Sayonara Wild Hearts Might Be the Perfect Game for Getting Over Heartbreak

Ever since I got the chance to play the first few chapters of the vibrant and visually stunning Sayonara Wild Hearts at E3 this year, I've been itching to see the rest of the game.

The game is essentially a playable pop album with a story that only truly comes together where the aesthetic, music and interactivity meet, and I've never played anything else quite like it.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)

Publishers Annapurna Interactive were kind enough to provide me with a review key for the game on Nintendo Switch, and after completing it, I can finally say it was well worth the wait. Here are all the reasons why.

Anyone Can Pick It Up

While some video games can have steep learning curves, Sayonara Wild Hearts eases players in and is about the journey rather than the challenge. At the beginning of the game, success is guaranteed. All of the collectibles are optional, and the fun comes from following the trail of hearts closely as possible in time with the catchy music.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)

Then, the game slowly starts introducing new movements—whether that's 360° loop-de-loops, or timed button presses, or freer movement around a 2D plane in certain sections. They come at a pace that doesn't overwhelm players but also mixes things up enough to keep them fresh and exciting at every step.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)

Eventually, the game adds segments where you may fail, but thanks to frequent checkpoints, one false step simply sends you back a few seconds to try again (and again, and again). The game sets out to be kind to players, and it never feels like you're really being punished for messing up. Once the game sees that you're struggling with one section, it'll even let you skip it with the help of a handy tarot card.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)


It's Very Metaphysical

I've recently been reading a lot about tarot, and I absolutely love the way the story is depicted using the Major Arcana as its character archetypes. The events are set in motion when the High Priestess, the Empress and the Hierophant (representing knowledge, creativity and power respectively) forge a hero, the Fool, from the shards of a broken heart. In tarot, the way we all move through life, often naively as we learn and grow along the way, is sometimes referred to as "the Fool's journey," and this game is all about that journey.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)

On her journey, the Fool faces off against a number of evil adversaries, including characters referencing the Devil, Moon, Lovers and Hermit cards. The Devil usually refers to self-imposed restriction, while the Moon symbolizes emotions, the lovers often mean the two halves of the self finally coming to peace with each other, and the Hermit is a guiding force who seeks to help. The better you know the tarot, the richer these interactions are with meaning, and the more the player can get out of them.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)

Even the game's special achievements are coded in the form of Zodiac Riddles. All 12 signs have a couple of cryptic codes attached to them, and only by figuring out what they mean and then fulfilling their purpose within the game can you unlock each one.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)


The Music Rules

While the electro-tinged pop music in Sayonara Wild Hearts is far from what I normally find myself listening to, it only took a couple of levels for it to start completely winning me over. The soundtrack is perfectly melded with the game to enhance every single action you take, and the lyrics are perfect for propelling the Fool forward on her journey.  "Begin Again," below, is just one of the tracks I can't stop listening to.


The Stunning Visuals Are Always Changing

Sayonara Wild Hearts has such a distinctive look with its neon-against-black palette and cel-shaded characters and landscapes that every single frame of the game unmistakably belongs to it.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)

Whether you're roaring through a city on a motorcycle, skateboarding through a cosmic abyss or fighting a giant wolf mech in the woods, the look and feel are consistent while also drawing clear boundaries of what's what, regardless of how quickly the Fool moves through them.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)

As the gameplay changes course, so does the look of the game. You're never stuck staring at the same thing for too long, but it doesn't feel like change for the sake of change, either. Every setting, and the action that takes place within it, feels closely tied to what you're doing and the story that's being told, and it's all gorgeous.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)


It's Super Replayable

Sayonara Wild Hearts isn't hard to get through,  but that doesn't mean there isn't any challenge to it. At the end of each level, players are ranked on a scale earning either bronze, silver or gold, depending on how many collectibles they nab along the way and how well they time certain actions. That means if there's one track you're obsessing over or level you want to play repeatedly, you're encouraged to play it as many times as you like to get an absolutely perfect score—and finally getting that gold feels really good.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)


It Means What You Need It to Mean

One of the magical things about Sayonara Wild Hearts is that it's not totally straightforward and clear-cut. If one thing is totally unambiguous about the story, is that it revolves around heartbreak—but from there, what happens throughout the narrative is kind of up to the player and what they're going through. I see it as being forced to confront the difficulties and negative emotions in your life in order to come out stronger on the other end, but you might get even more out of it if you're going through your own personal heartaches


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)

Even if you're using the tarot to interpret the confrontations with the different Major Arcana characters, there are various conclusions you can draw because the cards mean so many different things. Add to that lyrical analysis and what's going on within the levels, and the possibilities are endless. That's what makes the game so special.


(Sayonara Wild Hearts via Annapurna Interactive)


Sayonara Wild Hearts is out now for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch for $12.99. It's also available in Apple Arcade.


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