SAND LAND Hands-on Impressions

SAND LAND Hands-on Impressions

By  Dan Matthews - 29th Apr 2024

Pssst… wanna join the Fiend Prince’s crew?

SAND LAND Hands-on Impressions

If you've been looking forward to trying out SAND LAND — Bandai Namco's latest dive into anime titles — but you aren't too sure about it, let me tell you about my experience with the game. 

First and foremost, I'd like to leave a quick mention here that I don't read manga; in fact, I don't actually play that many Bandai Namco titles due to the prominence of anime in them. It's not that I dislike it — I just don't recognise the franchises, and I always assumed a lot of the charm would be lost because of that. If you're on the same boat, I'm here to tell you that I didn't feel like I needed to know any of the characters or setting; the game does a good job at explaining the backstory of what's happening, and although there were some times where it felt like I was an outsider looking into a well-met group of friends, it didn't deter from my experience.

A Surprisingly Wholesome Adventure

A Surprisingly Wholesome Adventure

The entire premise and story is that the Fiend Prince Beelzebub sets off on an adventure with one of his closest friends (servants?), Thief, and a sheriff named Rao. Their goal is to try to find the Legendary Spring—which, when I read the Steam page, I mistook for a mechanical part—because the world is struggling due to the severe lack of water. Interestingly, the narrative is nigh post-apocalyptic, as this is all the result of—you guessed it—human stupidity. 

While the premise might be a bit darker than I expected, the game is otherwise very lighthearted—from the dialogue to the situations, SAND LAND makes an effort to make every moment comical and damn near wholesome a lot of the time. The interactions between the characters are pleasant despite humans having a deep dislike for demons, and this extends to the gameplay, too. As an example of the latter, the combat sound effects are cartoonish with exaggerated punching sounds, and many of the abilities you can get for your teammates have a touch of comedy to them. A good example of this is Thief, who can scout for treasure or collect materials around you with ease, but every time he does, he shoots a comedic remark. 

As for the dialogue, I very much enjoyed how wholesome most situations were. Beelzebub and his crew interact in ways that remind me that he's just a kid, a very interesting way to keep on my mind just how powerful he really is. Him being bribed with videogames, getting nagged for not learning from his studies, and having a snarky kid attitude brought a lot of charm to my experience with the title! I always waited for the next quip between the characters.

On to the Next Adventure!

The world of Sand Land is chock-full of things to explore, too, from caves that'll net you tons of useful materials to side quests and even bounty hunts. I spent 12 hours just within the starting area, and that's considering I was doing my best not to get too sidetracked because I wanted to have most, if not all, the vehicles first. 

I'm not too sure what most gamers who hate fetch quests dislike about them, but I didn't particularly feel I was being sent back and forth needlessly too often. This did happen occasionally, but for the most part, I was heading to places to make some good progress, such as getting a new vehicle or helping expand the town of Spingo, which is slowly falling apart. This rebel base is on its last legs when Beelzebub and his crew arrive, and you can help some NPCs around the world to help bring it back to life!

In my experience—though this might be because I take my sweet time with games and avoid fast travel—SAND LAND felt a bit of a slow burn at times. I think this is good! I got to enjoy everything at a pace that didn't feel rushed, and it made the characters' bonds feel more realistic than in some games, where it feels like their friendship expand from night to day.

“Hey, Old Man…”

“Hey, Old Man…”

Despite how much I genuinely enjoyed my time with this lighthearted adventure, there is one thing that did stand out —the dialogue repeats a lot. Personally, I don't really mind it, especially because SAND LAND isn't a role-playing title that requires a certain degree of dissociative immersion, but it's definitely a problem. This repetition doesn't just happen with random conversations but also within abilities; it feels like each one only has one line that was recorded, and they just repeat that forever, even in the jumps! Thankfully, it’s nothing that the developer can’t correct.

On the other hand, one of my absolute favourite features was the vehicles. While I don't usually care for that in games, Bandai Namco and ILCA, Inc. did a phenomenal job at making it smooth and fun! Each machine feels different and brings with it more purpose than just aesthetics, as you need their separate abilities to uncover areas of the world. As an example, the Jump-bot, as the name suggests, can help you reach areas previously locked by height! This made me even more excited to unlock the next one to see what else I'd be able to do. 

And last but absolutely not least, I want to mention the breathtaking graphics! The cool manga-esque art style really brought the game to life for me, especially as a big fan of visuals. The character and vehicle models were specifically very easy on the eyes, with the cartoon-like charm that I enjoy so much from the entirety of the game.

If you like comedy, tons of explosions, and are looking for a great casual title to jump into, SAND LAND is a fantastic option.

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