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ESRB Rating: Teen (Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol, Mild Blood)
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Nintendo || Amazon
You play as Sakuna, a spoiled, bratty, snarky, and drunken goddess after she accidentally burns down the entire storage of rice offerings. She’s banished to the Isle of Demons along with the humans who had infiltrated the storage in the first place. Sakuna must fight the demons surrounding their home while hunting and gathering. Then she must cultivate the rice crops back home. All in order to get back into good favor. But as time moves forward, the story gets deeper and even more interesting.
There are a lot of cutscenes in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, but they never felt disruptive as they only happen when you’re at the homebase. Usually first thing in the morning, or in the evening when you return from hunting. They’re a great way to get to know Sakuna’s companions and more about the world she comes from. Make sure to pop in to see everyone from time to time to be treated with some fun outside the main story!
The ending killed me. I cried so freaking hard after that final boss battle. I was severely attached to every single character, and I hope this is not the last we see of them! They all have such interesting stories to tell. There did seem to be a hint at a sequel in there…
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a super pretty game! It alternates between 2D and 3D graphics seamlessly. When you’re at the homebase, the game is in 3D with a full 360 degree camera. You can look all round the mountaintop and the views are gorgeous! When Sakuna heads out to hunt, each area becomes a 2D side-scroller, but no less gorgeous.
The weather changes are gorgeous! As are the transitions from day to night to day again. The sky, the trees, the rain, the snow, the sun, everything looks fantastic. Each day is different in terms of weather and light. The colors look natural given the weather and time of day. It’s clear a lot of care went into making sure the atmosphere was perfect.
The game does look better on TV than in handheld though, which is a bit unfortunate because I switched to almost exclusive handheld play because it’s easier for me to read all of the dialogue. It doesn’t look bad by any means. It’s just not as crisp and clean, and some of the small graphical flaws become more apparent.
There’s also a small issue with the camera when in the rice field. When planting the rice, the camera drifts rather than staying the way I set it. This gets annoying when I’m trying to get the rice in nice, neat lines but the angle is constantly changing. It also occasionally zooms all the way in when picking up the rice to dry.
Sound Effects + Music:
I really enjoyed the music in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. It sounds very traditional Japanese. There are different tracks for when you’re at home, on the map, or in the levels. It also changes based on the seasons. The main tracks also get remixed for certain cut-scenes to fit the emotion happening there.
There is a lot of voice acting, which I also enjoyed. All of the major cut-scenes and story progression are fully voiced. Sakuna sounds just as bratty as you’d expect her to. Myrthe was my favorite though, as she starts out quiet, then finds her voice as the story progresses. Yui and Kaimaru also sounded super adorable. Other dialogue only has the occasional sound or single word. Sakuna’s battle cries do get repetitive very quickly though, but they’re a good indicator of how you’re doing in battle.
The sound effects are also great and fit in perfectly. My favorite being the dogs. I made sure to greet them every day.
Gameplay + Controls:
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is part farming simulator and part side-scrolling action platforming. Like I already mentioned, the game switches from 3D to 2D for each of these sections. They don’t feel separate though. The rice farming is necessary to level up Sakuna’s abilities, since she is a goddess of harvest, after all. But she’s also the daughter of the god of war, so she has to battle enemies to protect the humans while finding necessary materials and ingredients to keep everyone alive.
I was surprised how quickly I grasped the controls in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. The prologue includes a tutorial which gives you the basics of jumping, attacking, and using Sakuna’s raiment for grappling. I thought the latter would cause me some trouble, but after a few tries I got it down and actually enjoyed using it in battle. It’s a great way to get out of a tight spot! You unlock more abilities and combo moves as you progress and it did take a bit of practice to get the hang of all of them.
Rice farming is hard work! This part of the game is super detailed. You do everything from planting each seed all the way to hulling the yield. And it’s not just click and done. You direct Sakuna for each step. She places each seed. She plucks each weed and pest. She controls the water level. She harvests each stalk and hangs bunches to dry. There’s even a kind of “rhythm” type aspect when you go to thresh and hull the rice. It’s well done. I was sure it would get tedious later on, but it doesn’t. There is the option to make one of the others do the work, with lesser results. You also gain new skills as you level up to make the process go smoother.
There’s a big exploration aspect to Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. In fact, Sakuna has an Exploration Level that increases as you complete exploration quests, and certain areas do require a high enough EL to unlock. You have an overworld map that shows all of the locations available to you. Each location lists its objectives, the level of the enemies within, and the types of collectibles you’ll find there. That latter feature is very important, as you will need specific materials to progress the story and upgrade weapons.
The levels get more complex as you go along, although the general objectives stay the same. You’ll have to clear out all of the demons and locate the special collectibles. You may also have more specific objectives for a location if it has some unique feature. These levels aren’t just one-and-done either. You’ll have to return several times, if not for an objective, but if you need a certain material, or if you didn’t have the right skill to access all of the areas.
My only gameplay complaint is the final boss battle. It was…underwhelming. He definitely causes high damage and his attacks are hard to avoid as to be expecting. But the way you fight him just wasn’t fun. I ultimately just resorted to button mashing, as that seemed to work just as well as thought out attacks.
My playthrough was mostly glitch free. The only two that I encountered weren’t game breaking. One only happened once, when Sakuna got flung into a wall. Literally, into the wall. She was stuck in there and just kept getting hit until I managed to fly her out. The second glitch happened more often, where she’d get stuck on the edge of a cliff in a running motion. I just had to let the loop run itself out in a couple seconds then keep going.
The individual levels in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin are definitely replayable as the resources to be found are randomized, and as I said before, you may need a future skill or weapon to complete everything. But as a whole, I don’t know if I’d start the game completely over from the beginning. It’s a long-ish game which took me about 29 hours to complete.
I’d most likely just load up my save file and continue playing from before the boss battle (you can’t continue playing once you enter the final location). That way I can complete quests that I hadn’t gotten to and maybe complete some more upgrades to see how that changes the final battle.
I absolutely loved it though, so it might be a journey I want to go on again now that I know what the heck I’m up against!
I was beyond impressed with Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. It was my first foray into a more Action RPG, and I loved it. It’s not too heavy on the combat, which is something I’ve struggled with in other games. The difficulty increases at a good pace, so it never felt overwhelming. I felt like I had a good handle on my current skills before new ones were introduced.
It also helped that half the game is also a farming simulator which is a favorite of mine. It’s a great balance between relaxing field work and more exciting exploration and battle. There’s always something to do and there’s no time limit (except for the rice, since that runs on a seasonal schedule), so you’re free to take your time.
And the characters are absolutely lovable. I already missed them once the final cut-scene was over!
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