This is even more of an "oops" in this case since I've been meaning to post something about it for a while now, and keep having it slip my mind on the actual Monday. Again, oh well.
Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale
Game type: Sales Simulation/RPG/Roguelike
Time demand: Generally, you can put in as much time as you like and save whenever. This is different in dungeons, which might take up to an hour or so on the longer ones, though. Overall, each "cycle" can be played probably in less than a day.
Platform: PC (via Steam)
Released: 2007 JP / 09/10/10 US
What it is:
Hah, that's the question, isn't it? Well, first what it is is cute. It's one of those niche anime-styled games, cute with a quirky sense of humor, so that's a plus. Unless of course you hate that sort of thing. In which case I guess it's a minus, you soulless infidel you. Not that I would hold personal taste against you. *ahem*
As you might note from the "Game type" field, this is a bit hard to strictly define otherwise. You direct Recette, a cute little girl who's father was... ah.. financially challenged, and after his disappearance it turns out he left a whole bunch of debt behind, with one company holding the mortgage of his house, or however it's explained. (The gist: there's debt to pay off, and without it being paid, the house will be taken away from his daughter, his only heir.)
Enter Tear, who is an agent of the company that could be taking away the house. She offers a solution - Recette opens an Item Shop out of her house, and pays off a steadily increasing chunk of the debt each week, leaving her debt-free after five weeks. (That's a pretty steep repayment plan!) And thus, the premise.
So, yeah. You direct Recette as she opens her own item shop, buys stock at a bit of a discount from the equipment store and market in town, and also uses Adventurers (which she accompanies, and which you in turn direct) to gather items to sell, and to use to create special other items only available through synthesis. There are of course special sales and booms in popularity, different adventurers/characters you can meet and befriend, pretty much whatever you'd expect. But the main goal of the game is to pay off your debt, and keep from having your house taken away.
So... yeah. It doesn't sound very intense perhaps, but it's fun and cute and charming, and definitely not bad to spend some time on. You can also play through again keeping your inventory and merchant level (which unlocks more items you can carry in dungeons, higher levels of synthesis, store expansions, etc.) using a New Game + system each time you complete the game, or start a few different, special modes if you prefer. And since you can gain an adventurer's "true card" each cycle you play through, which lets you use them in dungeons from the start, that also makes things simpler - and gives you another goal to shoot for, befriending all the people and completing their little storylines.
I guess I should probably at least give some idea of the dungeons themselves - they're generally roguelike, with a different number of floors for each dungeon (each one unlocking a bit after you complete the previous one), and the option to return to town every five floors. Monsters of course get tougher as you go, and the dungeon layouts are random each time, with chests scattered around for you to find and open. Each adventurer has a different fighting style, speed, and set of special skills, but really combat and exploration are pretty basic. That's not the draw of the game, honestly.
Recommendation: As you might have noticed, I like the game and would generally recommend it. Maybe if you are absolutely allergic to anime-style games or quirky stuff you should avoid, but it's fun, it's cute, and it's different. It's also 20 bucks on Steam, and is occasionally on sale or part of a special game pack, so you might even get it cheaper if you wait and watch. And it's got enough gameplay for a probably few cycles before you get bored (and still probably come back to it again later), so for the money, it's not a bad value.