Sand Land had a huge presence at San Diego Comic Con. From a massive tank on the show floor, to a world premier screening, we had the chance to experience it all.
Sand Land World Premiere
The Sand Land world premiere was held in a big con hall, and the experience was amazing. Even before the premiere, we had a nice panel talking about what Sand Land is and why it is so important for Akira Troiyama and team. The post-apocalyptic story is eerily pertinent with the current climate issues we are facing today.
As per the movie itself, it certainly looked like a Dragon Ball anime, but the movie played out far differently. The overall scale is toned way down. The fact that the manga is so contained allows for the movie to tell a clear and concise story, a story of which the movie told exceedingly well.
The story is the perfect vehicle to reinforce the virtues on display. The main virtue? We have a knack for believing what is true by others telling us so. Sheriff Rao has a drastically different background than that of Beelzebub and Thief. They experienced opposite ends of the same event, and learned that one person’s “truth” contained little fact. The combat is there, and is cool, but it isn’t all about getting physically stronger as it is in Toriyama’s previous work. The growth is more so between characters and relationships than it is in physicality.
The desertification of the world and dealing with the challenges that come with it is nothing new in the media. But Sand Land hits a balance of sandwiching comedy between scenes with deeper meaning. The core cast of characters, Beelzebub, Thief and Sheriff Rao all share the two sides to them as well. Their interactions set the tone for each scene as they wade throughout the desert in hopes of finding a hidden spring the Sheriff believes exists.
Of course, there is a big bad that is pulling the strings, but it’s the journey that makes the magical moments happen.
If I were to have one negative, it would be the lack of subtitle contrast. Sometimes they’d bleed into the scene and become hard to read. Not much concern there since the movie release in the west is a ways off.
Sand Land has a monumental hill to climb considering all comparisons will be to that of the behemoth that is Dragon Ball. Sand Land is a far more contained story, but it crafts special moments in its short run time.
The Sand Land booth’s main selling point is the game’s demo, but there was much more on hand. A replica of the tank, a big Beelzebub bust, and plenty of figures showcasing what will be for sale once the movie releases. The tank had an awesome playable section with two stations with four others outside. The booth was almost always packed with a nice convenient location in the middle of the show floor.
Sand Land Game Impressions
The game does a great job at mimicking the look and feel of the movie. There were a few scenes that played out 1:1 with the movie. Of course, things have to diverge to fit a game. From what I saw and played, getting around an open-world (or pseudo-open world) is not going to be a problem. We were only able to use the tank which controls well and utilizes dual sense feedback, but the trailers have shown a bevy of different ways of getting around. Unless things change, you control Beelzebub as the main protagonist of the property. You have simple combos and special moves, which allow for the action to be fun and fast-paced. The camera got a bit wonky in the demo, so I hope that is something that gets fleshed out.
My only concern, besides the camera issues above, is that it will fail to capture the intimate nature between the characters. Having to flesh out a game storyline from a movie that was relatively short is going to be quite the undertaking. But it is early, and I hope they do pull it off because I adored the characters.
Whatever Sand Land becomes as it expands past the manga is anyone’s guess. One thing is for certain, they are putting all their power into making the property shine as best it can. The task of living up to Dragon Ball is nigh impossible, but I have hopes it will scratch that Toriyama itch even if it never reaches Dragon Ball heights.