Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin Review (Switch)

Sakuna of Rice and Ruin

It’s not unusual in the video gaming scene to see some unique hybrid projects like puzzle & strategy games, or musical story games, and today’s game Sakuna of Rice and Ruin offers us a similar bizarre blend of fast-paced 2D combat and farming simulation with a focus on the agriculture and harvest of a single crop, Rice .

Sakuna tries to find a gentle balance between both extremes, and although it’s hard, developer Edelweiss succeeds in making it work surprisingly well. The game is really creative and full of interesting ideas, in addition to being one of the most refined stand alone experiences in visual quality to date, which is somewhat huge considering the studio is made up of just a couple of people.

Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin is now available on PS4, Nintendo Switch (Tested) and PC.

Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin Review


Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin

In Sakuna of Rice and Ruin, players take the role of Sakuna, a cute Japanese goddess who is banished from her own capital in the sky to the demon island, where she will not only be tasked with investigating the origins of the horde of demons that plague the island, but she will also learn how to co-exist with the seemingly lost human beings, who wandered into the realm of the gods without prior invitation.

In order to achieve her goals, Sakuna will have to give up her divine perks and show off her skillful moves and fighting prowess while exploring the island, all happening in conjunction with learning the correct rice harvesting methods as the seasons progress in a recurring manner similar to some other simulation titles from the same publisher -Marvelous Entertainment- such as Rune Factory and Harvest Moon.

What caught our eyes the most at the beginning of our experience with Sakuna of Rice and Ruin was the exciting 2D fighting style close in concept to Vanillaware’s Muramasa Rebirth. Our heroine is able to use multiple fast and powerful attacks to slice and dice at enemies, and at the same time manipulate them, by making them collide with each other during every regular strike, which was much appreciated as it allowed us to clear the area around us while doing damage to enemies along the way in a fluid non-stopping flow.

However, the stream of our strikes and skills is limited by the energy gauge that recharges over time, meaning you will not be able to exert your full catalogue of godly techniques each time you visit the mortal world and encounter enemy hordes. As you explore more areas on the island, you will get to learn more energy consuming skills which will force your hand to be more moderate in your consumption. The game is also lacking a dedicated button to dodging or defending against successive enemy strikes, so how can one expect Sakuna to survive all these hordes scattered all over the screen?

The Divine Raiment

Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin

The solution to this dilemma comes in the form of Sakuna’s Divine Raiment, a magical veil with its own unique set of abilities, such as allowing you to draw yourself towards various on-screen elements such as walls, ceilings or even nearby enemies, and there is always a brief instance of invulnerability every time you use the scarf which makes it a great way to dodge any powerful attacks and strike back at your foes.

Using the raiment efficiently depends on having things around you to interact with during combat, so while its tempting to start clearing enemies off the screen like any other hack’n slash game, its much better to keep some of them in shape to make use of the raiment and dictate your battles with greater freedom and impact.

Mastering the use of your magical clothes, along with the different skills you unlock overtime will be the perfect way your preserving your energy and survive most of the skirmishes along your way. Set pieces and enemy variety also invites you to think and combine a lot of you available skills in quick and amazing ways, and you will quickly discover that repeated button mashing will not help you on the long run, instead it may put you in much more difficult situations which is something you don’t really need to bother with.

The Demon Island

Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin

Unlike other Vanillaware games (Muramasa – Odin Sphere), in which levels are presented in an interconnect fashion with increasing width, the levels in Sakuna of Rice and Ruin are divided into smaller linear areas, each with its own set of objectives such as collecting resources or defeating a certain number of enemies of the same type.

The more you complete specified objective in a certain area, the greater is the chance to discover new areas on the island, and gain a greater amount of unique materials that you will need to craft new weapons and armor for your goddess. That means it will not be uncommon for you to revisit the same area again in order to harvest the required number of the materials you need.

Boss battles are also often included as an essential part of the exploration journey, but because of them -along with some other factors- you won’t be able to explore these areas forever, and this is due to the day-night cycle that makes the enemies you face more powerful in the evening, while wrapping some areas in complete darkness. And if all that doesn’t stop you from moving forward, your stomach will do the job.

Feeling hungry on a mission means that you won’t be able to automatically recover your health when you exit a fight, which is crucial if you want to continue exploring the rest of the island, and sadly you can’t take food with you while you are exploring, which means you will need to go home and eat dinner to satiate your hunger.

You needn’t be obsessed with roaming the island too much though, as defeating enemy crowds has nothing to how much time you spend in a mission or how many monsters you defeat. Instead, Sakuna’s combat states are directly related to the mechanics of rice cultivation, which is the other major section of our experience with Sakuna of Rice and Ruin.

The daily chores of a goddess

Games like Stardew Valley has created a systematic approach to farming which made it in our eyes slightly easy and repetitive, however here in Sakuna the gameplay makes you noticeably more involved in the process of farming, which consists of a variety of things you will have to keep in mind at all times.

When plowing the soil you will have to make sure that it is mushy enough for planting, after that you should leave enough space between rows of seeds to encourage optimum growth, and when watering crops you will have to adjust the the water level to just above ankle height. All these details and more distinguish the farming gameplay of this game from other similar games.

Improving crops over time allows you to developer Sakuna’s Raiment and Stats, and make her more powerful in combat, but in order to do that you must participate in the farming process for a whole year’s worth of in-game time, which consists of three days of each of the four seasons. The length of time might not seem long, but it is enough to make you frustrated especially if you are new to this type of games.

The game goes into additional details about the farming process over time, and you’ll spend the first roughly two years of the game unlocking more useful features that could have been there from the start, like measuring the quality of your plowing or having access to a visible grid to show the perfect distance between rows of crops. Better ways to check crop status and an extensive summary of all the information you have acquired over the year’s period will also be made available later in game.

The game passionately reflects many real-life considerations of rice farming (especially in rural japan) in its gameplay, and we were very surprised by the profound mechanics and the amount of love and attention that went into portraying these daily chores in a detailed and fun way for the players to enjoy and learn from as well. In this game its not just enough to participate in the farming activity, but you inevitably will need to acquire a farmer’s mindset as well.

Patience is the first virtue you will need to embody if you want to keep up with the game, and the second is decision making, as cultivating rice is directly related to which dinner plates you will be having with the human family, and the bonuses that will be carried when you are exploring the next day. Dinner time with the family is also a precious addition to the overall intimate experience because it can bestow us with astonishingly deep stories and interesting facts about farming and Japanese folklore in general.

Additional facilities and residents will gradually fill the base of operations, giving you new weapons, armor, and additional means to strengthen the heroine, as well as the emergence of a training area to improve Sakuna’s combat skills. Tthe player will also be able to send people to gathering points to automatically gather more resources on the side without having to collect them manually.

Sakuna of Rice and Ruin: A Cultural Heritage

Culture

Sakuna of Rice and Ruin is a piece of modern art with great cultural value. The game excels at keeping the player entertained and engaged, yet every aspect of it is not aimed solely at having fun, but rather communicating the Japanese cultural view of the world, from how we see deities and godly figures, to the respect we must have for the basic elements that support us in all aspects of our lives.

The game truly exceeds the traditional expectations of video games to offer something greater and more valuable than the usual consumer product. The concepts and how they are presented entranced us from the first moment, from the beautiful graphics, to the artistic character designs and the lightening effects. The game also achieves 60 FPS during exploration and 30 FPS in HUB areas, which is great but it’s always taking a toll on the switch’s battery consumption.

Our ears were also bewitched with the beautiful soundtracks inspired from classic Japanese musical instruments such as the shamisen and bamboo flutes, sometimes mixed with the sensibilities of modern Jpop songs. The voice acting (weather English or Japanese) is not also half bad, and everything was atmospheric enough to make us fully immersed in whatever this game is trying to do for like 30 hours without getting bored or tired.

Finale

Finale
90 100 0 1
The two-man developer Edelweiss took his time polishing the game and shaping it into one of the best and most iconic indie games of our modern times. Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin features one of the best graphical settings and art styles on the scene, in addition to its fast and addictive gameplay full of depth and emotion.
The two-man developer Edelweiss took his time polishing the game and shaping it into one of the best and most iconic indie games of our modern times. Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin features one of the best graphical settings and art styles on the scene, in addition to its fast and addictive gameplay full of depth and emotion.
90/100
Total Score

The Good

  • Beautiful Soundtracks and Stunning Environments
  • An effective fusion of all present gameplay elements
  • Some revolutionary ideas in the farming sections with rare depth

The Bad

  • Some management elements should have been present from the start
  • Low frame rate in HUB sections compared to exploration areas
  • The short daily life cycle makes the game unsuitable for beginners in management and simulation games
Total
17
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