Friday, 1 April 2016

Tomba! (Playstation)

It's April Fools day again (Or the 30th of March if you're a patreon subscriber)! I liked doing the Soul Calibur V post last year, so I'm making a tradition of these annual non-obscure game posts!
If it was released today, Tomba (or Tombi in Europe) would be called a metrovania (or metroidvania for people who like words with awkward stops in the middle of them). It's a platform game with RPG elements and a big explorable world in place of seperate linear stages. Obviously, the genre existed before either Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night existed, but those were the two that made it popular, blah blah et cetera.  
Though it wasn't anywhere near as popular as either of those two games, Tomba was fairly popular in its day, and it's remembered fondly by everyone who played it. If it was more popular, or if design traits were more of a factor in coming up with these names, Tomba would have part of its name in that awkward portmanteau alongside the works of Nintendo and Konami. The reason I say this is because the three games represent three different styles of RPG being turned sideways and played all platform-like.  
Metroid represents a simple, Zelda-esque style of RPG, with the player character getting stronger and opening new areas being based on the finding of certain items, and in which each item has a specific intended use. Symphony of the Night represents a more typical Japanese RPG, with lots of stats and experience points and all kinds of different weapons and armour and other equipment. So what does Tomba represent? Western-style RPGs, series like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. 
This might sound ridiculous, but it's true! The crux of this lies in Tomba's mission system. Like in a large, open-world western RPG, Tomba picks up missions and side-missions and so on as he wanders the world looking for the Koma Pigs and hid Grandfather's bracelet. Also like those games, new missions can be triggered in a variety of different ways: talking to characters, finding items, entering new areas, and so on. 
Also like those games, some missions will be over almost as soon as they begin (or, in some cases, a particularly thorough player can finish a mission before they've triggered the start of it), and some missions can be started near the start of the game and not come fully into fruition much later in the game. 
So yeah, that's an aspect of this game that I've never seen anyone else acknowledge, and I think it's a shame that it's one that hasn't really found a place in the greater DNA of the metrovania species.


  1. We really do need to find a proper word for metroidvania, it feels like it's been a placeholder term since its inception, awaiting that someone reviews it and comes up with something better.

    But while we were waiting, almost 20 years have passed.

  2. I really need to play Tomba some time, I tend to enjoy this style of game, but I kinda missed the boat with this series.

    Also, for what it's worth, Koji Igarashi referred to Symphony of the Night and it's ilk as "2D Exploration Action Games," which is probably a more technically helpful term, but just too wordy to replace "metroidvania."