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SAND LAND | REVIEW! | PC/STEAM/PS5

''ANAKIN SKYWALKER HATED SAND''

 


Developed: ILCA

Published: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Genre: Role Playing Adventure

Release Date: April 26th, 2024

Platforms: PS5/PS4/PC/Xbox Series X|S

Review copy provided by GAMESPLANET and Bandai Namco


Sand Land is the latest piece if history by famed Akira Toriyama brought to life in video game form and it is developed by ILCA and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. With the untimely and heartbreaking loss of Toriyama, developers ILCA aim to keep his spirit alive with a video game adaption of his Sand Land Manga. But does it lend well to the video game world? or should it have just been left at Manga and Anime? Only one way to find out, so lets go!


STORY:


Meet the Fiend Prince Beelzebub, his chaperone Thief, and the fearless Sheriff Rao, and follow the team on an extraordinary adventure in search of the Legendary Spring hidden in the desert. The end is only the beginning, as beyond this arid ground lies a new realm to explore.

''TANKS FOR NOTHING!''

 

GAMEPLAY:


Of all things to be adapted by Toriyama to video game form, the revival came in the form of Sand Land. I mean, its no Dr. Slump so its not that entirely out of left field to bring to life. Following the tragic loss of Akira Toriyama this year, fans are now getting the chance to appreciate some of his older work that is NOT just Dragon Ball related, which is always a good thing. Personally, I've known about the manga previously, but as someone who really isn't a manga collector, I never really dove further into it other than knowing it was up their in charm with both Dragon Ball and the Dr. Slump series. But now with its short series animate adaption, which was great and video game adaptation, it was finally time for myself and the rest of the world to see this IP come to life for the first time. While this immersive world definitely has things that stand on its own, its Dragon Ball influence is definitely felt through its featured characters having a chance meeting, capsule use, zenni currency, similar vehicles and enemies and overall game art style and animations lending to same aesthetic seen in other Toriyama works like obviously Dragon Ball, but also Dragon Quest. However, even with all the similarities, this IP does have its own unique identity, which is charming and inviting and provides an adventurous feeling, especially in anime form, but at some points, it fails to convey that same sense of wonder and excitement in video game form, which can put a damper on your time with the game in between its higher point qualities.

For people starting off into this adaption of the 2000 manga, much like myself, know that this game is a mixture of both new and old. Given that the original manga isn't as huge in volume as other Toriyama work, compromises obviously had to be made and those are in the form of both adapting the original story that people knew from the manga and intergrading brand new content and story into the mix that acts as continuation of the series. Confusing? I mean kind of? but at least its not as confusing as Disney remaking Lion King, then deciding hey lets make a Mufasa prequel but its also a sequel to the original cartoon live action remake that tells a continuation of the Lion King but also a prequel to how the lion king in the lion king became the lion king for the future lion king. What?. Yeah its not as bad as that or even when Nintendo decided to bring about Wii U after the Wii that had me confused to the point that after the reveal that I thought the console was a tablet at first. Nintendo, by the gods, if you name the next Nintendo console like ''Switch U'' or something, I will flip over someone's grocery cart like the angry cheese panda, don't tempt me!. Okay okay, back on topic. While the concept may seem a bit weird or confusing at first, the plot is actually well crafted and flows as if its one story and doesn't feel chopped up or filler, nope, that part is left up to the game play. Yikes.... yeah, you'll hear my rants in a minute, trust me. As I started the game and started making my way through the early hours itself, fumbling my way 3 hours in, 5 hours in, I noticed I was surprisingly engaged in the story itself and its characters, even though development of them wasn't really overly complex or deep in a sense where you know everyone's back stories or their plights, but instead you're just dropped into a world with character relationships between Beelzebub and his demon friends already being established and the world of demons and humans at a clashing point already being a thing of the norm too. While that may seem like a swing and a miss, it actually feels very organic and the charm of Toriyama's style and humor is well accounted for to the point where you immediately feel connected to the characters due to their attitudes or their humor. Be glad that they didn't take cues from Naruto and give you 50 flashbacks in the span of 5 minutes that shows you what happened 30 seconds ago. Right from the start you'll know what type of humor you're getting yourself into when your very first mission involves you having to collect water to hand out to water puddle demon that stood out into the sun for too long and is now drying up. Bro, how stupid are you? GET OUT OF THE SUN!.

 

''SHORYUKEN!''

 

While the characters are straight forward with the typical Shonen tropes, even down to the villains being pretty one dimensional with the usual ''IM EVIL..but i have a good side'' moment, they're all still very likable with characters like Rao being a fallen hero type of character who is out for redemption for the horrible things he did in his youth and becomes a leader you can respect the more you play the game, or Ann coming off as the Bulma clone who can do everything and anything with building and machinery, but sooner breaking out from that stereotypical mold and actually having a back story that makes her more relatable as time goes on, etc. That's right, no need for a sad piano playing, snot crying dialogue from a Naruto scene, it feels way more natural here. Man I'm really harping on Naruto in this one, which means either im harboring some pent up hatred for the series or its time for my yearly re-watch of the series... as long as I get to skip the 200 filler and curry of life. Here in Sand Land, you take on the role of the Dennis The Menace like attitude demon named Beelzebub, who is the son of Lucifer, who looks just like Dabura from Dragon Ball Z. Your task starts off as a simple quest to get water to your fellow demons in this large parched world, but soon involves you traversing large lands, open landscapes from Sand, to jungles, to caves, lakes, different towns, rebel bases, all while using unique vehicles to help you on your journey like using a tank to roll around and shoot cannons with and then using your wheel, select a new vehicle such as a motorcycle to gain even more speed, should you need to make a fast get away. Trust me, you'll need to use the damn motorcycle quite a lot to get away due to how cheap some of the mechanics of the game get later on as you progress. Switching between various vehicles like Tank, motorcycle, hover craft, walking mech, jumping mech, etc is fun and all, especially since they each offer new ways to traverse through your environments like jumping mech allowing you to get to high to reach places that you couldn't get to before and then hover vehicle allowing you to go across the ocean or down stream in canyons. Yeah that's fun and all, but it does start to annoy you because each vehicle has their own pro and con to battles as well, for better or worse... which to me after mid game, falls mostly into the ''worse'' category. Sadly, I'm serious, its like deciphering a code for weeks on end, only for it to tell you ''Drink more ovaltine''. We feel you Ralphie, we now know the pain you felt. But we will get to the negatives in a bit.

While vehicle combat and exploration is the central part to this games overall make and playing mechanics, that take elements from third person shooter games and mixes it rpg like mechanics like gathering materials and various items to upgrade each vehicles weapons, arsenal, health, capacity etc, you do have a melee combat system too, its not just not as useful and rarely, if ever, requires much use, much to my disappointment and dismay. You have your typical weak attacks that act as hit ways to get in light punches, while you work in your stronger attacks that are more sluggish and slow, with R2 acting as your dodging button. That's basically the main just of your combat in the early going until you unlock more attacks and skills via your character tree that allows you to upgrade to dash attacks that allows you to attack foes in quick punch fashion like you're hitting them with that ATATATATATATATATA from Fist Of The North Star. Further demon powers are also gained around mid start that allows you to hit AOE attacks when you're overwhelmed by enemies and make you less vulnerable to attacks due to your raise in power level. But honestly, if I'm being truthful, there's really not much to the games fighting combat and 90% of the time you play, you really have no use for it, even in boss fights because all battles have to use a vehicle to fight in the first place and even in the open world later on, you must take on like 20 regular tanks while you casual roam the land, which makes you just bust out a tank anyways, so... why even have melee combat in the first place was what kept coming to my mind, but that's just me. Luckily the character upgrade system isn't ALL as useless as Beelzebub's skill tree, because the MVP of the upgrade system is all the ally unlockables that allows Ann to improve your vehicles capacity, strength, skills, faster re-load time, and then also allows old man Rao to be able to aid you in battle by giving your character a strength buff in battle or joining you himself as you comes onto the field in his tank to help give you some extra fire power. Which honestly is cool, but he does tend to get in the way sometimes and it makes me just want to shoot him INSTEAD of the enemy. HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TEACH YOU THIS LESSON, OLD MAN?. I rag on vehicle stuff in both a joking way and one of annoyance, but it does serve its purpose when you get towns like Spino that further gain you access to more story telling and fun characters to discover that wouldn't be achievable unless you have your vehicles to complete specific tasks that requires the use of each one of their abilities and with the overall games story being around 20 hours, completing the abundance of side quests can push this to over 30 hours. So despite all my rage, feeling like a rat in a cage, there were good things about it, so I cant cry too much. Even if repetitive it can still be fun at times.

 

''MUST GO FASTER, MUST GO FASTER''

 

DISLIKES:


Yup, we have arrived at what I didn't like about the game and I'll try to keep it condensed and contained as much as I can because the mid half of the game made me feel like the embodiment of a Yamcha, with that meaning disappointing and uneventful. Firstly this ties into the vehicle talk once again, like a broken record, but mostly revolves around breaking AWAY from the vehicle gameplay, which this title does do at times and throws you into stealth missions that are god awful. You're a demon, you literally just blew up an army by just powering up, you can take down a tank, but a random grunt soldier spots you with a flash light? GAME OVER. These missions make no sense and disrupt all flow and structure this game had or even has going forward because the first one comes after 10 hours or so into the game and every 5 to 6 missions or so and soon become and every other mission occurrence and they're so annoyingly bland and boring that you'd think you'd have more fun watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory, gross. On top of annoying stealth missions, later missions start to feel like filler that have you go back and forth from place to place to areas you've visited previously to talk to NPC's and go back and forth for over an hour with nothing that goes in between those scenes other than long rounds of dialogue, it becomes boring and feels like the worst parts imaginable of when games become too reliant on fetch quests. Difficulty spike is also pretty asinine after mid game as well with your character's vehicles, even when upgraded, being more weak than anything else in the game with you at one point having to fight of 20 tanks by yourself plus a boss tank, with each regular tank taking 3 hits to kill, but boss tank taking over 40.. and this is all while each regular tank can take 30% of your health per hit, whereas one hit from a boss tank or vehicle? one hit and you're dead, that's it. Granted you can get around this annoyance sorta by utilizing health kits or even repair kits that will give health back to your vehicle by using the D Pad to pick from your inventory, however there's a full delay of ONE second to use it, which either causes you not to use it fast enough or freezes you in place for a full second, leaving you vulnerable to attacks. its so frustrating, especially when on a main mission with no check points, if you've fought through like 10 tanks and boss tanks and are near the end of the section and die due to this mechanic, you start all the way over and have to go through the wave of enemies ALL OVER AGAIN. What in the name of Raditz is that about. Its not like you can over prepare for situations like that, I'm not the psychic race on Dragon Ball, ''I CAN SEE THE FUTUREEEEEE''. My last gripe again has to do with the melee combat of Sand Land, there's just not enough of it and it feels like it shouldn't even be a feature in the game. There's really no reason to level up beelzebub's skill tree because 95% of the game requires vehicle use because of the sheer amount of enemy tanks and mechs, it makes melee combat not viable and you really only use it for early missions in the game and THATS IT. Its annoying and makes the game way more repetitive than it needs to be due to lack of diversity in the gameplay.

 

''SLEEPING SIMULATOR''

 

OVERALL:


At the end of the day, Sand Land for me ranged from both a fun time to a really cumbersome time, a real mixed bag. Sure it has that classic and distinctive Toriyama humor that shines through the dark areas of the game with the main motivation behind Beelzebub wanting to save the world is just so he can get an hour of play time for video games after permission from his father Lucifer. It also has great art design and music, character models also look fantastic, environments range from artful to fantastic looking, character personalities likable, some vehicle fighting can make the game really fun, mainly in the boss fights like using hover craft in underwater cave to fight a gigantic squid or racing away from dinosaurs and under ground Graboid like worms, these all make the game super fun in the first half the game, because the first half of this title is simply awesome. However the second half of the Sand Land is where it ''loses the plot'' and falls off a clip like its a Human that fell flat. With repetitive gameplay that has your best defense involving you just strafing in circles to dodge attacks for a 30 to 40 minute fight, one shot kills enemies can do to your vehicles no matter how much you level them up, delay in using healing items that can cause you to die, repetitive fetch quests that act as filler that can last over an hour, upgradable skill tree that adds nothing to Beezlebub's character, cheap juggle mechanic that won't allow you to get up when more than two enemies are firing rockets on you due to the slow and unresponsible fall animation, that makes you get juggled infinitely till you die, etc etc. Again, this game has a great world to explore, lots of fun stuff to do and discover, creating new parts for vehicles, there are genuinely great parts of the game, but they only pertain to the first half of the game and because of how bad the second half of the game is compared to the first half? I can't really tell people in all confidence that they need to go out and get this one right now at full price, even with being as big of a fan of Toriyama's work that I am, and that hurts to say. If you're interested in this game or still on the fence, for your money's sake, I say wait for a price drop just to be on the safe side because I feel a $40 price point would be around the sweet spot for what this game offers you. I feel that's fair. So with all that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says WAIT.

 




 




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