The legend of Tombi!

The legend of Tombi!

Pink hair, sharp canines, feral posture, shorts. Yes, today we are talking about Tombi !, a video game that has become a cult among the veterans of the PSX era, a title that for some arcane reason has dug a very deep groove in the hearts of millions of fans, overwhelming an entire generation with its colorful atmospheres, between festive music and light-hearted adventures.

But have you ever wondered what Tombi really is !? Where did it come from? Was it a success or a failure? Why did his legend end so soon? Why did it get such a spread in the underground undergrowth? Why isn't there a remake? Well, it's a very long story, and you have to know that it all started with ... Resident Evil. And no, we're not kidding.

Tombi! is a platform game with some RPG contamination developed by the independent studio WhoopeeCamp and released in 1997 for Sony PlayStation. In conjunction with the launch window, a demo version also began to circulate, which practically passed through the hands of anyone who owned the good old gray console, designed to let players savor the first beats of what would become a legendary journey.

Welcome to the world of Tombi !. The demo also ended up under my clutches: as a child I faced at least a dozen times the path from the "Village of all Beginnings" to the "Village of Gnomes", constantly getting lost in the vortex of non-linear missions that were able to characterize admirably such a minute fraction of the experience.

The full version of Tombi! has indeed raised the curtain on an immense dose of innovations. Despite the stylistic mistreatment in 2.5 dimensions, the small sliding action game offered an adventure capable of upsetting the concept of linearity, a mosaic of 130 main and secondary tasks to be discovered and experienced against the background of the endless hunt for seven Bad Pigs.

The incipit of the adventure was as simple as one could imagine: the wild Tombi is overwhelmed by a horde of marauding pigs, known as Koma, who manage to take possession of the precious bracelet given to the young from his grandfather. Unknowingly, the army of pigs unleashes the fury of the boy, now intent on crossing the whole world to recover his inheritance and above all to carry out a terrible revenge. In short, Liam Neeson, step aside, because now Tombi is coming.

The complete map of Tombi! According to VGCartography it reveals an unforgettable world. The title structure differed strongly from industry canons, destroying the axioms of linearity in favor of an approach based on hundreds of interrelated and interdependent events. It was enough to initiate a dialogue or collect an item to reveal new optional missions, each with unique rewards and able to push the protagonist to carefully explore the four corners of the world, iconic locations such as the Forest of 100 Flowers and Mount Phoenix. br>
The choice of structuring the map according to the axioms of the metroidvania genre added a pinch of spice to the experience, enhancing every second of backtracking and lulling the player in the long crossings between a little secret and another. The test of the facts, the microcosm of Tombi! it was so complex that it made being able to complete all 130 events a feat bordering on legendary.

And here we are. Anyone who has been confronted with the universe of Tombi! ended up getting lost in the familiar and welcoming narrative fabric that permeated every corner of the game world, discovering the little spell that supported each screen and that, for no apparent reason, managed to forge a strong emotional bond with the player. But what lies behind the genesis of Tombi !?

Let's take a step back, until December 1995, and let's move for a moment to Japan, to be precise in the prefecture of Osaka. Here, in that region there was a company called Capsule Computers, abbreviated Capcom, which since 1980 had brought an extraordinary revolution in the young video game market, giving birth to works such as Ghosts' n Goblins and Ducktales, Street Fighter and Bionic Commando.

The mechanics behind the title designed an adventure that was never boring, not even for a moment. One of Capcom's spearheads was Tokuro Fujiwara, creator and producer of some of the most famous series of the company, such as the aforementioned Ghosts' n Goblins or the famous Mega Man. In the early 90s Fujiwara was busy working on a video game that would have turned into a giant of the industry, or Resident Evil, a project that he himself had proposed as a spiritual follow-up to his Sweet Home, generally considered the progenitor of survival horror.

But while Shinji Mikami was developing the idea of ​​Fujiwara in the confines of Villa Spencer, the then thirty-year-old Tokuro had other thoughts on his mind. He was convinced that in Capcom, by now, it would no longer be possible for him to create fresh and original video games, and he had been cultivating the thought of starting his own for some time. So, as soon as Resident Evil hit Japanese store shelves in 1995, Fujiwara immediately resigned and rushed to found the independent studio WhopeeCamp, taking composer Harumi Fujita with her.

The WhopeeCamp story has been the first sign of a phenomenon that today is characterizing the entire world of triple A development: more and more veterans are leaving the top of the industry to devote themselves to the pursuit of their artistic vein. Just think of the legendary father of Final Fantasy Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Mega Man Keiji Inafune, but also big western names like David Jaffe from God of War and Ken Levine from Bioshock,

Between 1995 and 1997 Fujiwara devoted himself entirely to the Tombi! Project, which eventually managed to conquer a space on the stages of E3, and then debuted on consoles during the summer of 1998 in Europe and North America. The work also received a fair amount of praise from critics, who discovered a pleasant wave of innovation in the undergrowth of side-scrollers and saw in the boy's adventure a solid departure from the genres that dominated the market.

The second and final installment of the series failed to replicate the success of its predecessor. Despite this, Tombi! failed to become a Platinum title for PlayStation. Which might seem a negligible element, but behind the simple Platinum video game qualification hides a merciless statistic: Platinum video games for PlayStation, at the time, were in fact those that managed to place at least 400,000 copies in a period of six months from launch. .

This figure should make us think, because it is very likely that it is a product of the incidence of piracy on the video game market in the late 90s, since Tombi! reached cult status well before his second youth, and anyone who has owned a PlayStation has more than a few memories of the pink-haired boy's adventure.

Fujiwara decided to insist, and so it was that in 1999 Tombi saw the light! 2, direct sequel to the first chapter. In spite of the technical evolution of which the brand became the protagonist, embracing the three-dimensionality and the latest mechanics born from the industry in the round, the second episode sold many fewer copies than its predecessor, which in itself had not collected an amazing commercial success.

Poor product performance prompted Fujiwara to put Whoopeecamp in a dormant state, leaving the employees at home and remaining the only item on the payroll, not knowing that Tombi! 2 would have been the last project of the small publisher. Of course, over the years Tokuro did not interrupt his contribution to the world of video games, returning to Capcom for a certain period and reactivating Whoopeecamp as a consulting company, but the adventure of the software-house sadly ended before the end of 1999.

We are forced to remember Tombi in this way !. With that Clear !, in Italian translated Cancel !, the last memory of a series that has now disappeared. Most read now

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Between 2011 and 2012 the Tombi series! it was then released again on PlayStation Network by MonkeyPaw Games, but the legend of the saga now seems to have run out, without the shadow of a remake or new chapters apparently ready to surface on the horizon. The original title, on the other hand, can now be found at crazy figures among the pages of the Ebay market, where fans of the first hour compete for one relaunch after another for the last surviving copies.

In short, Tombi! is a video game with a strange history. A title that has been warmly received, which has even become a cult object, but which has failed to sell the 400,000 copies necessary to become Platinum. A title to which millions of fans are still extremely fond of today, but which was perhaps one of the silent victims of the piracy boom, a phenomenon to which video game historians still pay too little attention.

Just one thing is certain: even today, holding a DualShock and falling on the grassy surface of the Village of All Beginnings while a familiar music caresses the air, one can perceive the same spell that in 1999 transformed a young pink-haired man into an irreplaceable companion of adventures, giving millions of boys and girls hours of carefree fun.

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