Capitalism, Ho! Aether Plays Recettear, Part 1

Recettear-Cover

I’d like you to join me a bit, as we think back and reflect. Remember the first traditional video game RPG you played. Final Fantasy? Dragon Quest? Maybe something like Ultima or Wizardry if you’re truly old school. Or it could be something like Skyrim if you were born sometime since the future happened. Doesn’t matter, we take all types here. Now, think back to that game, and remember what you experienced your first time through. Remember the grand vistas, the challenges conquered, the people you saved. Now, assuming your head’s on straight, the noble shop owner should be popping up in your minds eye. Yeah, that guy! Wasn’t he the greatest, always taking your money and giving you weapons and knick knacks in return. Wasn’t he the most interesting character of all the cast? Didn’t you always wish you were playing as him instead of those lame heroes you were forced to be? Well, this is the game for you.

Recettear is a quirky Japanese game from developer EasyGameStation and localizer Carpe Fulgur and about the glory of enterprise, about the freedom of business, about running a classical RPG item shop. In this game we follow Recette Lemongrass and her partner/loan shark Tear as experience the joys of capitalism by running a shop in a fantasy town catering to a wide variety of adventurer needs. Is it a good game? I don’t know, I’ve played a bit of the game, but I’m going into this mostly blind. But that just means we can learn about this game together, right?  It’ll be you and me, reader and writer, bonding as we experience the rises and falls of business and embark on countless fun little misadventures!  As you may have guessed from the title, I’m going to Let’s Play this sucker, but I’ve got a bit of a twist here. See, in real life, one of my primary tasks at work is running an economic development program centered around helping people start up and operate microenterprises. Essentially, I’m a small business management consultant. Will my real world business skills lead Recette to massive financial success? Probably. Video games and business are two of the many things I am very good at. In fact, I’d put good money on my discovering glorious success in this game. Of course, just talking about it is no fun for any of you, so let’s find out!

Recettear immediately sets itself in the same category as excellent games such as Earthbound, Chrono Trigger and Ocarina of Time by starting us out with the protagonist asleep and some shrill woman yelling at us to wake up. Obviously, the quality of those games is owed entirely to that opening. So we know this is going to be a good game. In this case, we are being assaulted in the morning by the half-fairy half-shrieking harpy Tear.

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We’re starting out in classic media in res style, starting out with most of the background yet unexplored. Today is Tear and Recette’s first day of business! It’s very exciting!

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Indeed, Recette! Capitalism to all the hos. And I have to say, I’m glad that we’re starting on the first day of business, rather than do all the prep work before opening. Starting a business takes a lot of work before you even open your doors the first time. There’s licenses to get, stock to obtain, business plans to create, funding to pursue, so much marketing, etc., etc. I’m going to let you in on a secret. Most of the small business counselors I’ve talked to, while we’ll certainly help you think out your plans, work out your licensing requirements, and help you out with any other intellectual work at this stage, we’re usually far more hands-off as far as actually getting stuff done than we are with businesses that have already had their opening day. I get a little more involved with this part than most, but even so I leave almost everything up to the entrepreneur. It’s fairly common knowledge that about half of all businesses that start will shut down within a year of their opening. Running a business requires a lot of skill and commitment, and not everyone is up to the task. Us business counselors, we’ll lay all the pre-startup work on the client and use it as a sort of trial by fire, so most of the ones that aren’t going to make it will burn out before they’ve committed much in the way of money or time to a project that they can’t make work. Anyways, like I was saying, there’s a huge amount of work before opening the doors, and I am very glad this game is starting after that’s already….

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GAAAAH!! Tear, why do you do this to me? Ok, it can’t be that bad, right? We’ve gotten this far. So what exactly do we need to do?

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You guys… planned to open today… yet you never… bought inventory? We can… we can work with that. We’ll just need to delay our grand opening to this afternoon, and get some basic supplies to tide us over until we can order some more substantial stock. We’ll do this. So, is there anyone in town we can get a small amount of wholesale inventory from?

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That sounds like the perfect answer to our problem. Let’s head there, then. We’ll get our stock, meet one of the movers and shakers around town, be back home in time to pick up some late customers. Shall we go?

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Yes, Tear, I can see the door right there. I know how doors work, even. I’ve been through hundreds, maybe even thousands already. It’s not that hard. Seriously, why do you even feel the need to point that out?

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I stand corrected.

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Before we go, though, this is our store. Yes, a lot of empty display cases, but we’ll be able to fill those up when we get back. It does have that window there, for highlighting our wares and drawing in customers, but otherwise, it’s pretty basic. It’s the first floor of Recette’s house; she and Tear converted into a shop sometime previously. It’s right along one of the city’s main streets, but otherwise it doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. The big weakness might be the amount of space we have here; we can’t put that many items on display, so we’re going to have to be turning over most of our inventory pretty quickly in order to make the most of it.

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And here’s Pensee. I know, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s actually one of the larger cities in the region. It’s a hub for adventurers too, having the Adventurer’s Guild and a lot of prime adventuring spots in close proximity. That’s pretty lucky, too, because that’s going to be our primary market. How are we going to reach that market? I’m thinking swords. Lots and lots of swords. As you can see, there’s quite a few places we can go in town, but the Merchant’s Guild is the only one we’ve got business with.

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You know, I think I like this guy. Jovial, friendly, helpful, I think we’ll get along just great! The Merchant’s Guild licenses all the shops, merchants, and other professional sellers in Pensee, and is the wholesale supplier for seemingly all of them. As the Guild Master states, it’s all done for the purpose of keeping prices balanced. It’s much more market force-focused than traditional price fixing, but I doubt we’re going to get into the economics of this model. Their stock, as he describes it, is pretty basic, but he might be willing to let us into the more exotic stores he’s got once we prove ourselves as merchants. So, let’s get down to what we came here for, eh?

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Did you hear her say “buy ten swords”? ‘Cause that’s what I heard.

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Unfortunately, they don’t have that many swords. Disappointing. Recette can’t afford ten of them anyway. I get the four of these worn out swords, plus a rusted dagger and an armband made of wood. Maybe we can cater specifically to the low-end adventurer, the type with no standards? No, let’s stay positive. At least we know we can return here for our general inventory, when we’re ready to sell something that doesn’t suck?

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Hmm? I love presents! What is it?!

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Score! Walnut bread! So delicious. So versatile. It’s not stuff you’ll find anywhere, but this town seems to specialize in it, much to my delight. I can’t wait to tear off a chunk of this! See, I knew this guy was solid!

Still, business before pleasure. It’s back to the shop for us for our grand opening and the first of many wildly profitable days to come!

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Recette can get right on that. In the meantime, for small businesses, especially those in already-locally-established industries, marketing is by far one of the most important activities early in the business’s lifecycle. From what I’ve seen, the quality of marketing within the first couple months of a business’s opening is probably the biggest indicator of their survival chances. It’s our grand opening, so we need to really hit the pavement on this. Tear, what can we do to market the new store?

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Yeah?

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Um… ok. That’s… that’s it? That’s all we can do? You’re kidding me, right? You’re not kidding. What is this? First the screw-up with the inventory, now we can’t do anything to market the business! Jeez… I… I… I’m staying positive. Maybe, in this town, that’s enough. We are on a high-traffic street, and if no other business can put out marketing material either, maybe that’s all we need. Okay, Recette! Fill the window with swords! That’s the kind of clientele we’re after! The tough, rugged adventurer who knows well the glory of the most noble of weapons!

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Didn’t take her too long to get the whole store set up. It’s a little sparse, but we’ll make do. Good job, Recette! Now, it’s time to… wait. Wait! Waitwaitwaitwaitwait!

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My walnut bread! You can’t be serious!

You’re serious. Blast it! Well, maybe it’ll be okay. We’re an adventurer’s store, after all, and I can’t imagine many adventurers will be forgoing the awesome crappy swords and rusty daggers to buy our bread, right? We’ll just let Recette play at having it for sale now, then we’ll take it back once the store closes for the night.

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Really? I mean, this part isn’t usually all that involved.

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Merde, what have I gotten myself into.

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Whoa, slow down, Tear! Getting into stuff this advanced already. Give the poor girl a break! Saying ‘Welcome’ is at least a fifth level skill!

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Teach us, Tear! Teach how these otherfolks do that buything and give us the shinies! Seriously, I’m sure Recette’s been in a store before.

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So you want to sell stuff at a higher price than you bought them for.  Are you taking notes, Recette?  This is such a complex subject, I don’t know how you’d get by without them.

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Okay, now this is actually worthwhile.  Two things learned here. Be prepared to negotiate, and our customers will be jerks.

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So a 30% markup is standard. Good to know. Now we can undercut them all and drive out the competition!

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Finally! Blazes, Tear! That lecture took so long we barely have any time left for our grand opening!

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And finally, Recettear, retailer of crappy worn-out adventuring goods, holds our big grand opening extravaganza in the waning hours of the day. We get exactly one customer. Fantastic. Now, if you would just like to peruse our fine collection of worthless swords, we can… heyheyheyheyheyhey!

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Recette, please!

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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My... my walnut bread.
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Well, today, we managed thoroughly screw up the timing of our grand opening, obtained an absolutely last-minute stock of weaponry nobody in their right mind will be interested, draw exactly one customer in, and sell off the only thing that could have made me happy. We’ve made such achievements, I find myself week in the knees. Still, Recette, you did good. And we’ll be able to do better tomorrow. We’ll make this shop a rampant success even if it kills me. Which, at this rate, it probably will.

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Actually, yeah. No offense, Recette, but you don’t exactly seem like the industrious type.

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And it’s such a story. Such a great story. One full of tears and drama, followed by a tale of redemption. But not one we have time to tell right now. Join us next time, as we open the shop for the second day and try not to screw up as thoroughly as we did today. Will Recette find herself some business success? Will Tear achieve whatever she’s going for? Will I ever get my hands on some delicious, delicious walnut bread? After today, I’m not holding out hope for any of those. Still, keep watching as we try not to run ourselves into the ground. ‘Til next time…

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