Sakuna: of Rice and Ruin DEALS
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is one of those games with an inexplicable charm. It is not a question of simple sympathy or interest in absolute atmospheres – although they are undeniable contributing causes – but of a sibylline charisma, capable of getting under your skin and making you smile carefree for the whole adventure. Edelweiss’s game is similar to an ancient fairy tale out of time, a story with clear Japanese suggestions that bring to mind the Ghibli studio’s works.
Set in medieval Japan with blatantly fantastic connotations, the story comes to life in the gods’ world, loosely separated from humans. Princess Sakuna is a goddess with the features of a child who lives in luxury and comfort. The little girl, lazy and spoiled, does everything to be noticed by one of the most important divinities of the place, Lady Kamuhitsuki. However, the goddess’s life is destined to capitulate with the meeting of a family of humans, who have ended up in the ancestral world searching for food.
The pestiferous little protagonist, enraged by that unacceptable interference, ends up causing an unfortunate accident that destroys an entire cargo of food. For her sloth and villainy, Sakuna incurs an exemplary punishment and is banished from the kingdom by Kamuhitsuki, the divinity who wanted to ingratiate himself. The exile will take place at Hinoe, known as The Island of the Demons, and Sakuna will have the ungrateful responsibility to cleanse her of the evil that devastates her.
In her forced exile, escorting the protagonist is the inseparable and wise advisor Tama, a familiar with vaguely canine features, capable of transforming itself into a powerful weapon. Sakuna, then, together with the delightful little family who helped put her in that mess, begins a new life, where the sowing of rice will be the starting point for her initiation.
Sakuna: of Rice and Ruin is presented as a two-dimensional action, which owes a lot to Muramasa: The Demon Blade by Vanillaware, both as a game setting for the environments. The protagonist, armed with the “tools of the trade” (the peasant woman), hits the enemies with quick and heavy blows, changing the moves using the arrow keys. Therefore, we can hit enemies by ringing many combos, which are added the powers, to be developed and equipped in the appropriate screen.
The use of a sacred scarf represents another crucial element, an artifact to be used both as a grappling hook and to grab enemies and quickly move behind them. The combat system is always hectic and fun, even if the difficulty only worsens on certain occasions, making the action flow a bit fluctuating. This does not limit the clashes’ ambitions, which always remain at a sustained pace and, above all, are very gratifying.
If the game exudes so much warmth and charm, it is also thanks to its graphics. The artistic direction’s simple traits, the effects that cloak all the landscapes, as if they were set in a blanket of smoke, give back the feeling of really being in a suspended and dreamlike world. The soft colors, paired with the always spot on and never intrusive music, create a perfect atmosphere. In the long run, we suffer from a certain lack of variety. On the other hand, we always speak of a small development team that had to set up everything; nevertheless, the final result is valuable.
The dualism between rice cultivation and fighting, which results in the protagonist’s gradual growth, may seem like an easy-to-read metaphor, yet it works very well. As the rice quality increases, Sakuna’s various statistics also grow, with the weapons’ consequent upgrading in his possession. The distribution of the sub-quests is too tied to the accumulation of objects, and the pace of the game suffers a notable collapse in the central part of the adventure. This, however, does not compromise the overall quality of the game, which remains a unique, sunny, and exciting experience.
Sakuna: of Rice and Ruin is a delicious game, a small production that exudes care and passion from all pores, and that manages to instill in the gamer a soothing sense of stillness. The narrative, which draws on classic Japanese folklore, has those simple but winning characteristics typical of the coming-of-age story. A pure, cheerful, and touching fairytale, capable of keeping you attached to the screen until the (splendid!) Conclusion.
Unfortunately, some ingenuity in the missions’ management makes the second half of the game a bit redundant. It would have been perfect to “dry” the continuous backtracking, enriching the central part with some new clashes. However, Sakuna: of Rice and Ruin knows how to make herself loved, with well-implemented gameplay elements and a wonderfully plump art direction.
Sakuna: of Rice and Ruin
It is a delightful action/management hybrid, ideal for lovers of Japanese atmospheres and those who appreciate the two genres that characterize it.