Game: Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
Genre: Platformer, Simulation, Action, Role-Playing
System: Nintendo Switch ( also on Steam and PS4)
Developers | Publishers: Marvelous (XSEED)| Edelweiss
Age Rating: EU 16+ | US Teen
Price: EU €39,99 | US $39.99 | UK £34.99
Release Date: November 10th 2020 (November 20th is the latest release date worldwide)
Review code used, with many thanks to Marvelous Europe and Decibel-PR!
Welcome to the world of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, brought to you by the developers that made Astebreed, and the publishers that brought us games such as Story of Seasons Trio of Towns and Ys Origins.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin has been in development since 2017 for PS4 and PC. Although the game was expected in 2018, it kept fans on a giant hook, and it looks like it’s paying off for everyone involved. In 2019, we found out it was also going to be hitting Nintendo Switch. A year later, that it will be getting physical versions for both PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
Interest in the game has soared, and I expect Sakuna will do fantastically once released.
To check out just a preview, try try here.
Now, I’m sure you all already know most of the following, but for those that might not, WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD!
How Did We Get Here?!
Spoilt Goddess, Princess Sakuna, the daughter of Harvest Goddess Toyohana and War God Takeribi, goes about her life in an unabashed way. Using her mother’s rice to pay her offering to Lady Kamuhitsuki and the Tree of Creation every year. Instead, she uses her time to read, relax and consume unpleasant amounts of alcohol. Sakuna’s closest friend, Kokorowa, has to toil and work hard all year to make the sufficient size offering. But their friendship has been there for years, they’d never hurt each other on purpose.
After Sakuna accidentally burns down the Divine Garner holding the offerings to Lady Kamuhitsuki, she finds herself banished. Also banished are the Children of Men that had followed Sakuna back to the Lofty Realm across the floating bridge of heaven, to the Island of Demons, or Hinoe as the locals call it. Sakuna is charged with securing a foothold for the capital, whilst driving out the demons that call Hinoe home and keeping the Children of Men safe.
The Children of Men, or humans, are a ragtag group of 5 people. Tauemon the Bandit Samurai, Myrthe the Cook, Yui the Seamstress, Kinta the Blacksmith and Kaimaru, the boy of little words. Each of the group have their own strengths that will help you progress. Each also have their own weaknesses and quirks, which will be shown along the journey together.
All of these humans ended up on the floating bridge for the same reason: another human called Ishimaru. Ishimaru took over a bandit group from Kaimaru’s father, by killing him. Dabbling into the slave trade, he acquired Yui, Kinta and Myrthe. Fleeing for their lives is how they all met Sakuna, when she kicked Ishimaru straight off of the floating bridge of heaven.
After fighting her way to her Mother’s home on Hinoe, Sakuna and the humans start by planting the rice paddy just outside the house that they have made their own. Throughout each year, you will go through each step of rice cultivation. I will touch more on this later.
Getting into the Swing of Things
When you first land and take control of Sakuna, you will be in the cave where your boat lands. This simple tunnel will guide you through the basics of exploration and combat. Using a 2-D side-scrolling background, you get to swing your farm tools at demon rabbits, boars, birds and more! Explore using the divine raiment to swing yourself across a room, or to climb up and over rocks you couldn’t simply jump over.
All exploration and fighting will take place in 2-D levels, each with their own name and quests to complete. When choosing which level to delve into, you will get to move around the map of Hinoe, picking which level you’d like. While progressing, more and more spots will be revealed on the map. There are gathering spots for sending out the humans, once they have some protection, and there are fonts for Sakuna to explore and obtain good portions of necessary materials.
Over time, you will collect fighting skills and raiment skills. Each of these have four slots to equip skills and man oh man, some of these skills are nasty! Each time you use a fighting skill, your proficiency will increase, I haven’t found a level limit for skills yet. Whilst raiment skills don’t increase in level or proficiency, they are diverse enough to not need it. Although, it does appear to be slightly complicated on getting the raiment skills to activate, I mainly use it to traverse the environment.
However, when you reach your new home on Hinoe, your mother’s old home, everything changes. You are now in an open area where you can freely run around. On this hill you now call home, you can build extra huts to house a forge and a loom, there’s even a coop to build for Kaimaru’s feathery friends. At the very top of the hill are two huts, one being the house for you all to stay in, the other being the storage hut for everything to do with rice.
In the centre of the homestead is the rice paddy, a decent sized paddy for one person to handle. Every year, you’ll go through the cycle of planting, sorting, threshing and replanting your rice sprouts. You can choose to do it yourself, but you can also hand the work to someone else. If you decide you have better things to do than work the field, you can expect a smaller, lower-quality batch of rice at the end.
Throughout Sakuna, I always had something to do, whether it was fighting more demons, checking the crop or trying to find specific materials. The progression feels very natural for the majority of the game. Only a couple times did it frustrate me but that’s probably due to lack of experience with platformers.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin draws from Japanese mythology, specifically their pantheon. While Marvelous have still added their own extras to the stories, it really fits well. The use of Japanese style music makes playing Sakuna with the sound on a must for myself. The music always fits whatever situation Sakuna finds herself in, good or bad.
And the graphics, oh my, they are spectacular. The way the day cycle affects the mood is beautiful, watching the sun set on the homestead, looking out over Hinoe, really is an amazing site. Actually, the whole of the game is stunning. The detail is spot on, there’s always something in the distance, or under your feet!
Each character is designed well, having their own personality, with flaws and strengths. The expressions on their faces are perfect, it’s almost like watching a 3-D anime at times. And they way they’ve made the interactions between everyone, you really feel like you’re getting to know them all. Whether a dislikeable character or a loveable one, the effort put into the characters can be felt, deeply.
Reap The Rewards
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin comes with a decent price tag, not as much as Nintendo’s big staples. However, it’s more than reasonable for Sakuna. In just under a month of playing, and I’m still hooked. Even as someone who generally dislikes platformers, Sakuna has ticked all the right boxes for me. My love of farming, mixed with the fighting style, makes for a complete and fascinating game.
I will be recommending this game to pretty much everyone. It has a bit of most things but manages to incorporate it all smoothly. Other games can feel jarring when mixing playstyle or genres, but Marvelous have succeeded, almost expertly.
To check out the official Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin website, click here.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up