Sand Land Exclusive Hands-On: We’re Wowed by Akira Toriyama’s Playable Manga – IGN FanFest
7 mins read

Sand Land Exclusive Hands-On: We’re Wowed by Akira Toriyama’s Playable Manga – IGN FanFest



Not only is Akira Toriyama the creator of Dragon Ball, but he is a prolific manga writer, creating over 40 manga series. One such series was Sand Land, a manga about a desert world inhabited by survivors looking for water. Think Mad Max by way of Dragon Ball. For reasons that still aren’t super clear to me (though you’ll hear no objections) Sand Land is back in a big way. Not only is an anime adaptation premiering later this year, but Bandai Namco is getting ready to release a full Sand Land video game, and IGN got a chance to play an exclusive preview for Fan Fest and found a delightful throwback to a bygone era of anime gaming, with extra enjoyment for longtime Toriyama fans.

One aspect of Toriyama’s game that often goes unheralded is his brilliance as a designer. One look at his steampunk-y, circular car and airplane designs and you know instantly who drew them. Vehicle design is clearly a passion for Toriyama, having drawn everything from hovercrafts, airplanes, spaceships, to Toriyama-fied cars. His trademark machines have appeared in every one of his series, from Dragon Ball to Dr. Slump. Sand Land finally put me in the cockpit of these wonderful vehicles, and it was a dream come true.

My hands-on preview began with our hero Beelzebub in need of the right vehicle (a recurring element in my preview) to get across some quicksand. To do so, he enlists the healp of a new character, a brilliant mechanic named Ann, who says she can get Beelzebub and the crew across quicksand on her bike. Unfortunately, she lost her bike during a chase and now the gang has to go and retrieve it in an area called Talbo.

Sand Land, is at its heart, an open- world adventure game about Beelzebub and all of the cool vehicles he can pilot. The main mode of transportation is a customizable tank that can traverse the sands and blast away enemies. And yes, it utilizes classic tank controls for that extra hit of nostalgia.

But as we learn while trying to retrieve Ann’s bike, Beelzebub can swap between several different vehicles in an instant. Once we discover that some flying creatures have stolen Ann’s bike and taken it to their lair up in the mountains, we switch to the Jump Bot, a walker with the ability to, well, jump.

Whereas the tank is meant to be a sort of slow but all-purpose vehicle designed for combat, the Jump Bot is specifically designed for the kind of platforming areas I saw in Talbo. The Jump Bot can leap vertically to scale the tall mountain, as well as hop over some tricky ledges.

Once we reach the monster’s lair, it’s back to the tank to blast away at the flying creature. Maneuvering around while firing the tank’s cannon takes a bit of a learning curve, though my preview started part way through the game; you might be spared said learning curve through a tutorial and/or the practice gained in the early part of the game. Nevertheless, the controls are intuitive enough for anyone who grew up playing old PlayStation games, so taking down the flying monster was no problem.

The second part of my hands-on was where the vehicle customization truly shined. As you get further into Sand Land, Ann’s workshop will open up, allowing you to fully customize not only your tank but a variety of other vehicles Beelzebub has access to in Sand Land.

Focusing primarily on my tank, I was able to pick-and-choose different weapons, sub-weapons, threads, and other kinds of accessories to build my personal Sand Land destruction machine. I mostly went with aesthetics this time, but I did opt for a rocket launcher weapon that I got to try out later in my demo to great effect.

But customization doesn’t stop there, because once you have your loadout picked out, you can go next door to give your ride a custom paint job with a variety of colors and decals to choose from. Like I said, if you’re a fan of Toriyama’s unique vehicle designs, Sand Land will let you fully geek out.

Side Hustle

The second half of the demo was dedicated to some of the side activities Beelzebub can take on. There are side missions where Beelzebub can accept bounties on some high-profile targets (more on that in a bit), as well as races where you can take your newly customized ride for a true test. With three different race difficulties to choose from, each changing the course in some way, you can test your ride against enemy riders and time itself.

There are other side activities Beelzebub can take on in Sand Land. One of which is accepting bounties for tough enemies roaming the desert. I took my newly customized tank out to try and nab some of these bad guys and found that my new missile launcher equipped tank was more than enough to take out some of these bad guys in a blink of an eye.

One final note is that even with my limited hands-on time, Sand Land is shaping up to be massive. If it weren’t for some time constraints I wouldn’t have used the fast travel feature to get from place to place, and instead I would’ve loved to have taken my sweet time to take in the sights. Alas, that will have to wait until I get my hands on the full game.

Sand Land’s transmedia return is a true surprise so far, honestly. I haven’t thought about it since reading it in a copy of Shonen Jump over 20 years ago, and here it is with a brand-new game and even a new anime. For fans of classic, PS2-era anime games there’s a lot to be excited about in Sand Land, even without knowing anything about the series.

However, Sand Land really feels like a love letter to Akira Toriyama fans. I’m talking about the Dr. Slump and early Dragon Ball fans. There are dozens of amazing Dragon Ball games you can play right now, but if you’re a classic manga fan and someone who’s loved the Toriyama art style and world-building, be sure to check out Sand Land when it hits consoles and PC on April 26.

Matt T.M. Kim is IGN’s Senior Features Editor. You can reach him @lawoftd.





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