Set up in a life of luxury and not a care in the world, the pampered goddess Sakuna soon finds herself on the complete other end. Having allowed mortals into the heavenly realm because all she wanted to do was to return to the banquet and drink, she soon finds herself exiled to clear out a land of demons after accidentally setting fire to the bounty that was to be presented to Lady Kamuhitsuki, the highest entity of the godly order residing in the heavenly realm.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a side scrolling action adventure with a side of farming simulation not unlike the Rune Factory series also published by XSEED Games and Marvelous. Starting off with nothing more than the mortals who got her banished in the first place, as a goddess, it’s up to Sakuna to get her hands dirty for the first time in her life and make sure they survive. With a house to stay in, a shed to store stuff, and a rice field to grow food, this zany adventure was off to a good start.
Now I don’t know if I would call Sakuna’s adventure a “feel good” story, but it was both amusing and brought a smile to my face plenty of times. For Sakuna, she wants anything more than to be here tilling fields, growing rice, watering rice, picking weeds out of said rice and hunting monsters for meat because everyone needs to eat something other than rice. Needless to say she hates it, at least at first. For the humans that found their way from the lower realm into the lofty realm though, it’s everything that they could have asked for and more as it was a literal difference of life and death.
What I found interesting about this group is that they made them look like a binary family in the beginning with a father, mother, two sons and a daughter. None, none of them are related and they just happened to cross that bridge at the same time. Fate is funny that way. Banding together with Sakuna for survival though, and:
- Tauemon will guide your rice production and teach you the nuances,
- Myrthe will help prepare meals and store other foods to not go bad over time,
- Kinta will be your smithy,
- Yui will be your seamstress, and
- Kaimaru will somehow contribute in their own way like finding cats, dogs and kappa to help everyone leave a bit at a time to also gather resources.
Finally over all the rest, Sakuna’s guardian spirit Tama will basically spend his time chastising or roasting her as she learns to finally be self-dependent.
Splitting time up into the four seasons, Sakuna will be splitting her days between caring for the field and heading into the island to explore its secrets and defeat the demons she was tasked with eliminating. Starting off in the spring, Sakanu will learn to till the fields before sowing the rice seeds. Moving into the summer and she’ll be pulling up weeds and grass to keep the rice field healthy for the crop that will be reaped in the autumn. Once reaped, the rice will have to be dried before being separated from its stalks. Once this is all done? There’ll be a choice to be made as to whether the rice stays brown or if you go through all of the effort of making it white like snow.
All of these above actions, and whether Sakuna herself takes care of them or if someone else is tasked with it that could lower the overall quality, are what act as the RPG like system to this quest of Rice and Ruin. The other half of the adventure has Sakuna heading out and battling demons as she platforms her way through the various areas on the island through both day and night. Equipped with a one-handed weapon, two-handed weapon and her mother’s magical raiment that allows her to use it in combat against enemies while also using it to attach to various surfaces and pull herself along, there’s not much that will get in her way other than the need for better gear and better base stats that come along for the ride as long as you properly tend to that rice field.
Sakuna’s adventure hits a sweet spot in the elements that make it up as you never have to do too much of one thing over the other. If you want to spend your time staring at the field for a day instead of exploring, do it. If you want to ignore that said field for a day and just go out and make it as far as possible before the sun goes down, you can do that too. Otherwise, stopping by from time to time once the rice is sowed to check on water levels, weeds, grass and fertilizer isn’t a bad habit as it keeps your crop healthy, which in turn, makes Sakuna more powerful.
In regards to the combat though, I haven’t had this much fun in a while and it honestly made me think a lot of Muramasa: The Demon’s Blade that I went through on both the Wii and the PS Vita when it had made its way over. It’s fast paced, versatile in its approach, and just because Sakuna can use single or two-handed weapons, it doesn’t mean that she has to choose. With square as one option and triangle as the other, combined with special moves and the raiment and the possibilities simply keep increasing according to your imagination. Does that mean that it’s easy? It doesn’t and you’ll know when it’s time to either get new gear or wait for a harvest.
Only adding to the potential challenge is that if you decide to go out at night, enemies have insane multipliers making them almost impossible in the beginning unless you’re “that good”. I was not and as such had to call exploring quits for a day once the sun went down until eventually getting better at the system, leveling up my special abilities, and getting better gear. This leads to probably the question of, do I need to? The answer is both no and yes at the same time.
Possibly my only issue with Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is that in order to continue on the story you almost have to be a completionist. To move forward, you have to complete exploration goals which add levels to your exploration meter. Defeat “x” boss, complete in under 120 seconds, gather “x” amount of spring water, find “x” item, etc. For the most part these can be easy enough as long as you’ve scoped out the level but where things start to get harder is when some of these have to be done at night and you’re nowhere near ready to tackle them as even a single hit will take Sakuna out. Otherwise, there are still some that I just don’t understand how to do yet but I’m sure I’ll figure it out at some point down the line as there are some challenges that will keep me going for quite a while yet.