By Kimari Rennis
A young woman, tan, with short brown hair wakes up in the middle of a peaceful night to a neon pink and purple polygonal butterfly entering her room. From there, she is transferred to a brand new world where she is continuously moving, moving as if dancing through space and time on a mission she has yet to figure out.
I fear my words alone cannot describe the emotional and spiritual journey I went through when playing Sayonara Wild Hearts. Brought to us by Annapurna Studios, Sayonara Wild Hearts, is on the surface a simple rhythm and finite runner. But it’s brought to life by the music, narrative, and aesthetic of the world you play in.
There and four elements which inform the meaning and beauty of Sayonara Wild Hearts:
The first element is the narrative. It’s inspired by the hierarchy of Tarot Cards. Three of them, which bring balance to the world are sent away, as the other tarot cards take advantage and bring disorder to the world. The cards then take on human forms in the dream-like world that you play in. Your goal, as your eyes sparkle at the dazzling lights, is to chase them down and destroy their wild crystal hearts.
The second element is the music. The score and songs in this game combine to make its bright and radiating core. The upbeat pop entwined with a hint of electronica and pop spiritually puts pep in your step. When I played, it was as if I was put in a trance by the dreamy music alone. As I enjoyed the ever well-synced beats when racing and fighting my enemy, my smile would only grow wider. This soundtrack is worthy of joining my playlist of video game OST’s and it will be my go-to whenever I need a magical, musical pick-me-up.
The third element is the aesthetic. The entire game made me feel as if I was on an interactive trip around the world. The bright neon colors and the hazy blues and purples gave an odd sense of excitement and calmness, as if a party was going on But it was filled with people calmly talking to each other and dancing along. I have absolutely no reason to complain about the graphics because they are simple, clean, and are brought to life by the wide array of colors. Racing through the city with bright lights of different hues puts me at ease. Then chasing a bright white deer through a blue foggy forest with dense birch colored trees threatening to stop my motorcycle puts me on edge to dodge obstacles that may blend in with the surroundings. The game is absolutely gorgeous.
The fourth element is you, the player. When I played Sayonara Wild Hearts, I felt as if I was pulled into the world itself. Playing with the lights out and the air conditioner on made it even easier to appreciate the game. But more importantly, I felt an immense sense of joy. The neon and hazy colors brightened up my eyes; the music was heavenly and upbeat; and with every twist and turn, and jump, the beat followed suit. You feel a sense of Triumph when you defeat one of the Wild Heart tarots.
I mentioned before that Sayonara Wild Hearts was a finite runner game. That’s where the fluid and exciting gameplay comes in. The Tarot cards race through space and time. The motorcycles are cool and speedy. As you progress through the levels, there are minor things that switch up your gameplay altogether. As you race through an industrial city on elevated highways there are spiral that make you do drastic turns, and if miss, you’re sure to crash. There are levels where there are highways above you and you need to precisely drive over portals that switch your gravity so you can drive on the reflected road. As you chase one of the Tarot cards’ Wild Hearts they’ll rip through the ground and make you lose your vehicle altogether and from there you’ll begin to soar through the air in a neon pink and foggy abyss.
Yes, the game is too short. But even though the game takes only an hour and a half to complete, it’s that same hour and a half that leaves you unbelievably happy, and refreshed inside and out. Playing the game in that amount of time was like watching a movie. Everything has been well-composed and put together so that the whole experience means so much more than that hour and a half. In the end, I can appreciate how short Sayonara Wild Hearts is because it’s what makes my addiction to Annapurna games that much stronger.
Lastly, Sayonara Wild Hearts inherently celebrates women. All the characters, even the narrator, Queen Latifa, is a woman, and when coupled with the theme of the game, you can see that this is a game that glorifies the beauty, creativity and emotions of women. They can be the bad guys, or the heroes of any story and on top of that, be cool while doing so. This is why this game was so important to me and it one of the best games of the years.
Kimari Rennis is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern from the DreamYard Preparatory School in the Bronx