And now that I’ve played a few levels on the Nintendo Switch, I understand it better. It’s a crazy music video game. Developed by Sweden’s Simogo studio over four years, the game is debuting this year on the Nintendo platform. It’s like that wacky and artistic Take On Me music video by A-Ha in 1985. It’s so crazy that, naturally, Annapurna Interactive is the publisher for the game.
Simogo describes Sayonara Wild Hearts as a “a euphoric music video dream about being awesome, riding motorcycles, skateboarding, dance battling, shooting lasers, wielding swords, and breaking hearts at 200 miles per hour.”
The story goes like this:
As the heart of a young woman breaks, the balance of the universe is disturbed. A diamond butterfly appears in her dreams and leads her through a highway in the sky, where she finds her other self: the masked biker called The Fool.
Travelling through futuristic cities, dark forests, and electric deserts, The Fool sets out to find the harmony of the universe, hidden away in the hearts of Little Death and her star-crossed allies; Dancing Devils, Howling Moons, Stereo Lovers, and Hermit 64.
Play the music in a game where every stage is set to a song of a custom-written pop album, when Sayonara Wild Hearts releases on Nintendo Switch and other platforms in 2019.
In words, that sounds a bit strange. But the game is really about the fusion of music and gameplay. Inspired by music games like Rez, you speed along on a motorcycle through a tunnel-like landscape and make some quick decisions that keep you from crashing or getting beheaded.
The gameplay is fast, and you have to react to twists and turns. A character named Little Death tries to knock you off your motorcycle as you’re speeding through a city. You have to tap the Switch’s shoulder buttons at the right time. On the other hand, the game is fairly forgiving. And that may help it draw a broader audience that is more interested in the fusion of the beautiful art and the pop music. I found it very addictive and compelling.
The music is all original, custom-written to match the gameplay. The gameplay was also, in the case of many of the levels, generated to match the music soundtrack, said Daniel Olsén, music composer at Simogo, in an interview with GamesBeat. The result is a pop culture mash of electric pop, dance, fashion, anime, and arcade games like Tempest. Olsén worked with Jonathan Eng and Swedish singer Linnea Olsson on the songs.
“We just call it pop, with influences from Carly Rae Jepsen and K-pop,” Olsén said.
Some of the sections are like a rhythm game, where you are reacting to the beat or the flow of the music, while other sections aren’t like that at all. Simogo cofounder Simon Flesser would set up a scenario for a section of the game, and then Olsén would write the music for that section. Then Flesser would create the gameplay for that section of the game, timing parts of the music to jumps or button pushes.
“We did many levels like this,” Olsén said. “We tried to do one where he wrote the level first, but that proved to be too hard.”
It wasn’t easy to create. Olsén said it took about a year and a half before the team felt like it had something that it could build the game around.
The characters are based on a cast drawn from tarot cards. It has “buttery smooth” gameplay at 1080p and 60 frames per second while docked, and 720p and 60 frames per second on the Switch handheld. The game has virtually no loading time.
How long will the game be?
“It’s about the length of one album,” Olsén said.