I’ve wanted to play Recettear ever since InsertCredit made an entry on it way back in 2007. So I’m overjoyed to find that Carpe Fulgur has not only taken on the task of localising and publishing it in English, but they’re promising to work on further such ventures.
The object in Recettear, a Windows based doujin release from 2007, is to run an item shop as the kind you’d find in many JRPGs. You choose what to stock, where to place it, and how much to sell each item for. Placing premium items in your window attracts more people, and as your reputation goes up you’re able to haggle over prices better. Items can be obtained from the guild wholesaler, town market, or by joining an adventurer as he pillages various dungeons. People will also sell you stuff, much like in a regular RPG. As you progress you make friends with different adventurers and start to recognise shop regulars. You can also raise your shop-master level which gives new abilities, and there's also a rival shop owner who appears in the second week. Plus presumably much more!
There’s a rather substantial demo available and, to put it simply, what I’ve played so far fulfils every hope I had for the game when I first saw it - and then some. I’ve grown weary recently of technical games, and while I’m not about to abandon shmups and fighters, I find I’m really enjoying slower, menu-driven games. Which isn’t to say this is casual - because it sure as hell is bloody not! If anything it’s a lot like Princess Maker, with many layers of hidden complexity presented to you via an intuitive interface and wonderful storyline/art direction. Easy to get into but hard to master.
There’s real satisfaction to be had from scouring for Super Antivenom and a classy longsword, placing them with prominence in your window, and then demanding such high rates they never sell. Or maybe I want to fill my central display with nothing but nutbread - I can do that! Recettear so perfectly targets the part of your brain that likes tinkering - it’s the same part which makes character building in ANY GAME fun; or arranging your crops in Harvest Moon; or dungeon building in any number of games from PC to PSP. Becoming the town’s biggest supplier of cotton shirts might not win me the game, but damn, if it doesn’t make me giddy simply by fact that I can do that, IF I WANT TO.
The corresponding adventuring sections (at this early stage) would appear optional, like they were in Princess Maker, but are such fun shouldn’t be overlooked. They’re simple, with a Zelda-esque combat system, but this is all part of the charm. Controls are slick and it supports USB pads off the bat, which I always appreciate. There’s some great music in the dungeons as well. The first adventurer I found was in need of help, so I provided him with free healing items while he took me along for the ride to steal as much treasure as we could. In-game you control adventurers directly.
Backing up the gameplay is some really wonderful anime designs and expertly written dialogue. I can’t vouch for how faithful it is to the original, but I don’t care. Carpe Fulgar’s script is witty, blithe, and absolutely hilarious in places. Reading their Q+A section there’s an entry regarding the Japanese voices, almost apologetically pre-empting anyone who might complain about lack of English dialogue. This shouldn’t be a problem, since the original voices adds some real charm to the game, and anyone likely to complain isn’t the kind of person who’d be interested in buying this anyway.
Recette, your archetypical and heavily moe orphaned-yet-numbskull-young-girl, contrasts superbly with the sharp and businesslike fairy Tear. Their constant banter throughout proved a joy to read, while the in-game sprite of Recette, showing her wide-eyed and wholly incapable of grasping anything Tear tells her, raised some genuine laughs. Despite her lack of ability, she pushes onwards valiantly, shouting her catchphrase: “Capitalism Ho!”
Speaking of capitalism, this appears to be Carpe Fulgar’s first commercial venture, and I hope they make sufficient money off it to continue. Though it saddens me to think that this is such a niche game, both in concept and style, no one will take interest. Certainly I don’t foresee EDGE, GamesTM or EGM covering it. GameFAN might, if they’re still around. But the other mags? Unlikely. Once out, and assuming my PayPal account is sufficiently stocked, I hope to bring you a typically comprehensive HG101 article on this little gem.
Also, let me add: there is NO DRM. That means no bullshit involving Starforce copy protection screwing your computer, and no need to be online when playing a single player game. EA and all those other scum publishers can get bent if they think I'll purchase a game with that stuff.
One final thing which I've left until the end: I have one slightly serious complaint regarding Recettear. The game doesn’t tell you how much you paid for an item from the guild. And what you pay doesn’t match its base value - meaning after buying a whole bunch of guild items, although the game told me what its base sales value was, it didn’t tell me how much I’d actually paid for them.
I’d like some kind of listing which says NOT what the base sales price is (which is irrelevant when I’ve bought it from a wholesaler), but what its going-rate is at the guild.
I realise this probably can’t be changed now - that would require recoding of the entire engine. But it is annoying. I guess I’ll be playing with notepad open on my desktop to jot things down!
You know what this game makes me think? How awesome would an anime-styled, Japanese developed game about running a game store be? You could decide how many plastic models to have on shelves, how many imports to stock, how much retro, how big your second-hand area is, whether to put OSTs next to their respective titles or in their own section. Do you have the radio, regular band or OST music playing inside the store? Do you stock game mags, and if so, which ones? How about a section dedicated to anime and manga and related items of interest to gamers? Oh the possibilities!
Actually, this line of thought also reminds me of that PC game, where you played a movie director, and had to deal with all the aspects of film making, and how much that game made me want a game where you made games. There’s Segagaga, and it’s slowly being fan-translated, but man, this feels like such an untapped well of ideas. Games about the world of games. Amazing. Except games journalism - a game about that would be 110% concentrated lies, with minigames involving working for no pay, get screwed over by game publishers, becoming an alcoholic (at least 2 ex-colleagues fell into this), and then the final level would be you going postal and killing absolutely everyone. Ahem. Not that I’m bitter about my time as a games journo. It was sunshine and dandelions.