Sayonara Wild Hearts is the best Dreamcast game never made


A tribute to Sega's beloved underdog

When I was a kid I used to lie around in the grass and ask myself questions like "What makes a Sega game special?"Of course, the answer to that question depends on what era of Sega you're talking about. When they started in with home consoles, Sega touted themselves as the company that would do things that Nintendo wouldn't. They'd allow Mortal Kombat to be bloody on their console. They gave Sonic the angry eyebrows to contrast against Mario's baby-faced naivete. They embraced adolescent angst and mischief in ways that their rivals steered away from.

That changed in the Saturn and Dreamcast eras, when the publisher started looking to films like Monty Python's Meaning of Life and events like Burning Man for inspiration.  Recreating reality with dream-like charms became their calling card. They swung for the fences with games like Jet Set Radio, Shenmue, Rez, and NiGHTs just as their life in the home console production world was about to end. 

Sayonara Wild Hearts shares a little bit with each of those games in ways that never felt like direct homages; more like it was a secret, unreleased game that fit in right alongside them. Like Shenmue, it's about a love sick young adult who's having trouble figuring out where they fit in the world. Like NiGHTS, Jet Set Radio, and Rez, it's about racing against yourself, combining flight sim and rhythm game mechanics to bring sight, sound and feel into a cohesive whole. 

The only place where Sayonara Wild Hearts' Dreamcast influence might be a little too on the nose is right at the start, where it flips you over in the middle of your bedroom and dumps you right into the night sky. It's literally casting you into a dream, but before long, you'll forget all about that, skateboarding, then flying, through space picking up collectibles as you gradually learn to defy gravity. 

It's all easy and stress free at first, but before long, you run afoul of a gang of girls on motorcycles who can throw fireballs out of their hands. This will definitely lead you to lose/die a few times, but there isn't much backtracking. Time rewinds to just before you took the L and you get to dust yourself off and try again with what you learned from your mistakes. It makes for a game that is constantly moving your forward, even when you have to go back for a second or two. 

The downside is, you won't feel truly challenged until you see what you got for a grade. Again, like NiGHTS and Rez, you won't feel much pressure from the game unless you choose to self impose it. If you want to go back and try for higher scores, you're going to have to master some fast-paced precision flying, driving, and QTE fighting sequences. Combat is mostly rhythm driven, with timed button presses being essential for dodging and laying out attacks. The good news is, beating a rival gang allows you to literally break their hearts. 

Sayonara Wild Hearts is being published by Annapurna Interactive, the movie studio that backed Her, Sorry To Bother You, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and Booksmart. Like those films, the game values emotional honesty and a devotion to craftmanship in equal measure. It's rare that after I've played a game for 12 minutes I'm sure it's going to find an adoring audience on day one, but for this wild heart, I have to make an exception. I'm 100% certain that each and every one of the Dreamcast's many fans will eat this one up

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Jonathan Holmes
Jonathan HolmesBad Joke Uncle   gamer profile

"Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1 "The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Ju... more + disclosures



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  • Review: Sayonara Wild Hearts - CJ Andriessen
  • Sayonara Wild Hearts unleashes its pop goodness next week - Peter Glagowski
  • Sayonara Wild Hearts is the best Dreamcast game never made - Jonathan Holmes
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