I'm a sad man. I'm late-40s and I still like cute things. I also love RPGs, so you can see why I looked at Recettear and liked the look of it.
The game wasn't quite what I thought it was though.... but in a good way. I was pleasantly surprised.
You'd probably be forgiven for thinking as I did - this is a typical JRPG with the theme being centred somehow around a shop. Well, yes it is... and it isn't. The game essentially has two parts to it. The RPG part takes the form of a fairly typical top-down dungeon crawler a la Chocobo's Dungeon, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon and a host of other similar ones. That's about as standard as it gets though.
Recettear does things rather differently - you are a young girl who has inherited her father's item shop which serves the local townsfolk with equipment for their day-to-day use and more importantly, stuff to go a-dungeon-crawling with. You also have a guardian of sorts (who also turns out to be a debt collector too) who's a fairy. Well, this is a Japanese game - 'nuff said. The relevance of this is that Recette (you) have also inherted some burden of debt too, who naturally you owe to your ward. So, the crux of the game is to run the shop, and earn enough each day to enable you to pay off your monthly debt payment.
I know, that might sound a little boring, but it isn't. It's actually where the game really shines. Your day is divided up into a maximum of 4 sections, which you can "spend" by either visiting town for certain things, visit the adventurer's guild (more on that later), or open the shop. Your shop has certain shelf spaces laid out, and arranging the stock so your best stuff is visible from the window is an essential trick. Put the boring, common and cheap items in the window and you'll attract less passers-by. Put the really expensive stuff in the window and you'll also attract less passers-by. It's a balancing act.
Once customers come in, they'll flit around looking, and approach you with items they want to buy from the shelves. As with any real-world store, the trick is to maximize profit, while retaining custom. So, sell higher than you bought it, but low enough so they don't get annoyed and never return - another balancing act. Some customers will ask for certain special orders in advance, which you almost always never have the stock at the time to fulfil, so you make a gamble on whether you can acquire the stock they're asking for - accept and fail, and they'll get annoyed, but refuse and they'll get annoyed too. You can't please everyone...
So where does the stock come from? This is where the adventurer's guild and the dungeon crawling comes in.
Instead of opening the store, you can toddle off to the adventurer's guild where all the adventurers hang out. You can recruit them, for a fee to go and dungeon crawl with you. There's a great element of risk/reward here, as at the end of each level, you can choose to duck out with the loot, or proceed onwards with the chance of more and better loot, but with the added risk of costly failure. As Recette, doesn't fight (well, she's only a girl), you take the role of the adventurer here. Her role is to tag along and store your part of the loot.
So, you fight, you level up your adventurers, you gain better loot to sell for better prices, you get money to pay off your increasing debt, and so on.
There's also some added little nuances such as it being wise to look after the adventurers you are hiring by selling them stuff cheap when they visit your store, as they'll use that stuff when crawling the not-so-murky depths. As the game progresses, you'll need to get a bit inventive in how you manage your stock and customers, but I won't elaborate on that as that would be spoiling things!
It's not an easy game to describe, and it probably sounds a bit dry on the face of it, but if you like the straight up old-school action-RPG dungeon crawler, I wouldn't hesitate to grab this - it does that part of it very well, but the light startegy side of shop management and how it dovetails so very, very nicely is what makes this game utterly unique. I can't recommend it highly enough.
So I have no hesitation in saying this is easily worth £15 on my value-for-money scale.