Review: Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)

A Virtual Console vegetable medley

After making several appearances on various Japanese personal computers and then being ported to the Famicom system, Hudson decided to bring the unique vegetable-themed text adventure Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom over to American NES gamers. The game was obviously quite a change of pace from the majority of titles released on the console, and while it wasn't very popular at the time it's gained quite a cult following over the years and has become a highly collectible NES cartridge. Now Hudson has decided to give the game a second, affordable chance on the Virtual Console.

For the most part, Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom plays like the old text adventures found on many personal computers in the early 80's. You've got a display box in the middle of the screen that shows you the areas that you're currently in. Since the NES didn't have a keyboard, the game uses a list of command buttons that run along the right and left sides of the display box. You have 14 commands to choose from that include: Move, Check, Talk, Take, Use, Give, along with many others. Every action you take in the game is controlled by these commands, even your actual movements.

The majority of your time will be spent exploring the many areas of the game and trying out various commands in an effort to progress in the game. Many times you're sent on fetch quests to locate certain items in order to move on to new areas, whereas other times you'll have to take on enemies in finger wars, which is basically a version of the classic "Scissors-Rock-Paper" game. There are also very tricky caves and mazes that must be explored and can be very challenging to maneuver through.

Since this is basically a text-style adventure, there's very little action going on inside the game and requires more problem-solving than anything else. The game has quite a number of different areas to explore, along with a cute and engaging storyline to keep you interested along the way. The simple gameplay scheme makes everything playable for all ages and there's plenty of challenge to be had in later areas of the game.

Since most of the scenery is seen through the small display window in the middle of the screen, don't expect a lot of visual flash or detail in this title. While the static images used throughout the game are very colorful and do show some detail, the rest of the screen is basically only black and white command buttons with a small text display at the bottom. There are a few occasional animations here and there to liven things up, but for the most part this is still a very standard text adventure that very seldom tries to venture beyond that.

While the sound effects are fairly standard, the game does feature some very good 8-bit audio for you to enjoy. Another plus is that there are also quite a few different tunes to hear throughout the adventure. The catchy tunes tend to be rather short in length, so if you find yourself stuck in the same area for too long you will eventually tire of the same tune being repeated over and over again. It's difficult to complain given how creative the music is, but it still would have been nice if the developers had made them a tiny bit longer.

Conclusion

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom isn't the type of game that's going to appeal to just anyone. You have to take into account that the game offers very little in the way of action and generally requires more problem-solving skills than fast thumbs. The silly humor and challenging gameplay make for a fun adventure if you're willing to sit down with the game and stick with it, but those expecting more of an RPG experience will need to look elsewhere because that's not really what this unique NES title is really about.

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