Sayonara Wild Hearts review – A pop album come to life

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a music-based action game created by Swedish developer Simogo and published by Annapurna Interactive. It’s a dreamy arcade game about riding motorcycles, skateboarding, dance battling, shooting lasers, wielding swords and breaking hearts at 200 mph.

You journey through a custom-written pop soundtrack, chase scores, and set out to find the harmony of the universe, hidden away in the hearts of Little Death and her star-crossed allies: Dancing Devils, Howling Moons, Stereo Lovers and Hermit 64.

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Beating devils and chasing hearts

The main gameplay is based around  scroller stages where you dodge obstacles and attacks while grabbing hearts to get the highest score possible. Each stage is based around a different song and have different mechanics that try to change up the pace of each level. You will quickly go from skateboarding to fighting with a sword on top of a motorcycle and more.

The different songs, scenery and mechanics make each stage feel different from the last one and solidifies the whole game as a well-paced experience that’s better played on one sitting from start to finish. Each level leads into the next one, keeping you engaged and wanting to play the next one.

The most interesting part is how the levels are built around the music, and not the other way around; each level is like a playable music video where everything matches up without feeling like your hand is being held.

The game is easy to play and finish, allowing for anyone to experience the entirety of the game. Mastery and reflexes are required to get high scores, so more experienced players can tackle those challenges.

The game has a fair amount of replayability since getting “Gold” scores will require the player to know the stage very well to obtain the high scores needed to get all of them. It also features a mode where you can play the whole game without stopping and challenges that can unlock extras.

Synth-pop, city lights and more

The minimalist cel-shaded graphics merges perfectly with the catchy and melancholic tones the soundtrack has. The main cast pops in contrast to the the more dimmed colors used in the stages that light up when the music demands it, creating interesting visuals both through the characters and the stages themselves.

The visuals are intense, interesting and colorful which in union with the music, makes for one of the highlights of the game.

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Begin again

As the heart of a young woman breaks, the balance of the universe is disturbed. A diamond butterfly appears in her dreams and leads her through a highway in the sky, where she finds her other self: the masked biker called The Fool.

The game has a simple plot about a heroine that needs to defeat The Death’s arcanas that are disrupting the universe.

But there’s more to it than just that. This is just an allegory to hide the meaning that the game is trying to convey; under the flashy fights and colorful stages, there’s a story about discovering yourself. Many things can make someone break: breakups, trying to come to terms with ones self, coming out about your sexuality and many more.

This game tries to convey the feelings one goes when trying to break free and begin again, and it does it beautifully through the game itself and the music.

The finale of the game (which i won’t spoil) feels like a catharsis to anyone that has gone through one of these experiences, and leaves you with a sensation of peace and happiness that’s a bit hard to describe.

If you let this game connect to you, it will surprise you, and will definitely be one of those experiences that will be hard to forget.

The message can come out as cheesy or corny, but it’s definitely something that should be given a chance.

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A slow heartbreak

The only downside the game has is the Heartbreak sequences: they’re interlude stages where you ride through tunnels and use different items to get more hearts. The problem with these sequences is that outside of having different tracks and becoming more difficult, they’re all basically the same. They don’t bring anything new to the game and really feel out of place among the other levels that each feel unique on their own, differentiating themselves either through the visuals or mechanics, while Heartbreak sequences feel like unnecessary filler.

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Sayonara Wild Hearts manages to merge music, visuals and gameplay in a way that creates a beautiful and fun experience that has it’s own flavor, style and message.

Despite having some repetitive stages, the overall rhythm of the game remains unaffected.

It’s a unique experience that everyone interested should give a try, and I can assure you that it won’t let you down.

Highly Recommended

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Game reviewed by ChitoWarlock on the Nintendo Switch.

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