Capitalism, Ho! Recettear

By Alec Meer on July 19th, 2010 at 11:08 pm.

I really, really like this. Even though it arguably gets its core gag absolutely wrong. It’s the old pun about why RPG shops are happy to repeatedly buy and sell the same old crap to the same old heroes writ large, as a rather funny and monstrously compulsive strategy-RPG hybrid. The fact there’s an RPG in that… well, that’s what it gets wrong. The RPG shopkeeper gag is that they don’t know what the hell they’re buying, what animal arse it’s been pulled from or why the guy selling it is covered in bits of town guard. When the shopkeeper’s part of the adventure, they’re no longer the naive/mercenary money-grabber we’ve encountered in a thousand different games.

I still really, really like this. I played the (fairly long) demo through twice. Can’t remember the last time I did that.

It’s a translation of a Japanese indie game and, cloying music aside, a very successful one. Horace only knows what the dialogue was originally supposed to say, but in this version it’s snappy, self-aware and playful. The demo’s worth it for the celebration of digital distribution and gentle finger-wagging at filesharing on the Please Buy The Full Game screen alone.

You play as Recette, whose adventurer daddy has mysteriously (i.e. not mysteriously at all) disappeared, leaving his daughter with enormous arrears. Enter the fairy Tear, who’s a debt collector, because human society hasn’t found any other jobs for fairies. Or something. Don’t worry, the game absolutely does not expect you to take its cartwheeling, free-form fantasy randomness anything like seriously. All that matters is the pair hatch a plan to turn the girl’s house into a store for fantasy adventurers. Recette + Tear = a shop named Recettear = a really truly awful pun. So awful I loved the game all the more for it.

It all adds up to a game of buy low, sell high. If it wasn’t about selling swords and armour, it would probably be 1000% less fun. But it is about selling swords and armour, so that’s alright. A bloke saying “the wife asked me to pick up one of these” as a picture of an iron helmet appears still hadn’t stopped being funny come the close of my second playthrough.

This element of the game is as much about learning the thinking of certain customers as it is simply flogging stuff. You’ll come to recognise a few of the regulars – that swordsman will never pay more than 120%, that old geezer always sells his magic yams for ridiculously low prices, that little girl will almost always storm out unless you sell her mystic trinkets at pretty much cost… It’s a pretty great shopkeeper game as much as it is a meta-gag.

The problem is that although some of your stock arrives from random folk trying to flog you whatever they’ve found, most of it has to be sourced directly. Continuing to buy odds and sods from the local guildmaster is expensive, illogical (especially as he frequently pops into your shop to buy things you’ve just bought from him) and limited. For the good shizzle, you’ll have to go adventuring. Or, rather, you’ll have to convince an adventurer to go adventuring on your behalf, which entails directly controlling him in a Zelda-esque baby-RPG.

It’s simple but cute stabby-stabby business, and the high-action variety from stocking the shop and selling hats is certainly welcome, but I do feel the hard switch of discipline from calmly haggling over prices to chasing blobs around a maze is perhaps a bit much. And, as I whinged above, it spoils the gag a bit. It’d be much more amusing to only encounter adventurers as these trinket-laden, blood-soaked freaks wandering up to your cash register, no questions asked.

Then again, there’s this extra level gag that you’re putting some poor bastard through a deathtrap dungeon purely in the name of cash. There’s no pretense of heroism or philanthropy. Everything’s about paying the mortgage. It’s nothing if not honest.

Brutally honest. The You Lose screen even features Recette having her home repossessed and sleeping in a cardboard box.

No more heroes. Only capitalism.

And that’s just the demo. I’m going to hunt down the full game without a shadow of a doubt. At least I would if it was available yet; neither are details of its pricing, but it’s grand to hear that savegames from the demo will be exportable to the finished project.

Oh, and let’s give due credit. Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale originated as a 2007 Japanese indie game, created by EasyGameStation. American chaps Carpe Fulgur, self-described as an independent localisation company, picked up the Western rights, got to work on the translation, and here you go. It’s the very definition of a niche market, but the idea that we might gradually get to play a slew of unknown pleasures from the other side of the world is impossibly exciting.

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64 Comments »

  1. Torgen says:

    I haz a dumb. don’t get the pun. :(

    • Alec Meer says:

      You won’t till you play it, trust me. It’s a right stinker.

    • Torgen says:

      GAH!

      “Racketeer!”

    • Torgen says:

      Downloading demo now to see if I’m right. :)

      Also, I’ve looked all over for Monopoly Tycoon, can’t seem to find it. The “related article” tag on MT above reminded me again, as it was that article that piqued my interest.

    • Snall says:

      No worries it took me 30 seconds to read it correctly for the pun.

  2. Xagarath says:

    Idea was first done by Dragon Quest IV, mind you, back in 1990-ish

    • Alec Meer says:

      Hence “the old pun.” It’s not a matter of Did It First.

    • Arvedui says:

      Considering that the little flashback window about Recette’s father disappearing at the volcano was pulled straight from the intro to Dragon Warrior 3, I doubt they were unaware of this!

  3. BooleanBob says:

    @Xagarath: I seem to remember it was also done in Breath of Fire?

    @Torgen: I think it has something to do with people tearing up their receipts?

    Anyway, it’s a cute concept. I only ever seem to be able to enjoy these ‘meta-gags’, as you term them, for as long as it takes for the penny to drop, so I doubt I’ll ever get ’round to playing it now it’s been so comprehensively explained. It’s good, though, to know there are people out there plough such effort into these goofy celebrations of gaming.

    • Miko says:

      You’ll be missing out. That demo is one of the best things I’ve played in years.

  4. patrick says:

    “I’ve been thinking about getting one of these for a while” A loaf of walnut bread is for life, not just for dinner!

  5. Dominic White says:

    I created a thread about this on the forums. Silly people won’t play it because it’s too cute/japanese.

    Their loss. It’s a brilliantly addictive game with remarkably funny writing and a great funny/tragic premise. I played it briefly back when it was still in Japanese, and will be buying the full version the moment it’s available. Price is apparently going to be $20, which is perfectly fair.

    Game rocks.

  6. Dominic White says:

    Apparently they’re just putting the final touches on the translation (they’ve got all the script worked out – they just need to hack it in now) and searching for distributors now. Of course, having RPS feature the game like this will probably make the latter part of that easier.

  7. Vinraith says:

    I hate the art, but love the concept. Hopefully the latter will trump the former, as it does in, say, Etrian Odyssey. Certain;ly it’s intriguing enough to give it a fair shot, cutesy anime or no cutesy anime.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s a bright, fluffy, comical game about a little girl and a fairy running a shop. You basically need to check your testosterone at the door in order to play this.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Dominic

      It’s not about testosterone, I just strongly dislike anime styling. “Cute” isn’t the problem, “colorful” isn’t the problem, I’ve got a personal aversion to the specific art style in question. As I said, the game may well be very good despite it, and I’m interested anyway. I’ve got a history of looking past anime aesthetics in games that warrant it, but it always presents a certain barrier to entry.

    • Snall says:

      Hey, I still love Princess Maker 2…even though that’s a lot more messed up.

  8. Drexer says:

    Well, I’ve played quite a bit of the demo already and it’s cute visual style and dialog aided by a very nice humor has got me hooked right away. If it manages to keep me until the end of the demo, they have one sale made.

    I laughed so hard at the ‘file photo’ of her dad. :P

    Anyone who disregards this just because of the anime look should be submerged in a brown mix representative of today’s FPS’s.

  9. getter77 says:

    Folk should also remember that this is apparently content packed, with post game doings, multiple adventurers that handle differently, various dungeons, etc.

    I’m definitely keen on this, and very much hoping these chaps do well on this and are able to get ahold of some other unknown goodies from Japan or elsewhere that never made it over in English.

  10. Buemba says:

    The demo was pretty good. If the price is right I’ll definitely get the full game.

  11. Jajusha says:

    Gah! A Game this cute shouldn’t be this hard, i lost on my first try! Damn you Loan sharks, damn you!

  12. Sir_Darc says:

    Every fantasy-style MMO with a player-based economy should take some pointers from this game. Shopkeeping can be fun, too!

  13. Dominic White says:

    There’s a lot more features in the full game. Apparently you can expand to running a much larger store, and even have vending machines stocked with your smaller items. There’s a lot of stuff to see and do. Each dungeon has three segments, each of which ends with a boss battle, so there’s plenty of monsters to beat up as well.

    The demo is pretty lengthy even by demo standards (a good couple of hours long), but it’s still just the tutorial segment.

  14. Dominic White says:

    Alright, confirmed by the translators, here’s a bit more info.

    The main story is five weeks long. Later weeks will take longer and be more complicated than the one in the demo. They estimate that even if you don’t screw anything up and never restart, it’ll take around 15-20 hours to complete the campaign.

    After the story ends, the game continues. There’s a New Game+ mode. There’s also two Survival modes, where the plot is disabled entirely and each week you’ve got a higher debt to pay, and it continues until you finally go bankrupt. Apparently there’s some more stuff and modes, but yeah, it sounds like $20 is a very fair price for what you’re getting.

  15. JKjoker says:

    i finished the demo and i liked it a lot, thankfully they left the original voices instead of ruining it with dubs

    my main complain : no mouse control (not even in the menu) makes me a sad panda

    • user@example.com says:

      They’ve said that if it’s a huge success and they make millions, they’ll try to release a good dub patch, but they and the original devs always want the japanese voices to be an option.

      It’s a really good game, and they seem to be doing a good job on the translation and the marketing. I hope it sells well. Capitalism, ho!

    • Zyrxil says:

      They’ve said that if it’s a huge success and they make millions, they’ll try to release a good dub patch, but they and the original devs always want the japanese voices to be an option.

      That seems really ass-backwards, as the type of people who would play this game consider dubs to be a punishment.

    • Matt says:

      “That seems really ass-backwards, as the type of people who would play this game consider dubs to be a punishment.”

      That’s because those people are f’ing Weaboo morons.

  16. solipsistnation says:

    Ack. No option to buy it yet?

    RPS people, please remind us of this once it actually can be bought, ’cause I want to buy it. That was a fun hour or so.

  17. Lim-Dul says:

    Whoa – usually I stay away from games like these and I had absolutely no expectations whatsoever coming into it but man, it’s actually quite cool and charming and far more complex than I expected. :-D

    Count another sale due to Rock, Paper, Shotgun. ^^

  18. AdrianWerner says:

    It’s a great game and hopefully it will open the floodgates for doujin (ie. japanese indie) games to start getting translated to english. There’s so much awesome stuff there, it deserves to be out for the greater good of pcgamers :)

    • Dominic White says:

      There’s already another localization/english-publishing group out there called Rockin’ Android, who are largely focusing on arcade-style shooters. They just managed to publish a whole bundle of games on the Playstation Network (as well as PC). Its taken far, far too long, but now there’s a solid enough indie scene and distribution network to start publishing Japanese doujin games in the west.

    • AdrianWerner says:

      @oDomic White
      Och I know, also DHM Interactive has released two East Game Station titles (Gunner’s Heart and Chantelise) plus A-Train 8. Plus Mangagamer is releasing Higurashi (whether or not one can classify it a s a game is a whole different matter though ;) ) But I want FLOODGATES TO OPEN! :D I mean seriously, there’s so much awesome indie stuff being released in Japan, we need access to it ASAP :)

    • terry says:

      They’re…..they’re still making A-Train games? :O

  19. CLD says:

    Cute game. I like it.

  20. Tye The Czar says:

    If this keeps up, I’d love to see a team do a Working Designs-level localization of the Touhou games, possibly add new features, and put them on Steam. That way I wouldn’t have to rely on imports from jbox.com.
    There’s a market over here for Touhou, and we need someone to take advantage of it. And I hope it’s someone like Atlus or Gaijinworks.

    • Dominic White says:

      While official english distribution would be nice to see, the entire Touhou series (including the more plot-heavy fighting game spinoffs, and the brilliant football-RPG fangame) have gotten english translation patches already.

    • Tye The Czar says:

      I’m already aware of that. I just would like playing the games to be more legit. Most of these games SCREAM for a makeover, especially visual-wise. Putting the entire series on Steam would be icing on the cake!

  21. Nyst says:

    I really liked the shop part of the game, and was easily making money.

    The adventuring part was lost on me though. I went in there three times, got lots of loot, but died every time because I couldn’t find a way out, losing all the items I had provided the meatshield with.

    In the end I managed to make a living just selling stuff (even making up for the time and item loss in the dungeon) but I keep wondering if I did something wrong.

    Anyone know if there’s a way to leave the dungeon when you want?

    • Dominic White says:

      There’s a boss/dungeon exit every five floors. If you’re having trouble surviving those first five floors in the tutorial dungeon… well, are you remembering to use healing items? Did you buy any in town before going in?

  22. HYPERPOWERi says:

    This game is all sorts of lovely. I’ve finished it together with the utterly delighted girlfriend in one seating.

    @Nyst I got through the dungeon on the first try, but came close to dying a couple of times. Use food to restore the adventurer’s health and get to know the patterns of monsters’ actions. Also, the special attack is useful whenever a chest triggers the circle of blue goos.

    Most importantly — back stab! The game differentiates between front, side and back strikes, influencing the damage you deal.

    The shopkeeping aspect is, hands down, the highlight of the game though.

  23. Kazz says:

    Well I’ve just spent the last 2 hours playing the demo and I loved it :). Really not the sort of thing I usually go near, but after reading the positive article about it, I thought I’d give it a go. Apart from the gameplay which is fairly simple yet sooo absorbing, the voices and sfx mixed with the art are just fantastic. I hope it does well.

  24. Lim-Dul says:

    By the way – the old man and the girl are actually quite useful. Initially both of them are quite reluctant to spend money but once you gain the old man’s trust he will go for very expensive items and while not agreeing to the highest profit margin, he buys stuff no one else would!
    The little girl is even more profitable – her initial sale has to be at like 100% or something but then she starts going wild and buying small-ish stuff at like 160%+ without any haggling. 0_o

    Yeah, there’s more depth to it than you’d think. ^^

    P.S. There are expensive items you find in the dungeon you can safely sell under 100% – it’s all profit after all and I think certain clients have a set amount of money they bring with them and simply CAN’T buy an item even at 100%.

  25. SpinalJack says:

    Love this game, it’s amazing XD

  26. Capitalism says:

    Capitalism is my usual username for stuff, as such, someone from another game I played recomended I try Recettear. I tried it, and what saddens me the most, is that it is now over :-(. This is one of the best games I’ve played in months, I tried full version in Japanese, but that didn’t work so well, as I could even read basic items to sell, or such, I hope the Full English Version is done soon. I have the Carpe Fulgar site Bookmarked, I’ll be checking back periodically for this game!

    but for now… I wait. So lonely is the waiting of one named Capitalism, for a game such as this. ;’-(

    • Lim-Dul says:

      Ha, ha! Capitalism, is that you? You followed up on the link I sent you in Transformice? Epic! Glad you liked it. ^^

  27. David J Prokopetz says:

    It is indeed pretty nifty. “Recettear” is pretty much an “Atelier” clone, mind, but since we’ve never had a full-featured “Atelier” game brought over to North America, it’s a great introduction for English-speaking audiences.

  28. Simon says:

    Just tossing a comment here that Recettear will be released on September 10th via Impulse:

    http://www.carpefulgur.com/forum/index.php?topic=83.0

  29. Arcname says:

    Footnote: If you check the manual that comes with the game, in the gameplay section you’ll notice a diagram of the dungeoning bit.

    Recette and Tear are marked as ‘Dirty Freeloaders’.

  30. rav says:

    I wonder if they’ll have 日本語 (Japanese language) I think i’d definitely buy it so I could keep up with my Japanese.

  31. James Henderson says:

    “A bloke saying “the wife asked me to pick up one of these” as a picture of an iron helmet appears still hadn’t stopped being funny come the close of my second playthrough.”

    .. hiyoooo???

    Just played the demo, and to be honest I could really get used to this. Quirky little game, think I’ll be laying a few quid down on this.

  32. rav says:

    It isn’t in Japanese unless you purchase it from the original Devs. They posted on steam about it too.
    I still purchased it as I really enjoyed the demo. I may go as far as buying another copy in Japanese.

  33. Lizzie says:

    You can pre-order this game on steam for $18.
    It comes out in about 3 days (as of 7/9/2010).
    http://store.steampowered.com/
    I bought it :3

    Played the demo through about 3 times… waiting for it to come out D:

    It will be $20 after it comes out. (woo… i got $2 off. lol)

  34. Brother says:

    CAPITALISM, HO MOTHERFUCKERS

  35. Fredrik1ST says:

    If the ending of this game included a socialist revolution I’d laugh my arse off.

  36. Rara says:

    I have to know, was original game’s dialogue/text the same or was it re-written to include the jokes?

  37. Bob says:

    The pun makes no sense since the word “recette” means recipe in french and is phonetically spelled “ressette”.

  38. Aek says:

    Although Carpe Fulgur made a great job at convincing Steam, I still wonder:
    they are translators, not publishers.

    They do not publish “retail boxes”, and I pretty much think they didn’t fund the developer themselves, since they already had their game running. They only placed online distribution.

    The “publisher” title they claim, and margin, and the incredible money they’ll make from all this, leaves me a little puzzled.

    Anyway, they made a really winning deal here. I just wish the developers will get most of this money, more than Carpe Fulgur.

    I am happy for the developers, jealous of the publisher deal, but thankful to both for this great game!!!

  39. Aza says:

    To quote the CF translator from an interview on this very site : “EGS [original Japanese devs] will be getting a lion’s share of the profits, however, which we feel is perfectly fair (it’s their game after all!)”.

    So devs ARE going to get money from this proportional to sales. Their deal works more like partnership where they split the profit than licensing where the devs get a fixed fee.

  40. Aek says:

    Thank you very much Aza for this quote.
    I am now in a better mood :D

    Most publishers proceed with a share (15 to 20 % to the devs usually), what reassure me is that they mentioned that the devs get a “lion” share, which suits me. Will make more EGS games to play in the future ;-)

    A “distributor” usually takes only 30 % of the share, for instance ; maybe as distributor + translator + more they settled for a more interesting profit, but one that they deserve.

    I have one information to give to you all:

    The full game is now available one Gamersgate!!
    Downloading it right now.

    Yes, Steam opens their releases on US time, about 9 hours from current time.
    Whereas Gamersgate opens store before, on European time!

    Si if you want to play the full game right now, best is to have it from Gamersgate: it is quick to download, many activations supplied, and hassle-free.

  41. Moi says:

    Recette means recipe in french, but it also means profit.

  42. Rnd( says:

    Best I have seen is when old geezer comes in and says this is for my mother-in-law… That lady, must be old…