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Sayonara Wild Hearts hands-on preview at E3 2019

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    Sayonara Wild Hearts: the runner that doesn’t quite feel like an endless runner. The Annapurna Interactive title pairs high-speed, almost frantic gameplay with vibrant colors and its essential soundtrack. Called the “pop album video game,” Sayonara Wild Hearts seems genuinely unlike anything on the Nintendo Switch so far. 

    You play as a young woman known as The Fool, progressing through multidimensional levels set to a custom pop song; each level is paired with its own custom tune. Though I only got my hands on a single stage during the 15-minute demo, the song varied quite a bit. Some moments sounded K-pop-esque, whereas other parts of the song boasted straight-up techno music. On top of these two styles, it seems there’s somewhat of a cultural fascination with synth music these days, specifically synth music that sounds 1970s-esque. Sayonara Wild Hearts blends these three music styles in its own unique way to create a weird, awesome sound. There’s no one way to accurately describe the music. Fittingly, it’s a conglomeration of many different iconic genres.

    Gameplay-wise, Sayonara Wild Hearts is incredibly smooth. The game’s official website confirms it will run at 1080P/60FPS docked, with a dip to 720P in handheld mode. I felt the performance first-hand, as the demo ran absolutely perfect. No hiccups, glitches, or any sort of trouble there. It’s key for games to hit a smooth frame rate, but its importance to Sayonara Wild Hearts can’t be overlooked. Without this perfect performance, the game’s flow would be jeopardized. Seamlessly hopping from space highway to space highway otherwise would be a chore. 

    The diversity of movement really stuck out to me. Unlike most games in the endless runner genre, Sayonara Wild Hearts has players switching perspectives mid-level. Meaning — you’ll be in a third-person view biking for one moment, then, almost abruptly, you’ll be flying through the stage in a top-down view. Keep in mind that this transition happens without needing to make any adjustments — it’s built within the stage itself. These often critical switches from biking to flying to running create a sense of urgency. Amping up the stakes, the mid-level transitions add a ton of fun. And without Sayonara Wild Hearts boasting such smooth performance on Switch, these emphatic perspective changes could not be possible.

    My only real gripe comes with the seeming lack of character focus, which may be a non-issue once the entire game launches. The various groups of other characters are all based on tarot cards. Yea, tarot cards. There are the Howling Moons, Stereo Lovers, Dancing Devils, and Hermit 64. The odd inspiration, however, seems to be just that — an inspiration. Individual characters themselves don’t have much personality, as the groups as a whole take the spotlight. As each group is themed differently, I’d expect each specific character to also have a specialty. While that wasn’t the case in my demo, the full game may reveal itself to be different. 

    Albeit somewhat brief, my hands-on time with the first stage of Sayonara Wild Hearts was truly fantastic. Hailing from the mobile game sphere, it appears developer Simogo has a gem on their hands.

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