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Video Game / Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

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Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, a Market-Based Title, with the original being Tensui no Sakuna-hime (天穂のサクナヒメ), meaning "Heavenly Ears of Sakuna-hime", given the eventual Title Drop, is a side-scrolling action-platformer developed by Japanese independent game studio Edelweiss, and published by Marvelous in Japan and Europe and XSEED Games in North America. The game has deep crafting and rice cultivation in a tale about finding one's place in the world. Its scheduled release date was on November 10, 2020 for PC via Steam, and November 20, 2020 for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

Spoiled harvest goddess Sakuna finds herself banished from her opulent celestial home to an island overrun with demons. In the untamed wilderness, she must rediscover her birthright as the daughter of a warrior god and harvest goddess by weathering the elements, fighting monsters, and cultivating rice, the source of her power. By her side in this foreboding place is her guardian Tama and a group of outcast humans. Together, these unlikely companions must join hands to tame both the soil and the demons of Hinoe Island.


Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin provides examples of:

  • Absurdly High Level Cap: Sakuna's level maxes out at 50, but the game can quite easily be beaten when her level is in the low 40s.
  • Alcohol Hic: When Sakuna is drunk in the beginning, she ends a sentence with a *hic*.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Tama remarks that real demons are always evil, they simply cannot comprehend nor feel gratitude or any form of goodwill, as they are pure manifestations of evil born from all the chaos in the Lowly Realm. This comes to play when the humans save a wounded rabbit demon, Sakuna and Tama are flabbergasted that they would even try to aid such a being, but the group manages to convince Sakuna to spare it. Unfortunately, this decision comes back to bite them hard, as the demon rabbit pays back by revealing the location of their home to the other demons, who completely razed down their land on bypassing the disorientation spell Takeribi had cast to protect the pass. While the same rabbit demon who had revealed the pass was later thrown out by its peers, Tama hypothesizing due to its associating with the humans, Sakuna stays her hand and leaves a meal packet. Apparently it seems that demons can be purified, as the demon rabbit transformed back into a normal rabbit after eating the rice that Sakuna had left behind.
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  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: Sakuna's parents, Toyohana and Takeribi. Although they are widely revered in the lofty realm, they are not present during the story and are referred to in the past tense. For much of the story, it is unclear if they are dead or they disappeared at some point in the past. When she faces off against the Final Boss, Omizuchi reveals he devoured both of them.
  • Amphibian at Large: A giant frog demon is the boss of the forest region.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Enemies make absolutely no effort to avoid dangerous terrain - they just march blindly toward Sakuna regardless of what's in the way, which players can easily exploit.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Bear demons start appearing late in the game. They're huge, hit like trucks, and can parry your attacks. Dealing with them usually requires debuffing them with your raiment, using smaller enemies for crash combos against them or using the your raiment to out maneuver them to their vastly more vulnerable back.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Myrthe is from a fictional European country, but speaks Poirot Speak Dutch. All words she uses are the correct terminology for their English/Japanese counterparts. And sometimes she scolds or apologizes or just drops a few words without context. Like when naming the rice Sakuna farms, she suggests "Sakuna Ontembaar" which means Sakuna Untamed.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The first time Sakuna enters the Training Cave at home base, she remarks that it looks notably larger than the appearance led her to believe. Tama explains that her father made it himself, and used an enchantment that shrank the size of all who entered so he'd have more room to hone his skills.
  • Bonus Boss: The 100th floor of Amagaeshi Shrine houses a palette-swapped copy of Sakuna, who fights using the same techniques as the real one.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: According to Word of God, Omizuchi's extra heads are the result of him consuming Sakuna's parents and gaining their powers: the earth head came from Toyohana, while the fire head came from Takeribi.
  • The Catfish: An enormous catfish demon serves as the boss of the river region, leaping out of the water to attack Sakuna.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: Played with. The volcano is first mentioned as safe to ignore because there aren't any demons there. Why there are no demons there ends up becoming important, but despite fighting a boss in the heart of the volcano, there is no eruption. After confronting the next boss (who has a nice view of the volcano in the distance), however, the volcano finally erupts and pollutes the hamlet, resulting in the loss of Sakuna's powers.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Myrthe worships a foreign God known as Formos, who seems to be the setting's equivalent of the Christian God.
  • Declaration of Protection: Sakuna's father helped protect Ashigumo's tribe living on Hinoe Island from the more vile demons. In return, Ashigumo still protects the house Sakuna's parents made, and Sakuna herself when she arrives.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletal warriors, the remnants of the Ashigumo tribe, make up many of the enemies of the volcano region.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • The actual farming is surprisingly complex, being a Rice Farming simulator, essentially. Get good at it, however, and Sakuna can gain lots of stat boosts from high quality rice.
    • On the combat side, the game has a parry system akin to Street Fighter III where players parry by tapping the stick in the direction of an incoming attack at just the right moment. It's as tricky (quite) and as effective (very) as can be expected.note 
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The dog that gets found has keen enough senses that it can detect demons before they're close enough to be a threat, which allows the humans that were banished to Hinoe Island with Sakuna to leave the protection of the farm and go foraging in the wild as long as it accompanies them. A few more dogs later join, allowing more of the group to be sent out.
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: The Pig Men Creeps are huge, with portly stomachs that either carry giant clubs the size of Sakuna, or shields the size of themselves. They're also the second enemy in the game and go down quite easily.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The game takes place in a fantasy Japan analog named Yanato. Other countries are mentioned — Myrthe is from the Netherlands analogue Formos, and mentions a China analogue Ouka and an India analogue Nadith when talking about her travels.
  • Feathered Fiend: The sparrow demons are aggressive and love to gang up on Sakuna when they see her, while the pheasant demons are difficult with their dive-bombing, arrow-like feathers, and forward-spin attacks with their tails.
  • Flying Seafood Special: In the river areas, flying fish demons are a constant threat.
  • Full-Boar Action: Boar demons show up in the forest and mountain regions. Unlike most demons, they're quadrupeds rather than bipeds and attack with their tusks.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • According to mythology, only the purest of white rice is tributed to the gods. Here, not only will Sakuna gain stat boosts only if you fully make White Rice, the better your rice, the better her gains.
    • The game has UI elements that make the farming easier, but not initially, they get unlocked over time. Presumably, this represents Sakuna herself getting better at Rice Farming.
    • Cutscenes which involve everyone, like Kinta running away, will retrieve everyone from their gathering tasks.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • After clearing all the five main areas, and beating the Fortress' boss the farmhouse and all nearby buildings get destroyed, the land laid to waste, and everything that Sakuna and the Children of Men worked for is gone. In the meantime your supplies and inventory are unchanged, and you still have everything you've collected so far.
    • The Skeletal Spectres are supposedly enemies of both humans and demons, carrying rancorous hatred within them for a war that wiped them out. When they first appear they're in a cave with slain demons strewn about, but later on in the game they appear alongside Creeps as just another enemy.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: In a several tiered circle, the gods of the Lofty Realm give praise to higher gods, and they all in turn do favours for the Children of Men (Mortal human beings) in the Lower realm. Which in turn would fuel them with praise. Sakuna starts the game off rather weak because she's banished to the Isle of Demons, but the more she works at the harvest and does favours for the humans she's on the island with, the stronger she becomes, and the more powerful demons she can vanquish.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Striking an enemy hard enough will send it flying, causing crash damage to any other enemies in its path. Sakuna can also use her Raiment to grab one and fling them around depending on the Raiment skills equipped.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The rabbit demons are evil-looking, bipedal rabbits that fight with swords, bows, or grenades. While individually somewhat weak, they're quite dangerous in groups.
  • In-Universe Game Clock:
    • The game functions on a day-night clock. Sakuna does not get tired and can move during both day and night (her abilities are instead limited by food) and the player can speed up the clock by resting. Monsters are stronger during the night but also drop rare items for equipment. The humans on the island can only be dispatched as gatherers during the day; during the night all except for Myrthe are asleep and Sakuna cannot ask Tauemon for rice planting advice or have Yui or Kinta make new items.
    • Rice farming is based around four three-"day" seasons, with the crop being planted in the spring and harvested in the late summer or early autumn. Some items like ice are also seasonal.
  • Kappa: A lone kappa shows up to ask Sakuna for help against a demon that's threatening its tribe. Once Sakuna defeats the giant catfish demon, the entire kappa tribe swears allegiance to her and begins working additional rice fields to increase the harvest.
  • Keigo: Sakuna, Tama, Kokorowa, Tauemon, and Kamuhitsuki's Japanese lines are spoken quite formally. Sakuna and Kokorowa are part of Kamuhitsuki's court (although Sakuna does still speak in a rude manner despite using polite forms of address), Tama's the Old Retainer who serves Sakuna, and Tauemon's the son of a samurai. The difference of speech patterns comes up during a dinner conversation in Hinoe where Sakuna and Tauemon comment about Kinta and Yui's rougher sentences and use of short forms, given that they're from the countryside.
  • Lethal Joke Item: Normally the Bamboo Broom is a pathetic two-hand weapon that although deals 50% more damage to enemies sent flying, has a base damage of one. Give it the Broomstick Awakening Spirit Bough, and it now gains damage scaled to your Magic stat, quickly turning it into one of the more powerful Magic damage weapons.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Go deep enough into the volcano and you'll be walking among pools of and columns of lava. These will damage Sakuna if she steps in them, although she can mitigate it through clothing and food bonuses.
  • Mystical Jade: Besides the broom that can be found in the storehouse, weapons forged from jade are the only ones that can deal Magic-type damage by default, and are unlocked around the time Sakuna discovers the magic-focused water region.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: Although demons can be encountered during both day and night, they get much more powerful when darkness falls.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: None of the characters age significantly, despite living on the island for years. Justified due to it being in the Lofty Realm, although the ending mentions that Yui grows into a goddess of the loom, so it could be that they age a lot more slowly in the Lofty Realm compared to the Lowly Realm.
  • Our Gods Are Different: Myrthe is a Western missionary who believes in a monotheistic religion similar to Christianity. To her, there's one capital-G god, and the "gods" of Yanatonote  are more akin to "angels".
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Sakuna, for all that she's an entitled Spoiled Brat most of the time, does have her moments when she shows genuine gratitude and concern for the humans she's forced to live with.
    • In a more literal example, Sakuna can pet the dogs and cats that come to live at the Mountain Pass.
  • Physical God: Several characters, in fact:
    • Sakuna, herself, is the daughter of a War God and an Agriculture Goddess.
    • Lady Kamuhitsuki is the Top God of the Lofty Realm.
    • Yui eventually grows into a goddess of the loom, while Tauemon also becomes a harvest god.
  • Physical Heaven: Sakuna and her kind live in the Lofty Realm, connected to the Lowly Realm of mortals with a bridge that only appears intermittently to deliver tributes.
  • Pig Man: The bipedal boar demons. They're much larger than Sakuna and wield either huge stone hammers or massive wooden shields. They're resistant to being staggered or juggled by Sakuna's attacks unless parried.
  • The Power of Hate: The boss of the volcano region is a malevolent amalgamation of the Ashigumo tribes' remains, who resent their tribe's fate. The boss fight is introduced with it hissing "Hate...".
  • Practical Currency: Once your rice harvest starts getting large enough, you can trade rice to the capital in exchange for different items that can't be acquired on Hinoe Island, like silk and sugar.
  • Protagonist Title: Sakuna herself is the title character.
  • Protection Mission: When Sakuna (and Kokorowa) approach Lady Kamuhitsuki for the Orb of Transformation to help restore the ash-laden fields hampering the former's powers, the latter tasks her with protecting a branch of the Tree of Creation which would bear the Orb. Sakuna has to endure 4 waves of huge aphids (around her size) that will approach and feed on the branch. The yellow ones walk towards the branch, the red ones do that faster, and the blue ones move away before shooting at it from afar, forcing Sakuna to move to them to wipe them out. It can be played again as a Mini-Game.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: For accidentally blowing up the divine garner containing rice that was meant to be a tribute to Kamuhitsuki, Sakuna is tasked with colonizing Hinoe Island, where her parents met and fought against demons. As for the humans that she was trying to repel, since the celestial bridge has already vanished and they can't be sent home until it reappears, they're sentenced to serve as Sakuna's workers on replacing the rice that was destroyed.
  • Rescue Romance: Yui has a crush on Kinta because he saved her sometime in the past, not that he remembers.
  • Scarf of Asskicking: More like Veil of Asskicking, but Sakuna has her Divine Raiment. More so than other examples, because it's used as a Grappling-Hook Pistol that can help close the gap to enemies.
  • Sequel Hook: A few plot threads brought in main game are never explored further.
    • The mysterious Twin Goddesses, strange beings that look like UFOs. They are directly related to two big plot threads: they created the Divine Raiment that belonged to Toyohana and now Sakuna, and were the ones who answered Yui's wish to become a human from her original crane form. The Twin Goddesses are not developed further despite Sakuna wanting to know more about them.
    • Later on Sakuna and Kokorowa begin suspecting that some malevolent schemer might exist in the Lofty Realm, as both goddesses noticed that the dispute between them over the tainted rice had to be someone else's hand, not the demons they had originally thought. Sakuna and Kokorowa also noticed how the demons and Ishimaru were well equipped with armor and weapons far beyond their understanding - both came to similar conclusions that not even Ishimaru’s interference could have advanced the demons that much. Omizuchi's awakening was the result of their actions and not the planner - the demon dragon had only powered up Ishimaru.
    • Kokorowa apparently gets into a conflict with another divine inventor, only teased that it "is a tale for another time."
    • Omizuchi states after you defeat him that he will eventually be reborn once there is enough hatred and suffering in the Lower Realm, though he also states that thanks to Sakuna's hard work the Lower Realm is entering a new era of peace and prosperity so it will take a long time before this happens.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Praise has been given as to the accuracy of the farming, even down to the little details, like the water level being best at ankle-height or the remedies when the rice plants become sick.
    • Once you grow a high yield of rice, the extra rice can be used to trade for items from the capital that can't be found on Hinoe. Before Japan used coin-based currency, rice was a form of money, where a daimyo's worth was how many koku of rice their lands could produce.
  • Spin Attack: Sakuna gets two special abilities that let her spin. First is Furious Furrow, which causes her to perform a forward spin with her two-handed weapon. This lets her strike repeatedly while reducing the amount of damage she takes while performing the attack. It's also uninterruptible. The second one is Wild Top, which causes her to perform a spinning kick that sends enemies flying.
  • Stealth Sequel: Sakuna may be part of the Fairy Bloom series, as Lady Kamuhitsuki is secretly revealed (by a mere little item description) to be Freesia from Fairy Bloom Freesia all grown up and ascended to godhood. Adding to this implication is the fact that the minigame that gives the item, "Sakuna the Efflorescent," involves protecting a giant plant from waves of invaders (and the premise of Fairy Bloom 1 involved a fairy protecting a flower from invaders). In addition to this, Myrthe explicitly mentions meeting King Listine "and a beautiful fairy" during her travels in a dinner cutscene.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The game begins with Sakuna attempting to chase off the humans that has broken into the Lofty Realm, only for her attack to knock a torch into barrels of ceremonial oils inside the divine garner, blowing up the entire tribute.
  • Technicolor Toxin: The clouds of poison in the Noxious Dale are colored purple.
  • Tell Me About My Father!: Sakuna asks Tama about how her parents met, as one of the possible dinner conversations.
  • That's No Moon!: At the end of the forest region, Sakuna marvels at some flowering camellia trees. Then they move, revealing them to be growing on a giant frog demon and the forest's master.
  • Title Drop: The original title, 天穂のサクナヒメ, is referring to the name of the rice that Sakuna eventually sells at the capital, dropped when deciding what to name it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After it's revealed that Ashigumo was Dead All Along and killed Ishimaru, he only appears in minor scenes. The shocking situation is never followed up on, no one wonders about his sudden disappearance, and he's the only named island character who does not appear at the end to get a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After the credits, the game gives one of these for each of the main characters.
  • World Tree: Called the Tree of Creation, whom Kamuhitsuki is apparently a manifestation/representation of, and whom most other gods are descended from.