Sand Land – Xbox Series X Review

The nicest fiends you know!

  • System: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Series X/S
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.
  • Developer: ILCA, Inc.
  • Release Date: April 26, 2024

SAND LAND – Launch Trailer

Many of you may already know this title, whether from the manga or the recent anime adaptation. Regardless, its distinct character design is likely recognizable to most. Sand Land springs from the pages of the late Akira Toriyama’s work, and it caters to adventurers seeking an immersive dive into his imaginative universe, weaving a captivating tale complemented by engaging gameplay. Fans of the manga or anime will find themselves drawn into a familiar world brought to life in stunning detail, and enthusiasts of vehicular combat and RPG progression will discover a unique blend awaiting them. However, Sand Land adheres to a formula akin to other anime-themed titles, which has proven to be a hit-or-miss. While newcomers can certainly appreciate this charming adventure, it may not resonate with every gamer’s tastes.

You can definitely expect to journey through a visually diverse landscape, although predominantly a desert adventure characterized by tones of brown and orange. Gameplay-wise, Sand Land heavily revolves around open-world exploration and vehicular combat, with players navigating the treacherous terrain in mecha-like vehicles and engaging in battles against the local fauna (dinosaurs, giant scorpions, and more), the evil Royal military, and some insurgents who seem straight out of the movie Mad Max.

While the open world offers ample opportunities for exploration and side quests, some may find its vastness marred by repetitive tasks and uninspired activities. Nonetheless, Sand Land provides numerous customization options and secondary mechanics that will certainly add several extra hours of gameplay for the most invested players.

Sand Land’s visual aesthetic adeptly captures the essence of Toriyama’s iconic art style, bringing his vibrant characters and landscapes to life in a three-dimensional realm. While the desert vistas may lack visual diversity, the verdant forests and cascading waterfalls encountered midway through the main quest are mesmerizing, enticing players to explore every corner of this enchanting world. Personally, we love the vehicle design and how this desertic world feels very much alive, establishing Sand Land as one of the best-looking anime games of the year thus far.

In Sand Land, the auditory experience is a mixed bag, with its music and voice acting both contributing to the overall atmosphere, albeit with varying degrees of success. The game’s soundtrack, while not groundbreaking, effectively complements the gameplay and narrative, offering a blend of atmospheric tunes and energetic melodies that enhance the immersion of the desert world. However, it occasionally falls short in providing memorable tracks that truly stand out.

Notably, the English dub features talented voice actors reprising their roles from the animated version, which is always a plus in this kind of games. However, there are instances where performances feel somewhat forced or out of sync with the on-screen action. It’s essential to acknowledge that voice acting quality varies depending on the character and scene, with certain moments shining brightly amidst an otherwise uneven vocal landscape.

In Sand Land, the story centers on Beelzebub, the prince of the fiends, who joins forces with an unexpected human ally, Sheriff Rao. Their mission? To locate a legendary oasis capable of providing water to both fiends and humans. What’s intriguing is that Beelzebub and his companions aren’t your typical fiends—they prefer harmless activities such as playing video games and pulling pranks on humans rather than engaging in malevolent deeds! But securing water to their people is just the start, as they must also face the tyrannical King, who selfishly controls all water resources for himself and his army. To accomplish this, Beelzebub and his crew must navigate the desert landscape, overcoming various obstacles along the way. Fortunately, Beelzebub, Thief, and Rao have the advantage of technology, and the skills of Anne, a mysterious mechanic girl, to aid them on their quest!

Customizing and upgrading vehicles enables players to tailor their arsenal to suit their playstyle, so it’s a vital point of the game as each vehicle offers unique strengths and abilities, encouraging experimentation and strategic thinking in combat encounters. As players progress through the game, they unlock new vehicles and acquire rare vehicle parts from defeating enemy units, further enhancing their capabilities on the battlefield. For example, a fast motorbike is a must to traverse over quicksand, and the jumper mecha will allow you to access new, higher areas. Additionally, players can paint their vehicles and use decals to customize them to their liking. You can even name your vehicles!

While combat forms the backbone of Sand Land’s gameplay, this title also features an RPG progression system that rewards exploration and completion of side quests. Players can upgrade their vehicle parts, unlock new close-combat fighting abilities for Beelzebub and support perks for Rao and Thief, and recruit companions to aid them on their journey to rebuild the city of Spino, which serves as a central hub. There, players can interact with NPCs, purchase upgrades, use special coins found in ruins to buy stuff, and more.

Despite its strengths, Sand Land is not without its flaws. Some players may find the open-world segments repetitive, with a lack of variety in side quests and exploration activities. Additionally, the game’s narrative pacing may feel uneven at times, with occasional dips in momentum that detract from the overall experience. The worst aspect of Sand Land is, by far, the hand-holding and linear progression, despite its classification as an open-world game. Also, the saying “jack of all trades, master of none” perfectly applies to this title, as there are mechanics that will surely add several hours to the game’s lifespan but may seem out of place, like grinding for resources to craft items to decorate Beelzebub’s room. All in all, despite the sometimes intrusive cutscenes and repetitive elements, Sand Land is a fun adventure that fans of the franchise will surely enjoy!

Sand Land offers a captivating journey through a world steeped in lore and legend, inviting players to an adventure unlike any other. While it falls short in certain aspects of its execution, its heartfelt storytelling and engaging gameplay make it a worthy addition to any JRPG enthusiast’s collection. Furthermore, it stands as a testament to Akira Toriyama’s enduring legacy!

If you’re a fan of Sand Land’s manga and anime, you should give this video game adaptation a try ASAP. Just make sure you’re not playing Sand Land’s demo, as it doesn’t do justice to the complete version.