Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin has a bit of everything, it has elements of role-playing, platforming and bizarrely farm simulation. Sometimes you just need to jump into games like this and when you do you will truly enjoy it.
Sakuna is a spoiled harvest goddess who spends her days sitting around the Gods celestial home, eating and getting drunk on Sake (yes she looks like a child but don’t say that to her face). After saving some refugee humans from a bandit on the bridge that gaps the mortal and immortal worlds she returns to the yearly banquet where she will gift her rice bounty to the Head goddess. Things don’t go to plan as the same humans make their way to the banquet and end up getting Sakuna, along with themselves banished to Hinoe Island that just so happens to be overrun with demons.
Starting off in this game I was blown away by the animation style as it reminded me of the Studio Ghibli classic Spirited Away and I thought I was going to get a game along the lines of Ni no Kuni but this was a completely different kettle of fish altogether. When you first get to control Sakuna you are in the Gods capital City that is packed with all sorts of weird and wonderful looking Gods of every type.
You jump and climb your way after the group of humans which not only kickstarts the story but also acts as a tutorial. Let me put it out there straight away, this is not a hard game to get to grips with and I loved it for that, it is a simple platformer, with simple button commands even though sometimes those commands were not responsive but that is just a minor gripe I had.
After you are banished to Hinoe Island you realise that your parents lived there once upon a time and there is already a little farmstead waiting for you (That was handy). Sakura’s father was a warrior God and her mother a harvest goddess the two attributes our little goddess needs (also very handy) as she is tasked with not only ridding the island of, I want to say nasty demons but they are mostly weapon-wielding bunnies and hunting to keep her human companions alive throughout the seasons.
You reap what you sow
I wasn’t expecting the farming element to this game at all, it wasn’t a pleasant surprise but one I soon relished. In the beginning, it was slow and tedious but once I got a nice routine stated I was flying. The game has all 4 seasons and if you know anything about farming you know that at certain times of year you plough the fields, plant your seeds and the harvest.
Not only that when performing these activities you learn how to do them quicker and more efficiently and the skill just automatically happens to Sakuna so you aren’t going to miss out on anything in an overcomplicated menu system. In between tending the little patch of corn you travel to nearby areas to clear them of demons, gather resources and uncover more secrets about the island and yourself. There are also little side quests that your human friends give you that help you on your journey, like gathering specific materials to build a forge or loom that you can get weapons and clothing made for you. You can also send them off to special areas to gather food and materials just to give Sakura that extra help to keep everyone fed through the winter.
As with the real world, the days get shorter in Wintertime and in Sakura venturing out at night is a no-no as the demons are more powerful and you are tired and hungry. Sometimes you need to fight certain Demons at night as some levels have completion requirements but you don’t really have to and I didn’t as I had my little routine and staying up all night wasn’t part of that.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin and Fun
One of the best parts of the game and a part that gave me the most satisfaction was dinner time. You get to pick the menu and then you all sit around and eat together, sometimes they speak about their hardships of where they came from or just joke around but it was a great way to learn about all the characters and even see the character development of Sakuna herself, going from the spoiled brat to the more humanised Goddess.
I would really recommend Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin to anyone who has even an hour to jump in and out of it.