Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (Prototype, Nintendo)
Whether it’s a shoddy English translation or a hokey situation played serious, the NES has a long line of games with hilarious unintentional humor – as a matter of fact, it’s one of the hallmarks of the Nintendo Entertainment System experience. But when a game comes along that sets out to be funny, a game that pokes fun of its ridiculousness – and succeeds? Well, there aren’t too many of those sort of oddities out there, except maybe for our last prototype.
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom never takes itself too seriously (how can you with a name like that?); the game fuses the humor of an old school Lucasarts adventure with the gameplay format of Shadowgate or Deja Vu.
What makes Princess Tomato shine is the deliciously tongue-in-cheek translation job written by the veggie heads at Hudson Soft USA, a subsidiary of Hudson Soft that lasted until 1995. Like Maniac Mansion, Princess Tomato pushed censorship boundaries considerably in the NES days.
During one scenario, your character sneaks into a steamy bathroom and a girl showering inside calls you a pervert for looking in.
And also like Maniac Mansion, as you’re about to see, it looks like Princess Tomato was chiseled down by Nintendo’s family-friendly censoring, too.
Before that, I’ll begin with the first difference between the prototype and released versions of Princess Tomato, and that’s the password system.
The password screen of the prototype is completely different and does not have any numerical inputs, which makes many of the passwords from the released version impossible to enter. Even all-lettered passwords used in the released game (like PPWCXTVWXTW for level 4) do not work when entered in the prototype.
With some experimentation, I did discover a way to make passwords work in both versions, however. It’s all a matter of matching up where the symbol is located on the 7 x 5 grid (7 across, 5 down).
For example, the debug password, which when entered takes you to a looping rock-paper-scissors match, works on the released version with the code GG62. When looking at the proto password screen, there’s a P in the place where the G is on the released password screen; where the 6 is located on the released password screen, there’s an F; and where there’s a 2 on the released, there’s a B in the proto. So entering PPFB on the prototype takes you to the same debug mode because the placement of PPFB matches that of GG62 on the released version.
Make sense? Check out the diagram above to see what I mean. This trick works on all other passwords, as well.
Why they would change the symbols on the password screen? After asking Mr. Owl and giving him a Tootsie Pop, I’ve come to the conclusion that the world may never know.
Now, to the exciting stuff: the shocking possible cover-up by the Nintendo Censorship Gestapo.
The most comical difference between the proto and released versions is the name change of a certain item available for sale in two of the game’s shops.
The first time I ran across the item in question was in Level 2’s antique store. Take a look and see if you can tell what’s wrong with the photograph below.
For a game concerned with talking anthropomorphic vegetables, you know there’s gotta be some homegrown herbal remedy around. And in the prototype version, there is!
In the released version, “pot” was changed to “vase,” probably at Nintendo’s discretion to avoid any unpleasant misunderstanding by parents curious as to why little Tommy and Suzie Lou are buying marijuana from a pear-headed drug dealer.
There’s also a lot of fun you can get into when you have an item with the name “pot” in your inventory.
Let’s get this party started right! Try to USE some POT in this nightclub…
And you’re denied by the ladies! Bunch of narcs! Who needs them? We can get away and head into the bathroom to smoke…
That’s right. Let’s light up and have our own private party.
Go back outside after toking to see what’s up…
Bitch, I’m high as hell and you’re a lemon with tits. Yeah, you’re that pretty.
Or maybe you don’t walk out with the pot because you suspect it might be a set-up and the Pear is an undercover cop? DUMP the POT and the game says this:
In fact, everything you learn about the store seems to take on a double meaning now in the prototype.
The Pear is freaking out! He’s freaking out!
If you bought the pot and it’s still in your inventory by the end of the level, the Farmies (think: corrupt police force) take the pot away from you. You just know they’re going to smoke it themselves!
Of course, there’s nothing really sinister going on here. Like other items with long names in the game, “pot” is an abbreviation for “clay pot”.
Still, it seems that Hudson Soft USA wanted to avoid any and all confusion and decided to change the name completely to play it safe.
It’s not surprising, really. The translation team verges on pushing some of this drug theme elsewhere in the game. There’s even pseudo-psychedelic grass you use during one part in the game.
Not to mention the Jay and Silent Bob types with the shady initials hanging around on dangerous street corners. Yeah, I’m sure they are pretty well known in this neighborhood. They sold me heroin.
It certainly doesn’t help that the rest of the game is on drugs, either.
But the Level 2 antique store is not the only time you run into a shop selling pot – there’s a an old man named Uncle Peanut working at the pharmacy in Peanut Village in Level 6 who’s also got the stuff.
Say you want to buy from him, and he’ll ask if you’re a student. I guess he gets most of his business dealing to kids.
You’re never too old to smoke, Uncle Peanut. Just ask Bill Maher.
Try to buy pot from him and…
He must suspect something’s up! Uncle Peanut won’t sell to just anybody!
As you can see, the name was corrected and changed to “vase” again for the released version. Can’t have old Uncle Peanut selling pot to students.
In terms of appearance, on the back of the prototype cartridge is a wonderful Hudson Soft contact label with their trademark bumblebee logo.
I threw in the street address into Google Earth and found out that Hudson Soft USA were located right by the water, wedged between two marinas in beautiful South San Francisco. Not a bad place to design video games. Not a bad place at all.
There are two silver stickers on the chips inside with “Tomato 0 6/30 E082″ and “Tomato 1 6/30 0ABA” written in black marker. Not sure if the “6/30″ is a date or what, but Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom was released for the Famicom on 5/27/88 and on 2/08/91 for the NES.