Bandai Namco has proven its mettle in transforming anime and manga series into riveting video games. Announced last week at the Summer Game Fest, ‘Sand Land’ is the newest title on the roster, making a striking debut with a visually impressive poster at the Los Angeles event, fortuitously positioned right next to another notable publisher’s success story – the Naruto (now Boruto) Ultimate Storm fighting series.
If you’re not familiar with ‘Sand Land’, don’t be discouraged. It’s a comic from the 2000s, conceived by the renowned manga artist, Akira Toriyama – the genius behind Dragon Ball. Toriyama’s artistic prowess extends to designing characters for Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, and the Dragon Quest series. And his creations have never looked more captivating than they do in ‘Sand Land’.
The game is an action-packed adventure where you control the mischievous prince of the Devil, ‘Beelzebub’, navigating a desert-centric world where water is an invaluable and expensive commodity. In this distinctive universe, demons and humans cohabit, with the human Sheriff Rao and the demon Thief joining Beelzebub in his quest to resolve the water crisis.
During my hands-on experience at SGF 2023 last week, a 15-minute demo showcased various game elements including hand-to-hand combat, exploration, and two unique vehicles: a tank and, intriguingly, a golf cart. The demo began with the trio escaping a desert dragon, discarding their water supplies to evade the relentless onslaught.
Apparently, the game mimics the manga’s storyline faithfully, which, while predictable for those familiar with the source material, will be a fresh narrative for many gamers. For instance, while I know the fate of characters in Dragon Ball’s Frieza saga, it doesn’t surprise me when it unfolds in any of the multiple Dragon Ball video games. But with ‘Sand Land’, the story will likely be a new experience for most.
The demo presented two distinct play styles. You’ll traverse the desert, encampments, and towns in your vehicles, while on-foot sections allow for brawls and appropriate interactions. Bandai Namco hinted at vehicle customization options, letting you add various weapons and components for improved performance or strategic benefits. I was particularly fond of the armor-piercing rounds. Despite their slow fire rate, they wreaked havoc on almost anything. Vehicle controls are intuitive and change depending on the type and whether they’re armed or not. Remember: my first Sand Land vehicle was a weaponless golf cart.
When not in a tank (which can be repaired if damaged), Beelzebub engages in melee combat, combining weak attacks, dodge rolls, and super attacks that charge up during fights. It might sound basic, and it is. Bandai Namco isn’t trying to reinvent the gameplay mechanics here. The inclusion of more moves and supporting characters could potentially enrich the combat experience, but it’s worth remembering that the target audience might be younger gamers. You control only Beelzebub, but his aforementioned companions will eventually assist in battles, though this wasn’t apparent in the demo.
A standout moment in the demo was tackling a bandit gang, evoking a subtle Ginyu Force vibe. Each bandit employed diverse weapons and attack styles, providing a good test of Beelzebub’s combat abilities, such as launching enemies into the air with a punch and following up with a ground slam.
The effort invested in these secondary characters suggests that the developers are committed to faithfully translating Toriyama’s character designs, quirky humor, and charm to consoles.
While there are a few issues with lip-syncing (at this stage, voiceovers are in Japanese), current-generation consoles and PCs boast sufficient power to authentically portray Toriyama’s detailed artwork. I found myself gazing at the tank during my playthrough, simply because it looked spectacular. I can only imagine how much time I’d spend admiring a tank I had customized.
‘Sand Land’ is set to release on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about ‘Sand Land’ video game
What is ‘Sand Land’?
‘Sand Land’ is an action-adventure video game based on the manga created by Akira Toriyama. It takes place in a desert-themed world facing a water crisis.
Who is the creator of ‘Sand Land’?
‘Sand Land’ is created by the legendary manga artist Akira Toriyama, known for his work on ‘Dragon Ball’, ‘Chrono Trigger’, and the ‘Dragon Quest’ series.
What platforms will ‘Sand Land’ be available on?
‘Sand Land’ will be available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
Can you customize vehicles in the game?
Yes, Bandai Namco has teased vehicle customization options in ‘Sand Land’, allowing players to add different weaponry and components for improved performance or tactical advantages.
Will the game follow the storyline of the manga?
Yes, the game is expected to follow the storyline of the ‘Sand Land’ manga faithfully, providing a new experience for gamers who may not be familiar with the source material.
Are there multiple playable characters in ‘Sand Land’?
While players control the rambunctious prince Beelzebub, both the human Sheriff Rao and the demon Thief will eventually assist in fights, although this feature was not apparent in the demo.
What are the available play styles in ‘Sand Land’?
‘Sand Land’ offers two play styles: vehicle-based exploration and on-foot sections for combat and interactions with the environment.
What platforms can support the detailed artwork of ‘Sand Land’?
Current-generation consoles and PCs have sufficient power to replicate the detailed artwork of Akira Toriyama in ‘Sand Land’, ensuring an immersive visual experience.