Sand Land review for PlayStation, Xbox, PC

Platform: PS5
Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: ILCA
Medium: Disc/Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I typically pass over games that are adapted from anime or manga as the games tend to follow the same formulas and patterns of reliving key points of the series. Last summer as I attended Summer Game Fest I saw the Sand Land trailer for the first time and I was in. I did not know of the property previously, and when I looked into it, I saw that it was being adapted from a one-shot by Dragon Ball Z creator Akira Toriyama. Since his death in March of 2024, I’ve wanted to take in more of his content and his creations and I was very excited to jump into his sandbox. Much like other works from the iconic creator, this game is not just filled with themes of hope and determination, it’s a vibrant world that will captivate you. And even though this takes place in a desert setting, the world is vibrant and has that Toriyama charm.

The region of Sand Land has had its water supply simply vanish and water is being sold at outrageously high prices by the government of the land. This not only affects the humans of this world, but also its creatures. We are introduced to Fiend Prince ‘Beelzebub’, who is on a quest to steal water with his right-hand man, Thief. You run into a sheriff named Rao, a grizzled old vet who is on a quest to find a legendary spring that contains the only vast large water supply in all the land. You meet a young lady by the name of Ann, a mechanic who builds the vehicles you use for combat and traversing the desert.

The story is pretty fun and light-hearted at the start. This is one of the game’s biggest strengths. The vast array of characters that you are introduced to in this game. It hits those story beats that Toriyama is famous for, a wide variety of outrageous characters. I got a chuckle out of the villainous swimmer mercenary gang. The story as it progresses gets heavier and the tone goes from comedic to intense which surprised me. The whole back half of this game tugged on some heartstrings. If you are a fan of Toriyama’s storytelling, you will love this game.

The gameplay in Sand Land is not just straightforward and uncomplicated, it’s a unique blend of simplicity and innovation. Each task a character assigns leads to several points of interest, providing a diverse and engaging experience. However, one area where the game could improve is the variety of missions. Your home base of operations is Spino, a small, barren village that houses your crew. You can upgrade the town by completing side missions throughout the game. You get your room in Spino, which can be upgraded and decorated however you like.

One of the standout features of Sand Land is the vehicles you can build and create in Spino. These vehicles play a significant role in your journey through Sand Lands. Some of the sidequests are collect-a-thons. You find radio towers and collect resources to be used in Spino. You can collect bounties to earn some extra Zeni.

I love how Toriyama incorporates vehicles in his IPs. Sand Land is no different. Each car (about ten or so) you create helps you progress in certain aspects of the game. The combat in vehicles always feels smooth. Some control better than others, and sometimes you dread having to travel long distances to get places, and it could feel like a chore (thank you, fast travel.)

The enemy types in Sand Land are diverse, ranging from animals, such as scorpions, raptors, alligators, cobras, panthers, and pterosaurs, and every hoard of animals has a unique mini-boss you can fight. The human enemies are the more straightforward to take down, and tank battles are a highlight. Boss battles are not punishing and take up little time. The hand-to-hand combat is fundamental, and so is the vehicular combat. You can level in Sand Lands and learn new skills with each new level for Beebz, Rao, and Thief.

My chief complaint about Sand Land is how hollow the combat sometimes feels, as my brain was expecting more. I’m so used to games being so difficult or complicated these days, and I was surprised that the hardest difficulty wasn’t all that challenging.

The game is about 40 hours long if you want to fully complete the side quests. If you’re looking for a charming new action RPG to explore, I would recommend Sand Land — even with some of the game’s hollow aspects, there is much fun here. The Akira Toriyama story is worth the price of admission alone, and you won’t want to miss an opportunity to play in his sandbox.

Note: Bandai Namco provided us with a Sand Land code for review purposes.

Score: 9