Review: Tomena Sanner (Nintendo Wii)


Tomena Sanner
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Genre: Timing-based Platformer
Release Date: 02/08/2010

When I imagined that digital distribution would break down the barriers between the various regions around the world, perhaps I jumped the gun a little. Japan continually receives goods on the Nintendo Wii that have yet to surface in the United States, and region differences are blocking me from using my Microsoft Points to download items such as Idolm@ster to my Xbox 360. When I first saw Japanese sites promoting Tomena Sanner, a gentleman in a business suit began breakdancing with a panda and various other bizarre characters, which greatly peaked my interest. Given the obscurity, I didn’t give the title much of a chance to reach our shores. Thankfully, Konami proved me wrong and released the quickfire title as a $5 download on the North American WiiWare service, and gamers can also be thankful that Tomena Sanner holds up as a solid addition to the service.

For the U.S. release of Tomena Sanner, Konami has merely translated the game’s text, meaning all of the obscurity and insanity has remained intact. The player assumes the role of businessman Hitoshi Susumu, who, as a businessman, does not like to be late. Susumu has his eye on a number of dance parties being held at the end of each level, but to make it through each environment, Susumu has to contend with dinosaurs, robots, manholes, vehicles, ninjas, and more hazards that will impede his progress. That is all the story the game receives and none of it is really detailed in-game, but it works in this scenario, similar to the games of yesteryear where all of the story was laid out in the instruction booklet and players were launched straight into the action. In a game where the player does nothing but run from point A to point B, the need for a story is very minimal, but the zany premise behind Tomena Sanner just adds to the charm.

The title has a few different game modes. However, none of them drastically change the way the game is played, also recycling the same levels players will experience the first time through. Once players have a feel for the title by completing the nine levels, they can enter a more challenging turbo mode that pits players against the same single-player levels, but the speed of the gameplay increases by about double to reduce the available reaction time to obstacles. Outside of the two single-player modes, up to four players can pick up Wii Remotes and race each other to the finish line. The multiplayer modes do add some power-ups to the madness, and there are also subtle battle advantages such as having a curtain gradually slide in over an opposing player’s playfield as you build up successful combos. Even though the story isn’t fleshed out and there are only a handful of modes, you do get what you pay for and Tomena Sanner is still an interesting game to pick up now and again, especially if you can get your buddies involved.

Controlling and playing the game is as simple as it gets, and that further increases the title’s appeal. Players control the title with the Wii Remote, and the A button is the only button necessary to control Susumu when he is in action. In Japanese, susumu is the act of moving forward and this holds completely true in Tomena Sanner – Mr. Susumu will automatically start sprinting when the level kicks off and will not stop unless he collides with an obstacle or he runs out of time and is late to the party. When he approaches an obstacle, it is up to the player to time presses of the A button in order to avoid the hazard. Players can also have Susumu jump in order to collect bonus coins and power-ups, but a majority of the action is in nailing down an exact timing to avoid obstacles.

By hitting a small timing window, players will receive a “GREAT!” rating, which increases the player’s combo by one, awards a few bonus seconds of time, and usually plays out an animation that places Susumu past the obstacle in the shortest amount of time. If the player is slightly off, a “GOOD” rating won’t penalize the player, but the resulting animation is usually just a tad slower and no combo bonus or extra time is awarded. Of course, if the player is way off or fails to do anything, a “BAD” rating will award no points and the resulting animation will put Susumu even more behind schedule. Once the player reaches the goal, Susumu immediately begins breaking out the dance moves that has the player taking part in a timing-based mini-game for additional bonus points. The timing structure works well and it is very rewarding in the different animations that play out between different items and timing ratings and all of the secrets and bonuses packed in each level will keep players coming back on occasion in order to place new scores on the online leaderboards and discover new oddities that inhabit each stage. Mastering a few of the control mechanics might take players a little bit of time, but in the way of just being able to enjoy the game, Tomena Sanner is an easily understood title that takes little skill to break into.

On the downside, you could probably burn through everything the title has to offer in about an hour. Tomena Sanner‘s main hook is in its simplicity and bizarre premise and you get plenty of that for $5, but that still might not be enough for everyone with Wii Points to burn. Also, a huge attraction for the title is in its animations, which are executed extremely well. However, all of them will eventually repeat themselves, meaning there will be a point where seeing a giraffe fart in Susumu’s face will be old news … maybe.

Furthermore, a little more variety in the modes would have taken the title a long way. The multiplayer modes could have used some different levels as opposed to recycling the same content from single player in order to freshen it up, and the turbo mode would have benefitted from some alternate layouts to produce more challenge. Regardless, the levels do feature a decent build in difficulty and it might take some players a little of time to master the third set of levels in the turbo mode. Finally, Tomena Sanner wasn’t all that addictive, in my opinion. Since each level barely lasts two-minutes, the title definitely speaks to the short attention span that lurks within all of us. The title was great to come back to here and there, but I couldn’t see myself playing Tomena Sanner for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. It’s all perfectly fine in getting players to come back. However, don’t expect to have marathon sessions of the title.

I can’t say many negative things about the presentation, though, as it really assists in punching through the quirky nature of Tomena Sanner. The graphics have a cell-shaded look that borrows artistic direction from titles such as Out of This World and Feel the Magic, featuring vibrant characters that lack detail such as faces and fingers. While some gamers might scoff at the lack of detail, Tomena Sanner has a cartoon-style look that goes hand-in-hand with what the game tries to accomplish. The backgrounds also have a fair amount of scenery displayed in the same style, but in order to make the style effective, the game needs to animate well and Tomena Sanner does exactly that. Again, seeing Tomena Sanner in motion takes me back to games such as Out of This World and Flashback, where animation was also handled extremely well. Since the title relies so much on its animations, watching the game is almost as fun as playing it and for some people, these animations could potentially be their favorite part of the entire game.

The game’s audio will mostly be one of the three accompanying music tracks that are placed with each of the game’s stages and while most of it is enjoyable to listen to, it perhaps doesn’t match the frantic pace of the gameplay. I suppose it is weird to say something is out of place in this title, but I felt most of the music in the title was easily forgettable outside of the breakdancing sample that plays at the end of each level. The sound effects have some notable pop to them as they accompany most of the timing animations. Each one is suitable for the situation and well done and they really add emphasis to the animations. I could have done without some of the voice and random noise samples that trigger every time the player meets with an obstacle marker, though. Most of them are unnecessary, and after you hear the same clip played out back to back within seconds, you’ll most likely want them to go away. In all, though, Konami developed Tomena Sanner‘s audio to match up with the absurdity of the premise and it succeeds on that front. However, I didn’t find all of it to be as enjoyable as other aspects of the title.

While the title has its ups and downs, most of what is presented is quite original and when all is said and done, Tomena Sanner is a fun 10-minute time killer that players can come back to every now and again. This title is an easy recommendation to anyone who feels the United States doesn’t get enough of Japan’s quirky video game titles. The $5 price tag also makes it easy to pitch to gamers looking for an innovative and humorous title on the cheap. Tomena Sanner might be a little too out there for some gamers to get into, but, as I’ve said earlier, the title is almost just as fun to watch as it is to play and items such as the running commentary at the top and bottom of the screen caters to those who would rather watch than play.

The Scores
Story/Modes: ENJOYABLE
Graphics: GREAT
Sound: VERY GOOD
Control and Gameplay: VERY GOOD
Replayability: ENJOYABLE
Balance: GREAT
Originality: GOOD
Addictiveness: DECENT
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Miscellaneous: VERY GOOD
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
If you like your gaming ripe with Japanese zaniness, there is no alternative to Tomena Sanner on WiiWare. The game’s quirky nature will no doubt be what pulls most players in and its simple, yet solid, timing-based platforming will ensure they have a good time while playing. Players will get a unique presentation with the title and its animations are no doubt the highlight of the title. A decent spread of challenge and multiplayer modes stretch the title just a little bit, but at the end of the day, there is little to see in Tomena Sanner, which features only about an hour’s worth of content. Tomena Sanner is more of a title players will come back to in short bursts as opposed to sitting through long gameplay sessions and all of the game’s modes recycle the exact same gameplay levels. Regardless of its negatives, though, the title’s one-button nature should help anyone get into the title, making it a solid title to pick up at the 500 Wii Point level.

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