Sands Of Destruction
Posted 3 years ago By - Zach R.
When it comes to JRPG’s, there’s always a few things you can count on. The hero is an ordinary boy, destined for greatness. That hero will often meet up with like minded individuals in order to vanquish their foes. After numerous random encounters, there will be a final boss that usually requires an epic amount of punishment to defeat.
If you have any hope of creating a JRPG, these elements seem to be essential, with the rarest of exceptions. ImageEpoch, for its part, seem to have all the elements in place for its newest JRPG: Sands of Destruction. The question is, even with all the elements in place; have they made something more compelling than just a game that sticks with convention, or is this strictly a by-the-numbers affair?
While all the standards that apply to JRPG’s are here in Sands Of Destruction, ImageEpoch have added a few features that set it apart from other titles on the DS. The first big difference is the story. You see, while most JRPG’s out there have someone fighting to save the world, Sands actually promotes the end of it. This isn’t a huge change, but it’s a nice change of pace.
The hero of the story is Kyrie, a normal small town boy, but one with the power to destroy the world. Of course, he doesn’t know anything about this power to begin with, but is soon thrown in with a band of humans who call themselves the World Annihilation Front. WAF’s goal is simple really: take the world out of the hands of the ruling power, the ferals. Utilizing Kyrie to bring about the end of the world, their hope is that there will be enough left for humanity to have its turn at running things.
For a DS game the story is pretty detailed and, frankly, can get a bit longwinded at points. The game tells the tale through the use of cutscenes, both of the voice-acting and text-heavy variety. It’s here that the game suffers most, as there is an awful lot of talking. Much like Super Paper Mario, there’s some cute humour, albeit of a darker nature here, but the amount of exposition can be pretty tiresome at times. In other words, if you’re looking for a game that’s all about action, you may want to rethink your purchase here. That said, if you love a good story, you’re getting one long yarn here that’s sure to give you more than your money’s worth.
The gameplay itself is quite intricate in nature, though novices shouldn’t fear diving into it. Battles themselves are turn-based. Each character has a number of battle points to use during each turn. While it may take a minute or two to discern how it all comes together, the flow of each fight is second nature once you get the hang of it. There are two types of attacks, (essentially light and heavy), and two types of Skills, (for healing or elemental attacks). Bigger attacks will cost you more BP, but as you learn the flow of combat, you’ll come to know which attacks to pair up to create powerful combos.
To unlock these combos, you use a fairly deep customization system. While leveling up will take care of your typical stats, such as health and defense prowess, the customization system will allow you to tweak attacks, making them more powerful and accurate. Upgrading the attacks themselves is a pretty neat idea, but adding the ability to unlock combos that change the battle dynamic make things far more satisfying. There’s even unlockable "quips"; phrases that help/hinder your team by giving a rallying cry if you’re successful or uttering a derogatory remark if you’re taking too much punishment. While the quip system isn’t nearly as detailed as the move customization, it’s still a neat feature that I hope to see used in future games.
While Sands offers a solid fighting system, and some great customization options, it does have some issues that could use addressing. The random encounters throughout the game tend to teeter between fun and annoying. The problem is that you’ll end up encountering enemies every few steps with no onscreen indicator to tell you there’s an enemy ahead. You walk blindly across maps and hope that you can make it to your destination without getting roped into a battle with invisible enemies.
The real problem with the frequency of the encounters though, is that because they happen so often, your character can become slightly overpowered. Alright, slightly may not be a strong enough word. You will trample enemies in some areas. The game does its best to throw fights at you that have you outnumbered, and the enemies will have decent sized HP bars, but eventually, as you progress, even some bosses won’t be able to last more than a few rounds with you before being crushed by your might.
The maps are partially at fault here. While often in RPG’s you’ll follow a specific route to your destination, Sands throws in some puzzle solving. It wouldn’t be much of a problem if you didn’t have to back track so much during the adventure. Finding elemental stones, or using portals to get to areas that aren’t clearly marked on the upper-screen map makes it more likely that you’ll be grinding levels instead of progressing the story. If you’re not a patient player, take that into account before you tie yourself into it.
Graphics & Sound
Visually, you won’t see much here that you haven’t seen before on the DS. That’s not to say that Sands isn’t good, but it’s certainly not as polished as it could be. Maps are displayed in 3D, but battles are a strictly 2D affair. The main problem is the 2D sprite characters. While they are expected, the lack of detail makes it hard for emotional overtones in the game to hit their mark.
Thankfully, the audio has you covered, as the soundtrack is one of the best featured on the DS. Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, of Chrono Trigger and Xenogears fame, there’s an epic feel to the orchestration here. Everything fits nicely. There’s also a ton of voice-acting on display here, which was a nice surprise, though if you’ve heard any JRPG voice-acting in previous games, your enjoyment will depend on that. The only problem with the sound is Nintendo’s hardware. The DS speakers are a little too tin-sounding, so use some headphones if you can.
There’s a good 20-30 hours of gameplay here depending on how quickly you pick up on the intricate nature of the battle and customization systems. Keep in mind that those 20-30 hours include a fair bit of grinding to keep the story moving.
Sands Of Destruction is a series of great ideas that make for a very good, if not great, JRPG. Fans of the genre may find it a bit of a cake walk, but for novices, this could be a good point to hop on the JRPG train and enjoy the lengthy and entertaining ride.
+ Battle system is worth investing some time into.
+ Same goes for customization.
+ Music some of the best on the DS.
+ Fairly lengthy adventure.
- A little too easy as a result.
- Puzzles on maps would be a good idea...random encounters make it a little too frustrating, though.
- Visuals won’t necessarily wow you.
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Release Date : Q1 2009
System : Nintendo DS
Publisher : SEGA
Category : Role Playing Game
ESRB : RP
7.0 / 10
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