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  1. #1

    [NSW, PC, PS4] Sakuna: Of Rice And Ruin

    I finally get to start a thread about this.
    Sakuna: of Rice And Ruin is developed by doujin circle Edelweiss, so far best know for their shoot'em'up Astebreed, which was first published on PC and then found its way to various formats; before that I had them on my radar thanks to Ether Vapor, another shoot'em'up only available on PC through doujin sites.
    Sakuna is Edelweiss' biggest title yet, and a departure from known territory: instead of shooting things, Sakuna is a platformer beat'em'up with a dash of Metroidvania and an extensive rice-growing mechanic that puts the likes of Harvest Moon to shame. If you are familiar with the Rune Factory series, Sakuna is kinda like those games, however with a deeper combat system, more complex farming mechanics focused on just one plant (rice), and not romancing parts.

    Sakuna is a godess, but due to some antics, she finds herself along a small group of humans on the Isle Of Demons, tasked to pacify the place before beign able to return to her home in the Lofty Realms. The story is nothing peculiar, but does a good job in setting the stage; characters are likeable and interactions between them are believable. One thing about the translation: one of the humans is a foreign woman missionary; the Japanese voice indicates she's from England, while the English translation makes her sound from Germany. Of course I'm using real-world names for things the game calls in other ways (for example "Yanato", with an "n", instead of Yamato/Japan).

    Sakuna is split into two parts: cultivating rice, and exploring the Isle Of Demons. Both portions are strictly intertwined and I was surprised how the game manages things.
    Not only there's a day-night cycle, but there's a season circle, with changing lenght of daylight, sun position, and of course scenery. I'm mostly playing it on Switch, so it's not quite on par with PC and PS4 in terms of visual fidelity, but nevertheless Sakuna is a beautiful game to behold, with a lot of tiny details. It also runs very well, and doesn't scale resolution like many other titles. Three days form a season, and what you do during a day is more or less determined by the rice harvest.
    During the last day of winter you need to till the rice field; on the first day of spring you plant the seeds, and up till autumn you tend the field by removing weeds and pests, manage fertilizer and water quantity and temperature. During autumn you harvest the rice and hang it to dry. On the first day of winter you remove the seed from the plant and then hull the rice: brown rice and white rice have different bonuses. And then the year restarts. All these portions have their own minigame, and for example the spacing between plants influences the quality of the rice. So does the type of fertilizer you spread, and of course how much you tilled the ground and removed pests. Most of these activities take a full day, and while you can ask one of your companions to take care of it, doing it yourself wields better results.

    Rice quality also has the biggest influence on Sakuna's growth, indicated in typical videogame levels. Combat does yeld some experience, but the biggest, and often only, jump in experience is through rice farming. This is something of a problem within the game's structure however, as often you have to wait to complete a stage until the year's harvest and consequent levelling. Facing enemies above your level usually results in minimum damage no matter the equipment you have, and in many cases you'll be left replaying the same stages over and over simply to pass time and collect food and other items.
    Oh yes, food: food is used to give some stat bonuses as well as special abilities like health regeneration, and ingredients like meat and vegetables spoil. You must process them to create dried meat and pickled vegetables, so that you can have something to eat during winter, when most of the days are spent preparing for the next year's harvest.

    Combat is fast and fluid: two types of normal attacks plus a set of specials. You can launch enemies in the air and juggle them, and then smash them into the environment or other enemies for mode damage. Platforming is enhaced by the divine rainment, a sort-of grappling hook, which can also be used to expand juggling capabilities or quickly zip behind an enemy's back. There is no double jump (at least up till where I played), so mastering the rainment and even how to use the environment at your advantage is the key to both exploration and combat, and the result is a very pleasing system.
    There are a few problems though. At times it's a bit unclear if you can ledge-grab a platform or you need the divine rainment to grab onto it, and there's no clear visual distinction of surfaces where the rainment can latch onto or not. At times the screen is a bit too busy for its own good, and enemies outside the screen can still damage you with projectiles, which are quite small...even bright-red bombs about the explode tend to get lost between enemies and terrain. The camera is a bit shy to show what's beneath you, and at times you need to drop down to proceed...only that "down" is full of spikes you could have avoided if you dropped a few pixels to the right.
    These are minor problems though, the combat might not be the deepest ever but it's far more in-depth I would have imagined for a platformer/farming game. All stages have objectives (kill X number of enemies, collect this, and so on) that when completed will increase the exploration level, thus allowing Sakuna to explore more of the Isle Of Demons. Unfortunately most of these objectives can be cleared with one or two runs through a stage, so they won't really keep you busy while you wait for a new harvest.

    Despite some pacing issues due to having to wait for the yearly harvest to some tackle stages, Sakuna: Of Rice And Ruin is a very fun game. It has a level of attention to detail on par with many more prestigious titles, and every aspect is well thought and contributes to the overall structure, without weighting down things too much.

  2. #2
    Glad you're enjoying it - have heard lots of good things, and know it's performed very well too - it's definitely on my list as one to check out

  3. #3
    Same, looking forward to playing this next year hopefully.

  4. #4
    Time for an update.
    I think I've reached the last part of the game, as most the Isle of Demons has been explored and the story introduced the main bad guy and feels close the to climax.
    From start to finish, Sakuna follows the same structure based around growing rice, and stages become more complex giving you plenty of stuff to do between crops. The game also becomes less depended on Sakuna's level, and I was able to defeat a couple of bosses below the recommended level, thanks to special moves you unlock. One was defeated by spamming the Tidal Wave, which inflicts magic damage, the other was defeated by smashing rocks and other enemies onto its face. The latter was actualyl fun to do, it's nice to see rocks and enemies fly across the screen and hit anything in their path with a satisfying "thud", screen shakes, and small flashes.

    Farming becomes easier, thanks to various technological advances introduced by the cast. Various activities will still take most of the in-game day, but for example tilling and threshing are made much easier by some of the later tools. Creating the best fertilizer by adding the right components becomes natural, as chosing dinner for the right bonuses does.

    The game continues to look great even on the Switch thanks to all the small details, like how the water progressively rises in the rice field, and how reflections and refractions change based on light source and water quantity. All stages have four seasonal settings, and even locations near each other have their own personality. Enemy variety isn't particularly high, but all are lovely done and the ever-increasing number of special actions always gives you new way to face them, though it's easy to stick with special attacks unlocked early on.
    Sakuna's also one of the few games on the Switch with a full 5.1 mix, which is great. Sorround channels aren't all that used with the exception of cutscenes, but the mix of the center and stereo channels is excellent.

    Unfortunately, Sakuna isn't above some artificial lenghtening, and before the last part you have to retread old ground and fight old bosses again for a reason that fits well with the story, but from a game structure outlook, is kinda tiresome.
    I must also say that before the halfpoint I was kinda bored by Sakuna, because where you can go is very limited by your level, and therefore you must wait for a new crop. After that point, however, Sakuna has a much better rhythm and I actually found myself thinking "one more season" before quitting.

  5. #5
    Game completed. Nothing much to add, the game's great. There is no NG+, but after defeating the final boss you can save and restart before the final confrontation to clear all exploration objectives and the challenge dungeon.

    One thing I can asy is that aside from that dungeon there's not much incentive to replay or continue playing.

  6. #6
    @Blobcat's playing it as we speak and seems to be loving it (I got it for her birthday)

  7. #7
    Got my eye on this, so thanks for the impressions, fellers. Would you say for someone that loves the farming games (Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons etc), that this has a similiar addictive cycle? The combat stuff seems like that's how this game seperates itself.

  8. #8
    There is no farm management side or relationship fostering, and farming is limited to rice, which in turn is a way to progress through the game with combat.
    I enjoyed the farming in Sakuna more than in HM, and overall Sakuna was more of my liking.

  9. #9
    Been playing this over the last few days, and I've found the time scale to be a bit too rigid at times, pretty much each day you get to explore one area and do a small bit of tending to your rice. If you stay out on the world map after dark your unable to damage enemy's and in some area unable to see so the loop is one area and a small bit of farming.

    A lot of stuff isn't explained very well too, farming is a trial and error type thing and i can understand this as things become apparent the more you do and you seem to develop skils the more you play and grow, The weapon and Armour augments i kind of stumbled across though as its just not explained, some require you to beat so many enemy's before you can equip them where as others just let you add them for passive bonus like health or more item discovery. I'd recommend having a full explore of all the menus as its not a hand holding game at all, likewise the scroll system for magic attacks is left up to you to work out but seems very cool as your attacks and powers are constantly evolving.

    Game-play wise though I'm enjoying it, some enemy attacks could do with a bit better sign posting as its very hard to see things when playing handheld, rabbits chucking bombs at you or firing arrows are almost invisible and your energy can go down very quick too if your not careful. ive also had to turn vibration off as it uses that super loud full on vibration thing the switch dose that is really loud and really annoying why do devs do this???.
    Last edited by Lebowski; 08-01-2021 at 09:50 AM.

  10. #10

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