Sakuna: Of Rice And Ruin – From Grain To Greatness | Developer Interview

The tail end of 2020 saw the release of one of the most charming and unique RPGs of the last few years – Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. Developed by Edelweiss, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin immediately drew legions of fans thanks to its wonderful story, its incredible gameplay and – of course – its wacky-and-wonderful focus on rice. GameByte spoke with developers Nal and Koichi on how the game came to be, and what we can expect to see from Edelweiss next!

What is Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin?

Credit: XSEED/Marvelous Inc.

Described by Koichi as a “2D combo-action” game with “rice farming-simulation” and RPG elements, Of Rice and Ruin has you play as harvest goddess, Sakuna. Trapped on an island filled with demons, it’s up to you to defeat your enemies and cultivate the land to produce rice, your source of power. Mixing side-scrolling combat with RPG gameplay and deep crafting elements, it’s easy to see why Of Rice and Ruin has already won the hearts of gamers across the world.

Gameplay, Story & Rice

Credit: XSEED/Marvelous Inc.

With such a unique story to tell, it’s easy to imagine that this was always the core of the game, perhaps with the gameplay built around it. However, as Koichi explains, Of Rice and Ruin’s main focus has always been the gameplay, which shaped what the story became.

First and foremost, the game’s story and setting came about due to the gameplay,” explains Koichi. “We wanted to stay away from things like the realistic passage of time, so we went with a world based around Japanese mythology. 

“Similarly, we wanted a setting free of outside influences, so we set the game on an isolated island. We also wanted players to get stronger in battle through rice farming, so we made the player character a child born of a war god and a harvest goddess. Those were the kind of choices we made throughout the game’s development. So as you can see, we focused on the gameplay first and then set about filling in the gaps with the other elements.”

The Art Of Sakuna

Credit: XSEED/Marvelous Inc.

Perhaps one of the most striking parts of the game is the wonderful art from Ryota Murayama, which has already inspired a number of fan-created pieces across sites like Pinterest, Deviantart and more. According to Koichi, the colour and style of the world weren’t the starting point for Of Rice and Ruin, but instead complimentary to the gameplay the team set out to present.

“Everything started with the gameplay–things like the story and visuals were added in service of it, so I don’t think the art style had much of an effect on the gameplay itself,” says Koichi. “But there’s no denying the impact of Murayama-san’s art. Although there were some limits when it came to realizing our vision, we took special care while making the game to preserve the sense and feel of his artwork.”

Inspirations And Recommendations

Credit: XSEED/Marvelous Inc.

While it’s easy to draw our own comparisons between Of Rice and Ruin and other movies and games, we wanted to know what inspired Nal and Koichi during their time developing the game.

Perhaps unsurprising to those who’ve played Of Rice and Ruin, Koichi cites Studio Ghibli’s iconic movie Princess Mononoke as being one of a few inspirations. 

“In particular, I’ve taken inspiration from Princess Mononoke and Seven Samurai,” Koichi tells us. “I also recommend that people who enjoyed the game’s story check out ‘Samurai Sentai Shinkenger’ as well; Yasuko Kobayashi’s performance is simply amazing!”

As for Nal, Moon Studios’ Ori games were a source of inspiration during development.

“I’ve probably been influenced by so many titles, but if I had to pick a few, I’d say the games ‘ActRaiser’, ‘Devil May Cry’, and ‘Ori,’” Nal says.

Recreating The Japanese Countryside

Credit: XSEED/Marvelous Inc.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin doesn’t just excel with its gameplay and graphics, but also with its soundtrack and sound design. Its memorable 42-track soundtrack is included with the Deluxe Digital Edition of the game on Steam, and it provides a wonderful background to the title’s stellar gameplay. As Nal explains, the sound of Of Rice and Ruin was no mere afterthought in the game’s development.

“Our goal was to recreate the feelings and emotions associated with rice fields and old Japanese-style houses that are such a rich part of our culture, so we put a lot of effort into the environmental sound effects common in rural settings such as frogs, cicadas, and birds,” says Nal. 

“We’re happy if the sound design helps players feel like they’re actually in the Japanese countryside!

“Also, the composer for our music, Hiroyuki Oshima, is well-versed in Celtic and other types of folk music, and I think his use of Japanese instruments really created the perfect game music: memorable, yet still easy to listen to while playing the game. There are many instances where the music really adds excitement to the story, so please pay particular attention to it while you’re playing the game.”

What’s Next After sakuna: Of Rice And Ruin?

Credit: XSEED/Marvelous Inc.

Fans of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin are already looking forward to whatever Edelweiss comes up with next, and the good news is that we can definitely expect something even more out of the ordinary!

“We don’t have anything in mind at the moment,” Nal tells us. “We worked really hard on this one, so I think it’d be fun to make a game that’s a bit more unusual–I mean, really out there–next time!”

If you’re looking for your next RPG adventure that doesn’t scrimp on story or combat, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is available now on PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch!

You can also buy it from the GameByte Shop on Switch and PS4.

Featured Image Credit: XSEED/Marvelous Games