Sayonara Wild Hearts

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Sayonara Wild Hearts
Sayonara wild hearts cover.png
Publisher(s)Annapurna Interactive
Director(s)Simon Flesser
Programmer(s)Magnus "Gordon" Gardebäck
Artist(s)Carl Karjalainen, Ása Wallander
Composer(s)Daniel Olsén, Jonathan Eng
Platform(s)PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Microsoft Windows
  • PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS
  • 19 September 2019
  • Microsoft Windows
  • 12 December 2019
Genre(s)Rhythm, action

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a music-based action game created by Swedish developer Simogo and published by Annapurna Interactive. Described as a "pop album video game", Sayonara Wild Hearts follows the story of a heartbroken young woman through a surrealistic landscape. Each level of the game is set to a song, with the player guiding the woman while collecting hearts, avoiding obstacles, and fighting enemies. The game was released for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and iOS devices in September 2019, and for Microsoft Windows in December 2019. It was met with positive reviews for its visuals, soundtrack, and gameplay, and nominated for several year-end awards.


One of the chase sequences in Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a rhythm game broken into twenty-some levels. In each level, the player controls the main character as they automatically travel through an surrealistic landscape alongside a pop music soundtrack. The general mechanics of each level change, but in general the player attempts to guide the character to collect hearts across the level to each points, while avoiding obstacles. In some levels, the player will be prompted to press a button in time with the soundtrack to make a jump or avoid an obstacle. Other levels may require the player to move a cursor on screen to target a bow-and-arrow weapon to defeat enemies, in a manner similar to Rez.[1] During the levels, the player will encounter different boss encounters, which will incorporate a mix of movement and timed button presses to avoid attacks. The player earns points for hearts collected, timing on button presses, and avoiding obstacles, and are rated on a bronze, silver, or gold rating for each. Should the player hit an obstacle or enemy projectile, they are returned to a checkpoint. If the player fails to clear a section after a few tries, the game provides a means for the player to skip that section, only losing out on possible points that could be earned.[2]


Sayonara Wild Hearts' plot is based on the major arcana of the tarot.

In an alternate universe watched over by three divine arcana of the Tarot (The High Priestess, The Hierophant, and The Empress), a cursed arcana (Death), and her allies (The Devil, The Moon, The Lovers, The Hermit) stole all harmony, and hid it in their hearts. Before the divine arcana begun to fade, they created a heroine from the shards of a broken heart.

In a time near the present, there is a young woman who's heart has been violently broken. The heroine the divine arcana created transforms into a butterfly and flies to the young woman, who is resting in bed. The butterfly transports her to the alternate universe. Riding her longboard along an ethereal highway, she chases the butterfly, and upon capturing it, she transforms into a masked heroine (The Fool).

She then falls through a passage and arrives in a purple and pink city. She summons a motocycle, and begins to ride through it. Weaving through cars, trams and buildings, she meets a trio of masked women, the Dancing Devils. They fight on the street, before riding through the city on motocycles. The heroine chases and defeats each member of the trio in turn, and takes back their hearts. The heroine then travels to a mythical forest. With the help of a stag, she rides through the forest and meets the Howling Moons, a quartet of masked women. After she chases them the quartet transform into a pack of wolves, and the heroine equips her motobike with dual automatic guns. The masked quartet jump into a large mechanical cerberus and a battle ensures, but the heroine destroys their mech, and claims the quartet's hearts.

The heroine is then transported to a tower, and upon climbing it, is transported to a floating city. She meets and fights a masked foe with a sword, who splits into two people, the Stereo Lovers. The foes then switch up the universe they are in every couple of seconds, but the heroine learns to do the same, and chases the duo through the city. She defeats them on top of a plane and claims their heart, before travelling to a desert. Driving a car through the night, she meets Hermit64, a foe wearing a virtual reality headset as a mask. The heroine travels into the hermit's virtual reality world, and obtains the heart trapped inside. Sailing across an ocean, she then arrives in a dark and rainy city.

There she meets a masked foe with a scythe, Little Death. The foe sends flying skulls after the heroine, but she summons a bow and shoots them down. She then defeats Little Death, but the foe's heart fragments reassemble into a gigantic final monster. After defeating it, the heroine transforms back into her former self, the young woman. She then imagines herself as each of her former foes, and proceeds to fight each in turn. Instead of defeating them however, she forgives them with a brief kiss. The divine arcana then tell the young woman that she has restored harmony to their world, and wish her farewell. She rides back to her world on her skateboard and arrives slightly older, but right back into her groove.


Simogo had developed several narrative-based mobile games prior to Sayonara, including Year Walk and Device 6. According to studio lead Simon Flesser, they "wanted to make something that was a little more gut than brain", and began brainstorming ideas.[3] An early idea was a sketch of a woman wearing a mask inspired by the teddy girl fad of the 1950s, which they grew out into an experience involving traveling through a dreamscape on motorcycles inspired by the tarot.[4]They initially through that the music for the game should be surf music, but as they were prototyping the game, they had a playlist of pop music on, which Flesser said immediate set the tone they wanted for the game;[3] artists that inspired the soundtrack included Sia, Chvrches and Carly Rae Jepsen.[5] The game's score was composed by Daniel Olsén and Jonathan Eng, with vocals by Linnea Olsson.[3] While most of the compositions are original, the soundtrack also incorporates portions of Debussy's "Clair de lune".[6]

Controls for the game were important to Simogo, as they had a general philosophy that their games could be played by those that did not normally play video games.[1] They looked back to classic arcade games to consider their control schemes to come up with simple gameplay elements that only had the player manipulating the character with a joystick or through a touchscreen, and a single button press for certain actions, such as jumping or performing fighting moves. With the latter button mechanic, they found this allowed them to include the visual indicators on screen to help let players know the right time to perform these actions, enabling the various choreographed fighting sequences in some levels. Mechanics of some elements were pared down to keep interactions with movement and this button press as simple as possible.[1]

Queen Latifah was a last-minute addition as the game's narrator.

The levels represented a number of disparate ideas they had for the game. Simogo had not considered endless runners as a basic, but instead looked to rail shooters such as Sin & Punishment, Space Harrier, and Star Fox which mixed both movement and shooting controls.[1] Other games that inspired levels included WarioWare, Outrun and Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan.[5] Initially the game had included some sections presented in third-person perspective allowing the character to walk around and solve puzzles, but found this slowed down the game. Similarly, mechanics that involved shooting targets in a specific order were also found detrimental to the pacing of the game.[1] Many of the initial concepts were cut or reworked to maintain the simplicity of controls.[1] Ultimately, they wanted the game to play out like a musical album with the songs and levels presented in a specific order to tell their story, but which could be replayed individually or out of order without detriment.[4]

Development of the game took about four years starting in 2015. About midway thorugh, Annapurna Interactive approached Simogo for publishing support, and with their funding, were able to hire two additional programmers to help complete the game's development.[3] Flesser also noted that Annapurna brought some necessary rigor into the development cycle to keep them to schedule.[4] As Simogo neared the end of production, Flesser had been in discussion with Annapurna about how they wished they had someone unexpected to narrate the brief lines they had for the story. When asked who they were thinking of, Flesser threw out Queen Latifah's name, not taking the request seriously. A few weeks later, within a month of release, Annapurna had been able to secure Queen Latifah for a voice recording session, to Flesser's surprise.[7]

Sayonara Wild Hearts was first revealed at The Game Awards 2018 for the Nintendo Switch and other possible platforms.[8] It was later affirmed both for release on the PlayStation 4, as well as a launch title for the Apple Arcade subscription service for iOS devices, with the Switch, PlayStation 4, and iOS releases all on 19 September 2019.[3][9] The game was released for Microsoft Windows on 12 December 2019.[10]

A limited release of the game's soundtrack on a 2-disc vinyl was published by iam8bit in early 2020.[11]


Aggregate score
Metacritic84/100 (PS4)[12]
83/100 (Switch)[13]
88/100 (iOS)[14]
Review scores
Game Informer7/10[18]
Game Revolution4.5/5 [22]
TouchArcade10/10 [20]

Sayoanara Wild Hearts received "generally favorable reviews" according to review aggregator Metacritic.[13] The game was generally praised for its visuals and soundtrack.[23][24][25][26]

The game's soundtrack was critically acclaimed. PlayStation Universe thought the soundtrack was "absolutely outstanding", and the best soundtrack of any game released in 2019.[27] TheSixthAxis considered the soundtrack to be "an album for the ages", but felt that some of the tracks could have been longer.[28] Edge thought that track Mine sounded like "a parallel-universe chart-topper", while The World We Knew "a gorgeous, swooning, sigh of a ballad."[21] DualShockers felt that the vibrant visuals of the game "perfectly mesh with the positive vibes of the music", and thought that perhaps Sayonara could mark a beginning for artists to create interactive visual albums.[29]

Nicole Clark of Vice thought that the ending of Sayonara was a departure from the usual hero's journey in a fictive narritive. "Rather than becoming your mask, you abandon it. Rather than becoming someone new and unbreakable you recover to the point of self-acceptance."[30]


Award Date Category Result Ref.
Game Critics Awards 27 June 2019 Best Independent Game Nominated [31]
Golden Joystick Awards 16 November 2019 Best Visual Design Nominated [32]
Best Indie Game Nominated
Titanium Awards 9 December 2019 Best Soundtrack Nominated [33]
The Game Awards 12 December 2019 Best Art Direction Nominated [34]
Best Score / Music Nominated
Best Mobile Game Nominated
New York Game Awards 21 January 2020 A-Train Award for Best Mobile Game Won [35][36]
Off Broadway Award for Best Indie Game Nominated
Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game Won
Pocket Gamer Mobile Games Awards 21 January 2020 Game of the Year Nominated [37]
Best Audio/Visual Accomplishment Nominated
Guild of Music Supervisors Awards 6 February 2020 Best Music Supervision in a Video Game - Daniel Olsen Nominated [38]
D.I.C.E. Awards 13 February 2020 Outstanding Achievement for an Independent Game Nominated [39][40]
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design Nominated
Portable Game of the Year Won
NAVGTR Awards 24 February 2020 Art Direction, Contemporary Pending [41]
Camera Direction in a Game Engine Pending
Game, Music or Performance-Based Pending
Song Collection Pending
Game Developers Choice Awards 18 March 2020 Best Audio Pending [42]
Best Visual Art Pending
Best Mobile Game Pending

In addition, several game magazines and websites named Sayonara Wild Hearts among their Games of the Year, including Eurogamer,[43] Polygon,[44] Edge,[45] and Salon.[46] Additionally, Edge gave Sayonara its Best Visual Design award and nominated the game for Best Audio Design in their 2019 awards.[45]


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