Sayonara Wild Hearts is one of the best indie games I’ve ever played. If you haven’t played it, go to whatever console you prefer and start playing because this is an absolutely essential title that’ll stick with you for a long time. Now that I’ve said that, let’s take a closer look at why.
Sayonara Wild Hearts tells the story of an unnamed woman that has had her heart broken, and needs to find a way to reclaim it and move on. That’s the literal interpretation, but the enemies in the game are all dressed up like cheesy villains and you take them on by riding bikes, animals and skateboards before taking them on with quick-time events. The game uses this idea as a backdrop to some crazy visuals, and the whole thing is meant to be metaphorical rather than literal.
Even with a focus on visuals and metaphors over a traditionally told literal story, Sayonara Wild Hearts is full of heart. Heartbreak, losing yourself and the quest to become better are themes that pretty much anyone can relate to and they work incredibly well here. There aren’t enough stories out there about people simply breaking and needing time to become whole again.
Although thematically this is a complicated game, the actual game part of Sayonara Wild Hearts is pretty simplistic. Each level is on rails and you must navigate it with a different mode of transportation, avoiding hazards and collecting objects to get a higher score. Movement feels great, and it’s awesome to see how each level is going to differentiate itself from the rest. They aren’t all surefire winners (sorry Hermit64), but generally all of the levels are fantastic.
Thankfully this is an excellent Nintendo Switch port, which means nothing has been lost in translation and you’ll be getting the same experience as everyone else. The simplistic art-style means that playing on the Switch doesn’t make you lose out on any of the visuals or sound.
I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without mentioning the music, but suffice to say it is incredible. The pop-soundtrack is incredibly catchy to listen to and compliments the gameplay and themes excellently. If you’re a fan of pop, it’s worth playing through the game just to have a listen, but even those who aren’t fans might just find that the synergy between the gameplay and music is great enough that it works anyway.
The only real complaint I can level against Sayonara Wild Hearts is that there simply isn’t more of it. I initially played through the story in one sitting, partly because the game grabbed me tight but also because it really isn’t that long. The quality of that journey is stellar though and absolutely worth playing through.
Even if you do clear the game very quickly, there are plenty of challenges and secrets to uncover. Completing the story isn’t difficult, but aiming for high scores and completing the zodiac riddles is truly challenging and not for the faint of heart. I personally find them a little too difficult, but I appreciate the extra replay value they add.
It’s tough to review a game that is generally regarded as unarguably excellent, but to any of the people still holding back on Sayonara Wild Hearts, I urge you to jump in. There isn’t a single element of it that hasn’t been crafted with love and care, and its pop-centric soundtrack is brought together by some really fun gameplay. It is absolutely essential.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Annapurna Interactive