It’s funny what can make someone emotional….wait scratch that, it’s troubling to me that I can get all weepy at a video game, movie, or even a song I remember fondly from my youth, but when it comes to what most people get “emotional” about, I feel like I can’t find the right feelings.
I mention this mainly as context for how I felt playing Sayonara Wild Hearts on my Switch versuss how I felt when dealing with a loss in my family these past few weeks. When I first heard the sad news, I felt sadness for sure, but there were not tears or emotional outburst like you see in movies & TV. I posted on Facebook because I thought that would give me some catharsis as well, and read the well wishes and condolences with affection. As the week after progressed, I continued to wonder if I’d break down randomly or have some sort of “greater” moment. I kept thinking about the family member, remembering good and not so good times.and wondering if I just wasn’t processing the loss.
I’m still processing everything of course, but the life goes on, and what do I do when things are bad (or good, or whenever honestly): I play games. I’d been looking forward to this game since the announcement trailer at The Game Awards last year, and once I finally got a chance to try it out at PAX West last month it was a day one purchase for me, but from the little I did play I wasn’t keyed into what the actual story of the game was dealing with. Turns out the game deals with a young woman’s devastating heartbreak and how it pretty much breaks the universe. It then deals with our heroine’s quest to restore the natural order of things. And as I began playing, the emotions began to flow like water. Each subsequent level adding a new layer and texture to how I was feeling about everything in life at the moment. Jumping from one pop song to the next, playing what I’ve dubbed a “rhythm based runner” and letting the gorgeous aesthetic wash over me, I quickly completed the standard playthrough in about an hour….or about the length of an album.
I then went and bought the soundtrack immediately, and its been on heavy rotation all week, but it’s more than just the catchy beats that I love, it’s the ethereal lyrics by Linnea Olsson that really tug at the heartstrings. What’s just as impressive is that the game does an exquisite job of fitting it’s gameplay to match the mood and tempo of the song, which I’m certain was a part of the development process and not a happy accident. It’s also a very simple game at its core, with your character being ever propelled forward while avoiding obstacles and occasionally hitting a button in time to the beat, all while grabbing as many hearts as possible to increase your score. And sure, the game has a bronze/silver/gold ranking, but in the end it doesn’t really matter other than self fulfillment I guess? I mean, there is something locked behind getting a gold rank on all the individual levels, but I don’t think I’d want to do that. But I will say that you do need to complete the game once to unlock what is the actual best mode, and that’s an “Album" Arcade” mode that presents the game as a single level (albeit with some loading times) that feels like an interactive album through and through.
I’ve played through the game in its entirety twice now, and listened to the album front to back several times and every time it gets me in the emotional frame of mind. It’s now inextricably tied to a specific moment in my life, which is something I can’t say about most of the games I’ve played, and thus makes this one special in every way.
Miss ya Grandma.