I did not know what to expect when I walked into my meeting for SAND LAND, the new action RPG based on the work of Akira Toriyama. Known for his work on Dragon Ball, Sand Land is a manga that ran in the pages of Shonen Jump from May to August of 2000 and tells the story of a rag-tag group that has banded together to help find a new water supply for the people of Sand Land. The game takes this story and runs with it, bringing the art of Akira Toriyama to life in a new and exciting way.
Stepping into the demo at Summer Game Fest Play Days, I took the role of Beelzebub, the Demon prince, and with my party of Sheriff Rao, and Thief, we struck out on our journey in a trusty jeep. The first thing that struck me was the stunning art style and the world the team at Bandai Namco brought to life. Since watching Dragon Ball as a kid, I have loved the art of Akira Toriyama, so seeing it come to life in such a fluid and vibrant way was incredibly exciting.
I had gotten a look at the trailer for SAND LAND when it was announced at the Summer Game Fest Showcase. I did not know what to expect when I got my hands on the demo. I did not read the Manga when it first ran, and although I like the work of Akira Toriyama, I never sought it out in any of the many forms since it first hit newsstands. So I was going in blind. Thankfully, the game seems to do a good job of scaffolding players into the world, giving just enough to get a sense of who the people in the world are, why it matters, and what your little crew is trying to do to solve things.
“SAND LAND was one of the stand-out titles of Summer Game Fest, and one I am excited to dive back into when it launches for all to enjoy.”
Starting out in the open world landscape, the vast deserts looked exciting and daunting, with a selection of enemies scattered across the landscape. From bandits to various wildlife looking to make a lunch out of our intrepid heroes, I had plenty to try my hands at with the demo.
Thankfully, there were a few set-piece moments that kept the demo from feeling drawn out, with a few staged fight moments, a look at a major town we could explore, and a taste of the Vehicular and character combat the game will be filled to the brim with when it launches. Even though this style of game is not my usual forte, I very quickly learned the systems and was having a blast taking out enemies with my Jeep, and eventually, the little tank that I was told would play a major role in the final game.
The combat in SAND LAND was much more action-focused than I expected when I sat down, with a series of different skills available to Beelzebub to take advantage of. Despite his small size, he managed to pack a punch in battle, and it was fun seeing how the different attacks could be strung together. The way you need to approach different situations in different ways ensured, at least in the demo, things never felt stale, giving a variety of ways to take on each situation.
But even as fun as the individual battles were, the Vehicular combat really gave a taste of what SAND LAND had to offer. Once I jumped in the tank, I was having fun taking on enemies far too powerful for my own good, and it gave a sense of how dangerous the world around our heroes is and how there are many ways to take down even the biggest obstacles.
Beyond this, the way SAND LAND used key story moments made it stand apart. While many games have used a cel-shaded art style, few bring the level of characterization that made the many inhabitants of the game world feel alive and filled with depth and excitement. Akira Toriyama’s art looks and feels alive in the game world, and I would not help to stare at each new sequents that took the opportunity to show it off.
“The vast deserts looked both exciting and daunting, with a selection of different enemies lying scattered across the landscape.”
The full release of SAND LAND, I was told, will have a large range of different vehicles players can use and customize in a way all their own, giving many ways to take on the challenges in this desert wasteland. It is hard to tell how much will be available from a single segment, but what I saw excites me to see more. Running on a PS5 at the session, the game ran incredibly smoothly, feeling like I was playing a part in a manga come to life, with all the wacky shenanigans that may entitle.
Dragon Ball is one of the biggest names in anime worldwide, with Akira Toriyama’s art loved by millions. Even though SAND LAND may not be as widely known as the venerable series, it is just as filled with the characters and places that made that series and manga so exciting.
There is plenty to love with what the game is bringing to the table, and if the team at Bandai Namco is able to pull it off, It will be a game anime fans should not miss. Slated to come to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC, SAND LAND was one of the stand-out titles of Summer Game Fest, and one I am excited to dive back into when it launches for all to enjoy.