Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

Game review by
Angelica Guarino, Common Sense Media
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin Game Poster Image
Seamless genre mashup drives strong, carefully woven story.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Most characters except Sakuna (in the beginning) prioritize honor and responsibility. Sakuna grows over the course of the adventure to understant how important these qualities are in people. There are many important questions asked about ethics and the duty one has to others, which encourages some very well-written discussions between characters. A lot of the questions don't have right or wrong answers, leading players to call on critical thinking skills to consider which characters whose viewpoints they agree with.

Positive Role Models

Though the title character begins the story as a spoiled, lazy goddess, who cries at even a hint of hardship, the story focuses on her developing independence. This isn't just in combat, but also with regard to learning how to take care of herself and others. Though Sakuna remains the same spunky, rarely polite character throughout, she learns many valuable lessons about resource management and the value of hard work. Seeing her take ownership over her accomplishments as well as learn to apologize for her previous actions is rewarding, as the change happens in small increments chapter by chapter.

Ease of Play

While the combat system's simple enough for even newcomers to settle into with a bit of practice, some aspects could've been better explained from the beginning. For example, figuring out that Sakuna doesn’t need to go to sleep as a goddess, but rather needs to restfully meditate outside on a flat rock took longer to figure out than it should've.

Violence

A large portion of the game centers around Sakuna's battles on the Isle of Demons, but there's no gore. Occasionally, some of Sakuna's attacks will result in a brief blood-like effect, but vanquished enemies always disappear into a puff of smoke as soon as they are defeated. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The game begins with an instance of the main character being irresponsibly drunk, though she's not shown drinking anything. Though she doesn't appear of age, this is considered a joke as Sakuna insists multiple times that she's a fully grown adult. Other extremely brief and occasional references to consuming alcohol are present as well.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is an action-adventure role-playing game (RPG) for PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. Sakuna offers a blend of multiple genres -- hack and slash action mixed with farming simulation. Though on the surface, this title may seem like a typical “good vs. evil” storyline that's simply a backdrop to the combat, the cutscenes and farming mechanics help to create a unique adventure. Violence is present but not gory, and the only iffy scenes include allusions to the irresponsible hero drinking alcohol, though she's of proper age (even if she doesn’t look it) and suffers consequences as a result of her reckless behavior.

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What's it about?

In SAKUNA: OF RICE AND RUIN, players take on the role of Sakuna, a bratty goddess living her life in lavish luxury. After an accident causes the royal supply of rice typically used as a divine offering to be destroyed on Sakuna’s watch, she's banished to a dangerous faraway island. There, players are tasked with not only learning how to survive on their own but also with solving the Isle of Demons’ mystery. Where did these demons come from? What do they want? Who is controlling them? All this and more fuels Sakuna’s journey to independence and humility. Sakuna is joined by a group of humans stranded in the divine dimension, who are unable to fight nonhuman entities, and therefore must depend on Sakuna for their safety. Guided by her wise familiar named Tama, the hero embarks on quests rooted in wildly fun hack-and-slash combat, lifelike rice cultivation, and carefully-researched Japanese mythology.

Is it any good?

Have you ever wanted to play your favorite side scroller and farming simulation at the same time? Probably not, but Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin will show you what you’ve been missing. Both the farming simulation portion and the combat mechanics are equally as involved, which adds a great deal to what the story has to offer. Many past RPGs (role-playing games) have added crafting or character relationship elements as an afterthought to combat, but Sakuna blends them together seamlessly. With each completed rice harvest, Sakuna's combat skills improve based on your level of mastery through the growth cycle. These physical benefits, along with side quests and character interactions, helps you track her emotional growth over time in clearly defined stages. For instance, at one point in the story, Sakuna chooses not to punish a friend who has tried to take credit for her crops, which might initially seem out of character, but enough harvests have passed to make this change in her character gradual and believable. Overall, it's clear that the game's creators invested a great deal in historical accuracy, translation, and scriptwriting, which develops a proper homage to the culture that inspired the story, and for many players, that will be greatly appreciated.

Another great aspect of Sakuna is how it manipulates time. There's an estimated 25-35 hours of content, and while the cutscenes clock in at only about three hours in total, they're well spaced-out. They also provide such well-composed character development that players can get just as lost in the story as they are in landing the perfect combination moves for a boss fight or mastering the art of producing maximum crop yields. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is just a beautiful game that's full of nuance and depth, and you'll be surprised at the mix of farming and combat, which is oddly satisfying and appealing. It's something that you should plunge in and try out if you're an action, adventure, or role-playing game fan.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role that gratefulness plays in their everyday lives. What are simple ways to express gratitude for the things we have? How should we thank people who give us their time, attention, or protection? 

  • When should people be expected to do things on their own, and when is it okay to ask for help? Also, when should we help others, and when should we prioritize our own needs?

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For kids who love adventure

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