E3 2019 Hands-on – Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
XSEED’s Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a game people have been waiting for years, even though I have to admit I had never heard of prior to my experience with it during E3. Developed by the two-man group at Edelweiss, the game was one of the most interesting little titles I had the chance to play during E3 2019, not only due to what I could play, but also due to what I was told it would be featured in the final release.
I could only play a single side-scrolling level of Sakuna in my demo, but that was already enough for me to understand a good chunk of the core gameplay loop. It acts as your traditional 2.5D platformer, with lots of enemies to defeat, equipment to obtain, and crafting materials to collect. More on that later. Sakuna has access to a few combos due to the presence of both light and strong attacks, as well as a little grappling hook that allows for her to reach higher platforms and escape from unnecessary combat. I also got to fight a big skeletal boss at the end of the level. This fight is a lot more challenging and requires for you to pay attention to the enemy’s attack patterns, something I clearly didn’t do, as I died during the fight.
The overall combat is simple, but it gets the job done. It is obviously not the core concept of the game. The main selling points of Sakuna are its setting, with an adorable cartoonish art style and the overall slice-of-life mechanics that weren’t present in the demo.
I had to chance to talk about Sakuna with the game’s own developers. They explained in depth Sakuna’s role outside the platforming levels. Outside of these main courses, you can control Sakuna in a fully 3D environment where you can craft items and equipment, as well as focus on the game’s main feature, harvesting rice. It might sound silly, but since you’re controlling the goddess of harvesting herself, your main role is to ensure that your crops will grow properly, which in turn will result in the development of the village surrounding your plantation. You’ll be able to talk to NPCs, learn about their backstories, and even partake in a few side missions.
Sakuna‘s premise and gameplay reminded me of one of my favorite cult classics from the SNES era, ActRaiser. By mixing action platforming with slice-of-life mechanics, as well as a phenomenally gorgeous Japanese art style, Sakuna went from a complete unknown title to one of my most anticipated releases of the end of the year.