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Sand Land Review

Sand Land

Developer: ILCA
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox Series X/S (Reviewed)
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here $99.95 AUD – Available Here


While many know of the great late Akira Toriyama for his Dragon Ball franchise, the legendary mangaka and designer had contributed to countless games and properties throughout the years, ranging from classics like Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest to some under-appreciated gems like Blue Dragon. As such, when it was revealed that a one volume manga he wrote back in 2000 would be given both a film, net animation, and a game, it seemed like a great way to continue to celebrate his past works. Sadly, despite being announced and nearly finished, Toriyama’s sudden passing on March 1st leaves Sand Land as one of the last projects the legend had worked on. This places a lot of weight on the shoulders of a cross-media game built around a single volume manga, but does Sand Land manage to deliver?


After humanity’s latest war, the land has found itself devastated to the point of no return. In fact, the people have come to call it Sand Land where water is scarce and the small clusters of humanity must continue to pay tribute to the Royal Army. In an effort to put a stop to the water shortage, a human army veteran turned sheriff by the name of Rao seeks help from the unlikeliest of places, the “horrible” fiends. Considering their mostly secluded nature, the fiends are anything but as prince Beelzebub sees this as a perfect chance for adventure, plus the reward of a classic gaming console only helps to sweeten the deal. Beelzebub drags along one of his fellow fiends by the name of Thief to begin adventuring for the Legendary Spring in a story that tells not only the entirety of what was provided in the original source material but expands upon said material and goes even further beyond it.

As mentioned before, Sand Land was only fourteen chapters that were compiled into a larger than average volume originally but this was back in 2000. With Toriyama’s direct input and assistance, the story of the original volume has been expanded upon throughout the initial narrative, including a brand new main character to accompany Beelzebub, as well as additional characters and encounters for the Prince of Fiends. As such, even those familiar with the original material will find plenty to enjoy here, especially in the latter half of the story where the story progresses entirely past the manga to the point that the group ends up in the unknown “Forest Land.”

That being said, this is far from a dire and serious journey despite the high stakes involved. This means that those looking for drama and unexpected twists will be left a bit wanting by a fairly straightforward story. That being said, Sand Land‘s expanded tale is one that may not be ground-breaking but is still rather enjoyable thanks in part to the characters themselves, who do get some solid backstory and development, and how much effort has gone into world-building. As players travel through the world on their various vehicles Beelzebub and his companions will talk with one another, make various remarks during missions, and more. It also helps that the game features an extra bonus for completing side-quests that most open world style games don’t. 

As players complete side-quests, often with fully realized characters giving the quests out even if the quests themselves are mundane, the rewards are often threefold. Players receive the general reward and some extra story content but they will likely also see the home base of Spino be developed as well. Spino, when players arrive, is basically a skeleton of a town but the more active the player is with taking on side-content they can see it flourish, something that is a nice touch for an RPG such as this that continues to emphasize just how much effort the team went into developing the world of Sand Land alongside its well-written characters.


Sand Land is a bit of a unique blend of an action RPG as players will spend most of their time traveling around the open world inside of one of many different types of vehicles they will eventually obtain. Generally this will be the faithful highly customizable tank that can deal out as much damage as it can take, the speedy motorbike, or even machines with more specialized uses such as those used to move heavy items or reach high locations. Players will carry around, and can swap quickly, between up to five vehicles at a time through a very familiar capsule system. There are of course times where players will see Beelzebub and the group traveling around on foot or even fighting, but in these moments players will actually only be in control of Beelzebub, with his allies, Rao and Thief, only jumping in with assists once certain skills have been unlocked. 

The primary tank offers both its main damage dealing cannon that players can use to take out enemy tanks, target boss weak points, or decimate smaller targets, as well as a secondary weapon that usually is used to dispatch smaller threats. Of course, the biggest part of the tank comes with the customization element. Players can find and even refine extra parts and weaponry for their tank to make it deal extra damage, move a bit quicker, take more damage etc.  This level of customization is quite in-depth with different weapons having varying stats that  players can fiddle with to their heart’s content. That being said, those worried that the game may be too difficult won’t have to worry here, even on Hard most encounters even with bosses were simple to take on as long as players are prepared, though those looking to coast by can easily do so on Normal.

Beyond the tank the other vehicles like the motorbike, dirt buggy, and others have a variety of different weapon types of their own. This allows for plenty of ways to tackle nearly every situation though nothing says power like a tank shell. Of course, there are also moments where players must take part in various platforming sections using the Jump-Bot and these are rather mundane but compared to that, a late-game and incredibly powerful bot that we won’t spoil here makes players feel like a real powerhouse, even compared to the tank itself.

Now, as mentioned before, there are times that Beelzebub will take fights head-on with his fists and these are far more simplistic. There is a lock-on and dodging system as well as light and heavy attacks to deal out damage to foes including “Dark” skills to eliminate threats that require meter to use. Some attacks from enemies cannot be blocked and players will need to dodge out of the way but thanks to a fairly floaty combat system, players will find this quite awkward at times. It also must be said that the game makes use of strange stealth sections that feel like the development team was “checking boxes” in a development list. These sections have either Thief or Beelzebub sneaking around and instantly failing should they be caught even though Beelzebub can “scare” enemy soldiers with stealth takedowns and it is shown through the story that standard bullets barely bruise Beelzebub so why these are included at all feels a bit strange.

As mentioned before, the side-quests that are on offer throughout Sand Land may not be the most unique at times, but they are well designed. Watching the town of Spino grow and offer new options for players, including a little house that they can decorate, is a nice little optional activity and reward beyond simply offering extra loot and experience points. It is also nice to note that while traveling through the game with vehicles, especially the speedier motorbike, is the primary way to travel players do eventually unlock the option to fast travel between towns and various water outposts that they have unlocked, making progression to and from areas they’ve been to before far quicker and reducing backtracking.

Audio & Visuals

Sand Land is just oozing with Akira Toriyama’s signature art style and it does a wonderful job making the characters and vehicles look memorable here. Every primary character, including the new ones only in the game, have that signature touch and it makes the experience all the better for it, especially in regards to the designs of the Fiends. Obviously a desert setting isn’t’ the most striking around but the development team did a solid job here, especially in the latter half of the game. It also helps that throughout our time with the game we never encountered any form of slowdown and load times during cutscenes and fast travel were instant.

The voice work throughout the game is handled well, though sometimes it doesn’t seem as if the English voice actor is quite matching just how eccentric some of the character motions can be during some of the more comedic scenes. That being said, it appears that all of the English voice actors, as well as the Japanese voice actors, have returned to reprise their role for the game from the recently released film and net animation. As for the soundtrack, Sand Land features a fairly solid collection of background music that is fitting with the setting but doesn’t feature any standout track.


Sand Land makes for a solid game that offers players plenty to do without ever really feeling overwhelming. Its straightforward story has moments of greatness and this is helped by the fact that the characters are handled so well and it is all wrapped up in Akira Toriyama’s signature stylings. Combine this with some wonderful tank combat that is limited by its melee mechanics and unnecessary stealth sections and Sand Land may feel like a mixed bag at times but comes together to be a little gem of an action RPG, and one that fans of Akira Toryiama will certainly adore.

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.


Sand Land’s great tank combat combined with a solid storyline wrapped up in Akira Toriyama's stylings make this a little gem of an action RPG despite a few faults here and there.
Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.
<i>Sand Land</i>’s great tank combat combined with a solid storyline wrapped up in Akira Toriyama's stylings make this a little gem of an action RPG despite a few faults here and there.Sand Land Review