Sometimes, an indie game releases that blows gamers away so with that in mind, here's the super-stylish Sayonara Wild Hearts.
Last year, Sayonara Wild Hearts released for PlayStation 4 and Switch but for some reason, I never got around to playing it. Thankfully, I finally have an excuse to review it considering it just released for Xbox One. I tried avoiding reading any information or watching any videos of it so I could experience it with a fresh perspective and I'm glad that I made that decision. As soon as the opening scenes commenced, Sayonara Wild Hearts completely captivated me and I found it extremely hard to put down until I completed every single stage which admittedly doesn't take very long. Anyway, the story follows a young woman who's transported to an alternative reality where she becomes The Fool and must battle other Tarot symbols (The Moon, The Hermit, The Lovers, The Devil, and Death) in order to restore harmony to the universe... or something. Well, it doesn't matter anyway because the game is so mind-blowing.
You play Sayonara Wild Hearts by reacting to whatever's displayed onscreen. This may sound vague but it's the best way to describe its gameplay. You'll find yourself steering left and right as you perpetually propel through hazard-filled tracks, tapping a button whenever a prompt appears, aiming a reticle to shoot airborne enemies, flying through sections as if you're playing Space Harrier, and mashing buttons as fast as you can. It's basic stuff and whenever you mess up, you simply start a few seconds back and repeat until you make significant progress. As a result, anyone can enjoy Sayonara Wild Hearts although its level of challenge is still impressive due to the lightning-quick pace of its gameplay as well as its highly unpredictable stage designs. In the end, it's sure to frustrate and delight.
I feel strange saying this because I usually place a huge emphasis on gameplay but Sayonara Wild Hearts' main appeal is its top-notch presentation. For starters, its soundtrack is downright jaw-dropping. After playing through, I looked up who composed it and to my surprise; it was scored by a couple of in-house musicians. You really have to hear it for yourself but the best way I can describe it is upbeat dance music with a strong sense of cohesion. The frequent vocal tracks help flesh out the game world while the remixed version of Clair de lune is nothing short of magic. On top of all this, the graphics are neon, flashy, and textureless which creates a gorgeous feast for the eyes. I don't think I've ever played a game that looks and sounds this stylish. I want more!
Sayonara Wild Hearts' campaign consists of a collection of stages; some of which are super-short. Overall, you can easily complete the entire thing in 1 sitting which is somewhat disappointing but on the plus side, achieving a high enough score to get a gold rank on every single stage will require a great deal of practice and skill. On the downside, the difficulty relies too heavily on retrying segments after you learn how to play them. For example, you may not realise that you have to tap a button or move out of the way of something until it's too late. Once you fail and retry, you'll probably do it but it doesn't feel very satisfying. On a similar note, the visuals can be ambiguous at certain parts so you may aim between 2 hazards yet get snagged on one because it looks like it's in a different lane.
Even with its shortcomings, Sayonara Wild Hearts is an absolutely mind-blowing experience that gamers of all types must play.
- + Astounding soundtrack and eye-popping visuals that must be experienced
- + Simple yet challenging gameplay
- + Getting high scores adds replay value
- - Difficulty often relies on replaying segments after you learn what to do
- - Core campaign is quite short
- - Visuals can be too ambiguous at times