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Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin – Our interview with development studio Edelweiss Interview

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a game that offers a quite unique combination of action platforming and farming simulation. We had the opportunity to ask Nal, the Director of the indie studio Edelweiss, and CG Artist Koichi a few questions about their game. They explain which inspirations they took from Japanese mythology, how the different gameplay elements work together and what players can expect from the world of Sakuna. Read the full interview below.



Thank you very much for agreeing to answer some of our questions. I am sure our readers will highly appreciate your effort! Let us start with the world of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. We already know that we will play Sakuna, the daughter of the god of war and the harvest goddess. During this year’s digital gamescom, viewers had the opportunity to see the first minutes of your game, in which a group of humans crosses a bridge into the realm of the gods. What is the relationship between mortals and the gods in the world of Sakuna?


Koichi: Japan is a polytheistic country; we believe that gods exist everywhere and reside in everything around us. However, while this game's world draws primarily from Japanese mythology, it has some Buddhist elements as well.


We chose this setting because, for much of their history, Japanese people have considered both Shinto gods and Buddha equally worthy of worship, especially in the context of their everyday lives.


Hence why this game focuses on that somewhat "fickle" aspect of the gods. That mundanity does a better job of conveying a sense of closeness with the gods—so they seem more like family or friends—than a monotheistic setting would.



You have mentioned on several occasions that the game’s world is inspired by Japanese mythology. Is there a specific legend that inspired the storyline of the game?


Koichi: Our game was born from the unusual concept of increasing your character's strength by farming rice, so we initially considered storylines featuring a human farmer as the protagonist. Ultimately we came up with the idea of Sakuna as the child of Susano-o and Kushinada, a famous couple in Japanese mythology whose traits she has inherited.


If players want to learn more about the myth that serves as the game's backbone, they should read about Japanese mythology, especially stories about Susano-o, in order to discover what inspired Sakuna.



The first enemies Sakuna encounters closely resemble real world animals. Are those figures also references to creatures of Japanese mythology?


Koichi: We didn't base those enemies on anything from Japanese mythology. We originally added them as part of the non-farming segments, namely the time you spend exploring, hunting, and gathering. This game draws heavily from Japan's Muromachi period, when Buddhist taboos ostensibly forbade meat consumption , but our research revealed that people actually did eat meat back then. When you think about it, people living during an age of war and famine, couldn't be picky about their food.


That's why we chose a few animals we know that people ate during that time and added them to the game as hostile beasts.



Let’s talk about gameplay. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin offers a quite unique combination of 2D platforming action and farming simulation. Why did you choose this specific combination? Is there a game or genre that inspired your conception of the game?


Nal: This game started out as a sequel to one of our earlier games, Fairy Bloom Freesia (Steam), so we decided to make it a 2D action platformer.


We also wanted to add some character development mechanics that would help endear our characters to the players, which led us to incorporate the rice farming simulation aspect. The SNES game ActRaiser served as a source of inspiration for that part of the game.



Right at the beginning of the game, Sakuna meets a group of humans that will later be the player’s companions. How will we as players interact with those characters? Is there a system which determines the relationship between different members of the group?


Koichi: The story and character relationships follow a linear path, and the game doesn't have a system where characters' friendship levels affect how things turn out. Despite this, we feel that the story provides an interesting examination of the characters' relationships as they evolve over time.



Sakuna’s farm is presented as a base for the party. Will there be options to customize or improve the farm through buildings and updates?


Koichi: Only essential story-related changes will affect its appearance, although we'd like to add customization if we ever make a sequel.



You have earlier stated that the fighting system of the game is inspired by classical games like the Devil May Cry series. Is there a specific element of the fighting system that you want to tell our readers about?


Nal: Sakuna can attack, parry, jump, and move quickly about a stage with her "divine raiment," which acts as a sort of grappling hook.


We also included a fairly forgiving canceling mechanic between attacks, which lets players freely launch combos and dictate the flow of the battle.


The raiment is particularly unique in that it lets you flank enemies, pull them toward you, or alter your path of descent after an aerial combo, thereby allowing you to perform all kinds of cool combos.



Last year, you had the opportunity to present your game during E3’s Nintendo Treehouse Live-Event. How closely have you worked with Nintendo to bring your game to the Nintendo Switch?


Nal: We're part of an indie (doujin) group that regularly participates at a Japanese indie event known as Comiket. When we exhibited our game there, the person in charge of Nintendo's indie games division came by and asked if we had any interest in releasing the game on the Nintendo Switch. So that's how it happened.


XSEED later told us that Nintendo of America quite liked a dev build they'd seen of our game, which led to us appearing on the Nintendo Treehouse event. But that's a whole different story.



Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin will also be released for PC and PlayStation 4. Given that the Nintendo Switch hardware is not as powerful as the other platforms, which compromises did you have to make to bring your game to Nintendo’s current system?


Nal: We started developing this game over 5 years ago, right around the time the PS4 went on sale, so we set our target specs to roughly that of a "PS3.5". This meant we could develop our game for the Switch without decreasing the quality of any models or textures.


We fine-tuned the rendering engine while adjusting the animation resolutions and framerate in order to optimize performance. We also tweaked the quality of the post-processing filters or removed them as needed to make sure everything ran smoothly.


The framerate runs at 30fps for the farming segments, but we've pushed that up to 60fps for the action scenes. So I'd say we've done a pretty good job of optimizing our game for it overall.



One last question: Given the unique experience Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin promises to offer, which target audience do you see for your game?


Nal: Since it's an indie game at its core, I see myself as part of the target audience because I want to make a game that I'd personally enjoy. So we don't really have a target demographic, but we think fans of 2D action platformers and RPGs will want to give the game a try, as will people who like Japanese culture and Ryota Murayama's art style.



Thank you very much for answering our questions!

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Kommentare 2

  • Zarathustra

    Turmfürst

    Schönes Interview, interessant das Actraiser doch so oft bei Programmierern als Inspiration genannt wird.


    Bin gerade mit den Spiel im Rucksack auf dem Heimweg und freue mich drauf, später gleich loszulegen.

  • DecTher

    Turmheld

    Susano-o war der Schwertkämpfer in Okami.