SAND LAND’s Game Producer Keishu Minami Talks About the Game, Forest Land, Akira Toriyama and What to Expect in the Future (EXCLUSIVE)

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If you’re an anime fan, chances are you’ve watched Akira Toriyama’s work without necessarily working. From Dragon Ball to SAND LAND you’ll be able to notice his distinctive art style and unique storytelling from a mile away.


Unfortunately, the man himself passed a few months prior to the release of SAND LAND, but he did see late builds of his much-loved work come to life, and we were lucky enough to talk to Keishu Minami, the game’s producer, about everything you have in store for you when you boot it up for the first time!

[Some of the answers below have been edited for clarity and length.]


For our readers who may not necessarily be aware of yourselves, would you mind telling us who you are and what SAND LAND is about?

I am Keishu Minami from Bandai Namco Entertainment and the producer of the SAND LAND game. I, myself am a fan of Toriyama-sensei so I was really excited to work on the game and anime project that would show SAND LAND to worldwide audiences. This is the story of an adventure with demons and humans set in a desert. One of the most complete works of Toriyama-sensei.

At first glance, a desert world where water is monopolized by a dictator and people forced to live in poverty might seem like a dark theme, but the characters created by Toriyama-sensei make it seem otherwise. The world of the game is filled with humor. We believe that we can deliver to our audiences the depth of the story that can be experienced through Beelzebub, and the high level of action with vehicles at the center of it.

SAND LAND is nothing short of bright and beautiful.

Was there one particular reason you chose now to approach and adapt Akira Toriyama’s infamous work?

It is true that the SAND LAND manga is complete in one volume and it may seem niche and short but it has been translated in many languages so I believe there are many fans of the title all over the world. When you hear the name of Akira Toriyama, you instantly think of Dragon Ball, which is so well-known that there is no one in the world who does not know about it, but the world that Toriyama-sensei depicts is not limited to Dragon Ball.


I wanted to bring to the fans the variety of perspectives and charms his worldview offers. We can reach out to people through manga but the game and anime will also be ways to deliver the story to wider audiences. We wanted to use the game to allow people to dive into the world of Toriyama-sensei’s world through the main character, and also control Toriyama-mechs with their own hands.

We expect that fans will be able to feel the story they experienced in the manga and anime, and the charm of Beelzebub and Rao and his friends, and that those who are not yet familiar with SAND LAND will love the work as a new game created by Toriyama-sensei.

Has any of the team involved previously worked on any of his other projects? If so, did this help or hinder?

As Bandai Namco Entertainment, we have created many Dragon Ball titles so there are many members involved in Toriyama-sensei’s projects. Dragon Ball and SAND LAND are different universes, so we took Dragon Ball games as a reference and there are some ideas that helped us, for example, the flashy action and humorous characters that blow opponents away, like found in the Dragon Ball games. However, all members including the development team are only working on SAND LAND.

Unlike Dragon Ball, this would be the first SAND LAND video game. Do you feel like this gave you a license to be creative, with fewer expectations, or was it actually the opposite?

It’s true that this is the first time SAND LAND has been made into a game, so we discussed with Shueisha, the licensor, various aspects of the game, including the graphic and story aspects. In terms of graphics, we designed the shadows by adding lines to express the manga style in detail.


We were able to develop the game according to our wishes to a certain extent, while also receiving ideas from Toriyama-sensei. The design of the vehicles that appear in the game was also developed under the supervision of Shueisha and Toriyama-sensei, with reference to his other works.

SAND LAND's Sheriff Rao is more than he seems.

The late Akira Toriyama created Forest Land specifically for this project. Was that under his insistence, or did you ask for something else to give players some variety during their time playing?

The concept of Forest Land was conceived by Toriyama-sensei, and based on that idea, we incorporated Forest Land into both the game and the anime. Although the game is based on a one-volume manga, the story of Forest Land was a very important idea for the development of the game.


We wanted to expand the adventure to find the Legendary Spring and the story of Beelzebub and Rao in-depth with new developments. In addition to that story, Toriyama-sensei designed more original characters such as the angel Muniel, Bred, the Forest Land army, and Ann, the mechanic, to incorporate into this game.

How does Forest Land differ in the game compared to the Sand Land, both in impact to the story and lore, but also to how it offers a different type of atmosphere and environment?

In terms of visuals, there are lush green land and a large lake. Since the environment is different, the monsters that appear are also different. The Forest Land Army has a higher military strength because it is richer in nature and has more supplies. When you move from the SAND LAND map to the Forest Land map, I hope you will pay attention to the variations in the weapons carried by the Forest Land army, not to mention the changes in appearance.

The original story can feel a bit suffocating, but the humor and unique characters provide great relief…

What was the most troubling and difficult aspect of development?

Each game’s development is different, so it is difficult to compare. We paid particular attention to how we implemented the storyline, it is a long journey from the Demon Village to the Legendary Spring so we’ve developed vast fields of dunes to create a sense of immersion. We designed the combat styles to adapt to this space and added unique features to each vehicle, increased the number of enemies, and designed the rewards.


Basically, we aimed to develop a game where players can enjoy the story through Beelzebub, so creating a good balance overall was the hard part rather than individual difficulties. It was a really fun and exciting experience for all team members.

Following on from that, what would you say is the team’s most proud moment or part of the game/development?

We are proud that we could produce a game which showcases Toriyama-sensei’s world, a world where demons and people live together and help each other. We’re also proud of the quality of vehicle action. We have created the game without compromising on both story and action so that players can control Toriyama-style mechs, and we believe we delivered the game with pride to worldwide audiences.

The cast of SAND LAND will be familiar to anyone who watched the anime or read the manga.

Were there many parts of the source material that required changing heavily to make them work in a video game medium?

We haven’t changed a lot from the manga but we’ve added some elements. First, to put the emphasis on the desert which is a core element we added heat waves and sandstorm areas. The vehicles are the main changes, the Battle Tank is the only vehicle appearing in the manga but for the game we created more Toriyama-mechs which were inspired by some you may have seen somewhere else in his work. We believe we could create the game based on the original manga but make it much more fun with these elements.


And did you have to cut anything completely for whatever reason?

There were no cuts from the original manga.

Is there a particular part that you worry fans of the manga won’t appreciate or fully be on board with?

I don’t have any concerns. There are those who prefer games and those who prefer manga and anime. Of course, SAND LAND is not limited to games, it is also expanding into other genres such as movies, anime, and hobbies, but I think that getting people to know a work through a game is very effective because you can be active and take part in the story. Whether you know SAND LAND from the game or from a non-game source, our goal is to have you like it, so we hope that fans of the manga will pick it up and enjoy the world of the work as translated in the game.

We were able to develop the game according to our wishes to a certain extent…

Having played a review copy of the game for more than a few hours at this point, the difference in vehicle combat to that of Beezlebub is stark. Is there a reason you chose to make vehicles such a big and unique part of the game?

The original story is about a car adventure through the desert to find the Legendary Spring, we wanted to include open-world elements based on that. On top of that, we wanted a game with open-world elements to emphasize action and an immersive experience in the world, and we thought that if the game only had action for the main character, Beelzebub, it would be difficult to fully convey the appeal, so we began to place more emphasis on the vehicles.


We also added a system that allows the player to customize the vehicles in their own style by adding vehicle parts and enhancements but also cosmetic options, and I believe this is what gave this game its unique vehicle action.

Akira Toriyama was famously a detail-orientated man with a knack for creating the weird and wonderful characters that now permeate pop culture and our society at large. He’s also well versed in creating video games, after his time with Dragon’s Quest, etc. How much input did he have in the game that wasn’t more specific?

The original story can feel a bit suffocating, but the humor and unique characters provide great relief and that is truly the Toriyama-sensei style worldview. Other than the story, we focused on vehicles and tried to represent his detail-oriented creativity. We have received feedback from Shueisha and Toriyama-sensei himself on the detailed and intricate design of the vehicles and the expression of the heat of the desert.

Sweeping vistas are on the menu in Bandai Namco’s SAND LAND.

How do you plan on supporting SAND LAND post-launch?

We would like you all to enjoy SAND LAND launched on April 26th. We will consider future developments based on the response after the release of the game. We hope that you will post your impressions of the game on social media and tell those who have not yet played the game what you think of it!


You’re no strangers to adapting anime and manga, with your most recent work being the excellent One Piece Odyssey, and of course, working on the Pokemon series regularly. How is working on the SAND LAND adaptation different (or similar) to these and why?

The developer is ILCA, who was also in charge of One Piece Odyssey and various titles, I believe that their techniques are also being used in SAND LAND in terms of creating a world that excites audiences in terms of artwork. I believe that the appeal of the characters and the world of SAND LAND can be enjoyed with beautiful graphics in this game, and although it is difficult to go into details because it is a different genre from other companies’ works and One Piece Odyssey, the intense action and the sense of immersion in the work can be felt in this game.

Dragon Ball and SAND LAND are different universes, so we took Dragon Ball games as a reference and there are some ideas that helped us…

For those fans who haven’t read the manga or watched the recent anime series, can you explain why they should still give the game a chance? In essence, what can it offer those who may not be die-hard fans?

I believe that each medium has a different way of conveying the same message and also has different appeal. Games are different from manga and anime in that they allow the user, holding the controller, to interactively take part in it, and you can enter the world as Beelzebub.

We expect that fans will be able to feel the story they experienced in the manga and anime, and the charm of Beelzebub and Rao and his friends, and that those who are not yet familiar with SAND LAND will love the work as a new game created by Toriyama-sensei.


Is there something you’ve bursting to tell the fans of the game that you either have not asked, or you never seem to get asked in interviews like these?

SAND LAND begins with Beelzebub, Rao, and Thief setting off on an adventure to find the Legendary Spring, but from there, many adventures arise! A conflict with Forest Land, the existence of the angel Muniel, and other developments never seen before in the original story await.

In addition to the main storyline, there are many subquests in the vast maps of SAND LAND and Forest Land that show the relationship between demons and humans. You can explore every nook and cranny of the game. We hope you will join Beelzebub and his friends in SAND LAND and experience this adventurous journey.

SAND LAND has been out a couple of weeks at this point, and many of you will have experienced the story of Beezlebub, Thief and Sheriff Rao, as well as hopefully watched the Prime Video anime show. What did you think of the game? And are you hopeful for a sequel, or some DLC?


Let us know what you think in the comments below!


Written by Luke Addison

Articles Published: 432

Luke Addison is the Lead Video Game Critic and Gaming Editor. As likely to be caught listening to noughties rock as he is watching the latest blockbuster cinema release, Luke is the quintessential millennial wistfully wishing after a forgotten era of entertainment. Also a diehard Chelsea fan, for his sins.

Twitter: @callmeafilmnerd