R-2. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale (1/13)
The most amazing thing about this game is that, despite it being pretty impressively popular considering its budget, there've been almost no attempts to copy it in the seven years since it released, and none that I'm aware of were successful. Moonlighter and, to a lesser extent, Mineko's Night Market look like they might be the answer later this year, but that was an insane gap even if they launch on time.
It's all the more remarkable because, functionally speaking, Recettear isn't even a great implementation of the item shop simulator idea. With the exception of the cheap-*** little girls, even cheaper evil fairy, and the snake-oil salesman, haggling pretty much consists of setting your price to 120% for regular items, 240% for popular items, and 50% when buying. Placement of items within your shop and the decorations you put up seem to have an effect, but the game doesn't even attempt to explain how that works, and with all the other RNG systems laid on top of that, deducing it on your own would take an eternity.
And that's an eternity you don't have, because Recettear is structured around 5 debt repayments at the end of each of 5 weeks. To meet those payments, you need to make a minimum of about $800,000 from a starting capital of $1,000. The game is loaded with systems that could be fun to poke apart, character vignettes that, in defiance of genre expectations, are actually decently written, and even surprisingly fun dungeon crawls. But the game's punishing time constraints and absurd growth expectations punish you for taking the time to explore any of that.
The game insists otherwise, of course, but much like its claim that buying low and selling high will work, that just isn't true. The fundamental problem is that, despite how many times the game says "capitalism". the economy this game runs on is the stuff of madness. Prices for two poorly defined classes of items will swing up by 150% or down by 70% four times a day, but the prices you pay your suppliers move by maybe a third of that. The result is that buying low is nonsense - you'll lose money selling immediately, and you'll barely make more than you would've before when it recovers, which could take ages if the RNG is in a bad mood. More problematically, it makes buying high a practically guaranteed path to riches - a 20% markup on something that has more than doubled in resale price still leaves you with about a 100% margin, and you can squeak out a profit even if you have the bad luck to see the price fall back down before you can sell. You might have time to explore more side content if you give up and start playing this way earlier, but speculation simulation still isn't very fun.
Which is a shame, but it still has an oddly compelling core loop, and the side content is fun when you either find time for it or in post game when there are no deadlines. It's a pretty good game with a ton of room for improvement, basically.
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