Interview - Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale Interview
Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale
Developer: EasyGameStation
Publisher: Carpe Fulgur
Release Date:

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An indie RPG from Japan? Yes, it's true. Carpe Fulgur is taking a risk by localizing EasyGameStation's Recettear. What does Recettear have in store for players? Well, ever wanted to own your own item shop? Every wanted to win the hearts of the town you live in because your father ditched you and left his debt to be paid? Poor Recette just can't get a break and it's up to the player to make sure her house ins't forclosed on. We had the chance to sit down with co-founder of Carpe Fulgur to dicuss Recettear and its upcoming localization.

Hello Carpe Fulgur team! We hope you are doing well this fine day. To start things off, could you first tell us a bit about who you are how you got into the practice of localization?
Andrew Dice: Well, Nick Carson and I are residents of northern Virginia and we've know each other for years. Robin Light-Williams is from Oregon, and I met him online a few years ago. He and I eventually got to talking about how we'd wanted to localize a game title in English; Robin had always been interested in the Japanese language and I've been interested in the editing side of localization, of making a script work in English, ever since I was in grade school.

For my part, the dream started for me in the late 80s and early 90s, and I became a fan of Square's offerings and Ted Woolsey's work. Once I learned what Woolsey did for a living – taking games in one language and making sure that English-speakers could enjoy them just as much as people in the game's country of origin did – I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It's taken quite a while, including a fair few struggles and rejections over the past few years, but I'm finally doing what I've always wanted to do.

Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is your first localization project. Could you explain to us why you chose this title to localize?
AD: The short answer? It was available.

That's a little disingenuous, though, so I'll say this: above all, Recettear was the most unique experience we knew of and wanted to bring to Western audiences. It was far too good of a game to just leave to languish in Japan, alone and forgotten by “big” publishers. It also helped that EasyGameStation, the indie group that made the game, was actually pretty eager to see their original works released overseas; whereas many other groups, indie or otherwise, might have been difficult to negotiate with or might not trust an essentially unproven localization group, EGS was very easy to work with and we had a deal worked out pretty quickly. EGS has been a dream to work with and we'd love to do more projects with them.

Above all, though, it simply seemed like Recettear was the best title we could bring to America. It provides an experience that isn't really available from any other product on the market, we think.

What is the story of Recettear? Who are the cast of characters and what is their ultimate goal?
AD: Our primary protagonists are Recette and Tear. Recette is a young girl whose father left her alone at home a few months ago, with promises that he'd return a hero. Unfortunately, he seems to have left a huge debt in his wake... which is where Tear comes in. A contract worker for Terme Finance, she arrives at Recette's house to collect on the loan... and, since Recette doesn't have hundreds of thousands of pix on hand, suggests turning the house into an item store to earn back the debt and pay it off that way. And so this unlikely duo starts on their journey... to make sure Recette doesn't end up living in a cardboard box!

They'll meet a fairly diverse cast of characters, many of who will end up helping our heroines out in the various dungeon areas around the countryside. Their motivations are as varied as they are – Louie the rookie swordsman is simply grateful for Recette and Tear's help with getting through the Hall of Trials, Charme finds the two of them interesting (and thinks there might be something to pilfer along the way), and so forth. There's a few purely antagonistic characters as well – Alouette is the daughter of the owner of the country's biggest item-shop chain, and takes a certain delight in rubbing that fact in Recette's face. And there are a few other people out there, whose motivations might be a little more sinister...

The gameplay on Recettear sounds very similar to that of the Atelier series in terms of owning a shop and collecting items. Is the game play in Recettear similar to the Atelier games? What are some of the differences? How does customer interaction work in this game?
AD: Hah, oh dear. If you want a sure-fire way of making Muracha (the director at EasyGameStation) angry, suggest that Recettear is similar to Atelier. That said, I can see where some people would see similarities between the two, although Muracha is right, in the end; the focus of the games is very different. With the Atelier series (or at least those games which are not “standard” RPGs), the focus is on item creation; there's often a secondary system for managing other aspects of your character's life, but they're really fairly simple in the end.

Recettear is just the opposite; the shop management is where the complexity lies. There is an item-creation system of sorts in the game, but it's a fairly simple affair all told and is definitely not where the great focus of the game lies. In Recettear, you manage nearly everything about your store, from prices to what is put on the shelves to what's displayed in the windows to what your walls and floors look like. Everything is under your control, and influences what you can sell and how you can sell it. Need to bring in richer customers? Make the place look nice! Want to sell items of a darker bent, like skull-shaped candles (an actual item)? Whip out the evil-looking countertops!

You interact with the customers directly; each item has a base price (that can be influenced by news events around town), and you can try to haggle up from there if you want to make some real money. Don't try to haggle too high, though, or you might drive off a customer!

What is the combat system like? How many characters can be in the party at one time? How long would you say the game takes to complete?
AD: Well, it's worth noting up front that neither Recette nor Tear actually do any fighting – Recette's barely a teenager, and Tear's two feet tall at best. Instead, when the player goes dungeon-diving, they choose from a variety of adventurers who have given their guild cards to Recette over the course of the game. There's quite a variety to eventually find, from Louie the Swordsman to Charme the Thief to Caillou the Magician to somewhat more unconventional choices like Elan the Black-belt brawler or Nagi, who fights with spears of various kinds.

Most American RPGamers would probably most readily compare the combat to 2D Zelda, Secret of Mana or perhaps Diablo. You're in full control of the adventurer at all times and one button press equals one action, essentially. Enemies have various ways of attacking (and the adventurers have different ways of defending themselves!), and you encounter a pretty varied assortment of foes. It's worth pointing out that each adventurer also fights differently – Louie swings his sword in wide arcs while Nagi's thrusts are much tighter, for example, and Caillou is practically unique in how he plays, with his SP-restoring (but weak!) melee attacks.

What do you think the appeal is of a game like Recettear? How will this game appeal to RPGamers as a whole?
AD: Really, I think the uniqueness is what carries the game above all. Even if some people argue a certain amount of similarity with the Atelier franchise, there's nothing quite like Recettear on the market, in any country.

There's also the fact that we've done our absolute darnedest to give these characters as much life and depth in English as we possibly can. Not to toot our own horn too hard, but we've already gotten a fair number of compliments on the demo's script – some from people who've been working at such things for a while now. I think the actual story sequences will appeal to a lot of players – one of EGS' goals when making the game was to make sure something interesting or amusing happened in every scene to keep players' interest, and we've attempted to preserve that.

How difficult would you say it is to localize a game like Recettear? What are some of the challenges you have faced during this project?
AD: The biggest challenge from a purely technical standpoint was the item list and ordering system. Oh god, the ordering system, I'm already having nightmare flashbacks. We essentially had to work with Thor, EGS' lead programmer, to completely rebuild the item list and order system in order to allow for English grammar that made even a lick of sense - "a weapon" versus "weapons", "some food" versus "foodstuffs" and the like. Plurals like this don't exist in Japanese, so we had to explain the problem to EGS and then come up with an (ultimately rather complicated) solution. To be totally, brutally honest I'm still not completely satisfied with every single case of this, but it still reads like English now instead of gibberish.

Beyond that, I would say it wasn't substantially more difficult than many other RPGs; there's quite a bit of text, but that's simply a matter of time and skill. We did work pretty closely with EGS to make sure we understood the background of the game and characters and cleaved as close to the vision of the developers (while still reading well in English). It was definitely the item list and related mechanics that caused us a great deal of contortion (not to mention the sheer size of the item list – five hundred sixty nine entries total, counting the "unknown" items!)

Are you planning to localize any new titles in the future? If so, will they be PC-only or will you expand to portable systems and consoles?
AD: Well, one of the "big" goals we have with Carpe Fulgur would be to take the company into the console arena as a third-party localization house, perhaps subcontracting to companies like Nintendo, Sony or Square-Enix. We might also simply get hired into a larger company – part of the point of this project was to prove that we're capable of doing this sort of thing to begin with.

For the more immediate future, though, we've made no real secret of our desire to bring over two more of EGS' games to the West – one is Chantelise, which is another action RPG that most players would likely compare to the 3D Zelda games. It's a little less complicated and more “traditional” than Recettear, but it's still great fun and it's got absolutely gorgeous music. We're more excited for EGS' upcoming project Territoire, however. It seamlessly blends the mechanics from “traditional” Strategy-JRPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics with many of the army-raising-and-maintaining mechanics found in Western Strategy games like Civilization, and then features not only a robust single-player campaign but a full-fledged online mode which allow players to duke it out to see who is top dog. It's far and away the most ambitious project EasyGameStation has ever undertaken, and the more we at Carpe Fulgur see of it, the more we want to sink our teeth into it in more ways than one. So if Recettear sells well enough for us to consider making a living on this on our own, you can bet we'll do our best to bring both these games to RPGamers in the West. Territoire will probably be longer in coming, though, since it isn't even out in Japan yet (with no announced release date).

Funnily enough, there's actually a game (or series of games) that we were interested in earlier in the year that seemingly got taken off the market. When considering CF's future and other titles we could bring over, we actually took a long, hard look at the Sora no Kiseki games – many RPGamers may not know this, but those were PC games before they were PSP games. We'd given real consideration to approaching Falcom if Recettear ended up selling well and was well-received critically, so that we could honestly present ourselves as serious localizers who wanted to bring one of the best-yet-wholly-ignored RPG series of the decade to the West at last. But then, of course, XSEED announced their deal with Falcom two months ago and their intention to bring over Trails of the Sky themselves, with the PSP versions. Blast! Of course, they've announced nothing concerning the PC versions at all... and I wonder if they might need a little bit of help with all that text?...

Anyway, if we really let our heads drift into the clouds, there's one other title that caught my eye recently: Fate/Extra for the PSP. Fate is a longstanding, popular franchise in Japan, but I've always thought that the only real thing holding it back from Western success was the fact that all the games were essentially (somewhat over-verbose) visual novels instead of something that could actually be "played", and that if an "actual" RPG or something similar was produced with the IP, it'd do fantastically over here. Well, Fate/Extra is pretty much exactly what the doctor ordered in that regard, as it's an RPG cut somewhat from the mold of the newer Persona games with a fairly unique combat system. I'd love to dig into that world and bring it to Western gamers, but of course Carpe Fulgur isn't really in a position to negotiate with Marvelous Interactive just yet (we don't even have PSP devkits... or a centralized office for that matter!) I did mention earlier that we're very open to sub-contracting, though, and if a larger publisher were to pick up the game and then found they needed the help of outside localizers to take the pressure off their staff or relied on external agencies exclusively and were looking for a new one after a string of bad releases, why, how handy that'd be for us.

Regardless, that's where we stand: we'd like to grow Carpe Fulgur beyond "just" PC games, although we'll always remember our roots and assuming Recettear sells even somewhat well, we do have several more games on our immediate slate that we'd like to do. Hopefully Recettear won't be our only release!

When can we expect Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale to be released? Any plans to expand this release beyond PC?
AD: We can't quite commit to a firm date just yet as there are still several moving pieces that make pinning an exact date down difficult. The current plan is to have a release-ready version of the full game complete by the last week of August, although that may slip slightly depending on certain factors. Definitely no later than September, though, is our goal.

As for beyond the PC, that's fundamentally out of our hands. Many people have commented that this game would do gangbusters on XBL/PSN/insert non-PC-network-here, but ultimately the decision to port the game lies with EasyGameStation and where they feel they can allocate resources. I personally think the game would do well on console download services, but there's a number of hurdles to that and the ultimate decision doesn't lie with us.

Finally, to wrap up this interview, who is your favorite character in the game and why?
AD: My absolute favorite character? Well, he's not someone I can really talk about without dropping some atomic spoilers in this joint... but he's definitely the most interesting character of the bunch and his motivations are way, way more complicated on several levels than you'd expect for characters of his type. We actually had a pretty long discussion about him with EGS, and I want to make sure we really get him right. You'll find out who he is in the full version!

My favorite among the characters in the demo is definitely Charme, though. She's another case of her actual character being quite a bit more complicated than she appears on the surface, and it comes through in a lot of ways – what she says, how she acts, what she does with her time and why. Demo players can catch a real glimpse of this when Charme comes in to the shop to give Recette her guild card – you might want to pay attention to what Tear and Charme have to say to each other.

RPGamer would like to thank Andrew Dice for all his enthusiasm and excitement on Recettear. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is set to release this September.

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