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access_time June 26, 2019 at 8:00 AM in Nintendo by David Poole

E3 2019 Preview | Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

We covered a lot of XSEED Games titles this past E3, but there was one more title that we had yet to discuss. Edelweiss, a two-man group of indie developers known for Astebreed, has been working on a little project for a while now. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin brings side-scrolling action to a colorful world with a charming aesthetic. Add in farming and crafting elements, and you have an interesting indie title on the horizon. After playing the demo, we came away with our interests piqued.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin stars a harvest goddess, Sakuna, exiled to an island of misfits as she is placed their to learn a lesson. Think of the story of the first Thor movie, but with a Japanese farming angle. Only by helping the people on the island and by harvesting rice will she be worthy. While my demo didn’t consist of any story content, it does sound like a fun little tale. What my demo did focus on, however, was combat and gameplay.

I entered what seemed like a tutorial stage, giving me instructions on how to attack and move around. There are light and heavy attacks, each effected by whichever direction you’re pressing. Combos are easy enough to rack up, as attacks chain together well and pack a certain punch. Hitting enemies into others is also a useful mechanic, as it helps to distance yourself from them, and it treats them like projectiles. One more gameplay feature is the ability to use Sakuna’s scarf to essentially grapple to higher ground, or even to enemies.

Sakuna reminds me of classics like Okami and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, combining a beautiful Japanese art style with fast-paced combat. Considering its basically made by two people, it’s quite a feat. The controls are pretty tight and the game is surprisingly polished. It also has a bit of challenge to it too. As Sakuna travels through dangerous stages, she’ll come across new equipment and weapons. Changing it out in real time makes Sakuna’s appearance change as well, adding a personal touch for the player.

As I continued to fight through the stage, I finally reached the boss. Acting as my final obstacle, this large skeletal beast was very different from the demon rabbits and boars I fought earlier. It’s also here that the difficulty spiked, as the boss was quite a bit stronger. So much stronger that I was forced to use all my healing items. He would also summon other enemies to attack, which I would knock them into him to keep my distance. Even so, he was quite a threat, almost taking me out completely. Luckily, I prevailed, delivering the final blow and ending the demo.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin was a pleasant surprise, feeling like a fun indie title waiting to become a hit. Combat is fast and frenetic, and the visuals are gorgeous in motion. Quite honestly, these screenshots don’t quite do the game justice. My time with Sakuna was short, but it’s already a title on my radar. There’s currently no release date, but hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the game. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is set to release for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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