Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a mixture of a side-scrolling platform adventure game and a farming simulator all rolled into one. You take on the persona of Sakuna, who appears to be a child-like harvest goddess who is spoiled rotten and seems to have zero compassion for others, whether they are fellow gods or we lowly humans. Through her own arrogance and serious personality disorder, she allows some humans to stroll into her realm and that really cheeses off the head honcho lady. As we know from having jobs and going to school, it’s not a good idea to make anyone who lords over you angry. It was inevitable, however, and the powerful Lady Kamuhitsuki banished our irritating little alcoholic child goddess to the island of Hinoe to conquer this Isle of Demons.
Demons may be a little strong to start with. Basically, you fight against some ninja rabbits and overworked boars. No matter, you are charged with growing rice and hunting for food. Basically, you eat the ninja rabbits, which is all well and good. But here’s the thing, you also need to prepare all these items or they spoil overnight. I don’t think they are literal 24 hour days though because food typically doesn’t go from fresh to rotten in one night, but it does on Hinoe, so you just have to deal with it. It’s fine though because you can process or cook each item into another ingredient that doesn’t spoil. So far, we have a side-scrolling platform adventure, farming simulator, and a bit of survival craft thrown in for fun.
One thing that will help you greatly on your journey to get back to Sakuna’s home, Mihashira Capital and the immortal Lofty Realm, is patience. I really didn’t know how I’d feel about the rather mundaneness of the early stages of the game. You walk backward and plant each single plant of rice. You get graded on how well you planted. Then you have to make sure you have enough water in the rice plot and not too much. You need to tend to the crops as often as you can to pull weeds, pick up critters, and basically learn how to farm rice. The biggest human (or one of the children of men) is much like many of the younger generation of gamers in that they are more spectators than players. Watching endless hours of YouTubers playing games that they could be playing for themselves, but I digress. Tauemon is not good at doing, but rather more than ample at telling you how to do it. Sound like anyone you know? They say, “Those who can’t do; teach.” He can’t do, so he teaches. Eventually, he is much more helpful.
Each night after you tend to the farm and go off adventuring and hunting wabbits, everyone in your little village, or camp actually, gathers together for a meal. Most of the story is told during these meals and can be quite entertaining. You get to select the menu for the meals. The cool part is that what you choose to feed your sons of men also boosts certain aspects of your fighting style, healing ability, and other traits that can be built up over time. So now we’ve entered into the realm of the RPG. Really, this is a game that has a little something for everyone, but not an overabundance of one thing for certain gamers. I feel this can be as much an asset as it could be considered a drawback. Personally, I enjoyed the varied game play and I really enjoyed the character development as you go along through the story.
The platform aspect of the game is adventuring and exploring the areas of the island. You will meet many different types of foes, not just ninja rabbits. You will have bosses that fill the screen and give you the impression that you are in for the fight of your life. Sometimes you are, and other times it can be a fairly easy boss fight. Each of these areas does require you to explore every nook and cranny you think you can get to. The game amps up the difficulty nicely as you go along. There aren’t any of these moments where you’re thinking the game is just too easy and all of a sudden they drop a bomb on you and increase the difficulty to the point of frustration. No, they gradually destroy your will to go on at what I would consider to be a nice pace. However, that said, they do throw everything at you and suck away any feeling of power you have after the sun goes down. They really want you to go back home, eat your dinner, and move the story along.
The side-scrolling adventure areas have some really cool moves you can perform after learning them as you farm and create weapons from the items you find in each level. You can travel to any level you’d like, but you will want to explore some types more than others so that you can maybe obtain specific resources, such as clay and stone to make a new weapon. By new weapon, I actually mean farming implement because that’s typically what you fight with. Some great copper hoe or maybe a stone rake or whatever can really deal some damage. But the really sweet item that you have that becomes the most helpful is the raiment. This is kind of a scarf type thing that she uses that reminds me a lot of one of my favorite old games on the NES: Bionic Commando. Now, it’s not exactly the same as the bionic arm, but it’s like it enough for me to draw a comparison and give you an idea of what the “weapon” is like. It’s cool because you can attach it to enemies and then swing around them and attack from behind. This can be advantageous in a lot of situations and also very much necessary to get through most of the levels.
When I mentioned patience earlier, it really becomes useful when you are harvesting the rice. How much time you put into “hulling” the rice decides the quality of the harvest that you’re going to get. I don’t know anything about growing and harvesting rice in real life, but what the game says is that brown rice is white rice that hasn’t been hulled as much. I don’t know if that’s true, but you can google it if you’d like. I’d rather just play the game and not care so much about real life tie-ins.
The graphics and music are both extremely well done and will be pleasing to both your eyes and your ears. Her little animations, the voice acting, the songs the characters sing while you work, and many other little things come together to provide one satisfying and fun gaming experience.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin was announced, but I have to say that I’m happy with the finished product. This is going to sound odd coming from a reviewer, but I really don’t have much to complain about. Nothing went wrong as far as technical issues and the controls are spot on with combat being as seamless as the planting process. In fact, I’d say the only thing that got on my nerves at all was the frequency of some of the things Sakuna would utter during her fighting. I feel like if they toned that back, you would have a darn near perfect game that will entertain you for quite some time.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin Review
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
With a nice divided focus between action adventure platform levels and chill farming sequences, you have a great gaming experience that should satisfy your button mashing battle hardened side and fill your calm, peaceful farming simulation needs all in one game.
Jay has been an avid gamer since the Intellivision days. His hobbies include building PCs, 3D modeling and printing, and spending time with his children and dog.