Sayonara Wild Hearts () from Simogo and Annapurna Interactive has been very interesting to see ever since it was properly revealed for iOS. Originally, it looked like Simogo’s newest experience would be only available on Nintendo Switch but the Apple Arcade reveal had all the Simogo fans on iOS breathe a sigh of relief. Simogo’s genre blending musical experience was a launch game for Apple Arcade and it remains my favourite game in the service and one of my favourite games of 2019.
Simogo calls Sayonara Wild Hearts a pop album video game and having now played it, I see what they were going for and why this game took a while to be released. The long wait was more than worth it. The game is split up into various levels represented by different tracks on an album and the story unfolds through short scenes before and after levels that are all on-rails. The heart of a woman breaks and balance needs to be restored. Said woman finds her other self represented by a masked biker. She aims to collect hearts in a magical but sometimes dangerous world to restore balance to the universe.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is split up into multiple levels that are represented by different songs just like an album. Each level introduces you to a new mechanic or brings in older ones alongside newer ones to make things feel fresh. The mechanics here range from endless runner style gameplay, Panzer Dragoon Saga movement, strategic avoidance moments, skateboarding, dancing, and more with rhythm game-like timed button presses. You earn a rank depending on your performance in a stage and I mostly ended up with Silver and a few Gold Ranks in my playthroughs. The game even has an interesting achievement system called Zodiac Riddles that has very vague requirements. You’re probably going to need a guide to get them all.
You never have full control of the camera in Sayonara Wild Hearts and given the handcrafted nature of the experience, this makes sense. I never once ended up having to redo a segment because of the camera like I have in other games that have a fixed camera. If you do end up failing particular segments, you can skip them once the game gives you the option to move ahead if you’re having trouble. Once you finish each of the levels, you unlock album mode that lets you playthrough the game like a music album in one go.
When it comes to visuals, Sayonara Wild Hearts nearly ends up overwhelming you in a good way. It is very flashy but never feels garish like many other games. As expected, Simogo nails the aesthetic and this carries through into the interface, interactions, and all of the short cutscenes. Sayonara Wild Hearts is elegant, ethereal, and brilliant when it comes to visuals. The great thing is, every new interaction or mechanic is accompanied by new visuals that keep changing across the game. One thing I did realise only now is getting decent screenshots is very difficult in fast paced games like this on iOS.
Music is a key part of Sayonara Wild Hearts. Everything from the title screen music to songs like Begin Again are spectacular. Usually, once I start playing and enjoying the music in a game, I have to wait a good amount of time for a vinyl to get announced for the soundtrack but that wasn’t the case here. While I’d definitely recommend playing Sayonara Wild Hearts first, the soundtrack is worthy of a listen multiple times on its own with Linnea Olsson’s angelic vocals. It is that good. Barring the music, Queen Latifah’s narration is really well done in game.
In terms of controls, Sayonara Wild Hearts has a lot of options on iOS despite basically needing just analog movement and one interaction input. Since it is an Apple Arcade release, you can use the controller of your choice to play it on any Apple Arcade platform. The default touch control sensitivity makes the game harder to play so I’d suggest changing this in the options menu to high. Having now played Sayonara Wild Hearts with touch controls twice and with buttons three times across PS4 and Nintendo Switch as well, I’m more than pleased with the touch controls once you change the sensitivity option.
A lot of Apple Arcade games are exclusive to iOS but there are some that are available on multiple platforms at the same time. Sayonara Wild Hearts launched on Nintendo Switch, Apple Arcade, and PS4 at the same time officially. I decided to compare all three versions of the game for this review to give those with multiple platforms a comparison. On Nintendo Switch, Sayonara Wild Hearts runs and looks great. It even has HD Rumble support which is a nice touch. It lacks touch controls though. On PS4, you get much higher resolution visuals but not much else over the Switch version. This is where the Apple Arcade release shines. Not only do you get touch and button control options, but you also can play it across iPhone, iPad, macOS, and tvOS. It plays great across the board and was amazing on my iPhone 11 and even ran fine on my iPad Air 2.
The only thing I’d want from future updates to the game on Apple Arcade is more touch sensitivity options. I loved everything else about it but I know a few people who have had trouble with the touch controls in Sayonara Wild Hearts. I know some people wanted more levels but I think Simogo nailed it here. There’s just one level towards the end that had one segment that was basically trial and error for me. The game length is perfect at just under 2 hours just like a modern music album.
Overall, Sayonara Wild Hearts isn’t just one of the best Apple Arcade games available today, it is one of the best games of 2019 for me and easily Simogo’s best yet. The soundtrack is killer and I haven’t played a game that felt this cohesive visually since Atlus’ Persona 5 on PS4. I know Apple Arcade has a lot of great games right now with multiple getting added each week but nothing has come close to the experience I got with Sayonara Wild Hearts. I’ve made some bad gaming purchases in 2019 but buying Sayonara Wild Hearts three times across three different platforms was definitely not one of them.
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NOTE: Sayonara Wild Hearts is available on mobile exclusively as part of Apple Arcade, a premium gaming subscription service from Apple. Without being a subscriber to Apple Arcade you cannot download and play this game. Apple Arcade is $4.99 per month and does come with a free one month trial, you can learn more about it on Apple’s official website or by visiting our dedicated Apple Arcade forum.