Sand Land Review (PS5)

Akira Toriyama's second most infamous works finally hits console this month, but is it worth your time and money?

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These days, the notoriety of Akira Toriyama extends further than just his Dragon Ball series. Whilst that is certainly his most famous work by some stretch, he’s also responsible for guiding some of the biggest and best properties in the world of Manga that you may now know about.

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For that matter, also had his influences on gaming as a whole with his early work on the designs for Dragon Quest. However, we’re here to determine if the latest adaptation of one of his works, Sand Land, can live up to the lofty standards of his others.

Sand Land for a Modern Audience

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Sand Land’s characters are a vibrant mixture.

I feel like it’s important to state at this point, but until I saw the game and some of the anime, I wasn’t aware or a fan of Sand Land. You’re probably wondering ‘Well why are you reviewing it then?’, and that’s a fair question, but with a simple answer. Games like Sand Land, Dragon Ball, and other anime/manga adaptations live and die by those who have no prior knowledge of the source material, at least on a grander, successful scale, anyway.

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Booting up Sand Land was an immediate feast for my eyes, with Akira Toriyama’s iconic art style immediately brought to life in front of me; Bright colors, great contrasts, and a character design palette where no two characters look alike. As many would attest, bringing Toriyama’s work to the screen for TV and gaming has always been notoriously easy to make faithful, and that isn’t any different here in Sand Land.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Sand Land, the game does a great job of looping you in quickly. The world was at war for decades, fighting over the remnants of a dwindling water supply that inevitably all but runs out. The world is left desolated and in ruins, the people scattered and a new species arrives in the form of ‘Demons’, which in true Akira Toriyama style, are the most conflicted and interesting characters of the bunch, and rarely the actual bad guys.

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Beezlebub is a little demon.

You’ll be taking control of Beezlebub, the Prince of Demons and the son of Lucifer (yep, that one), the main protagonist of the Manga and Anime. Within five minutes of your time with him you’ll realise he’s not quite as demonic as his form presents, and this is a constant (and well-executed) folly to the real bad guys – the King and the Humans.

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Just like the Manga before it, Sand Land opens with enigmatic trio of Beezlebub, Thief and Sheriff Rao hitting the road, with the group looking to find what they assume is a sanctuary of water to save and help those remaining. No spoilers, but just like the Manga, this isn’t as plain sailing as you’d expect.

Sand Land is a Dusty, World Where its Emptiness is a Benefit

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Sand Land’s environment is an important character all of its own.

Beyond the characters themselves, the environment of Sand Land is an absolute joy to behold. Many games get understandbly pulled apart for having somewhat empty worlds to explore, but Sand Land’s entire premise is based on that very thing. The world is now nothing but sand, fractured communities spread out mostly fighting for their own survival, with animals and humans alike pushed to the brink for the last drops of water.

I can safely say during my time in this Mad Max-esque world that not once did I use the fast travel system available, as it was simply too much fun spending time exploring using the various vehicles (more on those below) for destruction and rescuing.

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That’s another thing, not only is there the obvious main quest, you’ll have the opportunity to go on some serious zany and oddball side quests, or track down ne’er do wells across the landscape. From junkers that are stealing other people’s stuff, to dinosaur-sized animals just being a nuisance, there’s no end to the madness Akira Toriyama designed.

In a surprising move, the main world of Sand Land isn’t the only one, with one new area designed specifically for the game by the Late Akira Toriyama, but I won’t spoil any more on that. Not only that, but I felt twangs of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series at times, with the stealth system clearly influenced by the mid-nineties revival, and then there was shades of Final Fantasy with some incredible environments that literally took my breath away. This game is more than just a Manga adaptation.

The Vehicles of Sand Land will NEVER Get Boring

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Sand Land’s vehicles are arguably more of a combat must than Beelzebub’s own moveset.

Vehicles feature prominently throughout your time in Sand Land, and trust me when I say, not only are each of them uniquely different, they’re all fun to use. You’ll find yourself quickly able to carry upto five vehicles to dispatch as and when you deem necessary, or when one is more appropriate over another.

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For example, tanks, jumper bots, hoover scooters and so many more all feature, and on top of that variety… you can upgrade them. By the end of my playthrough the tank I started with was a far cry from what I ended with, with cannons, guns and more all customisable. Visit one of the ‘journey hub’ cities and take some time in the garage there, you’ll soon lose a lot of time.

I wasn’t familiar with or a fan of Akira Toriyama’s Sand Land manga before booting the game up, but I can safely say that’s no longer the case now. Marry that with Prime Video’s anime series releasing last month and there’s no better time to jump into one of his best and most interesting works as a matter of tribute to the late genius, which you’ll undoubtedly enjoy for what it is, at the same time.

Sand Land has a lot to offer everyone, even those (like myself) that didn’t know the source material before hand. The standard RPG fare of unlocking new skills is there, as is the general structure of a good RPG, but what Sand Land does differently is the world it inhabits, the combat present (slow and sluggish at first, but a joy once you unlock everything for Beezlebub and the vehicles) and the atmosphere it allows. There’s always room for improvement, but as an Manga adaptation goes, I can now add Sand Land to Pokemon and Dragon Ball as games I’ll be keeping an eye out for.

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8/10

 

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Written by Luke Addison

Articles Published: 437

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