Wayback: Tomba!

Tomba! is a rare case of a ‘cult favorite’ game that I sincerely feel like had no good reason to not be popular.

It was produced and directed by Tokuro Fujiwara, already known for producing and directing games like Mega Man, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and even creating the survival horror genre with his NES game Sweet Home which was later adapted into the goddamn Resident Evil franchise. Tomba! is built wholly from the same good game design concepts, with RPG elements that innovated the platformer genre without taking up too much space. It’s funny and cute, while still having a sizeable spooky side. As far as 2D platformers go, it’s the total package.

Despite all this, Tomba! never sold enough to qualify for a Greatest Hits reprint, and copies now regularly go for over $100 on eBay. I just really don’t know why, even trying my best to approach this from an objective perspective. Games with less production value have successfully been spun off into entire TV franchises, while Tomba! languished with a single sequel and some very obscure merchandise.

Even with my history in the video game industry, the whims of the market are completely opaque to me. I don’t really feel like it’s my place to speculate on if the game was marketed well enough or what-have-you. Still, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the official promotional material was like.

Today we’re using the Wayback Machine to look at a whole 4 sites: Tomba! on the US PlayStation website, the independently hosted Tombi! site, the official Whoopee Camp site, and the very first official Tomba! site. I can’t give precise timestamps, but most of these are around the year 2000.

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RETRO: Tomba! [Spooky Edition]

Tomba 01

Tomba! is a 1997 side-scrolling platformer released for the Sony Playstation by Whoopee Camp. Designed by Tokuro Fujiwara, creator of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, Tomba is an interesting platformer-RPG blend involving solving quests in an open 2D world.

In Tomba!, the world has been magically corrupted by seven magic Evil Pigs and turned into a surreal land. The events of the game are sparked into motion when one of the Evil Pig’s minions steals a bracelet that belonged to Tomba’s grandfather, prompting him to go on an adventure to recover it. Along the way he meets the inhabitants of his world and helps them solve the problems that the Evil Pigs have caused with their dark magic.

The game itself is eccentrically humorous, and doesn’t let go of its grip on that, to the point where it might be hard to see what’s scary about a game with sidequests like helping a monkey find his pants. But this is October, and you know what that means: being designed by the same person who made Ghosts ‘n Goblins, this game is filled with unexpected creepy frights.

Join us after the jump and we’ll see ourselves just what kind of madness these Evil Pigs have caused.

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