From the Archives: Capitalism, Ho!

It’s strange to think that just a few years ago, Japanese games on PC were a very unusual sight, being largely limited to adults-only visual novels and occasional localisations of doujin (indie) titles.

One game that really brought Japanese gaming to the PC-gaming masses was EasyGameStation’s Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, an early project for then-fledgling localisation outfit Carpe Fulgur, and a frequent recipient of generously deep discounts in Steam sales over the course of each and every year.

Recettear remains a wonderful game even today, some seven years after it first charmed Western players, and a full ten years after its original Japanese release. So let’s take a closer look at it today!

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.


Given its age, it’s entirely possible that you’re already familiar with Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale by now, so I must ask for a moment of your patience while I introduce it to those who are yet to sample the charms of this Japanese indie gem. Maybe go and play it some while you’re waiting or something.

All right then. Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, hereafter referred to simply as Recettear for my sanity’s sake.

In Recettear, you are the owner of an item store in a typical JRPG-style town. Specifically, you are Recette, an adorable young girl whose absentee father buggered off and left the poor girl saddled with an unfeasibly huge debt which has now become due for payment.

A fairy from the bank named Tear shows up on Recette’s doorstep and demands the money; Recette, being a young girl with barely a penny to her name, is understandably upset by all this, so Tear allows her to effectively “work off” the debt by running her father’s item shop and making increasingly large repayments at weekly intervals.

By the end of an in-game month, Recette will have either paid off the debt or be living in a cardboard box, and it’s up to you to ensure the latter doesn’t happen.


If all this sounds rather unconventional for a JRPG, you’d be entirely correct — unless, of course, you’ve ever played an Atelier game.

However, it most certainly is a JRPG at its core, despite its pretensions towards being a simple business simulator. You see, as well as running the shop as Recette, you also have the opportunity to hire various adventurers from the local guild to go into the nearby randomly-generated dungeons (whose random generation is eventually justified in the narrative, believe it or not), kill some monsters and, as usually follows the killing of monsters, take their stuff.

Stuff acquired in dungeons can either be sold directly or taken to the town’s Merchant’s Guild to combine together into various crafting recipes, most of which produce items considerably more valuable than their component items.


Over time, Recette builds up relationships with the various types of customer in the town, and it’s possible to attract specific types of customer by redecorating and rearranging the store.

Putting specific items in the windows will catch the eyes of particular types of customer, and each are willing to pay a certain amount over the base price for the items they’re after. As they grow to like Recette more, they have more and more money on hand to spend, and are often willing to spend more over the base price.

Recette can also sell equipment to the various heroes of the guild who will occasionally visit, and these items then become that hero’s permanent equipment — though Recette is also able to lend a hired hero pieces of equipment when she accompanies them on a dungeoneering jaunt.


That’s not all there is to do, though — besides selling items and dungeon-crawling, various events happen around the town, too. Each of the heroes have their own little plotlines to follow through, and there’s also the matter of what happened to Recette’s father to contend with.

There’s even a traditional JRPG-style final boss to contend with, which is the last thing you’d expect when you start playing the game.

It’s fortunate, then, that it’s possible to continue playing the game in “Endless” mode after Recette has successfully paid back her debt — the game simply continues as long as you see fit, and you can continue working through the various story threads without the pressure of making repayments.

Alternatively, you can start a New Game+ with all your items, hero levels and relationship values intact (making the whole repayment process considerably easier) or play a “Survival” game where the repayments never stop.


There’s a ton to do, and it will take you probably upwards of a hundred hours if you want to see and achieve absolutely everything in the game. (If you just want to play until you repay Recette’s debt, the game clocks in at a much more modest 20 hours or so, but you’re missing out on a lot of game if you stop there.)

You’re probably wondering why this game is so worthy of note. Well, besides the interesting premise, the big draw to Recettear is its excellent translation to English by Carpe Fulgur.

Attitudes to localisation, of course, vary enormously, and Carpe Fulgur very much errs on the side of non-literal, fully rewritten translations, and as such is, so far as I’m concerned, a worthy successor to the excellent localization team at the sadly-defunct Working Designs. (Fans of more literal translations, however, should note that Recettear is not fully voiced, so there is no “disconnect” between the Japanese audio and the English lines… because the former simply isn’t there save for a few interjections.)

The lead characters Recette and Tear have some excellent interplay between them — the girlish, silly charm of Recette is counterbalanced perfectly by Tear’s serious, severe nature — but the hero characters are highly entertaining, too, ranging from an alcoholic female thief named Charme to a ditzy spear-wielding girl named Nagi who is always getting lost in the ever-shifting dungeons. Oh, and the prepubescent elf girl Tielle, who has a skill rather wonderfully called Cuterage.


Recettear may not be the most technologically-advanced game in the world — the sprite-based characters on simplistic polygonal backdrops are very PS1 era-ish, for example, but this remains an enduringly popular aesthetic for Eastern and Western gamers alike.

And by golly this game has charm oozing out of its ears. Once you start and get your head around its various systems, you won’t want to stop until you’ve seen it through to its conclusion.

It’s one of my favorite games of all time, and an essential purchase if you don’t, for whatever reason, already own a copy — even at its full, non-Steam sale price.

If you do happen to own a copy and, for whatever reason, have never fired it up… well, then, you need to sort that out right now!

Capitalism, ho!

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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