The high concept of Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is that it’s a typical JRPG told from a different perspective, that of the owner of the shop where the heroes buy their equipment and sell their loot. You could also describe it as a small business sim set in an RPG world, but on the basis of what I’ve seen so far, I’d call that description less accurate. This is a game that fits very securely into the JRPG genre, and possibly even better into the Japanese “visual novel” genre.

For one thing, it’s so Japanese that the voice acting — which there isn’t a lot of — isn’t translated. The characters are all perfect examples of anime stereotypes (the childish but warm-hearted heroine, the bookish bespectacled friend, the haughty yet ridiculous rival, etc.) And, like a visual novel, there’s lots of scripted, barely-interactive or even non-interactive dialogue — too much, if you ask me. There are lengthy tutorials for things that are self-explanatory. And the basic mechanics involve choosing what to do with your time each day — time is of the essence, because you have to make weekly payments on a large debt — by selecting destinations on a town map, some of which will sometimes trigger cutscenes, all of which, if I understand correctly from my very limited experience, is standard visual novel stuff.

There are two chief practical reasons to go into town: to buy stuff to sell in your shop, or to hire an adventurer to take you out to loot a dungeon. Now, I’m not very far advanced in the game, but so far, it seems to me like the dungeons are generally the key to profit, because you find reasonably expensive stuff for free there. Dungeons are a fairly simple Diablo-like action-RPG business in which you control the adventurer you hired rather than the shopkeeper, who basically tags along just for the sake of narrative unity. This is a whole largish aspect of the game that doesn’t fit into the business sim model at all.

And when you get your stuff back to your shop, what do you do with it? You put it out on display, and customers come to haggle with you over it. Haggling is far from a universal feature of RPGs, and very seldom such a core element of gameplay as it is here, but still, it’s something I’ve seen done in RPGs more often than in business sims. I understand that there are more advanced mechanics unlocked as you raise your merchant level — the shopkeeper gets experience points by selling stuff — but at the moment, the basic mechanics are all fairly ordinary RPG stuff with slightly different emphasis and explanation.

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