Title: Kick Challenger: Air Foot
   Genre: Action
   Developer: ASCII Corp.
   Released by: VAP
   Release Date: November 20, 1987
   Japanese level:
1 (only the title is in Japanese)
   MSRP: 3300 yen
   Current Price: 500 yen

In articles elsewhere on this site I have occasionally pontificated on the non-prolific yet truly amazing company, VAP. Although I don't think they're bothering with video games these days ("probably bothering more with being bankrupt, |tsr", I hear my imaginary friend, King Dedede, say), the small legacy they left behind is too outrageous to forget. Many of their releases did indeed make it to American shores, but their greatest triumph - the highly fruit-oriented Air Foot - was unfairly bound to Japan.

I also know that I rail on the modern games industry quite a lot, sometimes not nicely. But of all the things that annoy me - the graphics-over-game mentality, the transformation of the "RPG" genre from fun to movie, the fact that I am too cheap to actually buy a PlayStation - the worst slight upon the classic gamer is, of course, the total lack of fruit and vegetable-based games!

Hudson's NES adventure Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom was a mega-hit among a certain (very strange) contingent of the population, but sadly this super new genre was ignored afterward. There's still hope - load up your Disk System (or whatever you prefer to run Disk software on) and enter the perilous world of Vegitafruit!

Barefoot in the grass! Note the pretty footprints
This magical land was once a good place to live. People used to smile, all the tomatoes and carrots and endives lived peacefully (maybe little kids didn't want to go too near smelly old Mr. Onion, though - I don't know as I made that last part up), and bountiful trade between the fruits and vegetables led to a kingdom as serene as any video game pre-disaster kingdom ever was. Then disaster strikes! A ruthless army of insects, led by the evil king Girabir, has made off with the stately tomato Princess Niketa and is currently making the land a dangerous place to amble in.

Into this horrible situation walks the great hero of the kingdom - the legendary Tomatobowerman! (No, really, that's what they call him in the manual and ending) With his bravery, courage and very large feet, he will make a complete tour of Vegitafruit, defeating all the evil bugs along his way and restoring order to a kingdom gone mad. Go, Tomatobowerman! (No, really) Fight on for your beloved tomato lady friend and rich-in-vitamin-B motherland!

Anyway, the game itself

Tomatobowerman fails to watch his step,
for the five millionth time
You control the hero of the kingdom through 5 levels, from a grassy land reminiscent of Sonic (well, the grass part, at least) to a futuristic city to a sunny beach, and onward to the insects' base. In each stage are lots of blocks and other objects that can be destroyed to reveal helpful items and warp zones. These zones are important, for they lead to otherwise inaccessible parts of the level and can make getting to the boss quite a bit easier.

Up until now, a seemingly standard overhead action game, right? Wrong! For in Air Foot not only do you control a tomato with huge feet (as if that wasn't strange enough) you kill insects by kicking them! Whap whap whap! Look out, bees and wasps - there's a big juicy tomato coming and he is going to kick your ass! (1987 game, 1999 ad copy, it could work, US companies!)

Even stranger is the control method. In most games you simply press right to walk right; you can assume that your character already knows the leg movements involved. Not so here. Hold down A and a direction to walk that way. Release A and the pad controls the position of the foot currently in the air; hold B and move the pad around to kick in various directions. Showing how the Disk System can still innovate after all these years, ASCII has designed a wholly new movement system just for us lucky people!

Tomatobowerman's control sounds difficult when put into words, but it is amazingly intuitive, and you get used to it almost immediately. You'll need to quickly though, for naturally there are all kinds of obstacles to your humble tomato's efforts at walking. Walkways with odd corners, little one-block islands you have use as stepping stones (while kicking at mosquitos), and hills that you can slip and fall off of make sure that you at least don't get bored with merely walking around.

Very large insect bosses abound in this fruity land
The variety of items is pretty nice. You can get several diff'rent kinds of shoes, all Nikes (VAP included a card with the game you could send to win a real pair - no, really). You can turn your tomato-head into a can of Raid for a wider offensive range, and you can even grab a pile of excrement to make enemies run away from you! No! Really! I am not making this up!

The graphics are quite good for a Disk effort with lots of variety between the levels. Once you get used to the controls, you'll definitely lose more lives via falling off the ground than via damage from enemies - one of the more frustrating bits of the game, as you only have 3 lives and no continues to get you through the game. The innovation of the game control, though, along with the very strange music, will probably keep you going through to the end. It's games like Air Foot that show me that no matter how many 8-bit platformers and action games I play, a handful still manage to find a way to innovate and stay fun at the same time.

Which is why we should all write those big hoi pollois in the game industry and demand more fruit- and vegetable-based games for our newer systems. Who needs silly classic re-releases when we can play the beautiful Rancid: Air Foot 64? Watch the ketchup fly in 50 frames per second!