Thank you Circle Entertainment for sending us a copy of the game to review!
In most RPGs you will find an item shop. Typically this is where you would buy new gear and stock up on potions. Rarely do we ever get to see how these item shops keep their doors open. Kingdom's Item Shop fully explores this concept of being a shopkeeper, while at the same time still letting our main character see combat on the battlefield.
The story is quite simple, but charming nonetheless. Far, far out in the corner of the world lies the Kingdom of Anglais. We play as the son of the best merchant in all of Anglais. He has always dreamed of owning his own shop, and after years of saving up, he now has his chance to. With perseverance and courage, one day his item shop will be known as the "Kingdom's Item Shop."
After naming our main character we're immediately introduced to "Mr. Butler." As his name would suggest he is indeed a butler. He serves to narrate the tutorial and teach us the basics to the game. After selling our first item we're tasked with going on a quest to collect items from a dungeon. Now rather than suiting up ourselves for battle, we instead have to hire soldiers to fight for us. Hiring their services will obviously cost money, so keep that in mind.
Battles take place in a typical turn-based RPG fashion, but actions play out in real-time. The soldiers can switch between attack and defense positions, and this is integral to completing quests. Allies will take more damage from enemies whilst in attack position, but simply pressing the 'Y' button will switch them to defense position. Hitting the 'A' button will allow them to continue attacking. Pressing the 'X' button when their bar on the bottom screen is filled unleashes a powerful skill. These skills deal lots of damage, and come in handy when in a bind. Mastering the timing between when an ally's attack is actually performed, and then switching to defense to lessen the damage received is crucial. Once an ally's health bar has been emptied that ally will flee the battle. If all of your allies flee, you will be returned to the shop with all of the items collected to that point still in your possession.
As battles take place we still have control of the main character on the battlefield. As an enemy is attacked, items will shower out of it. At this point we must quickly move over the items to collect them before they disappear. You can dash to get around faster, but that will drain the "dash meter." It's best to use it sparingly, allowing it to refill faster. However, should an enemy inflict enough damage to drain our hero's health bar, Mr. Butler will appear from nowhere and return us safely back to the shop. It can seem like there's a lot going on, but truth be told it's a lot simpler than it sounds.
The items that are found can then be sold, or synthesized into better items. The Kingdom of Anglais is home to many outlets such as a blacksmith, a bakery, and a tailor. By visiting these other shops we can learn recipes that come in the form of a riddle. The riddles themselves are merely descriptions of two or three items that need to be combined in order to create a new item. There's also the ability to experiment freely, but if you fail you waste the items that were used.
As you sell things your gold amount will increase, and at different monetary milestones Mr. Butler will inform us that our shop has reached a new title. Earning lots of money will also increase our reputation, helping to garner the title of "Kingdom's Item Shop," which is the main goal of the game. One of the most convenient features is that items will sell even when you're not in the shop. When returning from quests or other shops you'll usually come back to find large piles of coins on the floor. Items will still sell even when the game is in sleep mode, or completely turned off. I wasn't expecting this, and it was a great addition to the game.
A neat feature to selling items are the sales bonuses you can receive after selling specific amounts of things. These can increase your soldier's attack and health points, and they can also increase your own health and how long you can dash for. These bonuses will steadily increase the ease of quests, but don't expect things to be a cakewalk. In order to get past a quest it may be necessary to grind on earlier dungeons to gain some levels. Eventually you begin to see your allies deal more damage and take less in return, but at times progression felt very slow.
Visually, the game looks great. Sprites are crisp and the 3D effect is used well to add depth. Battlefields can come off as a bit bland, but the enemy designs were interesting enough that I didn't mind the landscapes. The music within the shops is nice and relaxing, whereas the battle music is much more intense. Sound effects are punchy and distinct, letting you know you have picked something up or have been attacked.
As for any moral warnings, since your allies will be slaying monsters, there's a moderate amount of fantasy violence to be witnessed. One of your allies is a witch that uses magic, but that's a pretty minimal aspect of the game. Besides these minor offenses, Kingdom's Item Shop is pretty much harmless.
Anyone expecting a deep, narrative-driven RPG will most likely be turned off by the simplistic battle system and lack of story. But those looking for a simple RPG with a heavy focus on item crafting will surely enjoy the hours of content in this one. As with many Circle titles lately, the $5 price tag is an extreme bargain for Kingdom's Item Shop. Which is why it comes highly recommended.