Though fun and intense, arcade games are not usually known for their relaxing capabilities. Sayonara Wild Hearts does have that crazy intensity of action and flow, however, with the help of music, it offers a fast-paced gaming experience that can still manage to make you play and feel the story it tells.
Having different stages with their own songs, we get to experience new mechanics in the shape of the journey the character has started towards mending her broken pieces, engaging in dance-like combat to maintain the harmony of the universe.
As a fan of rhythm and fighting games, a hybrid genre that had Bust A Groove series as a highlight for me for many years, I felt completely at home with what Sayonara proposed, now with a bonus: a story as part of its gameplay, and with feelings at that.
So my first encounter with this was when my boyfriend was playing through the first stages to get a feeling of what it was, all the while I was there swallowing up my tears and despair, trying to look, you know, like a normal human being would while watching a gameplay. The thing is, I have issues — the ones you get as you grow up and bottle up with new ones, so, the worst kind possible. But how do they tie in with the game?
Right after my boyfriend’s trial run, I jumped into it. I had seen it could get real crazy, but I trusted myself that I was not going to go nuts over the fact it was so blingy and fast. However, minutes later, I was flipping: despite being presented with a beautiful hybrid of what I loved the most, music and fighting with narrative elements, I felt like I had to keep up with the score ranks, which are Bronze, Silver and Gold.
To me, arcade games are often a forbidden zone because I can get really anxious, desperate and, ultimately, stressed. Or, should I say, more stressed than I already am. Naturally, I tried talking sense into myself that it’s just a game after all, I don’t have to prove anything or do well in order to simply enjoy it. Suffice to say, on top of having a connection with the songs, I was angry for some time, but also very deep in thought, trying to control myself the same way as when I was the spectator. As the stages went on, there were more challenges with stuff exploding and shifting… and then, little by little, that ridiculous wave of anger receded.
So, not only its mechanics, but also how the visuals and, especially, how the lyrics carry the emotional aspect of the character’s journey and are able to speak to the player much resembles going through the steps we need to take in order to overcome our conflicts, fears and disappointments. By the end of the game, all that underlying distress, frustration and anger of a broken heart, much like my own, were dissipated in an unexpected sequence — that moment when one can finally breathe, relieved of those heavy feelings.
Real life is not as simple as this, of course, and I have been on this road a long time already. As the credits came to a close, despite my newfound moment of peace, I still had a reckoning of my own to do — which was not of a broken heart in the sense of romance, so Mr. Boyfriend and I are fine, don’t worry.
Not that mindless fun is ever going out of my radar, but it’s nice to have a game so relatable and fun that makes us break out of our bad habits and pay attention to it and ourselves, even for a little bit.
Developed by Simogo and published by Annapurna Interactive, SAYONARA WILD HEARTS is available for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Microsoft Windows. Its dreamy pop soundtrack was composed by Daniel Olsén, featuring vocals of Linnea Olsson. Last but not least, Queen Latifah lends her powerful voice to narrate the story of our hero.