Angst? What Angst? In the beginning of the game, Kyrie levels his entire village, which includes his uncle, in an accidental outburst of power and never thinks twice about it. What.
Hey, he's got no time for angst. He's too busy mooning over the cute Omnicidal Maniac.
The angst starts weighing down on him after the second outburst at the Sky Gaol and after finding out his fate as the Destruct he asks Naja to kill him so the world would not have to be destroyed.
He later elaborates that he was in serious denial about his role in the town's destruction, and when he is finally forced to confront the truth of it, he does not take it well.
Crowning Music of Awesome: The gorgeous main theme, played over the static title theme, stands out as yet another feather in the cap of Yasunori Mitsuda. One could very easily argue that the soundtrack is far superior to the game.
The Primal Lord theme is easily the best theme of the game...Shame it only plays three times....
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The game opens with Morte and the World Annihilation Front attacking Viteaux like a bunch of Bomb-Throwing Anarchists. You're in control of Naja and are supposed to fight her off and save the town, but the girl is having way too much fun either way. With the way Naja and his jerkish superior Rajif keep calling her a terrorist, she'd make an excellent poster girl for any sort of terrorist group: "Be a terrorist! Blow stuff up!It's fun!" At least it does help you feel more sympathetic towards Kyrie for falling in Love at First Sight: that kind of enthusiasm can be infectious, even coming from a Psychopathic Woman Child. And, thankfully, she keeps her upbeat, determined personality even after changing her mind about destroying the world, proving that good doesn't have to be boring.
Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game: Most of the reviews complained about the flaws in the battle system, such as overpowered flurry attacks, a randomized action queue, and the number of Random Encounters. After that, they split into two camps: those who found the game irredeemably dislikeable, and these who felt that the story was fun despite the flawed gameplay.note It often came down to whether or not they found the protagonists enjoyable: is Kyrie whiny and obnoxious or understandably overwhelmed? Is Morte Crazy Awesome or just plain crazy?
Ensemble Darkhorse: Toppi's so popular in Japan that he appears as a summon in Phantasy Star Zero.
Esoteric Happy Ending: The ending of the game is unambiguously meant to be happy: Kyrie has control of his Power Incontinence, the Sand Sea is now filled with water (and therefore much more liveable) and it's no longer trying to swallow all the continents to help end the world, humans are no longer oppressed by Ferals, and best of all, he and Morte (who no longer wishes to end the world) are a happy Official Couple. Well, great, except the epilogue doesn't show any Ferals except Taupy, Rhi'a, and Naja. What happened to the rest? Rhi'a is seen chasing after a house cat who resembles Felis Rex, so perhaps they've been turned into ordinary animals - a fitting end to those who were oppressive, sure, but the game points out that Ferals are as diverse as humans in personality; some are cruel and some are kind. On top of that, the only reason Kyrie has control of his powers is The Power of Love, and he and Morte are teenagers: what happens if they break up, like so many other teenagers tend to do? Worse yet, the Crimson Sun gave Morte the Destruct Code that controls Kyrie's powers, and the only reason she's no longer interested in ending the world is because Kyrie is Worth Living For; she's still shown to be temperamental and prone to acting before she thinks. So if Kyrie ever falls out of love and breaks her heart, she's likely to end the world in a fit of anger because she now knows exactly how to do it, and he'd be powerless to stop her. Oops.
To paraphrase a forum poster from GameFAQs, if it weren't for the meddling, "The developers could have made Xenogears but instead gave us Wild ARMs."
Game Breaker: Flurry attacks, once chained, will OHKO most normal enemies and easily hit for around 1/4 to 1/3 to even 1/2 of most bosses HP in a turn, thus taking any challenge from the rest of the game. They are, however, a form of Magikarp Power.
It's also worth mentioning that these aren't always a Game Breaker...for Kyrie, Agan, and Rhi'a? Most definitely. For Morte and Naja? Well for them, it's the only way you'll ever get to see their special attack since a base flurry with Morte and Naja only do 7 and 9 hits respectively. (Whereas Rhi'a goes for almost 20 hits, Agan goes 12, and Kyrie goes well over 10) Taupy, too, though he's just a bruiser in of himself.
And if you want Naja to break the game? Have him use War Cry.
Guide Dang It: The Temple of Light is initially locked. To get inside, you must first trigger a conversation with your companions by using the teleport pads a couple times - which you'll likely eventually do just out of frustration, but there's no indication that's required. During the conversation, Taupy says you should return to the beginning and start over. Does that mean returning to the entrance of the temple grounds and running along the path again? Nope! You're supposed to go back to the town outside the temple and speak to one random lady who's just standing around looking like any other filler NPC and get her to give you a book. Even if you Talk to Everyone the first time you enter town, nothing in her initial conversation will tip you off that you'll need to speak to her again later. Yeah, good luck figuring that out on your own. Once you have the book you need, the actual path you need to follow is as much an exercise in Trial-and-Error Gameplay as it is memory and planning. Morte becomes increasingly frustrated with each new twist, and by the end of that quest, you're likely to feel for her.
Hype Backlash: Most reviewers have come to the agreement that, taken on its own merits as a stand-alone game, Sands of Destruction is pretty good, or at least So OK It's Average. Unfortunately, having well-known names behind fan favorites like Chrono Trigger and Xenogears had fans chomping at the bit in anticipation and feeling more than a bit let down when the game didn't live up to their expectations. This, coupled with the fact that most previews played up the "gonna end the world" angle that Kyrie never really gets behind, really took the wind out of its sails.
It's Easy, so It Sucks: This game is actually EASIER than Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, and in fact, most rpgs targeted towards young children
The chained flurry attacks described above are the only way you're ever going to see each character's special attack unless you get ridiculously lucky with your normal attacks. However, if you try to use them against most bosses, most of them have an ability that pushes them further up the turn queue the more they get hit, meaning they'll get 5-6 turns in a row when they do finally get their turn: while you can get the same ability yourself, nothing else in the game does nearly as many hits as you do and it's mostly useless, while any other methods of trying to fight bosses are infinitely slower and more tedious.
Bosses can also spam Battle Boost (which increases their stats and gives them extra turns) with impunity, making the turn queue largely useless both because of this and the previous statement.
The previously mentioned special attacks require you to complete a 5-button press minigame to make them do the most damage: however, the buttons are always the same and for the most part consist of repeated button presses (like X,X,X,X,X), except for Raja, whose inputs are noticeably more varied for whatever reason.
Actually the button presses are quite difficult unless you have an accessory equipped that sets them to one button, not that the game ever bothers divulging that information to you either.
The morale system is supposed to give characters extra turns when they're in good mood, which is accomplished by keeping them in the active party for extended periods of time and giving them equipment that boosts it: in practice, this never works as intended and you can be stuck with a party full of characters in a miserable mood despite using them for most of the game and sacrificing actually effective gear over the kind they like.
Even running away from battles is handled in a supremely awkward way: normally in fully turn-based games, running away works by giving either the party as a whole or each character a chance of successfully running away if they attempt to do so, which if they fail, either they or the party lose their turn, generally leaving them open for a beating. In most RPGs that have more action-oriented battles, running instead leaves the party or currently controlled character open until they finally do decide to run away (either by being allowed to do so by RNG or by filling up a bar) while the monsters keep getting turns at a normal pace. SoD decides to combine both varieties into one in a way that makes next to no sense: if you decide to run away (which you will, due to annoyingly common random battles), your entire party forfeits all their turns, allowing the enemies to keep attacking you constantly while you wait for the bar to fill, and if you decide against running after all, the enemy still gets to use all their turns they've gotten this way before you can actually attack again. This happens regardless of enemy, meaning that running away normally always means that you'll get hit several times with no way around it. However, if you have Agan in your party with his instant-runaway quip equipped, you can instantly run away from any battle, regardless of how strong the monsters are without them being able to attack even once. In other words, there's no middle ground to running away: either you get your ass kicked repeatedly by even the weakest enemies in the game, or you can be facing Demonic Spiders in the final dungeon with a lv1 party and never get hit once.
That One Boss: Any boss that flies, namely Jade Zephyr, Aquila Rex, and Noctua Rex. Noctua Rex is the worst, because he starts on the ground and if you air-toss him, normally a good thing, HE DOESN'T COME BACK DOWN. Also Serpens Rex, who prevents you from using your Limit Break Special Attack because you're also fighting Morte, who results in a Non Standard Game Over if killed
That One Sidequest: Agan's Rite of Ascension to become chief. The sand whale you need to defeat, Dark Crown, is an easy Anticlimax Boss, but the sand is also full of Desert Kings who are ridiculously overpowered and possess the Dust to Dust skill, which instantly petrifies him resurting in an instant game over unless you have a certain accessory equipped. You'll likely have to face multiple Desert Kings before the Dark Crown will make his appearance, given the Random Encounters.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Don't ask fans if they like the game or anime better. Don't. The two are basically Broad Strokes adaptations to the point that they're Alternate Continuity; it helps nothing that production of the game began first, but the anime was released first, giving each a legitimate claim to being the "original" that the other changed.note It also helps nothing that there's a few hints in the game that characterizations may have originally been closer to the anime but were later changed: notice, for example, that Morte is extremely quiet and serious in the opening movie, whereas in the game proper she's a Genki Girl, and Rhi'a is seen walking around with Naja but is never alone with him in the game's plot; the opening 3D movie would have likely been rendered early in production, and while changing a few sprites around is easy (the animations on the sprite sheet all exist no matter when or where you want to use them), it would be more trouble to reanimate a 3D scene, leaving the opening movie a relic of the game's "original" state that the anime was based on. The girls, in particular, have a problem with their personalities changing: in the anime, Morte is serious and driven and Rhi'a is Trigger Happy, whereas in the game, Morte is a gleefulMad Bomber(even after she changes her mind about ending the world, she's still really upbeat) and Rhi'a is calm and mysterious. There's also the issue of voices; many fans of the game play it on a ROM simply because it offers the option to patch the voices back to the original Japanese.
Useless Useful Spell: Kyrie's Porta Clausa. It negates all damage for three turns! Sounds like an awesome way to turn your party into an invincible killing machine, yeah? Well, no, it also negates damage done to your enemies, so in practice it just makes the battle three turns longer. The only way it would be useful is if you needed to heal the entire party and needed a few turns to do that, but Kyrie has another Life Skill that heals everyone, dispels all status effects, and revives all fallen members in one go.
What Could Have Been: As mentioned above, the original draft was much darker, with possible depictions of ferals eating humans. Alas, Executive Meddling made the game's finalised story as it is. Well, there's hints like the time where Porco Rex threatens to eat that human child, but it's not quite the same. There is also Lacertus Rex's plan to use humans as base material for his ascension to godhood.
What Measure Is a Non-Badass?: Kyrie isn't the most manly of men: he Apologizes a Lot, he's a Reluctant Warrior, he follows the whims of a very destructive girl because he fell in Love at First Sight but never tries to get in her panties, favoring verbal confessions of love to anything physical. If you flipped the genders of the leads, you'd have a very typical story about a gentle soul whose Love Redeems, but with the male as the patient Love Martyr, fans get annoyed. At least one reviewer blamed Kyrie's demeanor for the entire reason he didn't enjoy the game. This is despite the fact that, unlike the anime, Kyrie is a legitimate fighter here and is capable with his knives; he would just really rather not use them.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Don't ask fans if they like the game or anime better. Don't. The game and anime are basically Broad Strokes adaptations to the point that they're Alternate Continuity; it helps nothing that production of the game began first, but the anime was released first, giving each a legitimate claim to being the "original" that the other changed. The girls, in particular, have a problem with their personalities changing: in the anime, Morte is serious and driven and Rhi'a is Trigger Happy, whereas in the game, Morte is a gleefulMad Bomber(even after she changes her mind about ending the world, she's still really upbeat) and Rhi'a is calm and mysterious. Fans are divided on which personality set is "better" or truer to characterization (though, internally, they're pretty consistent; it's just comparing the game VS the anime). There's also the issue of voices and the great Subbing VS Dubbing debate.
What Measure Is a Non-Badass?: Kyrie gets a lot of flack for being an Action Survivor and Distressed Dude who tries to calm everyone down and talk his way out of fights instead of jumping in blade first. It doesn't help that his companions are both extremely skilled in combat while his skills lie in the culinary arts (and, unlike the game, he never weaponizes poisonous food). That time he defended a fellow human prisoner from an abusive feral prison guard? Totally didn't happen. He's even derided for wearing a suit of armor (you know, being sensible) when forced in a colosseum. He finally takes a level in the finale, which lead to quite a few fans wondering why he couldn't be like that for the whole series.
Chickification: Morte falls prey to it in the final chapters. At the outset of the story, she's extremely competent and more than capable of taking care of herself in a fight. However, after she remembers that she's the Princess of Guiadance, she suddenly seems to forget all her fighting skills - including basic things like how to jump, as she was capable of making a tremendous leap while saving Kyrie from Rajif, but is unable to jump from the top deck of a ship to a nearby walkway to save herself. This seems to serve no purpose other than to give Canon Immigrant Kou a single chance to be heroic and save her for Kyrie. She attempts to rejoin the fight after this, but is quickly killed, triggering Kyrie to turn Vreveil into Swiss cheese. Compared to the game, which allowed Kyrie to grow a spine so they could become an equal Battle Couple, and even to the anime, which at least had both Taupy and Morte playing the part of Badass in Distress for Kyrie to save, the manga seems to be writing solely towards a certain male demographic who believes firmly that Men Act, Women Are - particularly since, compared to the other adaptations, Rhi'a also loses her fighting spirit, but at least she's internally consistent and doesn't come off as a Faux Action Girl.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: The manga gets less flak, perhaps simply for being less well-known and never receiving any official release. Morte's insanity is dialed up a few notches from the game, but Rhi'a is the one who really changes, becoming a complete Cloudcuckoo Lander whose only real purpose is to be the Plucky Comic Relief; her fans were less than amused. Morte being subject to extreme Chickification at the end probably didn't help with readers who liked having a strong female lead, either.