This is a game that I’ve been looking at since before it came out on Steam. It’s always looked like something that is right up my alley gameplay wise, but I haven’t been able to get behind the anime aspect, not for the price tag at least. So when it went on sale on the first day of the recent Steam Summer Sale for five bucks, I felt I had to give it a fair shot.
And I was right about almost everything regarding my initial assessment of the game. Yes, it is very over the top in how anime it is. Japanese voice-acting is completely in tact in this localization, with no English option, only the game’s text has been translated. The translation is in a style, which is again very anime. Something I find incredibly annoying as I play through as it tries ridiculously hard to be cute, but I’m sure the target audience for this game (lonely hermit Japanese men and their North American counterparts) really appreciates it.
Unfortunately, my taste in gameplay must be similar to those lonely hermits, because I feel like I can completely overlook all the anime stylings of this game, and there are a lot, and really dig into the meat of it.
At it’s heart, it’s a market game. Your goal is to make the most money (with goals each week which you have to meet) and make it in the most efficient way possible. There is only one way to do this, and that is by running your item shop (which you will lose if you fail to pay your debts back on time each week). However, in order to run your item shop, you need to first procure items to sell. This is the real meat of the game for me.
There are a dozen ways to get things to sell in your shop, from straight out buying them (at a reduced cost) from a few different marketplaces (depending on the type of item you want to sell) or you can hire adventurers to delve in to an expanse of various dungeons and bring you back the loot. Naturally, the latter option tends to be more lucrative, and perhaps the most fun.
When you hire an adventurer and select a dungeon to visit you are transported instantly to it and you assume control of the adventurer during your time there. You start only being able to hire one, but as you play you can unlock others who each have different playstyles (though they are the general archetypes which you would expect, a warrior, mage, archer, thief, etc.). There are, apparently, a surprising array of dungeons. At this point I’ve only unlocked a handful and am nearing completion of the main storyline. Mind you I also have yet to unlock all the characters, so I know I still have a lot of content left and I’ve already put in more than twenty hours into the game.
The thing about the game is, it just clicks with me. It has all these gameplay elements that I just really dig even though I could easily see how other gamers might find it downright boring. The market system is a lot of fun to me, and so is dungeon crawling. The dungeon crawling gives me a sort of Secret of Mana feel (it’s not like Secret of Mana) and it is well documented that Secret of Mana is my favourite video game of all time. This obviously makes the dungeon crawl a huge plus for me. Furthermore, the range of characters, and the fact that I can interact with them in a very original way just absolutely blows me away. It’s honestly quite innovative, and unlike anything you’re likely to find elsewhere.
For example, do you want to upgrade your favourite adventurer’s equipment? Entice them to come to your shop, either by random chance, or set up your shop’s atmosphere in a way that attracts them. Then, hope that they want to buy a new weapon or armour, THEN you better hope they can or want to pay for it, because you definitely don’t want to pull out of a transaction with a high level weapon on the line without selling it, chances are you spent thousands of pix (the in-game currency) on that weapon. It’s very interesting in a sort of micro-management kind of way. There’s a lot of things to keep track of, and I love that for some reason.
Furthermore, there is the difficulty. Now I certainly wouldn’t call the game relentless, it’s quite easy at first glance even. However, you can screw up, and the game is not shy about punishing you for it. Fail to pay your debt on time? There’s no second chances, game over. You restart on Day 2 and all your progress is treated as if it was a dream by the main character. On the bright side, you get to keep your Merchant Level, items, and a certain degree of progress throughout. Did you die in a dungeon? Yeah, you can take one item back with you (though you can upgrade that number to a whopping 3 items with higher Merchant Levels), so all your sweet loot is gone. This can be especially harsh if you were letting your adventurer use one of your prized weapons for the duration because it can come down to a choice between your expensive weapon, or a piece of nice loot.
So, that’s it. That’s Recettear. There’s a whole lot of meat and potatoes to the game, and it’s unfortunately all hidden underneath a thick topping of anime. It’s very fun though, if anything here sounds like it might be up your alley, I highly recommend checking out the demo on steam, or just picking it up (as I don’t know how much the demo covers.) And unfortunately, skipping the cutscenes at the beginning is not recommended the first time you play as you’re given a lot of information about how to run your shop (though it’s not the least intuitive thing ever.) It’s a surprisingly good game, but it’s not the first time an overly anime styled game has been great, after all, there’s Disgaea.