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Editors’ Choice: Sayonara Wild Hearts Defies Music-Game Boundaries

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I’ve always had a soft spot for music-driven games. Rhythm games like Guitar Hero, Rez, or Thumper play almost subconsciously for me as someone with a musical background so I first approached Sayonara Wild Hearts with a similar mindset. However, as I made my way through the game I discovered that it’s so much more than just pressing a button to the beat. Sayonara Wild Hearts not only fuses music and gaming together, it’s also a nuanced love letter to both mediums.

What starts as an on-rails “endless runner”-type experience with simple shiny object collection morphs into a Panzer Dragoon-like shooter, then into a mind-bending multi-dimensional track racer, then into a 2D platformer, then into a… well, I shouldn’t spoil too much of the ride. Sayonara is a celebration of dozens of gameplay mechanics you’ve likely experienced in your personal gaming journey, all fused into a simple, yet deceptively layered, control scheme involving just one button and one analog stick.

Developer Simogo conducts a clinic on how to layer in more nuanced gameplay concepts to the player without ever using explicit on-screen button prompts or tutorials. This clean control scheme lets the real star of the show — the music — shine. Sayonara Wild Hearts is presented over the course of a couple dozen 2-4 minute levels (similar to a music album) with original songs propelling you through each one. The game is sequenced like a proper album, with tempo changes, memorable hooks, and upbeat melodies buoying moodier, more contemplative tracks.

My playthrough of Sayonara was a sublime one, melding equal parts anticipation and bewilderment over the adventure’s developing narrative, the aforementioned music, and the mind-bending visuals that accompanied each track. Vibrant neon cityscapes melted away into high-speed robotic animal chases through verdant forests. It was impossible to guess where the game was going to take me next, so I happily let go and gave in to its propulsive ride.

Sayonara Wild Hearts is fast-paced and some levels get pretty tricky, but the game will offer to assist you if you fail too many times. I always declined, as each challenging section seemed within reach of my abilities, but it’s reassuring that the option exists for a simpler gameplay experience. Multiple score ranking tier goals kept me revisiting levels to optimize routes and scan for hidden pickups.

The more I play Sayonara Wild Hearts, the more it dawns on me just how seamlessly its gameplay, music, and story complement each other. This is a game that defies a single genre, but the sum of its parts makes it unforgettable and is perhaps the most unique, yet naturally playable title I’ve experienced all year.

About The Author

Dimitrije Stankov

The PC games fanatic. Got lost in Robin Hood: The Legend Of Sherwood at the age of 4, since then no one ever saw or heard anything about this person, some say he got stuck in deep forest swamps. True story bro!

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