Nintendo Download Wrap-Up for February 8th, 2010

Last week, I took a little vacation to handle some other responsibilities, so the capable and beautiful Aileen Coe took over and did an admirable job with a loaded slate of games. It was a lot of work, but she came through beautifully, and I was able to take care of everything that I needed to do.

Of course, anytime someone takes a day off, they always come back to a mountain of work. Such is the case today, when I resume my wrap-up duties with an absolutely brimming slate of games, including the return of a huge name and a sleeper Virtual Console title.

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Original System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Original Release Date: February 8, 1991
Price: 500 Wii Points/$5

Mark B.: Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom is similar to other NES adventure games like Deja Vu, Shadowgate and The Uninvited, in that it’s interesting in concept and insanely hard if you don’t have a strategy guide to follow. Anyone who played those games when they were a kid knows what I’m talking about. The game is bright and pretty for an NES game, and there’s a good bit of personality to the game thanks to the Veggie Tales meets Dragon Quest vibe, so there’s certainly charm to the game in spades. Further, unlike the prior games I mentioned, Princess Tomato doesn’t kill you if you get something wrong, so it’s not as hard as other NES adventure games, and thank God for that.

That said, the game amounts to solving puzzles you didn’t know existed by using odd items on said puzzles, as with most old adventure games, and much like the aforementioned games, a lot of the things you need to do aren’t especially intuitive. You’ll spend a good amount of your time experimenting with the game to see what you can and cannot do, trying to figure out what the solution to the next puzzle is so you can MOVE ON AND GO TO BED DAMMIT… ahem. On the other hand, that’s what a lot of old adventure games are like, so, y’know, if you’re wanting to shave a few years off your life with some stress fits, Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom is probably for you!

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Alexander Lucard: I love Princess Tomato. I love all of those strange first person adventure games for the NES. God knows I’ve talked Shadowgate and Uninvited to death. Those are pretty dark and mature games though, while Salad Kingdom is anything but.

Old adventure games like these are quite different from the modern ones in the respect that here you were constantly challenged from the beginning with some pretty hard puzzles. Most adventures games today are story first with very little challenge in the puzzles. It’s hard as hell, but it’s also light hearted and cute. For five dollars, this is definitely a game worth picking up, not only for the challenge, but the obscurity of the title and how this is one of those games that no one really thought would hit the VC. It’s great to see the rare and weird making it onto the Virtual console. Now where’s my Shadowgate?

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Christopher Bowen: Princess Tomato can best be described as Baby’s First Shadowgate. It’s a text-based adventure that’s a little sloppy to play due to its age and the limitations of the NES controller, but it’s much more accessible than games like Deja Vu and Uninvited. It’s bright, cheerful and laid-back, unlike the aforementioned games where just breathing wrong gets you killed, often gruesomely. In fact, I’m not even sure you CAN die in Princess Tomato; the game is just one big puzzle and you can’t advance until you figure out what to do at certain spots, but there’s no pressure on the player.

This was an obscure game when it was released, and time has not made it any more popular. With that said, this is an outstanding purchase, especially at $5. The Virtual Console was made for games like this, and adventure fans will get a lot of playtime out of it. With that also out of the way, for this particular game, I recommend not going to GameFAQs if it can be helped at all; since there’s no pressure to do something right or die, you can poke around at everything and find the right formula to beat the game with time. It will extend your playtime – with an FAQ, this is a two hour game – and it’s written well enough so that you won’t get bored unless you’re really stuck. It should be stated that there’s no real save function – there’s a password after every chapter – but the VC’s autosave mitigates that somewhat.

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Aileen Coe: Princess Tomato, much like the other adventure games on the NES already mentioned, plays much like old text adventure games, though since the NES had no keyboard peripheral, you instead picked an action from menus on the sides of the playing screen. It invites (OK, forces) you to walk around experimenting with different items and talking to different people to progress. The fact that you continue via passwords and you only get them at the end of each chapter means you’ll likely end up being glued to the game while you run around trying to figure out what you still need to do to finish the chapter so that you won’t have to redo an entire chapter’s worth of work. But the game and characters are charming enough that it feels less tedious than it would were the case otherwise. Plus, if you’re paying attention and are compulsive about picking up every little item you come across and talking to everyone you see, you should be reasonably well off.

All in all, definitely more than worth the $5.

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The WiiWare service saw four games today, but the other three are ineffectual compared to one big name coming out of mothballs with next to zero fanfare. I should preface preface the following with a statement: I am a Victor Ireland fanboy. I’ve met a lot of celebrities in my life, but if I ever met Victor, I might just hump his leg uncontrollably. I have been his fanboy since the early Working Designs days when he brought over the first Lunar game, and stayed his fan even after the company’s demise. After Working Designs folded, he started up Gaijinworks, which had me legitimately excited. I had been waiting for their first release of note to come out for awhile, and while Miami Law was OK, it wasn’t really sufficient. Then I heard that Ireland had partnered up with Sunsoft. I wish I still had the conversation I had with Alex at the time, but we were both drooling at the possibilities. The seeds started to bud in December, when Gaijinworks published the VC version of the NES classic Blaster Master, which I praised effusively.

That flower has just hit full bloom. In typical Vic Ireland fashion, he’s dropped a bomb on us by releasing Blaster Master: Overdrive a whole two days after announcing it. On a Saturday. This man is fucking amazing.

Blaster Master: Overdrive is essentially a reboot of the original franchise to the days when it was simultaneously on the NES and awesome. Every single person that spoke about the original when it was released on the VC was liberal in their praise of the game, so anything close to that is going to be awesome. HOWEVER, it is important to note that the series has seen better days. I’ll let Mark B. take it from here:

Blaster Master: Overdrive looks like it’s going to be outright awesome, as it essentially looks like an upgraded version of the original game, which was also awesome. I would like to note, however, that there have been several sequels and spin-offs from Blaster Master, including the oft-reviled Blaster Master 2, the average Blaster Master Boy, and the less than exciting Blaster Master: Blasting Again, so there’s no guarantee of quality here. I’m not saying don’t buy it, but I am saying “caveat emptor”, and you might want to wait on a review or two before you pick it up. ”

While Mark definitely brings up a good point, I think that it’s fair to say that this is a different Sunsoft from the one that released that crap. The company has been completely revitalized, and furthermore, they’re going in with a specific eye on their older properties. They know where the money is. Of course they do, VICTOR FUCKIN’ IRELAND is involved! Needless to say, we should have a review of this one within a week or two, but personally, I’m DESPERATELY trying to find my USB dongle so I can get my ass online and spend the $10 I need to spend to get this ASAP.

There are three other games, and to be fair, one of them looks legitimately interesting. Tomena Sanner is a $5, side-scrolling action game from Konami that puts you as Hitoshi Susumu, a Japanese salaryman who needs to get to the end of a goal as quickly as possible while always running and avoiding samurai, dinosaurs and other obstacles. It features up to four player competitive play as well as a single player mode, so the game has a lot going for it on face value for $5. I’m not sure the gameplay has enough to satisfy anyone for longer than an hour, but anyone who bought and enjoyed Muscle March should get a kick out of this, too. There’s also Hubert the Teddy Bear: Winter Games, a $5 game that seems to be nothing but cruddy minigames; this one looks like a pass unless you have little kids. Finally, there’s Bloons, a $5 puzzle game that is available to play, for free, at literally every site that shows up on a Google search for the game. It can best be described as what would happen if someone invented Bust A Move without letting the bubbles stop each other. It’s simple enough, but $5 is WAY too high for a game that, at most, shouldn’t cost the $1 it would take to buy the iPhone version.

DSiWare gets a total of five new games this week. Oscar in Movieland is actually the sequel to previously released Oscar in Toyland, which itself was an Amiga game named Trolls, after the faddish dolls with the funky hair from the 90s. Someone described it as the Amiga’s answer to Sonic, as the game looks and plays like a blatant Sonic clone. No one was really high on the first game, so only fans or nostalgics should shell out for the second one, especially at $8. Link ‘n’ Launch is a $5 puzzle game that gives me Pipe Mania vibes. Fieldrunners is yet another tower defence game, this one for $5. Sudoku 4Pockets is yet another Sudoku game for $5. Extreme Hangman, at the very least, is only $2 for the same game we could play with pen and paper, but it’s apparently worth it because it has blood. Because it’s EXTREM– ah, to hell with it. The longer we spend talking about this regurgitated tripe, the less time we spend playing Blaster Master: Overdrive.

Until next week, this is Christopher Bowen, who is going to pray to his Victor Ireland shrine that he start re-releasing the Albert Odyssey games.

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