Sand Land Review — Toriyama’s Legacy Lives On

Put on your nostalgia glasses and witness Akira Toriyama's parting gift.

Sand Land Review
Overall
3.5
  • Story And Setting
  • Gameplay
  • Visuals And Performance

Verdict

Despite uneven storytelling and design flaws, Toriyama’s magical Sand Land is plenty amusing, a Shounen adventure not reliant on complexity.

Pros

  • A passionate Shounen plot
  • Entertaining Vehicular gameplay
  • The iconic Toriyama art style

Cons

  • Uneven story-telling
  • Annoying dialogue loops
  • Repetitive gameplay design

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that there was nothing more impactful for the kid me than Dragon Ball. The iconic anime series has been an inseparable part of my childhood. One of my most cherished memories is coming home from school and eagerly waiting for the next episode to air. It’s truly regrettable that the great mind behind it, Akira Toriyama, is no longer with us.

Key Takeaways
  • Developer: ILCA
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Release Date: April 26, 2024
  • Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
  • Game Length: 30+ hours
  • Time Played: 50+ hours
  • Editors Note: We were able to test the game on the PS5, spending a healthy amount in the wild deserts of Sand Land. Thank you for all you have done for the medium, Sir Akira Toriyama.

Dragon Ball games, the Dragon Quest series, the unrivaled masterpiece Chrono Trigger, all these wouldn’t be possible without his valuable contribution. Today, I’ll be reviewing another one of his works, the game counterpart of Sand Land.

Story And Setting

Enter Sand Land, a post-apocalyptic fantasy world ruined by wars and tragedies; only a desert remains (an anime Mad Max). It’s home to multiple species barely scraping by, deprived of water, and living in agony. All this destruction and ruin had an architect, a ruthless dictator named Commander Zeu, currently in control of the world and all its water, refusing to share it with the dying citizens free of cost.

The plot itself is a passionate Shounen story and is even enjoyable, but the storytelling and delivery leave a lot to be desired.

When one such citizen approaches the demon’s den and seeks their help to find “the Legendary Spring,” our passionate and quirky tale begins. Sand Land follows the escapades of the demon prince, Beelzebub, the very icon of evil, as he joins with a human named Rao with a mysterious past and sets on a journey to reclaim the world’s water

The Legendary Spring (image by eXputer)
The Legendary Spring (image by eXputer)

The story itself is nothing special; it’s a typical Shounen plot. Beelzebub is your overly enthusiastic protagonist with a heart of gold (evil, my bad), joined by Rao, who’s on a quest for self-redemption and vengeance. It’s a simple plot but filled to the brim with heartwarming moments.

The story tackles grim concepts like humans’ insatiable greed and the lust for power, having no remorse for leaving hundreds of bodies in their wake.

The Overly Repeating Dialogues Soured The Experience

The plot itself is a passionate Shounen story and is even enjoyable, but the storytelling and delivery leave a lot to be desired. I believe the anime did a better narration job than the game. The plot proceeds in a very irregular fashion. Sometimes, it delivers a lot of information at once, while at other times, filler stuff coats your progression.

Past Atrocities (image by Us)
Past Atrocities (image by Us)

Do you know what my biggest complaint with the game was? Characters repeat their dialogues over and over and over again. The voice acting, especially in Japanese, is superb, but the repetition is annoying. Characters comment on their surroundings, but if you stay in that place for some time, they’ll keep looping that dialogue, to the point that it becomes a real pain.

Gameplay

Sand Land’s gameplay is primarily divided into two modes. You either control Beelzebub himself and beat up enemies the good old-fashioned way, or you board the game’s unique vehicles and wreak havoc with extra firepower. First, I’ll discuss the prior of the two.

While I had some problems with the melee gameplay’s versatility, I absolutely enjoyed vehicular gameplay, it was the height of the gameplay.

As Beelzebub, your base arsenal includes normal attacks, heavy attacks, a double jump, and a dash. The combat is quite simple and lacks any complexity, which I wished was present, but it’s still pretty fitting. In addition, Beelzebub can do some special moves using his “Dark energy” meter. 

Special Skill (image credit eXputer)
Special Skill (image credit eXputer)

You have your two allies, Rao and Thief, by your side. These allies have active abilities that are usable on demand and passive, auxiliary skills. A profound skill tree unlocks these for both Beelzebub and his allies. Use these to beat the game’s various boss fights.

Unlocking additional skills is imperative. The base combat may feel clunky. However, you get your first upgrade pretty early, and combo upgrades make the gameplay fluid. You can chain ground combos into aerial, dodge cancels, and mix up commands.

Skill tree (image by eXputer)
Skill tree (image by eXputer)

Over the course of the story, you’ll also unlock an ace in the hole, Fury mode. Beelzebub transforms into a berserk state (Super Saiyan?), drastically increasing his attack and defense. 

Vehicular Gameplay Is The Real Highlight

While I had some problems with the melee gameplay’s versatility, I absolutely enjoyed vehicular mechanics, it was the height of the gameplay. Sand Land lets you ride multiple bizarre-looking vehicles that you can carry around in portable capsules (Dragon Ball again?)

The best part is that you can customize these vehicles in many ways. The open world is filled with parts and scraps you can then turn into modifications like weapons or auxiliary abilities for your trusty rides. 

Vehicle Customization (image by eXputer)
Vehicle Customization (image by eXputer)

There is considerable variety in vehicular types as well. From tanks to jump-bots and high-speed cars, you get the idea. Vehicular combat is highly enjoyable, involving an enjoyable blend of strategic vehicle maneuverability and weapon switching.

Overall, Sand Land doesn’t do anything particularly extraordinary, but it’s a fun journey to dive into, accepting it for what it’s for.

Sand Land has multiple vehicular boss fights as well. I personally found these more enjoyable than the melee ones. My only complaint is how the vehicle disappears even if you move two feet away from it after dismounting to grab something, and then you have to go through a tedious animation to re-summon.

Boss Fights (image by Us)
Boss Fights (image by Us)

Open-World Design And Gameplay Versatility Could’ve Been Better

Now, to discuss my thoughts. I firmly believe Sand Land is a magical adventure that manages to entertain you and deliver a solid experience. However, there are certainly some problems in the overall gameplay that I wish to shed light on.

First is the open-world design. I believe Sand Land’s depiction of the world had a lot more room for growth. The game mostly uses it for narrative purposes, creating a stage for the story to unfold. It fulfills this job pretty well, but it suffers when engaging content forces you to stray from the main path—an incentive to explore. 

Sneak Attacks (image by eXputer)
Sneak Attacks (image by eXputer)

Similarly, The enemy design for most of the game remains unchanged. You have a few types of wild creatures and humanoid enemies. Variations occur in tank battles and late in the story, but not too much. Stealth encounters are fun but suffer a similar problem of versatility. Moreover, the sidequests integral in expanding your base are pretty well-done story-wise but are lacking mechanically.

The level of design in some regions is quite impressive. From side paths with loot to creative 2D gameplay segments, this deserves genuine praise. Overall, Sand Land doesn’t do anything particularly extraordinary, but it’s a fun journey to dive into, accepting it for what it’s for.

2D sections (image credit eXputer)
2D sections (image credit eXputer)

Visuals And Performance

Charming Visuals (image by eXputer)
Charming Visuals (image by eXputer)

We at last come to the visuals, and I must say this is where I fell in love with the game. Toriyama’s iconic art breathes life into a beautiful world, there’s nothing more exciting. The art style is perfect, the environments are perfectly designed, and you can’t help but be charmed looking at this nostalgic presentation and the beloved character design.

From vast sandy dunes to decrepit towns and secret water sources, everything is crafted brilliantly. The post-apocalyptic vehicles and junk-assembled tech are an accurate depiction of the setting, and the animations cement the Shounen aesthetic superbly. If there’s one problem, it’s some visual glitches here and there, like NPCs stuck in obstacles or phasing out irregularly. Other than this, perfection.

From vast sandy dunes to decrepit towns and secret water sources, everything is crafted brilliantly.

As for the performance, I’ve played Sand Land extensively on a PS5 and didn’t find any appreciable losses or dips in performance. There were some occasional drops in some situations, but it wasn’t significant enough to sour the experience. The game runs smoothly in general.

Verdict

Verdict (image by eXputer)
Verdict (image by eXputer)

All in all, Sand Land is a solid anime game that breaks away from the overused arena fighter troupe and delivers an enjoyable experience. Despite the uneven story-telling and design flaws, Toriyama’s magical Sand Land is plenty amusing, a Shounen adventure not reliant on complexity.

That was all about my Sand Land review. I hope it helped you in making a decision, and if you’re looking to do the same for some other game, consider checking out more of our reviews.

This is box title
Get This Game
If you enjoy anime-style RPGs, and want something similar to Dragon Quest’s character design.
Dont Get This Game
In case you do not enjoy game adaptations of anime and just wish to learn the story by watching it.
Buy / Wait For Sale / Don't Buy
The game is a solid pick for any Toriyama fan, but I think waiting for it be around $40 would be the best choice”
Alternative Games
  • Dragon Ball series
  • Dragon Quest
  • Mad Max
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Blue Dragon
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Hanzala is a dedicated writer who expresses his views as opinion pieces at eXputer. He's always been fascinated by gaming and has been an avid consumer of many different genres for over a decade. His passion for games has him eager to encounter the latest RPGs and actively look for new Soulslike to challenge. He puts forth his experience and knowledge of gaming into captivating opinion pieces.

Experience: 8+ months || Education: Bachelors in Chemistry.

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