Recettear: Spending time

Recettear‘s dungeons are still the key to greatest wealth, whether through finding advanced kinds of armor and weapons that are not (yet) available for purchase, or through finding ingredients for crafting exotic and expensive stuff. But they’re time-consuming and risky. Adventurers never truly die in this game, but if you get sufficiently beat up, you automatically teleport back to town, and can only bring back one item. This includes items you brought into the dungeon with you.

It doesn’t include the adventurer’s own equipment, mind you, but sometimes you have to pack loaner equipment, because sometimes the adventurers are slow to take advantage of your incredible offerings back at the store. One of my adventurers is level 17 by now and still using a rusty dagger, so if I want to take her adventuring, I bring a better weapon, one I crafted. I look forward to the day she actually decides to buy it: it’ll free up an inventory slot for loot, and bring a nice profit as well.

But anyway, dying in the dungeon is a waste of a day, and possibly a loss of equipment as well, if you brought more than one item in. It’s probably the single biggest thing that can interfere with your ability to make your loan payments on deadline. So when it happens, you naturally revert to a previous save. (Which, naturally, you made immediately prior to delving into the dungeon.) I’ve accidentally undercharged for major items and let it slide, because little setbacks are affordable, but losing a day’s dungeoneering is too much. I think the adventurer keeps their XP for the expedition, but who cares?

So I spend a fairly large fraction of my play time on this game repeating dungeons. Which is to say, wasting real time in order to save pretend time.

Recettear: Crafting

I’m finding this game has a bit of a pull to it. I’ve kind of established that it’s a sort of rival in my mind to Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble, the other unconventional indie RPG with an underage female noncombatant protagonist that I’ve started playing recently, but of the two, this is the one that I feel the greater urge to play. I think the reasons are mainly superficial: it’s got brighter colors and happier music, and it’s got progress bars all over the place. Sometimes you just want to watch a progress bar fill up, you know?

I’ve raised Recette (the player character) to merchant level 5, which is the point where the crafting system opens up, allowing you to combine several items into something that commands a much higher price. Crafting is simply a matter of selecting a recipe from a pre-set list. In a nice bit of UI design, the recipes you can complete with stuff in hand are highlighted, while the ones containing ingredients you’ve never even seen are grayed out. Some of the ingredients are things you can buy, others are monster-leavings that you need to pick up in dungeons. And that’s where it gets a little interesting. Dungeon-delving always takes a full day, which is time not spent selling stuff, and your carrying capacity in the dungeons is limited. So for maximal efficiency, you have to pick up only the stuff that you don’t have a lot of already. But some of the time, monster leavings are unidentified, shown only as a question mark on the screen. However, your chances of identifying a thing increase with your merchant level. This is a crucial touch for making the feedback between merchanting and adventuring go both ways. I’ve found myself thinking “I really ought to go adventuring again to pick up more stuff, but I’m almost to the next merchant level, and it’ll go a lot better if I wait”.

Add to this the tactical consideration that making a trip to the wholesalers to pick up new supply is counted as taking time, but stopping by the wholesalers on the way back from the dungeons doesn’t take any time at all. Laying in a large enough stock to keep you going until your next dungeon trip can be worth it, but not if it means buying fewer big-ticket items that you can turn over for a big profit quickly. So, yeah, I’m starting to see the market side of this game as more significant, even if it is still the dungeoneering that’s taking up the majority of my time. Possibly it’s just stealthier about its less-conventional aspects than I expected, designed from the assumption that it needs to provide an ordinary RPG experience at first and easing in the details of the marketplace slowly so as to not scare people off.


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.