Tomato Adventure

   Role-playing games are storming the Game Boy Advance with rapid succession, and while most are either remakes or sequels to long-standing classic series, the future looks promising for more original and creative RPGs. Nintendo seems to be the bastion for much of those unique titles, with Golden Sun and Magical Vacation providing a ray of hope amongst rehashed titles such as Breath of Fire and Lunar Legend. Now, Nintendo and developer Alphadream bring us Tomato Adventure, a cheerful and charming quest that hopes to take the best of the old and refine it into the best of the new.

Ketchup Kingdom

   The story of Tomato Adventure is seen through the eyes of hero Demiru, an 8 year-old boy who hails from Kobore Village in the Ketchup Kingdom, a majestic land whose inhabitants are all children. Demiru's close female companion Pasaran has been whisked away to the evil ruler Abira's castle, and it's up to Demiru to save her. Demiru must travel through six regions of the Ketchup Kingdom, which include typical forest and mountain areas as well as more original locales, such as an island where all the inhabitants are devoted to rock n' roll. Each island is run by the "Super Kids", the gang of nasties that Abira commands. The Super Kids posess "Toy Parts", which are needed to restore order to the Ketchup Kingdom and save the three tomato children Tomakii, Rettoma and Tomagreen.

Choose your Gimmick

   The game's battle system may look like every other common RPG battle system since the dawn of the genre, but there is one uncommon concept: weapons are not weapons as we've come to know them, but instead are "Gimmicks". Gimmicks are unorthodox instruments of hurt such as large yo-yos or powerful magnets that incorporate a minigame of sorts with a button-pushing timing system that totals damage based on how much the Gimmick's meter has been charged. With that ability to "tune" the strength of the Gimmick, players can use them to shift the overall difficulty of the game depending on which Gimmick the player chooses for battle. There are numerous Gimmicks available for Demiru to collect, provided both by supporting characters and hidden treasure locations.

   Tomato Adventure also harnesses the power of the GBA Link Cable, in the form of a multiplayer card game called Gimmicka. Cards with pictures of Gimmicks and specific numbers are colored in groups of red, blue and green. Green is dominant over blue and red is dominant over green, and so on. The color difference is the main deciding factor in damage dealt or received, but if two cards of the same color are drawn by each side, the difference in HP is calculated and then dealt to the weaker side. Cards can also be "double-teamed" to assist in battle. Gimmicka can be played across systems or across characters; a boy named Seremo is a big fan of Gimmicka, so Demiru can battle with him and, if successful, win more cards.

Citizen Abira

   Tomato Adventure's visual style is highly reminiscent of other "cartoony" RPGs such as EarthBound and Paper Mario, with its bright and bold colors and sharply outlined characters. Even overworld sequences are presented in a Paper Mario-esque three-fourths profile view. Of course, like any RPG, Demiru is quickly joined by a colorful cast of peers, including main adventure companion Alesa, a girl with an affinity for all things mechanical; Sufubii, a dapper frog-like creature and Hanzo, a famed Gimmick inventor. The entire cast of Tomato Adventure give even the cutest of cute Pokémon a run for their money; maniacal rulers like Abira are simply adorable, and no doubt highly marketable.

   With Nintendo sticking to its foundation of original and creative games, Tomato Adventure has all the marks of a solid RPG, but a final verdict will have to wait until late January when the game is released in Japan. Nintendo has kept mum about any possibility of a Western release, but with the popularity of Golden Sun and the imminent English version of Magical Vacation, Tomato Adventure could possibly be sprouting on these shores fairly soon.

Preview by Ray Barnholt, GIA.
Tomato Adventure
Developer Alphadream
Publisher Nintendo
Genre RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform Game Boy Advance
Release Date  01.25.01
Tomato Adventure hands-on impressions
68 screenshots
17 character designs
Japanese box art