Sand Land – Hands-on Preview

Though it was originally written and published as a manga series in the year 2000, it feels like Sand Land’s time is now. After the 2023 release of a feature film based on this Akira Toriyama adventure, we’re in for more treats – an anime series that recently released on Disney+, and a whole action-RPG to go along with it. Thanks to Bandai Namco, I was able to have a few hours of hands-on time with the Sand Land game ahead of its release next month, and I’ve gotta say, I was more than a bit surprised about just how enthusiastic I was apparently ready to get about a tiny devil, tanks with unique eyes painted on them, and a group of guys who perpetually wear swimsuits on dry land. 

If you’re familiar with the manga or the film, you’ll recognise the game’s opening sequences as almost direct recreations of early scenes. In a world where water is a scarce resource and a long-standing feud between humans and demons plagues the land, our hero Beelzebub (the Fiend Prince) is asked to join a mysterious human, Sheriff Rao, on his quest to locate the secret oasis known as the ‘Legendary Spring’. The two, along with Beelzebub’s buddy Thief, are forced to put aside their racial differences as they adventure across the land, meeting a bunch more misfits along the way and learning that the knowledge of events in their own history may not have been as accurate as they thought.

Sand Land screenshot

It’s an interesting premise, and it leaves plenty of space for some extra world-building to go alongside those faithful recreations. The developers seem to have taken advantage of every potentially playable moment, using moments like Beelzebub’s first fight in the film as tutorial levels for combat. I’m keen to see whether that ingenuity continues for the rest of the game, but what I saw across a few sections of the game sure looked promising. 

They’ve mixed some new and extra stuff in too, of course, including a whole new (female! hooray!) character, Ann. The introduction of this one character alone shakes up the plot, and having now seen the film I’m more than a little interested to see how they might use her to fundamentally change some of the story’s bigger moments. Not that it’s a story lacking in excitement – I can’t begin to express how absurd some of this world is – but given how much overlap I saw between what I played and what the film had to offer, it will be interesting to see where they’ve tried something new. 

Sand Land screenshot

And there’s a lot to build on. The existing characters, from the protagonists to the groups of enemies you’ll encounter, are all at least a little bit wild. Beelzebub is a centuries-old petulant child who insists he’s a bad boy, but who oozes cuteness even when he’s showing off his destructive power. Thief, an expert in espionage, uses a Santa costume as his disguise during the game’s stealth sections with little explanation as to why. Sheriff Rao has a dark, spoiler-filled past, and Ann is introduced as a scrappy mechanic-type with her own share of secrets. But the best characters are the enemies. Main antagonist, Supreme Commander Zeu, gives weird Dr. Eggman vibes as he floats around in his little orb of doom, and punk enemies wearing strange leather collars are some of the first enemies you’ll encounter. 

Then, there’s The Swimmers. 

I love the Swimmers. They are everything that’s good about this world, and should be adopted as the Sand Land emblem. The Swimmers are a family of guys in various types of swimsuits, named after fish, some of whom have never been swimming because they live in a desert landscape. I want to play more of this game, and see more of this world, just so that I can see more characters like The Swimmers. 

Sand Land screenshot

In many ways, Sand Land is a familiar style of RPG with a heap of different mechanics, all of which you might expect from a game like this. There’s a vehicle customisation system that lets you jazz up your tanks and bikes, all of which you’ll use to traverse the land, solve puzzles, and get the edge in fights. Beelzebub and his pals have abilities to level up skill-tree style, all of which can be tailored to your playstyle. There are side quests and there’s resources to collect and enemies to fight. But what’s going to make this game special is the vibe. I hope that what I saw of this game is indicative of the whole thing, because what I saw was such weird good fun. The art style is great, the humor is absurd, and it’s a great way for the legacy of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama to live on. 

I can’t entirely express to you why I’m excited about this game, but something about it has grabbed me – and I can’t wait to see it in its entirety.


Sand Land launches on April 26th on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.

Amazon Logo

You might see some links on this page that take you to Amazon. We are an Amazon Associate which means we earn a commission from qualifying purchases. These help to keep the lights on here at Player 2 and keep us sending the gaming goodness your way. 

Have you seen our Merch Store?

Get 5% off these great Arcade Machines and help support Player 2

Check out our Most Recent Video

Find us on Metacritic

Check out our Most Recent Posts