Sand Land Review Video Game
(Photo Credit: Bandai Namco)

Sand Land Review: Video Game Celebrates Akira Toriyama’s Desert Creation

20 years ago, the Sand Land manga made its way stateside. I eagerly checked out the 14-chapter volume as it was written and illustrated by Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. While it was a quick read, I’ve never forgotten about the adventures of Beelzebub and his eccentric group of demons, who wind up on a quest to steal water from an oppressive regime in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. Now thanks to Bandai Namco and developer ILCA, I’m able to explore nooks and crannies of this world that I never could’ve imagined and actually interact with one of Toriyama’s coolest creations that had never really been further fleshed out before this new game and coinciding anime series.

What immediately stands out about the Sand Land video game is how great the presentation is. Cutscenes are plentiful and well animated, dialogue is fully voiced, and it plays out as a cinematic adventure full of character and life within the wasteland. There is such charm to every interaction that makes players want to continue on to see the next area, see every side quest out, and really soak in the experience. It’s a huge difference-maker and one that makes the game really special.

Players mainly control Beelzebub, the eager demon prince who is quick to use his fists in any situation but has a surprising soft spot for those in need. Melee combat is probably the roughest element of Sand Land, although it’s still quite fun. It just takes a bit to get used to as the camera can be a bit unwieldy (make sure to use the lock-on), and movement can be slow. However, once you start using evades and taking advantage of upgrades, which include boosting your allies to gain passive and active assists, it becomes quite satisfying.

Much more fun and unique is the vehicle combat. While you’ll start out controlling a tank, you’ll soon find yourself with a bevy of customizable vehicles ranging from quick yet fragile motorcycles to unique exosuits that can jump. Each vehicle has different strengths and weaknesses, so there’s a nice strategy element to combat, especially on the higher difficulty levels.

However, it’s not just about fighting in Sand Land. Getting to actually explore the world and the locations within is a real highlight, as there are radio towers, water supply points, and more to discover. Helping out NPCs can get them to move to your town, where they can provide services and open shops. There’s a great ecosystem of helping out others, which then helps you out as you unlock more useful items and materials. It’s a fun loop and one that keeps the player coming back to improve their party.

Whether you’re exploring the vast desert or mainlining the story, there will be a smile on your face while playing Sand Land. It’s an endlessly charming game, filled with sharp writing that is elevated even further by the strong voice acting. I found myself endlessly impressed by ILCA’s attention to detail, as I never felt my time was being wasted (an increasing rarity in modern games).

Sand Land Review: The Final Verdict

For Akira Toriyama fans, the Sand Land video game is a dream come true. It’s such a wonderful celebration of the legendary creator, breathing new life into a property that deserves it. With top-notch presentation and a wonderful knack for exploration, Sand Land is a great action RPG that is worth playing. Crafted with reverence and love for the source material, it sets a high bar for future manga adaptations.

SCORE: 8.5/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8.5 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.

Disclosure: The publisher provided a PlayStation 5 copy for our Sand Land review. Reviewed on version 1.003.000.

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