Friday, March 23, 2012

Collecting Dust: Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
Adventure, Nintendo Entertainment System
1991 Hudson Soft

Certain games are bizarre, and certain games aren't that bizarre but have disturbing cover art. I think Princess Tomato falls into the latter of the two categories. Even with the blank, desolate stares of the clay vegetable-headed figures on the box art, that famous Hudson bee must mean it's a quality game, right? Let's take a look.

Godspeed You! Sir Cucumber

The game opens with a catchy tune, the likes of which is quite common in Hudson games. The player is to take on the role of Sir Cucumber: hero of the Salad Kingdom. Now-deceased King Broccoli has assigned you to rescue his daughter, Princess Tomato, from the clutches of evil Minister Pumpkin. And if the produce theme wasn't yet bludgeoned to death, your quest will start in the city of Saladoria.

I can already tell this little guy is going to get annoying, fast.

It's a very straightforward adventure game control scheme, similar to the likes of King's Quest or Leisure Suit Larry, with the player able to choose from a set of commands to interact with their environment. Princess Tomato is actually even more basic than those titles, in that you don't have the ability to navigate a character around on the screen.

You will wander through towns and dungeons, talking to everybody in sight and desperately trying to "take" everything from vegetables on the ground (why are there vegetables if the people are vegetables?) to road signs, to fences, all in hopes of finding an item to help you advance. Boss battles are comprised of a mutant variation of rock, paper, scissors, which means big time frustration. A password system enables you to restart from where you left off, but the game is honestly not very long to begin with anyway.

The Verdict
Princess Tomato appears quirky on the surface, but aside from swapping humans with vegetable-people, nothing about the setting or plot is all that farfetched. Even with its fairly easy puzzles, it can get boring fast. If this game falls into your lap, give it a shot, but I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to play it.

The Alternative
Also an adventure game, and also on the NES, Maniac Mansion is a fantastic alternative to Princess Tomato. It has the same gameplay style, but is much more dynamic and entertaining. It was personally my first foray into adventure games, and it set the bar pretty high for all the other adventure games I've played since then. It also has a DOS version with better graphics than the NES counterpart. Either way, I recommend it.

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