Title: Sayonara Wild Hearts
Release Date: September 19, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Genre: Endless Runner
There comes a time when a genre needs a revival. One of those genres were endless runners, games that have you go from point A to point B without being able to stop at all. Unfortunately, there have been several games like these in the mobile gaming space that have lacked any sort of soul, and could very well be seen as a desperate cash grab given their obtuse microtransaction practices — for instance, ‘pay $4.99 for 5 retries!’.
Because of this, I’ve avoided playing endless runners until I found one that was unlike anything else I’ve played, didn’t force me to empty my pockets to keep playing, and actually could be worth playing through again and again. Thankfully, this game has finally come, and it’s Simogo’s electro-pop-infused arcade game Sayonara Wild Hearts.
Right from the get-go, Sayonara Wild Hearts sets the stage for the zany and vivid trance adventure that you’ll go through. You play as a woman who has sadly experienced heartbreak and is suffering from depression. During one fateful dream, however, a diamond butterfly leads her into a mysterious yet mystical tarot card universe that’s experiencing severe balance issues. With the imbalance caused by wicked gangs of women that each our representations of tarot cards, it’s up to you, as a transformed, alter ego masked biker called The Fool, to bring harmony to the universe by going through 23 levels full of memorable sights and sounds.
When I learned about the premise of Sayonara Wild Hearts, at first, I didn’t know what to think — but then it hit me that it’s basically Sailor Moon-meets-Escaflowne and you know what, that’s rad. Regardless if you believe horoscopes are but myths, or if you find tarot readings to be like odd gambling in the form of what your future holds for you, astrology is presented in Sayonara Wild Hearts in a way that isn’t distracting and instead, is rather interesting. While there isn’t exactly any dialogue in the game, per se (only the special star celebrity narrator has dialogue), I was still able to get the overall vibe for the silent characters in the game.
At the start, Sayonara Wild Hearts gameplay seems quite simple; consisting of the typical endless runner formula in which you jet through multiple paths to pick up objects and score points that are added to your high score. In the grand scheme of things, yes, that’s exactly what the gameplay is — however, there’s so much more to it than just that. For starters, the game can seriously have you suffer from sensory overload, with neon-lit levels that beg for your eyes’ attention, dreamy and entrancing music that begs to your ears’ attention, and multi-layered designed levels that beg for your minds’ attention, Sayonara Wild Hearts is one hypnotic trip that has you rolling hard from beginning to end.
When I referenced rolling, that wasn’t for pun purposes as many of the on-rails levels has you cruising on something with wheels, like a motorcycle or a longboard, in insane speeds to collect hearts and shards to collect points. Without the ability to accelerate, going fast and being quick to collect points is the only way to go to achieve the silver or gold-tier ranks — or else, you’re stuck with the bronze-tier rank.
While the first couple of levels may conjure the idea that Sayonara Wild Hearts will be a breeze to go through, let me tell you that that’s far from the truth — I ended up messing up numerous times either by riding straight into a rock or getting struck by a furious wolf that darted right for me. Having precise timing, substantial eye-hand coordination, and being able to follow along with the flow of each level is essential and makes for all levels to be addictive, challenging (‘pull-my-hair-out-challenging’, at times), and overwhelmingly fun. There were countless times when I found myself saying to myself, “just one more level!” as I finished a level, or “okay, I got it this time!” after failing then being brought back to a well-placed checkpoint, while playing through the game.
To keep things fresh for levels and not to make them repetitive, one-way endless runner cycles, the developer threw in a mix of other gameplay elements throughout each level. At one moment, you can be riding on your motorcycle, as usual, then all of sudden, quick-time button press events occur to be able to dodge an incoming attack, and then you enter into shoot ’em-up sequence that has you blasting away foes with arrows. Calling Sayonara Wild Heart an endless runner is valid, but really, it can also be a platformer, a shoot ’em up, a music-based rhythm game, and an interactive album.
The only qualms I have with some of the levels is that they can lean towards being a test of memorization rather than true skill, and the layout of levels can be a little too tricky for the depth of perception side of things. Regardless of these issues, playing Sayonara Wild Hearts is a thrilling albeit short adventure that takes only about 2 hours to complete. That said, I can imagine that any of you completionists out there will want to return to the game to score gold-tier rankings for all levels, just like I did.
It’d be a crime to not even mention Sayonara Wild Hearts’ electrifying and mesmerizing custom-written electro-pop soundtrack. Seriously, every single track is an absolute banger, and the soundtrack could very well be my favorite electro-pop album of this year. Some may find it to be similar-sounding to the likes of CHVRCHES, but I actually thought of Porter Robinson and oddly enough, old-school New Order, when listening to it. It’s wonderfully constructed as it perfectly blends happy pop vibes and trance electronic beats that you can’t help but love. Not only that, but it brings the game’s multiple captivating visually-filled, neon worlds to life — which thankfully don’t suffer from any slow framerate issues whatsoever. Sayonara Wild Hearts is literally ‘EDM Concert: The Game.’
While the journey is a little short, with its unique premise and gameplay, and unbelievable soundtrack and visuals, Sayonara Wild Hearts is the best and most unique endless runner I’ve ever played. It’s a beautiful work of art that needs not only to be played but also listened to and remembered for years. I’m hoping that Simogo doesn’t say “sayonara” to this glorious IP, the world needs a sequel — or even DLC would be a-okay, too.
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