Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch) Review
Wow. Wow. Sayonara Wild Hearts is one heck of a game. When it was first revealed during The Game Awards last year, I was on board from the very first moment. The aesthetics, the music, the character design — it was all stunning. And now, after finally being able to experience it myself, I can say that even ‘stunning’ doesn’t do enough to describe it. Sayonara Wild Hearts is an experience unlike anything before it.
So what exactly is it? Well, that’s a bit of a complicated question. On the surface, it’s a music-based arcade racer, of sorts, but at its core, it’s a playable experimental pop album. That’s a bit of a rarity in gaming, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything that hits the right notes (pun intended) quite like Sayonara Wild Hearts does.
You play as an unnamed girl with a broken heart who’s swept up from her bedroom and thrown into a world of magic motorbikes, intense raceways, and masked foes. Over the course of 20 or so tracks, you’ll speed through each raceway, avoiding obstacles, timing jumps and actions, and collecting little hearts. Of course, in the background of each track an appropriately themed — and more importantly, appropriately timed — song will play, serving as your guide to performing well. This isn’t a game you’ll want to play with the sound off, and you’ll get the best experience if you chuck some headphones on and turn it up to 11.
Every single one of these electronic pop songs is incredible, and absolutely bursting with energy and emotion. Your taste in music might vary from mine, but there’s not a single song in Sayonara Wild Hearts that I couldn’t or wouldn’t listen to each and every day for the rest of my life. Of course, you could listen to these songs on a streaming service like Spotify, but they’re really designed to be experienced alongside the rest of the game.
In terms of the gameplay itself, it’s a pretty simple affair. There’s just two controls you’ll need: an analogue stick, and a button. Any stick (or d-pad!), or any button, will do, meaning you’re able to play this with a single Joy-Con if that’s what takes your fancy. I’d personally recommend playing with a Pro Controller if you can, it seems to make some of the tighter turns a little more manageable, but the entire game is playable from start to finish with just about any control scheme you decide to use. Strangely, there is no touchscreen support here, which would’ve been a nice addition given its availability on Apple Arcade.
Some tracks are better than others, but at a baseline level none of them come anywhere close to being bad; the levels start at ‘great’ and only go upwards from there. And there’s a good deal of variety in types of levels too. Some are your straightforward race from start to finish while others take a more interesting path, with races that include shooting challenges, an Undertale-like segment in which you avoid projectiles in a digital realm, and some spectacular boss fights against masked bandits. My favourite of the lot is by far ‘Parallel Universes,’ a ridiculously clever level in which the track itself changes with the beat when the masked Stereo Lovers snap their fingers.
There is a story behind the electric beats and colourful visuals, but there’s not really much that can be said about it without impacting the experience of playing it yourself. It’s understated, to say the least, but it’s present enough to make an impact when it finally wraps up. It doesn’t take long for that to happen, with the game’s runtime sitting at about an hour if you play each track once, but it’s very easy to get a lot more out of it if you’re interested in getting a gold rank in every track, or collecting the cards scattered throughout each level. And once you’ve completed them all, you unlock an arcade album mode, which lets you play through the entire album from start to finish without interruptions — a test of endurance, to be sure, but an utterly beautiful way to experience the game.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is an utterly gorgeous experience, and it looks, plays, and sounds fantastic on the Switch. A game on the surface and a pop album at its core, in what is perhaps the most effective and interesting blend of entertainment mediums I’ve ever seen. With stylish visuals, an incredible soundtrack, and simple yet inventive game mechanics, Sayonara Wild Hearts is simply a must-have.
+ Incredible visuals
+ Soundtrack filled with bangers
+ Queen Latifah
- A little on the short side
- No touchscreen controls