Games | NES | Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom

Article by Jeremy Signor? | Nov. 24, 2010

Princess Tomato in
the Salad Kingdom

Developer: Hudson
Publisher: Hudson
U.S. Release: 1990
Format: NES

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom launched at a time where all adventure games were expected to be graphical, but the point-and-click interface we all know today hadnít taken hold yet. Instead, residual elements from text adventures formed the basis of interaction. While early adventure games such as Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork relied on a text parser to recognize commands and objects, the next generation added pictures and a graphical interface. Put simply, this half-step forward was merely text adventures that defined the relevant words and threw in some pictures for good measure.

Salad Kingdom is a particularly clumsy example of the style. It utilizes very rigid event tripwires to determine when the story progresses, often requiring a counterintuitive sequence of events that might only be found through accidental fiddling. And the occasional game of Rock, Paper, Scissors frustrates even when you know a pattern. Playing through the entire game is just a slog.

But this game showed an aspect to images besides simple functionality. Pictures defined objects and characters in a way text didnít. Though Princess Tomato was not the first to use images, it did illustrate their advantages better than any of its contemporaries simply because of how weird it is. Everything, from the landscape to the characters, is made of vegetables, with the exception of the occasional human. The story is a strange mix of saving the titular princess and helping a resistance faction gain freedom from the evil Minister Pumpkin. Vivid artwork does the modern setting justice, utilizing vibrant colors and character features to good effect. The player doesnít have to imagine what is going on, because the game displays it using a consistent art style.

You could extract all the text out of the game and make it a text adventure which retains the same amount of functionality and playability. But then youíd be taking away the very thing that makes it a cult classic.

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