by the way: arrows to move, Z-V are your buttons 1-4. When you negotiate prices, you use the arrow keys to adjust prices rather than entering numbers. You can change key-bindings by running a separate .exe file. This rates somewhere below Borderlands on the quality of porting controls from console to PC, but at least there are very few controls to worry about. If you can use a controller, that is probably a good idea.
This seems like an ideal game for a handheld system. As a PC game, I am a bit shakier, since it feels like I should be playing it on my Super Nintendo. I expect the play experience to improve once past the point of having a new tutorial sequence every in-game day.
Based on the comments I have seen, if you like it, you will really like it. Some people are just enormously positive about what struck me as a bit of a bagatelle. It caters well to Harvest Moon fans, and it compares favorably with whatever shop, restaurant, of farm you might be “playing” on Facebook.
I do not know about the price point, but I do not know about my price point at all these days. It is a $20 game. I bought Torchlight for $5 or $10, which was a steal, and I do not suspect that this will be two to four times the game that Torchlight is. On the other hand, Warhammer Online was $50 or $60 at launch, and this seems more than one-third to two-fifths of the fun from that. At $15, it would compare favorably with the $15 you are spending on your MMO month, and I would certainly buy it on a $10 sale. I could probably spend a week pondering my price point and how MMOs and digital distribution have distorted it.
You can transfer your saved game from the demo to the real thing. If you find the demo appealing, it will probably be worth the $20 to you.