Special thanks to Wolfman for offering edits and commentary.
As some of you may know, I have a fairly sizable backlog of unfinished video games in my possession – the current count as of this writing is 152, if you’re curious – and it bothers me. So, as I grind along to perhaps someday clear it, I figured why not chronicle some of my trials and tribulations here at Source Gaming? That brings us to the WiiWare title Tomena Sanner, the subject for the inaugural installment in my Beat the Backlog series.
Nintendo’s WiiWare platform was an interesting footnote in the Kyoto-based company’s history, something Wolfman discussed in his review of LostWinds. Whereas the service’s most prolific titles tended to hail from well-established brands, some of its offerings were more obscure and eccentric, with this Konami sidescroller firmly fitting into the latter camp. Tomena Sanner initially released in Japan in three parts on a few mobile services, though all three episodes were compiled together for the title’s international WiiWare and iOS releases (the latter of which has also sadly been removed from its marketplace).
Tomena Sanner’s premise is a simple one: Hitoshi Susumu, a Japanese businessman, is running late, so he runs as fast as possible to the goalpost. The exact nature of the place (or nature) of his employment remains a mystery, but our intrepid lead nevertheless runs through an array of environments – including a suburban town, a city, a prehistoric jungle, and hell – in a panicked rush, only stopping for a dance party once he crosses the finish line. As this is intended to be an accessible sidescroller, Susumu moves forward automatically and reacting to a hazard is done by pressing the A button on the Wii Remote.
You begin with a time limit of one minute to clear a stage, though you can add valuable seconds to the clock by timing your button presses when confronted with an obstacle; if you get a “GOOD” ranking, you’ll pass the hinderance unfettered, though scoring a “GREAT” gives you additional seconds. Naturally, a “MISS” temporarily incapacitates Susumu, wasting your time. As you successfully race on, Susumu gets faster and runs closer to the right side of the screen, reducing the reaction time you’re allotted to respond to hazards. Also littered across the stage are coins, which increase your score, and color-coded balloons that can affect your speed, add time to the timer, or adjust Susumu’s size. You’ll usually need to jump to collect these items, which is done by pressing the all-purpose A button.
Your score grows as you’d expect it would, by timing your button presses, collecting items, and finishing with a good time. The dance parties at the end of the stage can also grant your score a nice boost. An online leaderboard was supported, though the feature became defunct in May 2014 when Nintendo discontinued the Wii’s Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, sadly reducing Tomena Sanner’s replay value. Also included are the two “Endless” romps, which subject you to all nine of the stages consecutively, and a multiplayer mode. I wasn’t able to test the latter as I don’t have any friends, but I imagine it’s a nice extra for those who do.
Regardless, Tomena Sanner isn’t a genre-advancing classic that mechanically enriched the glutton of endless runners that have followed it (aside from its stylistic successor in Dracula Cha Cha), but what it lacks in depth it makes up for in its bizarre personality. Susumu’s path is blocked by a wide array of hurdles, most of which are area specific. How Susumu and these obstacles interact with each other, however, rarely fails to surprise, from seeing our blue collar lead bust out laser guns to destroy robots, divekick pickpockets, or dance with a group of schoolgirls. Tomena Sanner does occasionally cheat and reuse a joke, such as how a few different classes of degenerates can fart on Susumu’s face (a joke I didn’t care for the first time), but all nine of the game’s bite-sized stages offer something unique, and I anticipated unlocking each one to see what new novelties awaited me.
All in all, Tomena Sanner isn’t a title I can readily recommend unless you enjoy the same kind of quirkiness I do. And, make no mistake, Tomena Sanner‘s bold veneer and anomalous personality coalesce into an experience unlike anything else I’ve played, even if it’s far from being the most mechanically satisfying endless runner.
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