Retland Review – Gaming Nexus

April 24, 2024 by No Comments


If a game jumps out at me, I’ll do a little research. I’ll read about the title, when it’s coming out, who makes it, and what else they’ve done — all the usual research. Sometimes I’ll request an opportunity to review a game, and that’s it. Not much for action for me. I see something, I do a little digging, and I either dive in or I don’t. The sand ground was a little different. Land of Sand began as a Japanese manga created by Akira Toriyama. Now, that name means more to me than many. This is the man who created Dragon Ball. Talk about a cultural touchstone for me. I would come home after school to watch Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, making sure there wasn’t one person at lunch the next day who didn’t. Toriyama is also responsible for many of the character designs for the Dragon Quest franchise. Iconic doesn’t begin to describe it. Sadly, Toriyama recently passed, further cementing my need to explore the land of sand.

On the surface, sand land looks pretty straightforward. The manga was only one volume in length, which you could read in an evening, which I did. I quickly learned that Sandland is not a new franchise. The franchise is here; Get on board. On top of the manga, and now the video game, Sand Land has a complete 11-episode series on Hulu/Disney+. Sandland has managed to transition from a manga to a full-fledged video game and anime adaptation over the past 24 years, at least without much of a peep from me. I love that I can immerse myself in this world now, and for two weeks, I’ve done just that. I started with the manga and slowly worked my way through the anime series while playing Sandland in the evening. Overall I’ve enjoyed my time with Sandland, even if it doesn’t feel like a world-changing story or game. I’m having fun with it all, and it’s good to just have fun.

Sandland has managed to stay true to its roots on all fronts, which I admire. Obviously, the manga is the source material, so staying true isn’t a problem. I think the anime took the most liberties with the content, the story only has 13 chapters, and over the course of 11 episodes, about half an hour long, I can see why the anime would include some content. . Honestly, I thought the game would find more ways to deviate from the core story, but it’s pretty close. There are some differences, especially in this game, but I was surprised at how much truth there is in the creation. I also enjoyed how the developer was able to make it feel like it came from a manga or even an anime. All three have a slightly different style, the anime feels more modern in its look and feel, but still evokes some nostalgia – I think it was just Akira Toriyama’s style when I was young. Sandland, on my PS5, looks like a split between the more modern anime look and the old school manga released in 2000. Wow, we’re saying 2000 was a while ago.

Sand Land takes place years and years later when a natural disaster and war engulfs the land and turns it into sand. Everywhere is desert. Water has become the most sought after resource by both humans and demons. Rao, a human sheriff in a nearby town, has explored the demon enclave, seeking partners in an effort to locate a rumored fresh spring of water. The tyrant has a monopoly on the existing water supply, forcing the demons to take up arms in hit-and-run guerilla warfare style on water transporters. The young demon Beelzebub and his old, Santa-looking demon friend Thief Rao join in the quest. Hijinks result.

Well, so many things about Sandland as a franchise. What type of game is Sand Land? Well, it’s also a bit complicated. Sand soils fit the mold of many species. This is an action RPG. You basically play as the demon Beelzebub. You compete with monsters roaming the sand land, as you do. The next element is stealth gameplay. Usually, as a thief, you need to sneak around a village for supplies, or break into a military base to steal a Beelzebub vehicle. While Sandland has three different difficulty modes, I found myself playing on the easiest and still occasionally struggled with the stealth sections of Sandland. I’m not sure if my struggle was just not understanding how to be sneaky, or if it was just as difficult to accomplish without getting caught. I got caught at least once every time except for the first tutorial stealth mission. Thankfully, I wasn’t punished for being seen too often. Instead, you’re taken back a few seconds before you’re captured, other times it’s about a minute before. Even being bad was no more devastating than an experience.

But the biggest part of Sandland is the vehicle combat. Initially you can control a tank, using it as one of your main modes of transportation. Tank works like you think. You can fire rockets and use machine guns. Finally, you can switch to exotic mech-style tanks as well as other vehicles like motorcycles to help stay ahead of the pack, or do some scouting before taking action. I sometimes struggle to get into driving games. It might be how easily I got to grips with the controls that Sandland surprised me on that front.

The other small elements that make up Sand Land feel very standard, but still solid. No one is crazy about leveling, or having a tech tree for you and your teammates. Rao and Thief, both of your main allies, also have level tess. As you progress you decide which of the two will spend level-up points, and the points can go into one of two categories, in addition to choosing to level up Rao, who is more combative. Temperament, or Thief, who is more crafty, you also decide whether you want them to have an active or passive skill. Most passive skills are ones that you, the player, control during combat, with passives usually having to do with other, non-combat aspects of the game. Crafting and upgrading is another part. You can craft to upgrade, you can craft to make your vehicles aesthetically better, you can upgrade to new vehicles like motorcycles and exosuit boats. You also work on upgrading the town to accommodate additional vendors.

Normally I wouldn’t spend time on something as small as a minimap. But, I found Sandland better than any other for using the minimap. I found the sand lands minimap to be one of the best. There is just the right amount of detail shown on the map to be useful but not overbearing. There’s enough detail to reveal your line of sight when moving around to make it worthwhile. Usually, a minimap is of no use to me, it’s too small to be helpful. I find myself using the least map a few times in a game, but the Sandland map was constantly used. Knowing which direction to go in the middle of a car fight can be difficult.

The story of Sandland is nothing short of spectacular. It doesn’t have to be, it’s fun. Land of Sand stays true to its manga origins while having its own worthwhile investment. Don’t be fooled by the simple story of finding water in the desert – Sandland throws action RPGs, intense vehicular combat, and stealth missions your way. When you have a story with a simple premise, the surprise comes mostly from the gameplay. I was surprised how many different genres Sandland fits into itself. I can play a beat-em-up action RPG, a vehicle-upgrading, mostly-shooting, treasure-hunting, or a silent, stealthy, sneaky thief stealing water from an evil army. All this while still keeping the appearance of being based not only on the manga Sandland, but also the anime that has come out since.

Sandland immediately caught my attention because of its connection to Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball and character design in the Dragon Quest series. With manga, anime, and now a video game adaptation, Sandland has quietly become a full-fledged franchise, seemingly overnight. Despite its simple premise—searching for water in the wasteland of the desert—Sandland offers a mix of action RPG, vehicular combat, and stealth gameplay that’s just plain fun. The game stays faithful to its source material while offering amazing depth and variety in gameplay mechanics. Despite some challenges with the stealth sections, Sandland provides a fun and engaging experience and retains the nostalgia of Toriyama’s original work.

Normally I wouldn’t spend time on something as small as a minimap. But, I found Sandland better than any other for using the minimap. I found the minimal map in Sandlands to be one of the best. There is just the right amount of detail shown on the map to be useful but not overbearing. There’s enough detail to reveal your line of sight when moving around to make it worthwhile. Usually, a minimap is of no use to me, it’s too small to be helpful. I find myself using the least map a few times in a game, but the Sandland map was constantly used. Knowing which direction to go in the middle of a car fight can be difficult.

The story of Sandland is nothing short of spectacular. It doesn’t have to be, it’s fun. Land of Sand stays truer to its manga origins than I would have guessed while having its own worthwhile investment. Don’t be fooled by the simple story of finding water in the desert – Sandland throws action RPGs, intense vehicular combat, and stealth missions your way. When you have a story with a simple premise, the surprise comes mostly from the gameplay. I was surprised at how many different genres Sandland fits into itself. I can play a beat-em-up action RPG, a vehicle-upgrading, mostly-shooting, treasure-hunting, or a silent, stealthy, sneaky thief stealing water from an evil army. All this while still keeping the appearance of being based not only on the manga Sandland, but also the anime that has come out since.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the manufacturer/company.

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