Japanese mythology and a farming simulation? I’m all for this and was able to get my hands on the newly released Sakuna: Of Rice & Ruin for the PS4. Being new to the farming simulation genre, I was excited to see what Sakuna was all about.
Being new but aware of the farming simulation genre, I was always curious about games that fell into that category. Still, I am quite familiar with Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, Minecraft, Story of Seasons, etc. So I was excited to check out Sakuna of Rice & Ruin to see how Edelweiss combined action and farming simulation. Upon further realization, I was even more surprised to learn that Marvelous and XSEED had a hand in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin was developed by a small Japanese company called Edelweiss. They’ve developed smaller games such as Ether Vapor Remaster, Astebreed, and Fairy Bloom Freesia. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is their first game to receive a widespread, retail release on PlayStation 4 and Switch.
Marvelous USA has published several different games such as Granblue Fantasy: Versus, Corpse Party, and of course, one of my favorites, Senran Kagura. XSEED, along with Marvelous USA, have published games from the Senran Kagura series and the Ys series, Trails of Cold Steel, Kandagawa Jet Girls, and more.
I was immediately taken aback by the beautiful watercolor-esque and yet vibrant and simple artwork of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. This, paired with the amazing voice work, had me immediately hooked. The game begins with a narration of how the worlds of humans and the gods are separate. It explains the toils that humans go through, and soon you are introduced to five weary travelers weakly walking along a bridge connected to the land of gods. Along the way, these five weary travelers are stopped by their pursuant and nearly killed before our heroine enters the scene.
Our small and intoxicated heroine goddess, Sakuna, happens to stumble across the scene. Meeting these humans, along with a bit of bad luck on Sakuna’s, results in her downfall. Sakuna, along with those same five humans, is sent to Oni island to recoup what was lost and rid the island of the demons.
You are literally sent to Oni Island with the clothes on your back and few tools. There you quickly learn that you need to protect and scavenge resources to feed yourself and humans.
The island itself is full of mysteries, and it is up to Sakuna to explore the island for essential ingredients for nourishment and fertilizer. As you explore the island, you learn the backstories of Sakuna’s constituents, the hardships they have endured, Sakuna’s own background, and of course, learn the lore of the place called Oni Island.
Immediately I was enthralled with the art and the voice acting. I played it with the English voice acting and had a couple of chuckles here and there with the commentary. It was interesting to see how each character’s personalities would affect or interact with one another as they were WILDLY different since they all need to come together to survive on this island.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a 2D side scroller and farming sim at heart. The two genres coming together is super important and what makes Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin unique. The controls are straightforward; you learn skills, the more you explore, and your planting/growing rice skills increases.
The basis of the game and the story was simple to pick up and understand. You have a certain amount of time to explore, fight oni, and gather ingredients, spring through autumn. During this time, you are also tilling the ground, planting rice seedlings, measuring the water for the seedlings, spreading fertilizer, harvesting the rice, drying the rice, the works. You work all the way through how autumn, and once winter hits, you and the humans settle down and repeat the process next spring.
You are definitely putting in the work. As you explore the various locations, you are given tasks to complete in that location to move on to the next location. I found some of these tasks a bit difficult to do in the beginning and discovered it might take a couple of tries before you’re able to complete the task to move on. The days progress from morning to night. You also can explore during the day and night, but the enemies are powerful at night. There were a couple of instances where I was taken out with one hit at night. You will have to travel to the various locations several times for ingredient gathering or to complete a task.
Another interesting aspect about Sakuna was the fact there are mini-history, farming, and mythology sessions within the game’s conversations. You learn about ancient Japan as well as putting in work. I have learned so much about rice from tilling, planting, watering, threshing, hulling, rice types, and mixing fertilizer than I would have ever learned in my entire life of accidentally killing house plants.
Though farming simulation sounds off-putting, however, the way how that the action aspect is weaved into the game turns the farming into a bit of a relaxation period before you head back out to do more work. I highly recommend giving Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin a try if you’re looking to try your hand in a unique action-packed simulator!