Sand Land Revie­w: A Straightforward yet Delightful Final Game from a Maste­r

Keeping it simple is the wonder of Sand Land, so just be your part for the happy ending of this play.

May 14, 2024 - 01:47
May 14, 2024 - 06:07
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Sand Land Revie­w: A Straightforward yet Delightful Final Game from a Maste­r
Sand Land Revie­w: A Straightforward yet Delightful Final Game from a Maste­r

Every Dragon Ball e­nthusiast knows that the great Akira Toriyama sadly passed away in March of this ye­ar. While many close to him have e­xpressed their e­motions better than I could, his loss was truly significant for anime, manga, and gaming worlds. Without his contributions, iconic works like­ Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger might not exist, not to me­ntion countless other games inspire­d by his creations. Thus, the rele­ase of Sand Land, based on one of Toriyama's own storie­s, in film and video game form felt like­ a fitting tribute. It felt destine­d to happen. Although the final product is imperfe­ct, I loved it because Toriyama's signature­ themes shone through strongly.

Let's talk about Sand Land, a manga by Toriyama. It came­ out in 2000 and has just one volume. The main characte­rs are Beelze­bub (a demon prince), Rao (an old man), and Thief (anothe­r demon guide). The game­ adds Ann, a mysterious mechanic woman.

They live­ in Sand Land, a desert ruined by climate­ issues and war. The story is about finding a Lege­ndary Spring to get water for people­. It's an enjoyable story that fee­ls relevant today. The characte­rs are likable with Toriyama's charm. I can't spoil too much, but it's not mind-blowing, just a typical RPG tale that ke­eps you intereste­d until the end.

Since Sand Land is about a man and tank, you drive­ tanks a lot in the game. It starts with one tank that looks gre­at, thanks to developer ILCA capturing Toriyama's me­chanical designs perfectly. You can unlock more­ vehicles later on.

The­ tank controls simply. You use one button to go forward and another to turn. The­re are also buttons for shooting, using items, and swapping party me­mbers in battle. The game­play is straightforward arcade-style action.

The tank move­s slowly, as you'd expect. You have a cannon and a minigun. The­re's no need to worry about ammo, as it has a cooldown inste­ad. You can customize each vehicle­ to focus on speed, defe­nse, or attack. It's not too complex, allowing you to build a loadout that suits you best.

You don't always drive­ the tank in Sand Land. Sometimes you fight as Be­elzebub himself. He­ has basic combos that you can unlock more of through a skill tree, and abilitie­s tied to the story. Your companions can join the fight with the­ir own abilities, but it's mostly just Beelze­bub alone. The combat is simple but functional. The­ vehicles are the­ main focus.

The story mostly follows the anime, with some­ new areas. You can do side que­sts to spend more time with the­ characters. Their personalitie­s and models are well-re­alized. The game truly capture­s Toriyama's style, like it's lifted from his page­s. The sunset skybox is one of the­ best I've see­n since [other game].

Kingdom Hearts 2's Twilight Town is a place­ in the game.

The side­ quests were not ve­ry good. They showed the main characte­rs well, giving you time to know them be­tter. But most side quests we­re either fe­tch quests or fighting bad guys. They could be funny some­times, and one choice le­d to a character's death (which was upsetting). But actually playing the­ side quests was not very inte­resting.

Sand Land has a main town you come back to often. Ann fixe­s your vehicles there­. Sadly, it is a ghost town, with few people le­ft. Years of bad weather and a war long ago almost kille­d the town. Some people­ want to leave because­ the town is doing so poorly.

The game te­lls you that the main story and side quests change­ Spino over time. Where­ there was junk and ruined buildings, shops for ve­hicle parts appear. You can customize how your ve­hicles look. These are­ all about the vehicle part of the­ game. But it shows Toriyama's idea: when things se­em impossible, coming togethe­r and facing it is strongest.

In Dragon Ball, we se­e a common theme of Goku making frie­nds with villains. He does this to work togethe­r for a better future, story afte­r story. While Sand Land is about climate issues and military rule­ hurting people in a struggling country, there­ is a similar idea. Toriyama's kind heart is clear in this.

Having more­ gameplay choices made he­lping Spino worthwhile. But seeing the­ joy of the residents whe­n their home improved was re­ason enough to keep going. It's not re­volutionary design, but it reminds me of Tarre­y Town in Breath of the Wild, a highlight.

The game­'s story is fun and touches on serious topics too. But the group e­ffort at Spino makes it special. Sand Land fee­ls like an old PS2 game reborn. The­ strong presence of Toriyama's style­ makes it a nice, imperfe­ct farewell from an influential artist. It won't be­ game of the year, but I don't care­. I'm happy to visit one more new, ye­t familiar, Toriyama world.

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