We’ve gone from a time in which shop keeping simulations are rare, precious things to savor, to one where they’re far more common. Thanks to games like Recettear, Style Savvy, Adventure Bar Story, Conveni Dream and Kingdom Item Shop, we have outlets for people who want to run a retail empire. AL･FINE may not offer new and amazing takes on the formula, but is a casual option for people looking for a new market to dominate.
The basics of AL･FINE are ones found in every comprehensive store management simulation. You own a shop. You procure items to sell, either by heading to market to acquire products or sending hired adventurers into dungeons to gather treasures. You need to properly price and place items to become a success, with factors such as other shops’ prices, time of day and weather influencing customers’ desires. As you succeed, you can alter your store to further increase your reach. Pay attention and profit.
The key with AL･FINE is to take it easy. Which is difficult, because we’ve had quite a few games in this space that make shopkeeping a very serious, high pressure affair. This is a barebones, casual experience that’s focused on the time spent in town, interacting with citizens that may or may not be more appealing than the ones you’d meet in Recettear or Style Savvy. (Your mileage will vary on this one.) You aren’t actually heading into dungeons yourself, just paying other people to do your dirty work and hoping for a good result when they return. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is less strenuous than other titles in this realm. Which, in turn, makes it much easier.
The only thing you really need to do is continuously monitor your customers and prepare for Commerce Battles. Each customer type only buys one kind of item. You may occasionally need to adjust the price higher or lower, but it isn’t necessary. If it is placed, they’ll make the purchase. During bad weather, fewer people will come in, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to alter your stock. You just have to watch to see who is stopping by, to adjust items accordingly, which is something anyone playing any simulation would already do.
The Commerce Battles also mean keeping a closer eye on things than you might otherwise in AL･FINE. When these occur, you have to outsell an opposing shop within a certain number of days. They aren’t too trying. Lowering your prices by about 20% is usually enough to pass any challenge. Still, it is an opportunity for this game to set itself apart in a way that stays true to its more casual nature, while offering some sort of test of skill that isn’t drasticly more difficult.
The only part of AL･FINE that truly isn’t fine is its bugs. There’s VRAM error that kept me from playing more than two hours at a time. Which means saving regularly and in under-two-hour blocks is a necessity. It also only offers an 800×600 resolution, which isn’t the best viewpoint when you need to see detailed information. Both feel like things that should have been addressed ahead of an official release.
AL･FINE comes across as an introductory shopkeeping simulation. It teaches you the virtual retail basics. You get to understand what needs to be done in a low-pressure, casual environment. It isn’t incredibly detailed, but offers enough information for someone to find their footing. The basics are fine enough, for a time. Once you’re comfortable, you’re able to head out into the big world of simulation games and pick up a more comprehensive and less forgiving game, like Recettear.