Sand Land 1

Bandai Namco loves its anime RPGs, but Sand Land might be the most niche it's gotten yet. Comprised of 13 issues, it's a manga series from Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama that looks a lot like the famous anime, but is actually its own thing entirely. 23 years after its original run, the Elden Ring publisher is bringing the story back as a PS5, PS4 title. After going hands on with it at Summer Game Fest Play Days, it bares a striking resemblance to One Piece Odyssey in terms of structure and gameplay mechanics, except with a more action-focused combat system.

Our PS5 demo was very brief, so it was difficult to draw many conclusions beyond comparisons to Luffy and co, but we still consider that a positive takeaway. Following a surprisingly difficult chase sequence that could have been ripped right out of Crash Bandicoot (with the characters racing towards the screen), the game opened up a little into an open zone format where you're free to explore the desert-like area before heading for your objective at the end of the sector.

You play as the main character Beelzebub, who's all about melee blows just as much as hunkering down in a tank and blasting fools from a distance. These two methods of attrition form the crux of combat: you can choose to beat down enemies up close and personal or choose from an assortment of vehicles to get about the map faster and rain down fire with cannons and machine guns. The tank will be your first choice if you're opting to kill foes from behind the wheel, but you're also able to leave the cockpit and steal cars off enemies.

We didn't get to spend anywhere near enough time with Sand Land to see how any of these features develop, but what we played was fun. The melee combat is pretty button mashy, but you are able to power up specific moves and release special attacks. In addition, vehicles can come equipped with multiple weapons that you'll need to switch between as they reload. We enjoyed what we played, seamlessly switching between melee action and car combat — that's about all we can say given the short hands on session.

Where Sand Land invites comparisons to One Piece Odyssey is how the world is set up — or at least the short stretch of game we played. Presumably separated by load screens, you're handed a large environment to explore, with secrets, additional activities, and crafting opportunities buried within. It's a structure you'll likely be largely familiar with, but it works. Enemies roam the area to fill the gaps, and more powerful versions can be found off the beaten path. The same goes for items and resources: you can mine upgrade materials off of rocks in the optional areas, offering an enticing reason to explore rather than rush to the main objective.

While niche — this PS5, PS4 game is this scribe's first exposure to Sand Land — the experience still seems like it'll be a good time, especially when you're behind the controls of the tank. Offering up a retelling of the manga series, it's shaping up to be the perfect jumping-on-point for new fans and the best way for those looking for a second stab at the story to experience it all over again. There's no word on a release date yet, but anime fans will want to keep their eye on Sand Land — particularly if they enjoyed the structure and gameplay efforts of One Piece Odyssey.

Sand Land will launch for PS5 and PS4 at some point in the future. Are you looking forward to this one? Share your first impressions in the comments below.