Sayonara Wild Hearts is a stylish rhythm action game in the same vein as Rez and Child of Eden. With so few games of this ilk in existence, it’s good to see others exploring what’s possible within this space. But is this latest take on the genre a bop or a flop?
Unlike its precursors, Sayonara Wild Hearts isn’t fueled by EDM. Instead, the game grooves along to an electro pop soundtrack composed by Daniel Olsén and Jonathan Eng.
Besides the difference in genre, the music is a little more tightly integrated with the in-game action. The soundtrack is composed as an album by one entity and the game is basically your mechanism for interacting with it. Together, it feels like one immersive experience versus a rhythm game with cool music.
The thrust of the game centers around a heartbroken woman who has been chosen by beings in an alternate universe to restore harmony. Her journey as “The Fool” will see her flying through dazzling spacey regions, racing her motorcycle through busy streets, and dueling against evildoers disrupting the balance of the world. Meanwhile, all of this alludes to her struggle to overcome heartbreak.
Each level of the game is tied to a song. Controlling The Fool, you’ll use the analog stick to move your character and a single face button for timed button presses. Your primary goal is to get to the end of each song, though you can gain higher completion rankings by collecting as many hearts as you can strewn about each level. Levels can get tricky in spots based on the sheer speed and flashiness of each moment, but the penalty for failing is basically nonexistent and the option to skip a song if it’s too tough appears after a number of consecutive fails.
Though The Fool does have Rez-like segments where she’s locking onto objects and shooting them, Sayonara Wild Hearts does require your character to do more. Briskly switching between driving, combat, and flying sequences among others, the game keeps you on your toes while giving you a lot of visual stimuli to keep you entertained.
Further building on the action is the game’s excellent soundtrack. Not only does it sound great on its own, but the music is written to align with the game’s overall story. On top of that, many of the game’s levels and challenges are built around the music itself. One of my favourite levels involves driving to a dancehall track where the entire track pulses to the beat. The effect is mesmerizing to look at, let alone play. Another involves you having to navigate between two shifting worlds as they snap in-and-out of existence with the beat.
As with other games of this style, its overall length is pretty short. A single run through the game will only take about an hour or less. Should you want to aim for gold rankings on every level or simply experience these levels again, you’ll get a bit more out of it. The experience is as long as I would want this style of game to be, but don’t expect this one to stay in your rotation for long.
Sayonara Wild Hearts isn’t just a welcome sight for those with an itch for more games in the style of Rez. It’s also pushes the genre forward thanks to its tighter cohesion between music, story, and gameplay. Even if the initial experience is short, it is one I’ll relive through future play sessions or by grooving to the game’s soundtrack on Spotify.
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