E3 2019 INTERVIEW: Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin

Monday, July 15th, 2019

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XSEED | Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is the newest title from Edelweiss, the team that made the bullet-hell game Astebreed back in 2014, for which we gave a perfect score. In Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, you play as Sakuna, a harvest goddess who has to fight demons after she is banished to a new island home with outcast humans on it. In addition to fighting, Sakuna also raises and harvests rice across the game’s seasons in a simulation-action hybrid style game.

During E3 2019, I caught up with the two-man team behind Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, Nal and Koichi. During our interview, we talked about shifting genres from their prior game, why they chose Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin‘s distinctive art style, about how they have literally put their entire future on the line to make this game, and more.

You can check out Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin at the offical website and you can check out my hands-on impressions of the just-announced Switch release or Josh Speer’s (oprainfall’s editor-in-chief and review manager) hands-on from E3 2018.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin comes out Winter 2019.


This interview has been edited for content and clarity.

Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H. with Operation Rainfall, and you all are?

[Translator]: Nal from Edelweiss, Koichi from Edelweiss.

OR: What is Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin?

Nal [Director]: Sakuna is, at its core, a combo of action and also [a] rice farming RPG.

OR: [Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin] is a game about Japanese mythology. Why did you choose to make a game about this?

Koichi [CG Artist]: So we had a game[play] system first, and then we tried to match the story [with] the elements to our game system. And thinking about tying it in and such, having a Japanese mythology-based story made sense and made it better for us.


“So we really wanted to create something that grows with the players.”


OR: Edelweiss’ previous title was Astebreed. How do you go from giant mechs fighting in space to a rice goddess platformer?

Nal: So this is actually based off of the title before Astrebreed, called [Fairy Bloom] Freesia. So the combo action part is from that game. And then we wanted to add some [more] depth to the story, and then a family-element. So that’s how we came up with this idea.

OR: The art style is very bold and distinct and has almost a painted look to it. Why go with that aesthetic design and choice?

Koichi: So we really thought about the art style. In Japan, cel-shading is very popular, but we didn’t want to go with that. And we didn’t want to make it photo-realistic. And after that, we were going back and forth. And just came up with this idea of something distinctive to us.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin | Combat

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a frantic and combo-based title that tells the story of a harvest goddess that is exiled to an island of humans. (Images courtesy of XSEED).

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin | Boss

OR: So this is both an action-platformer and a harvesting game. How do the two interact with each other?

Nal: Have you heard of ActRaiser?

Koichi: So we really wanted to create something that grows with the players. And we were thinking ‘maybe not like an RPG game experience where you make your own character’. We wanted to make it distinctive for our game. So we thought rice farming was something different and so original.


“[We] actually dumped everything of our lives into this game- four years is quite a long time, compared to our prior release, Astebreed.

[…]

So we put all of ourselves into this game. We spent all our money and our savings- this game is everything.”


OR: Was it difficult crafting the two styles of gameplay into a cohesive game?

Koichi: So back to the ActRaiser, that game [has] a creation mode and an action mode. So it’s kind of similar to Sakuna’s style. But we knew it’s going to go well if we combine those two different elements together. So the difficulty, to me, was to make it a modern-type of game, because ActRaiser was not a modern game. That was the part we [had difficulty with].

So implementing the rice farming into the game was kind of tough to us.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin | Harvesting

In addition to the action elements of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, there is also an integrated rice harvest mechanic. (Image owned by XSEED).

OR: Why was it so tough?

Nal: The difficulty was more of the time spent in the game. Because, usually, you can only grow the rice once a year and [so] your level only goes up once a year. And that’s tough for a game. That was really difficult to consider.

OR: This game has been in development for four years. What unexpected challenges did you face developing Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin?

Nal: Of course, we had a hard time with the [gameplay] balancing. We also had more difficulty compared to our previous releases- Sakuna has more depth to the story, more character development. Those small tasks require so much- every time we make something [new], something else comes up. It was very tough.

OR: What of yourselves do you see in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin?

Nal/Koichi: [We] actually dumped everything of our lives into this game- four years is quite a long time, compared to our prior release, Astebreed. That was actually one of the biggest games in the indie industry, but Sakuna is five times bigger than Astebreed. So we put all of ourselves into this game. We spent all our money and our savings- this game is everything.


“So we feel like this game has a visual appeal, and so people are going to go into the game and are going to see the world.”


OR: How long do you expect the gameplay to be?

Nal: It’s going to be about twenty hours.

OR: You announced [at E3 2019] that [Sakuna: Of Rice and Rain] was coming to Nintendo Switch. Why did you choose to bring it to that platform?

Nal: So after the Switch was released, we were interested in bringing this game to Switch. And then we met a Nintendo person, and they started talking about bringing this game to the Switch and they would be interested in it.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin | Gameplay

In addition to combat, there are plenty of items to collect that will be later used for the rice harvesting game aspect in this artistically-unique indie title. (Images courtesy of XSEED).

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin | Boss Fight

OR: Is there a release date set yet?

Nal: It’s going to be this Winter.

OR: Last question- since we have to wrap this up. To someone who may not have heard of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin until E3, and is now thinking about picking it up, what do you have to say to them?

Koichi: So we feel like this game has a visual appeal, and so people are going to go into the game and are going to see the world. And it’s good for a casual player too, as they can grow Sakuna- the main character- it might be tough sometimes, but they can crawl through most of the stuff. And for the hardcore gamer, there are so many elemental and big [enemies] in the game. So the game will appeal to everyone.

OR: Thank you very much.



Are you excited for Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin? What do you think of this game being inspired by Fairy Bloom Freesia?

Let us know in the comments below!

About Quentin H.

Likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. And video games. Cannot forget those video games. Anime too. Should not forget that either.