Released: February 1991
US Cartridge ID: NES-RT-USA
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: MMC1 (256k PRG)
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom hails the tradition of one of gaming’s oldest established genres – the text adventure. Being amongst the earliest games developed for computers, text adventures created worlds out of prose, with the player’s options limited only by their imaginations and the limitations of a “verb-noun” text parser. Well-known early entries such as Adventure (1975) and Zork I: The Great Underground Empire (1980) established the style and play; as an evolutionary step forward, games beginning with the iconic 1980 On-line Systems’ (later known as Sierra On-Line) release for the Apple II, Mystery House, added simple graphics to accompany the on-screen text. With home computers quickly gaining acceptance in Japan, due largely to the release of NEC’s 8 and 16-bit computers introduced in 1981-82, the popularity of the text adventure skyrocketed, and several Japanese development houses eagerly jumped on the bandwagon. Hudson was among these, and in 1984 released a game for popular Japanese platforms named Sarada no Kuni no Tomato Hime. In 1988 the game was successfully ported to the Famicom, using simplified graphics and icon driven interface similar to MacAdventure games (Deja Vu, Shadowgate, The Uninvited) to replace the text parser interface, due to the constraints of the target system. Eventually, Hudson translated and re-released the game for North America audiences in 1991 as the NES game Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom.
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom puts players in control of Sir Cucumber, a knight loyal to the late King Broccoli. Sir Cucumber stood at his liege lord’s side in his final days, watching the king grieve over the loss of his beautiful daughter, kidnapped by the wicked Minister Pumpkin. When Sir Cucumber learns that Princess Tomato is to be forced into marriage with the Minister’s son, he knows he has no choice but to stop the wedding and put an end to the Minister, once and for all.
In following the quest to save the beautiful princess, Sir Cucumber’s interactions with the surrounding environs are controlled through a list of options lining the left and right sides of the screen. These option icons (exclusive to the console versions) obviate the need for a keyboard, listing everything needed (eg., MOVE, TALK, USE) to successfully complete each of the game’s puzzles without a text parser. If the command requires a specific object, a submenu will ask which item or person is the intended recipient (for example, if “BUY” is selected in a store with multiple items, the player will then be asked which item specifically is desired). Percy the persimmon, Sir Cucumber’s faithful companion, also has a button, allowing him to act in the otherwise silent protagonist’s stead. He serves as the comic relief in many scenes, making ridiculous comments about numerous things that the player discovers. The top center portion of the screen houses scene illustrations, and the bottom third of the screen is a text window that relays to the player exactly what is happening at all times.
Beyond the standard adventuring, Princess Tomato‘s eight chapters are periodically interrupted by minigames and mazes. Instead of using RPG style fight scenes, confrontations are dealt with through “Finger Wars,” a variation on the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. Percy will fight each opponent, and after the initial rock, paper, scissors round, will be directed to look either in the same direction as his opponent, or to look away. If he successfully follows the direction, the opponent loses a chance. If Percy fails, he will lose one of his chances. Each opponent has specific strategies and vulnerabilities to be exploited, making it less about luck than memorization of the enemy patterns. Chapters 4, 6, and 8 feature first-person mazes that must be thoroughly searched for items and important people. These sections are relatively short, but since there are no distinguishing landmarks within the mazes, they become virtually impossible to complete if Sir Cucumber doesn’t find the compass hidden in the Parsley Forest.
The puzzles are relatively simple, with the majority involving fetching items for characters. As tasks are completed, new characters and locations will appear, allowing Sir Cucumber to progress. Unlike in Kemco’s MacVenture game lineup, there is no way for Sir Cucumber to die or to be put placed in an unwinnable situation. This makes Princess Tomato much easier than other NES games of its type, and also significantly less frustrating. Creative experimentation is rewarded here, and will oftentimes be needed to figure out exactly what is needed.
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom‘s graphics have been significantly altered from their higher-resolution PC counterparts, but still look appealing. The plot’s ridiculous premise populates the Salad Kingdom with hominoid vegetables (except for Princess Tomato’s sister Lisa, who is inexplicably human), making the game’s look both ludicrous and extremely funny at the same time. Barring the rare exception, the adventure portions of the game are all static shots with no background or character animation, making it resemble a picture-book more than a typical console videogame, lending to its charm in a quaint, nostalgic way. The accompanying music is repetitive, unmemorable, and will likely go ignored after the first five minutes of playing.
The bizarre styling also allowed Hudson to be more graphic in particular scenes than was typically permitted, circumventing Nintendo’s notoriously strict censors: Bananda, an evil seven headed banana monster, kidnaps a little girl peanut. To save her, Sir Cucumber must lob a bomb at him, blowing him up into several pieces. Then he has to dig through the chunks of ragged skin to find and free Nutty, buried beneath the “gore”. Another scene, taking place inside of Minister Pumpkin’s castle, has the knight and Percy accidentally walk in on an orange taking a shower. The flirty female orange cracks the shower stall door, and winking at the duo, accuses them of being perverts. The game also styles itself as a somewhat awkward allegorical representation of the evils of Communism, most likely due to the pervasive influence of the Cold War and the USSR during the 1980s.
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom is a wonderfully unique game, deserving props for its attempt to address heavy-handed subject matter, though the sheer inanity of the script takes away most of its bite. With its cutesy, vibrant illustrations, witty writing, and reasonable puzzles, Princess Tomato is an obscure oddity that no true NES fan should miss.
|Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
|サラダの国のトマト姫 (Sarada no Kuni no Tomatohime)
Salad Kingdom’s Princess Tomato