The Games Of Christmas ’10: Day 10

RPS is strictly a for-profit venture. There is no creativity here. No integrity. No love. We’re only here for the filthy lucre. There is no more beautiful word in the English language than ‘monetise.’ By way of proof, please pay your 48.7 micro-groat tithe to ACCESS THE TENTH WINDOW.

Capitalism, ho! It’s… Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale!

Quinns: True story- I used to work in Clarks, the shoe shop chain. I did not enjoy working in Clarks. In fact, working in Clarks produced the worst four months of my life. I was so bad at forcing goods on people that within a week I’d been banished to the role of “stock room manager”, which was actually okay. Organising shoeboxes day after day was like playing a very slow-burn block-based puzzle game, and since the branch I worked in was about as tidy as a bomb crater I had plenty to be getting on with. Like Quasimodo, I’d found my place. But every so often enough customers would swarm the shop that I’d be summoned, and would emerge blinking and twitching from my refuge.

On one of these occasions I was called down to help an obese woman. She started asking me about boots very, very rudely, and later she caught me staring in fascination at her immense gut. Finally she picked out a style and sent me up the stairs to fetch a size 7. Down I came, carrying a box that felt far too light. Wasn’t it odd, that the box felt so light? It was. But I wasn’t thinking.

What happened next was that I proudly opened a box in her direction that had no boots inside it. No shoes at all. What it did have in it, though, was a Ginster’s Cornish Pasty wrapper. To this day I have no idea what in the shit it was doing in there. The woman and I looked at the wrapper, then at each other, then back at the wrapper as if maybe the wrapper was about to apologise and explain everything, and then as I was half way to formulating some firecracker of an excuse she demanded to see my monster manager. Later that week my manager told me she’d been receiving complaints about my personal hygiene to get me to try and quit. She succeeded. Oh, that was a job.

I hate retail and will never work it again. It is the worst thing. As such, I can’t help but see Recettear as kind of a failure. I mean, a game where you run a shop and have incredible fun for the whole time? What’s that about?

But it’s true. In the hands of Recettear, capitalism is transformed in a numerical rollercoaster. I suppose I’ll just talk about the barter system, because it’s the core of Recettear and easily in my top 5 game mechanics of the year.

If you haven’t played Recettear, here’s how bartering works- a customer approaches you with an item from your shelves they want to buy, or a request for something you may or may not have in the back, or maybe they have something they want to sell you. It’s then up to you to offer a price. You get two shots at this. If a customer dislikes your first offer, they’ll grumble out a bit of text that hints at exactly how much they disagree. If they dislike your second offer, they’ll storm out, losing you the sale.

What this represents is a hard nubbin of risk-reward. You only get a handful of these offers each day, so they all matter, and the item’s actual value is always right there on screen. Generally speaking you can sell things for 130% of that value and buy them for 70% of it.

But you always have that first offer- your free shot, just to see if they’ll bite. So you try and sell for 135%, even 140%. But when they turn that down the doubt sets in because this is it- your last chance. What if they won’t buy for 130%? What if they want lower? Every character in the game has different amounts of cash and a different personality, and learning- basically- who’s poor, who’s rich and who’s a shrewd bargainer occupies you utterly. Or maybe they don’t have different personalities at all, maybe that’s something I invented off the back of some random occurances. Which is exactly the kind of game Recettear is- it makes sure you know its rules, just not all of the rules, and lets you flounder and hypothesise inside that little bit of mystery. That’s a lot of fun.

But it’s all a lot of fun. Getting combos of sales, worrying about having stock and filling orders, going to get new stock and meeting new characters. It’s all fun. It’s all lovely. There is no small talk, no running around after idiots and no cornish pasty wrappers sequestered in boxes. There’s just risk, reward, and the godlike chiming of your cash register. Capitalism, ho!

Alec: I’m going to tell a true story too, but I’m not going to talk about the nuts and bolts of what makes Recettear itself great as such. I’ve done that plenty already. Haven’t played it? You should. Even if it turns out you don’t like it, you should at least be able to say you played it.

In mid-July, 2010, an email plops into the RPS collective inbox. Being one of a good few hundred mails that turn up that week, it inevitably sits ignored for a little while. Because we had no idea. We never have any idea. It’s always a wonderful feeling when one of those emails turns out to be something incredible. Someone’s taken the time to introduce us to a little wonder, and in turn we get the great pleasure of introducing it to someone else.

I took a look eventually. One of us always takes a look eventually. We know what a goldmine of global imagination that inbox can contain, and we’re phenomenally grateful for it. In this case it happened to be me that nosed at that quiet little email, but the site’s archives (and indeed this Advent Calendar) are filled with each of us suddenly exploding into gibbering enthusiasm about something we’d never heard of before that moment.

At any time, any one of the unread emails in that inbox could be something we still writing thousands of words about six months later. Could be something that ends up shifting hundreds of thousands of copies, without any even a whiff of publishing or marketing support. Could become a name familiar to the vast majority of enthusiastic PC gamers have heard of.

Recettear’s as fine an example I can think of why the PC is unassailably the most interesting gaming platform, and why I love working for RPS.

We never have any idea. Any one of scores of emails that quietly arrive, unannounced, in our inbox (and many others’ inboxes too, but far too many places still simply ignore anything that doesn’t originate from a well-established published), could be a Recettear, a You Have To Burn The Rope, a VVVVVV, a (Super) Meat Boy, a World of Goo, a Neptune’s Pride… It’s always like that, and we have never, ever have any idea.

It could only happen on PC. There’s no one saying ‘no’ to these games – no one to stop those emails being sent. No one to say “a three-year-old translated Japanese RPG about shopkeeping? Nah, that won’t sell. Kill it.”

The PC in 2010 is defined by a whole bunch of people saying “yeah, why not?” In turn, it’s defined by the unexpected. Recettear – elaborate, clever, witty, rewarding thing that it is – is perfect, joyous proof of that.


  1. Navagon says:

    I recently grabbed this in the Steam sale. I haven’t played it yet though. But I keep hearing how awesome it is from everyone who has.

  2. AndrewC says:

    I love Recettear, and then i play it for four hours straight, and then I hate Recettear.

    I don’t really understand all those bonuses you can get on your shopkeeping skill, I don’t understand how you open up new dungeons, I don’t understand how a sane man could write music like that.

    I just want it to end but I can’t stop oh god just one more day, then armour prices will go back up and I’ll make a FORTUNE oh god…

  3. CreepingDeath says:

    I picked up Recettear in the recent Steam sale. Played it for just over an hour and got to admit, it was a really fun game. Not just the aspect of shopkeeping, but I really enjoyed the dungeon crawling as well (simplified as it may be).

    Unfortunately, it crashed at just past an hour, causing me to lose all my progress. Now every time I think about starting the game again my enthusiasm is crushed by the prospect of going through the lengthy tutorial stuff again :/

    • noxxit says:

      You will have to do that anyway at some point… Just use the ESC-Button, it let’s you skip events.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      I antecedently didn’t save after an hour of playing, so I am in a position to say that it isn’t too bad and you can skip most of the tutorial.

  4. nabeel says:

    Loved this game, I had my eye on it during the Steam sales and was delighted to see it in the Story Indie Pack; played it for three days straight. The New Game+ and Survival Modes are a huge plus for me as I definitely want to go through it again, this time actually getting to see much of the content that one can’t even experience in a regular playthrough like the later adventurers and dungeons.

  5. noxxit says:

    It is still a jrpg grinder game. An unusual one regarding the mechanics.
    It is interesting to play for a while and the writing is funny (at least if you dig mangastyle humor), but I would never rank it as high as SMB, You Have To Burn The Rope, World of Goo or Neptunes Pride (I haven’t played VVVVV yet, it’s 5 V’s btw :P).

    • RQH says:

      Pretty sure it’s 6 V’s, actually.

    • fearghaill says:

      The game’s website address disagrees with you, Noxxit – link to

    • noxxit says:

      Damn you’re right…

    • Rane2k says:

      It´s 6 Vs. :-)

      You´re ranking You Have To Burn The Rope High, why is that?

    • Lilliput King says:

      It’s not a ‘grind’ game, either. You barely even need to visit the dungeons.

      You’re playing it wrong, chum.

    • noxxit says:

      I’ll just cite Wiki here because it’s basically my definition of grinding:

      “Grinding is a term used in video gaming to describe the process of engaging in repetitive and/or non-entertaining gameplay in order to gain access to other features within the game, or to allow the player to “grind” better/faster.”

      It is selling – stocking up -selling – stocking up and once in a while you go raiding but only if you have amassed enough money and equipment to have the time to do so. And it’s not like that there is a lot of variety. You always aim for the highest priced items since the customers do not care for the price but only the percentage of the base price. Then you learn the percentages to whom you can sell at which price (via “near pin” events) and then you just do the same thing over and over again. And it is not like you get a decent amount of story advancement for that.

    • noxxit says:

      I’m ranking You Have To Burn The Rope because it’s a great game. I can’t think of any game which I played through that many times. For me it’s always compelling to play every last bit of it. And achieve everything which can be done. And the story never get’s boring. I mean, yeah I know how it all will end and play out, but that’s how it always is with games without multiple endings. Additionally I liked to do speed runs which is something I never did for another game.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Hmm, fair enough, although it’s not like the day to day running of the shop is that awful. The repetition was also mitigated by the style of tutorial, which basically kept you learning throughout the first half of the game. It was definitely ‘enjoyable’ until you’d worked out all the mechanics, and it certainly wasn’t grindy until you did, because you actually thought about keeping a balanced stock and such like. Even then there’s a constant influx of new characters (a genuinely huge number) and a marketplace that shifts just enough to keep it interesting in terms of price ups and downs. Things also changed enough in terms of your own access to items, the size of your shop, vending machines and the like to keep my shop constantly in flux.

      The temporary crazes (where people of a certain kind would invade your shop in vast numbers) were a fun way to keep things interesting, too. My favourite was the women looking for ‘valuable things.’ Oh yes.

      I did get a little bored by the last week, though it was such a short game I think grinding is probably inappropriate. But I can see how you came to that conclusion.

      EDIT: I played it once, and didn’t fail at any point or replay any days, to put this in context. I wasn’t playing it with replayability in mind.

    • noxxit says:

      I should have added an IMO. That would have been more appropriate I guess.

    • Chris D says:


      I hate to say you’re playing it wrong but if you’re finding it too grindy then you could certainly mix it up a bit. I go raiding most days. Especially in the first week when it’s way more profitable.

      Also it’s not actually true about customers not caring about the total price, as anyone who’s tried to sell a mysterious vase to a little girl knows. For me the selling section is more about trying to pitch your offer just right so you can get maximum profit and also keep your combo bonus going.

      Admittedly eventually I did find it got a bit repetitive but a) it was after about sixty hours so I can’t complain about that, and b) I brought it on myself by trying to get the true cards for each character before hitting survival hell mode really hard.

      This isn’t to say you’re wrong for not enjoying it, just thyat if you change things up a little you might find you get more out of it.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Noxxit is slightly wrong – the value of the items does matter, the little girl and the arsey looking man are complete cheapskates and you won’t be able to sell them top tier stuff, which means when they request a weapon and you can’t fufil the order you lose all your lovely sales bonus.

      Grrrrr, cheapskates.

    • Stromko says:

      Also that bitchy fairy comes into my store just to screw up my sales combos, sometimes she won’t even buy something for 80% of its value. I wish there was a ‘Screw off’ button when I just don’t want to deal with a customer. ;)

    • arccos says:

      Well, there’s really two different major systems in the game; the dungeons and the shop. You can really do very little of one or the other if you find one grindy. Its pretty amazing that the game supports either to make a sufficient profit.

      Its just a matter of figuring out how to do the balance you want and still come out ahead.

  6. AndrewC says:


    You know when your original offer is too high, if you simply offer the SAME price again, quite often the adults will simply take it. This feels like a lethal failure of bug/glitch/exploityness that pricks the bubble of joy (which, as Quinn’s said, is based on figuring out the mystery of the mechanics). Does anyone have any insight into that – something i’m missing?

    It’s like in Super Puzzle Fighter 2 TURBO! when you can win against anyone just by chucking your pieces down on the far right then left of the screen as fast as you possibly can. It just destroyed the game for me.

    • Auspex says:

      I thought the idea was that they were bullshitting about needing you to go lower just to try and get a better deal but they were willing/able to accept your original offer. The silly thing is that you should really sell stuff relatively cheaply as it ensures you get the exp combo and it really doesn’t affect how much money you’re bringing in very significantly.

    • AndrewC says:

      Hmmm, excellent narrative justification. I’ll take it!

      Now: what then is your advice for bringing in the real money? I don’t care if you spoilz, i just want the pain to end, but must be victorious.

    • Auspex says:

      See my post below about my mental dungeoneering. Doing so means you end up with a ludicrous amount of stuff to sell and makes the game fairly easy.

      Or you can just keep restarting the game with all your stuff can’t you?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Pay attention to the boring tutorial nonsense people. The fairy lady suggests that sometimes you need to stick to your guns and risk irritating them.

      She’s lying, of course. You really want to work out a safe level for each person and use it every time so you get the EXP ‘just’ bonus. Sometimes that can be pretty high. The rich girl who owns the rival store goes up to 140% (maybe higher, I dunno). But you never want to upset them or even make them think twice because you want your seller level going up as often as possible, and the ‘just’ bonus gives you 2^n EXP each customer where n is the number of customers you’ve served perfectly in a row.

      AND you want the seller level to keep going up because it gives you access to the better items in the wholesalers. The key to making vast amounts of cash is just going in there, buying up the most expensive items and sticking them on your shelves. So you need a bit of working capital, access to the more expensive items and the biggest shop you can get.

      One more thing – you seem to draw in the most customers if your shop is at 0,0 on the fairy’s grid, so use the shop decorations to get you as close to that point as you can muster.

      As a disclaimer, none of this is researched, just what I gathered on my playthrough. I ended with several million pix though, so it can’t all be wrong.

      EDIT: Also, keep a whole load of cheap crap of every type around. For most of the game, people will come in asking for armour and the like but won’t be able to afford any of your mastercrafted ancient dread armour from beyond the veil, so just give them leather instead to keep them happy.

    • Gravidos says:

      Maybe it’s like when you walk into a shop, someone’s selling something for £30 and you want a discount, they say no, but you really want it, so you take it for £30.

    • Zwebbie says:

      AndrewC: Note that Prime, Alouette’s fairy, deceives you all the time. She’ll tell you you’re asking outrageous amounts of money, but if you keep asking the same price, she’ll gladly accept if it’s a good one. Nasty little one, that.

      That’s what I liked about Recettear, the way the different characters behave in the shop. Unfortunately, it does get rather predictable, and the double/half prices aren’t a good substitute for a real economy.

    • AndrewC says:

      Oooo that fairy’s a mean one.

  7. Auspex says:

    Quinns you should have totally used that introduction in your Eurogamer review it made me laugh a ridiculous amount :D.

    Recettear is a funny old game but I ruined it for myself by insisting on completing every dungeon /perfectly/ by getting maximum combos and completing as many levels as allowed in one go. It’s not so fun after that.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      That actually made me giggle like a girl. Golden intro story Quins!!!

  8. jeremypeel says:

    Hooray for the free market of the PC. Hooray for Quinns’ cornish pastry wrapper of fate. Hooray for Recettear! Capitalism, ho!

  9. vanarbulax says:

    Recettear, as much as it is satire, is also pure grindy evil, I spent a while in its clutches and the forced myself free. Not saying it’s bad, it does everything really well, though it relentlessly tries to get you onto the treadmill. Also I was sick of those damn girls being unable to buy anything, I know atmosphere affects it but I was still getting ridiculous rushes with no purchases.

    Also a MECHANIC SPOILER: the game tells you to sell around 130% which is quite do-able, but really you should be doing more like 110% if you want to get the experience of a massive combo chain otherwise you won’t really progress in skill. The exponential reward means that even if you only do it once and a while, selling things dirt cheap gives you a benefit in the long run.

  10. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    I loved Recettear until I had to start taking orders. Then I lost track of things, fell behind, and hit game over. And I didn’t want to skip through all the tutorials/dialogue to get back into the swing of things, so I’ve taken a break for now. Still, I enjoyed it and it was certainly worth the steam sale price.

  11. FalseMyrmidon says:

    I tried to play it then quit when I had to navigate menus with my keyboard.

  12. Canape says:

    Looks can be deceptive. Recettear, on fist glance, should be filed under ‘charming’.

    I am taking this game way too seriously.

    It is a little nugget of evil.

  13. Hippo says:

    I keep waiting for RPS to discover Nimbus…

  14. Andreas says:



  15. Wizlah says:

    This year’s list has proven to be an eclectic mix so far. Curious to see if Alpha Protocol pulls a far cry 2 and sneaks in despite it’s many, many problems.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Loved Alpha Protocol.

    • malkav11 says:

      I don’t recall the RPS reaction to Alpha Protocol being terribly positive, which is a shame because it’s a brilliant game that got a great deal of undeserved negativity.

  16. mlaskus says:

    Ugh, I hated this game. Terrible repetitive and easily exploitable mechanics. Agonising dialogues and story. Also the graphics made me want to pluck my eyes out. Terrible game.

    • AndrewC says:

      Yes, good. But *why* were those things bad for you.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I thought the whole point was the mechanics were exploitable. Your meant to be trying to exploit people out of money and figure out how to do it. Anyway, I think it’s sad you didn’t enjoy it, the game really does get deeper and more complex as it goes along.

      I can understand the hatred of the graphics. But I loved Shining in the Darkness, and I enjoyed pretending I was one of the shops from that. Yes I’m sad.

    • mlaskus says:

      I’ve played it for a while, enough to open up some new mechanics(variable prices, ordering, etc.) and to grow to despise it from the bottom of my heart. There is nothing sad about me not enjoying the game, it has extremely poor gameplay, fails at being funny and assaults my eyes and ears. I’m baffled as to why anyone would like it. Is the idea of running a shop in and jRPG game really so appealing to you that you are willing to overlook how awfully flawed this game is?

      What I meant by repeatable and exploitable mechanics is the fact that you need to do only a few things to win, ones which require little thought, no skill whatsoever and are a terrible, terrible grind.
      >Buy a lot of cheap stuff.
      >Sell it cheaply to score combos
      You can of course, try to barter, but until you have leveled up your customers it is simply not worth wasting the combos to do that. Then you are forced to keep tons of low value stuff all the time to minimize your losses when new mechanics, randomly screw you up, and keep some most valuable stock to maximize your income when they help you. Bartering is not fun, you just have to learn that someone likes to buy stuff at 106 or 108 percent – sell them crap at those prices and sell them expensive stuff with a more profitable margin(There is also buying stuff from people, but that’s equally trivial).

      You can also go to dungeons, which are the same kind of terrible, grindy experience.
      >Find enemy
      >Avoid it’s attack
      >Kill it
      It also features combos, I cannot stress how idiotic the inclusion of combos it is in this game. It makes both bartering and dungeon crawling a chore.

      I’ve always had way more than enough money when the fairy wanted to collect the debt, but I would find it incredibly insulting to start the game again with all the stuff I gathered, had I failed.

      The characters, whether it is the infuriatingly naive Recette, pretentious Tear or anyone else, are one dimensional and boring. The dialogues are mind numbing.

      There were more issues I had with it, though it has been a while since I played it and I can’t recall any more right now.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Well I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I work on a market stall. Which actually now I type it makes it sound even worse. I do that during the day as my job, then enjoy doing it at night in a game. The mechanics represent real life pretty well. There are only a few characters in the game, and there are only a few types of people in real life, and you use the same selling techniques on them all and it more or less works.

      Also, I really like Torchlight and the like. Recettear basically gives purpose to that formula. But all your criticisms are right, it’s just I enjoy that grind. I’ve found that pretty much every game ever created is a grind, it’s just finding the type of grind you like.

    • mlaskus says:

      it’s just finding the type of grind you like.

      True enough. I prefer games that are challenging and require me to think.

      I might approach Recettear with a bit too much bile than it deserves because it was such a disappointment to me. Reading about it on RPS and getting recommendations from friends, I was expecting something special and invested quite a lot of time in a vain hope of enjoying it myself. Which made me hate it when I didn’t.

  17. mcnostril says:

    Loved the game, but good lord is it annoyingly japanese.
    You know what I mean.
    Like it was mentioned in the wot I think back then, for a game that lampoons jrpgs, it sure does its best to cram everything that’s annoying about them in it. I ended up playing through the whole thing twice, but with the sound off, and mashing my escape key so hard it burst into flames.

  18. Ziv says:

    Alec: I’m betting somewhere in that inbox there are a couple of mails about puzzle agent; The charming short puzzle-point’n’click form telltale which somehow you missed. I got it in the latest steam sale and it is absolutely adorable. It has it’s odds and quirks but the story and the art style are just something you can’t pass on.

  19. Matt606 says:

    Sorry, Recettear is a terrible game. Beside the bartering system, it is the most boring and generic jrpg, just complete monotonous dungeon crawling. The bartering system only works sometimes, and if you lose a sale you get punished, even if the price the customer wanted was ridiculous. You lose your combo and Recette says a negative comment.

    Also, very often the customers won’t buy an item even at 50% of it’s value, for no reason, they just don’t want to, great fun. Lastly, if you don’t make enough money to pay your house off, and don’t have the capability to by the date, GAME OVER. 2010!!! It’s 2010 and there’s a game over screen on an rpg. 2010, it’s 2010 everyone.

    Terrible game, I wish I could erase it from my steam account.

    • gulag says:

      Ahh, but it’s all a dream…

    • DrGonzo says:

      I don’t understand how it’s the most generic jrpg ever, when it is almost completely different from all other jrpgs. I only say this because I absolutely loathe jrpgs, but really enjoyed Reccettear.

      As for the whole game over screen. I’m not sure I understand what your getting at here either. If you die in a modern game you go back to the last checkpoint or the start of the level. That’s what happens in Reccetear, but they let you keep all your stuff which then makes it easier to finish that section. What do you mean about selling things too? The selling is fairly straight forward, as the game goes on you begin to understand it more and get the hang of it. You don’t even mention the dungeon crawling, so that makes me think you haven’t really played very much of the game. Sounds like your biggest criticism should be that it doesn’t explain it’s mechanics well enough, although you may have just skipped through all the tutorials and then assumed you would be able to understand it.

  20. gulag says:

    Usually when I’m playing a PC game, my wife asks me what I’m doing, and it’s an easy question to answer.

    ‘What are you doing?’

    ‘Shooting aliens’

    ‘What are you doing?’

    Shooting mutants’

    ‘What are you doing?’

    ‘Shooting Communists/Fascists’

    To which she replies, ‘Oh, okay’

    ‘What are you doing?’

    ‘Umm… Playing as a small girl who runs a shop with the help of her financial advisor fairy’


    I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

    • Torgen says:

      I explained Tear to my wife as the “Fairy.”

      Then explained how the little girl was abandoned by her father who ran up a huge debt to chase fame and fortune, and now is forced to turn the house into a shop to pay off the debt by the Foreclosure Fairy, and ends up living in a cardboard box in an alley if she can’t come up with the money.

      Yes, I like messing with my wife’s mind. :)

      At least Recettear is easier to explain to her than Minecraft.

    • Torgen says:

      “FORECLOSURE Fairy.”

      God-blessed trackpad on laptop. I somehow erased the word “foreclosure” and ruined my post. :P

  21. WiPa says:

    That was quite possibly the best life experience story i have ever read. Thankyou Sir Quinns.

  22. Archonsod says:

    It currently holds the record for the longest I’ve played a JRPG. Though admittedly since it was previously measured in minutes it wasn’t that big a milestone.

  23. Geban says:

    By the way, Recettear is 50% off at GamersGate for those who missed the Steam sale

  24. Tyler Jinks says:

    I bought Recettear during the Indie Story Pack sale, and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made during a sale. 13 hours for the main story (and two game-overs therein) is a respectable amount, and I haven’t even gotten many of the extras.

  25. the blueprint project says:

    i love the content on this site

  26. thebigJ_A says:

    Is that teenage girl trying to sleep with that child?

    I merely ask, I make no judgement.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      She’s drunk out of her mind and moments later she says it’s just a joke. Although, that little girl runs her own item shop and is liable for quite a substantial debt, so she might be older than she appears. She looks about twelve, acts about eight, so from my experience with anime, she’s probably thirty-seven or so.

  27. Hunam says:

    I’ll buy at 37% base price!