Sakuna of Rice and Ruin (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Nayu 26.12.2020

Review for Sakuna of Rice and Ruin on Nintendo Switch

From the first glimpse in 2017, to the delayed release in November 2020, Sakuna of Rice and Ruin by Edelweiss and published by Marvelous forged a new path in farming simulation adventure games. Never had a game focused solely on one crop, the glorious grain coveted primarily in Asia and loved throughout the world. A disgraced rice goddess, in a drunken stupor, let mere mortals into the Lofty Realm to eat some of the gods' food, which destroyed the grain stores set aside for the head goddess. This disgraced goddess, Sakuna, is banished to an island full of demons and made to grow rice to help her strength and defeat the demons that threaten the strange group.

The heart of Sakuna of Rice and Ruin is rice farming. The level of accuracy put into the farming element is exceptional. Every single aspect from cultivating, sowing, tending the rice, letting it dry, threshing it to remove the rice from the stalk, sorting rice to produce better quality seeds, it is all covered in the game. What prevents the various stages from being overwhelming is the way they are introduced. Sakuna is not expected to perform every stage from the very first crop. Each new year brings a new skill or several taught by a fellow named Tauemon.

Tauemon is an aspiring farmer who is totally inept at growing anything, but holds much knowledge on the subject, supported by Sakuna's own mother's wisdom, a goddess whose house the ragtag group live in. Introducing new gaming elements gradually provides time to understand the new concept and implement it accordingly. Should there be any uncertainty about how to do a particular stage, Sakuna can hold an Agricultural Assembly with Tauemon and Tama, her faithful spirit guide who spends most of the time looking adorable with his tongue hanging out. There, all the information learned so far can be read. The Assembly is free to hold, while some of the later game elements such as influencing the weather have a reasonable price attached.

There is more to farming than just doing the right thing to make the rice grow: a good quality crop is needed to help boost Sakuna's game stats or to improve bonuses from food. Much to Sakuna's horror, and the youngest member of the group's delight, fertiliser is a vital part of that process. Though fertiliser deficiencies can be rebalanced, disease can be fought using the right resources, and should one item added be toxic, others will neutralise it.

For a while, each year of growth is an opportunity for Sakuna to gain new skills to speed up planting the rice or to make ploughing the field faster. These are complemented by new equipment upgrades provided by the young but full of spirit blacksmith Kinta, who additionally provides Sakuna with new weapons, once the proper materials are provided. Until all the information about rice has been uncovered through the story, it proves beneficial to look up the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website which gives sound advice on rice diseases and how to prevent and treat them.

Screenshot for Sakuna of Rice and Ruin on Nintendo Switch

There is great pleasure to be had in the routine procedures of nurturing the rice. Standing ankle deep in the paddy field outside her house, Sakuna can admire the dynamic, ever-changing environment around her. Other fields become available but she only ever has to focus on the main field. The group she becomes in charge of, despite her early selfish tendencies to throw tantrums, follow her farming example and tend the other rice paddies. They are all refugees, fleeing a variety of circumstances. The cook, medic, and teacher Myrthe is frequently the peacemaker and takes care of them all. Yui turns out to be an excellent seamstress, creating new outfits for Sakuna that bestow her with powers. Yui can appear mean to little Kaimaru who does not speak in sentences, calls Sakuna Sah-Sah, and brings all kinds of animals to the fledgling farm much to the goddess's disgust. Thankfully even Sakuna is won over by the cuteness and versatility of the animals, who aid the farm in their own way.

The ability to pick up the cats and dogs, as well as petting them, provides many a peaceful moment snatched between farming and fighting in the many sectors outside the farm. Passing time between stages of rice growth can be spent absorbing the peaceful atmosphere at the main house, catching some insects and finding plants to use for food, or perfecting fighting techniques in a magical cave. Every step has to be done once when it is introduced, but afterwards Sakuna can leave it for others to do, but the quality of the rice will diminish, perfect for players who want to focus on the action part of the game.

Screenshot for Sakuna of Rice and Ruin on Nintendo Switch

However, there is more to the game than farming. It is important to explore the island to find out the source of the demons, gather new materials for quests and equipment or by letting one of the group go out foraging. Later in the story, the equivalent of a battle tower unlocks. Progress is directly tied to the story, making accessing levels dependent on completing particular quests. The levels become barred with an invisible barrier, one that vanishes once the story reaches a progression point. It is advisable to use the training ground as a way to improve technique and gain useful rewards.

Each day ends with dinner which sometimes involves conversation about what to do next in the story, Sakuna's parents' history from Tama, individual background stories of each group member, and seemingly random topics. The discussions can get quite philosophical, heated, and hilarious. The meal's food choice can be left to Myrthe, but it is better to individually select which available dishes are eaten to provide temporary abilities for the following day. From time to time, a situation will occur during the day involving Sakuna and her companions, which usually leads to an improvement of skills and equipment, or a story revelation that makes certain tasks easier, or a new challenge for them to face.

Screenshot for Sakuna of Rice and Ruin on Nintendo Switch

The decision to make the fighting levels 2D and side-scrolling blends remarkably well with the 3D nature of farming. It feels natural to see Sakuna in a new outfit, utilising new skills with different weapons to beat back the seemingly endless hordes of demons. Each area has its own type of monsters with particular weaknesses that need mastering in order to beat them seamlessly. Some areas have water themes, others are forest themed. Being bombarded with rabbits throwing bombs and lighting cannons becomes normal for the banished harvest goddess.

Story progression is dependent on completing the various goals an area has; from completing a level within a certain time, fighting a specific monster in a particular way, or discovering hard to reach items. Sakuna's trademark scarf can be used to propel her across dangerous obstacles, bring enemies closer for more direct attacks, and to reach lofty heights using the aid of what resembles giant soap bubbles that require skill to use, for it is easy to fall from them and have to repeat that part of the level again. All sorts of environmental dangers in the mountains, rivers and forts threaten to harm Sakuna, who may be a goddess, but she isn't invincible.

The one sole disappointment of the game was the final boss fight. A new fighting skill is revealed, with no time to practice it. All previous boss fights involve a lot of movement from the opponent, whereas the sheer size of the final enemy means its moves are more limited and easier to predict, even for players with less battle prowess. It became a prolonged fight of waiting for the right moment to make a move and dodging attacks. Perhaps playing the game on a harder setting than easy will change the dynamic of the last battle; thankfully the many light, humorous moments mixed with intensely bleak moments in the plot compensate for it.

Screenshot for Sakuna of Rice and Ruin on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The realistic, in depth elements of rice farming combined with honing fighting skills plus surprising character revelations and development make Sakuna of Rice and Ruin a magnificent game. Sakuna's personal growth is a pleasure to watch. Her reason for living is tested to the limit, she learns to serve others rather than herself, and has to make a sacrifice that she would not have made if faced with the same decision at the start of the game. The balanced emphasis on farming and fighting provides a great variety of tasks to undertake, providing dozens of hours of fun. The delay in the game's original planned release was worth the wait.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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