Sunday, June 29, 2014

Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale - 20/20 hours

Well, it's time to say goodbye to Recettear. I didn't accomplish a lot with my remaining time, but I had so much fun that my last 4 hours actually took me 5. I didn't mention it previously, because it didn't seem super-important at the time, but one night, while visiting the town, I met a demon named Griff. As one might expect from a demon, he had a less than favorable opinion of humanity. Somewhat more surprisingly, he also hated fairies, viewing them as collaborators who fit into human society by denying their true natures and hiding away any of their number who could not measure up socially (as I said before, this game can be incredibly dark).

Anyway, Griff turned out to be the boss of the Obsidian Tower, and after fighting my way up to the top with Louie, Recette confronted him about his scheme to unleash the arch-demon and rule over a wasted world as a Dark Lord. I don't want to spoil it for anyone looking to play the game, but the result was hilarious. Recette would be one of the dumbest characters in gaming, but her optimism is like a force of nature. It sweeps aside all obstacles, like some sort of overwhelming, cheerful typhoon. A mere dark lord of hell never stood a chance.

That's what I love about this game. It could be incredibly grim - it seems like every adventurer you meet is either an orphan, a drunkard, or desperately poor (or, in the case of Elan, all three), but there is no angst. Everyone has a cheerful can-do attitude. Even the would-be demon emperor of earth takes defeat with equanimity. And yet, I wouldn't call the game saccharine, either. First off, because the darkness is there, and second, you still have characters like Tear, who, despite being introduced as a bit of an antagonistic loan-shark, winds up being the audience surrogate more often than not. Recettear knows it's ridiculous, and it's a joy to behold.

My self-imposed 20 hour deadline was a minimum, so that I wouldn't be committed to spending too much time with games I don't enjoy, so I could go on playing Recettear, but I'm going to stop here. The reason for this is that while I could easily play another 10 hours of this game, I could also stand to play another 20, or another 100. There is no end in sight here. I defeated the Obsidian Tower, but I still have half a dozen under-leveled and under-equipped adventurers. I've barely scratched the surface of the fusion system, and there are still more dungeons to conquer. If Recettear were the only game on my agenda, it could keep me happy for quite some time, but I have a plan, and so the defeat of Griff seems as natural a stopping point as any.

I did spend some time with "Survival Hell," a post-ending game-mode where you start over at level 1, with no inventory, no story scenes, and only those adventurers for whom you've earned the True Card, and which promises an eternally-escalating debt, but I didn't get too into it. It seems to me more of a mode for experts, or at least, for those who are jaded by the game, but who can't simply put it down (and I'm willing to believe that that group is bigger than anyone would expect). It was worth it for the introduction, however. Like virtually everything else about this game, Recette and Tear explaining the rules of Survival Hell was absolutely adorable.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I move on to the first game on the challenge list. Yet I feel bouyed by Recettear's optimism. The game was a gooey confection of good-will, charm, and gently parodied JRPG cliches, spiced with a light sprinkling of darkness. Though I would not place it in the all-time video game canon (there's a bit too much farming and reliance on random chance for my tastes), it is nonetheless a legitimately great game that I will always remember with fondness.

Capitalism, ho!

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