As Nintendo gamers we’ve explored tons of exciting worlds – The Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule, Planet Zebes, and even Dracula’s castle. In this new game from Hudson we visit the Salad Kingdom, perhaps the most bizarre and hilarious setting I’ve ever seen in gaming. From the unusual box art, you may not be able to guess what kind of game Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom is. Potentials buyers might be put off by the name or pink color, or assume this a game for young children – but I implore gamers to read this review and not to overlook this title.
The Salad Kingdom is made up of a wide array of anthropomorphic vegetables, as well as some fruits and fungi. The sinister Minister Pumpkin has taken over the land, kidnapping Princess Tomato, and torturing and imprisoning noncompliant veggies; as well as and allying with the awful Farmies (humans who love to harvest and devour vegetables). You play as Sir Cucumber tasked with rescuing the Princess, defeating Minister Pumpkin, and restoring peace and harmony to the Salad Kingdom.
If you enjoyed Shadowgate or Maniac Mansion, Princess Tomato is also an adventure game with many similarities, but the interface is a little different making this game much simpler to control than those. This is more in line with Déjà Vu, where the game’s visuals are from a first person viewpoint. Hence you don’t see your character. You only see a single screen, and have 14 menu options to choose. Unlike the aforementioned games, you don’t have a cursor, so rather than pointing and clicking, you simply choose the commands you want Sir Cucumber to perform (such as Look, Take, Hit, Move, Praise, etc). In many ways this makes the game much less tedious than other games in the genre.
A unique feature is the Percy command. In the first chapter, you meet Percy, a persimmon. He acts as your ally throughout the game, and choosing Percy will often give a hint, or sometimes further the plot. Each chapter you’ll meet lots of characters, friendly and otherwise in your quest to locate the princess. You’ll have to complete tasks for characters to receive important items or gain critical information.
The game is divided into nine chapters. Each one takes place in a different region made up of around ten to twenty rooms. After the successful completion of a chapter, you’ll receive a password and Percy will “accidentally” drop any items you’ve collected that are no longer necessary. This helps clear your inventory of useless trinkets that won’t be used later in the game.
While Princess Tomato is much quicker to play without a cursor, there still are some issues that made the game quite frustrating in many areas. Everything must be done in a specific order, so at times you’ll find yourself going back and forth to each area and trying every possible command multiple times. For instance you may need to talk to the same character three or four times in a row, or check an item several times to reveal what you need. Often I was completely stuck because of this.
There are two other elements that set this one apart from most adventure games, and not in a good way. Percy excels in Finger Wars, which is an expanded game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. There are a half dozen enemies that you’ll have to fight using this very boring method of battle. Also, you’ll end up in three or four mazes throughout your adventure, which transitions the game into a dungeon crawler (think Swords and Serpents). You’ll get a compass, but it is still pretty easy to become lost or stuck in these corridors. On the upside at least there are no random battles, like a traditional role-playing game has so there’s no real punishment to traversing the area over and over again.
While the game’s premise is certainly unusual, it has one of the most clever stories. The excellent writing, terrific characters, accentuate some of the best humor I’ve ever seen on the NES. Throughout the adventure you’ll visit lively areas like Celery Cabaret, Peanut Village, Carrot Plateau, the Pea Street Bar, and eventually Minister Pumpkin’s castle.
Every single character you meet has a distinct personality that really makes the game special. You’ll meet cranky Mr. Corn, angry Sgt. Pepper (who turns from green to red when angry), General Cantaloupe, Radish Ron, and Miss Orange (who you’ll meet in the shower of all places), and dozens more enemies and allies. The Farmies are my favorite, as the human characters are all crazed and deranged-looking.
The art style is great and each character has their own flare adding to their charm. Of course being a single screen adventure game, most of the art is still, and there’s only a handful of animations, so this certainly doesn’t press any graphical boundaries. Each chapter has a different musical theme that loops throughout. Most of these are pleasant and match the corresponding area, but after a while these get very repetitious, especially if you become stuck a lot like I did.
Princess Tomato is an outrageous game that I had a blast going through. It took a different approach than the other graphical adventures already on the Nintendo. This game is completely devoid of action, and is all about critical thinking and exploration – so of course, this may not appeal to all players. I can imagine it sadly being passed over by most potential buyers. I feel gamers who enjoy role-playing games will have a great time with this Game Pak, and also this might be an interesting way to get parents and non-gamers interested in Nintendo. All adventure games have problems and annoyances, and this is no exception, but the positives far outweighs the negatives in Princess Tomato.
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 7/107/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
The creative setting, quirky characters, and fun story make this game one to check out. I found myself cracking up often at the humor. Princess Tomato is significantly longer than Shadowgate, as this took me several weeks to finally complete. I also believe this will be a game that will have a short production run, as it surely will not appeal to the masses and might be a harder one to locate after a few months. I highly recommend this title, and with any luck maybe we’ll see a sequel!
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.