Sand Land looks like it understands its vehicles will be its greatest strength
During Summer Game Fest, we had the chance to get a very early, and very brief, hands-on session with Bandai Namco's upcoming Sand Land; and while it's very hard to get a real idea of how the full adventure will play out over the span of just about 15 minutes, one thing was made abundantly clear from what we played - vehicles are the heart and soul of the upcoming game, and I can't wait to see more of them.
If you're familiar with Akira Toriyama's original Sand Land manga, you've probably heard the anecdote - but if you aren't, the story goes that the Dragon Ball creator drew the titular tank for Sand Land before then coming up with a story around it. It's no surprise, then, that while players can control Demon Prince Beelzebub and utilize him in combat; the best sections of our demo were when we were behind the wheel of some contraption or other.
Normally, vehicles in video games aren't all that interesting; and it wasn't so much the vehicles themselves in Sand Land that stood out to me as being interesting, but rather how they control. It's an interesting sort of dilemma, where you'd think that a vehicle not controlling quite right would be a demerit for a game; but in a title that takes place in a giant desert, it makes sense that driving over a sand dune, things wouldn't quite control as you'd hope. It's less that the controls are bad, but rather there's just that little bit of looseness that - as someone who has, in fact, drove a buggy through a desert - feels right at home for the setting.
Admittedly, getting across the nuance of a vehicle that feels intentionally imperfect to control, and how that's a good thing instead of what you'd expect otherwise, is difficult at the best of times. So how about I talk about the tank we got a chance to control, instead? As I'd mentioned earlier; while you can control Beelzebub on food, it goes without saying that any vehicle - a tank especially - would be more proficient at combat. More than that, going off of what we can see in the trailer with numerous other vehicles showcased, and the fact that I found myself picking up upgrade materials that I was directly told could be used to customize vehicles, makes me excited to see more of where that goes.
On-foot combat was less interesting - but even then, I was able to air-juggle an enemy, so that's not to say it was bad. Of course, this is an in-development version of the game, too; there's all the room in the world for Beelzebub's moves to see some spit and polish before launch. Same goes for everything else we've talked about, of course - but even in such an early state the game looked clean, and ran well.
As for everything else? Well; we only had 15 minutes to play the game. With how short the original Sand Land manga was, I wouldn't be shocked if this turned out to be a full adaptation, much like Dragon Ball Z Kakarot was for another Bandai Namco-published adaptation of an Akira Toriyama work. For what it is, Sand Land is already looking to be a promising addition to the company's ever-growing catalog of manga & anime influenced RPGs.