Sand Land Review

Belz’s Fury Road

Akira Toriyama’s work is influential in all types of media. Many of us know his work in Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest, but early in the year 2000 he released a fairly unknown manga that is now gaining popularity twenty-four years later. With a feature film, an anime, and now a video game, Sand Land offers fans of Toriyama’s work a new world to explore. With its Mad Max-esque style, crazy characters, and battle between angels and demons, Sand Land walks familiar territory, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Water is one of the most important resources in the world, and the game puts players in a world where there is very little of it. Demons and humans are forced to coexist in Sand Land, where dunes stretch for miles, and where many towns have scant resources to survive. One evening two soldiers are carrying water to a camp and are attacked by Beelzebub, the Demon Prince and son of Lucifer. Having stolen the water and returned it to the Demon Village, they meet Sheriff Rao, who saw Beelzebub steal the water. Sheriff Rao explains to Beelzebub and Lucifer that there is a legendary spring that boasts clean water that could save all of Sand Land. With Lucifer’s permission, Beelzebub; his partner-in-crime, Thief; and Sheriff Rao embark on a journey to return water to Sand Land and beyond.

Sand Land‘s story treads familiar ground with a narrative that focuses on a quest for water and a battle between angels, humans, and demons. It’s a very plot-focused story that keeps the player engaged through the journey, even if its fun cast of characters may not have a lot of depth. There is a lot of humour and charm throughout the game, and Beelzebub truly steals the show with his antics and lack of patience for humans. The ensemble cast does a fantastic job of keeping the story moving, and at no point does the plot drag. The mustache-twirling villains are hilarious and strange, exactly what one would expect from one of Toriyama’s stories. While many of its plot twists are obvious and the story isn’t exactly mindblowing, it’s charming and entertaining which is a point in its favour.

Sheriff Rao, at your service.

It also helps that the game has a great localization and voice cast that brings the world of Sand Land to life. Despite a straightforward narrative, a lot of care and attention was put into the translation of the game and ensuring that the characters’ personalities all stand out in different ways. Beelzebub speaks in a very casual and upbeat tone, whereas Rao is very proper as befitting a police officer who served in the military. There is a surprising amount of laugh-out-loud moments, and the localization team has done a wonderful job of translating Toriyama’s characters and his world distinctively.

Developer ILCA has also done a phenomenal job of visually transforming Toriyama’s artwork, most noticeably in the character designs that sport his signature style. Characters are expressive and distinctive, which helps highlight the game’s storytelling. With the game having a large focus on vehicles, each of the thirteen vehicles has a unique design that can be further customized by the player once the paint shop is opened. From the little shark teeth on the tank to the hopper’s frog legs, vehicles visually stand out throughout the game. Even the open-world environments are nice to look at, always highlighting that there are interesting destinations to travel to.

Since Sand Land is an open-world RPG, there is a lot to explore, though players will be taken there by the plot anyway. Completing a side quest or a bounty provides the player with new vehicle parts, resources, or money, all of which are handy, it’s just a shame the content itself isn’t interesting in any way. Sand Land is a vast open area, so luckily there are a lot of fast travel points to reach along the way. Fast travel becomes very handy, as not all of the vehicles are made equally in terms of how they maneuver through the sand. One minor gripe with the vehicles comes in the form of the idle chit-chat amongst the party members, as there is a lot of repeated dialogue, and it becomes grating very quickly.

Tank! Tank! Tank!

Each map has a town hub where Beelzebub can forge resources into usable items to upgrade or craft new vehicles and parts. However, the UI for upgrading vehicles isn’t intuitive, getting further cluttered the higher level the vehicle gets, making it difficult to see how many of a specific item one needs. It also doesn’t help that the text is quite small and not always easy to read. Most of the UI in the game is fine, but the garage has some frustrations that hold it back.

There are two types of combat in Sand Land, and sadly, neither of them is great. First, there is the action combat with Beelzebub and his friends, which has them running about and pummeling enemies. Beelzebub can use skills on his action gauge that allow him to perform super moves, though trying to get them to connect with an enemy is a challenge and a half. He can also summon his allies for assistance, though it’s a struggle given many of the moves are not useful or the AI is being stupid, regardless of the commands the player gives them.

The second type of combat is vehicle-based, which has Beelzebub controlling different vehicles, each with its own pros and cons. It’s important to upgrade each vehicle as players obtain parts for them, but the overall movement on a lot of them can be quite challenging. The Motorbike is too fast and it’s easy to crash into everything on the map, while the Jump Bot is very slow and some of its weapons can be difficult to aim. The Hopper, Jump Bot, and Tank control like a shopping cart with a wobbly wheel, which definitely takes some getting used to. There are tons of parts to mix and match the player’s bots, which is great for those who love to tinker with stat boosts, but the downside is players will also be over-encumbered by tons of useless junk parts to wade through. While the vehicle combat is more interesting than its on-foot counterpart, it’s only marginally better, and it’s a huge component of the game. It’s fine, but there is definitely room for improvement.


The English voicework in Sand Land is delightful, particularly Risa Mei, who is the voice of Beelzebub. She does a fantastic job of providing boyish charm with a lot of snark that makes for tons of entertaining moments of dialogue. Jonathan Lipow does a wonderful job of portraying the stoic and militant Rao, and Owen Thomas brings the comedic awkwardness of Beelzebub’s friend, Thief. There are tons of great performances throughout Sand Land, and it sounds like many of the actors had a great time lending their voice talents to this crazy game. The soundtrack, while upbeat, doesn’t leave as lasting an impression compared to the game’s fantastic voice work.

Sand Land is not a particularly long game, as completing its main quest can easily be done in fifteen hours, though doing a lot of the side content will easily bump up one’s playtime. It’s also not a very difficult game either, as many of the boss battles have specific patterns that the player will need to follow and game over results in the player respawning at the last fast travel point they engaged with. Players can also adjust the difficulty in the options menu at any time, though even on normal, the game isn’t particularly challenging.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I booted up Sand Land, but I was surprised by my experience. While I had no familiarity with the property, I found myself loving the quirky characters, the charming narrative, and the wide world to explore. On the other hand, the combat and the game’s side content leave a lot to be desired. At no point is Sand Land a bad game, it’s a quick, charming romp full of humour, but definitely has room to improve should a sequel be made.

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'Good' -- 3.5/5
20-40 HOURS

Fantastic cast of characters

Delightful localization

Toriyama's world is beautiful translated

Repeated party chatter is grating

Some bots control like shopping carts

Combat is lackluster

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