Sayonara Wild Hearts is soon to come out and we talk about Year Walk, Eurovision, and WarioWare with Simogo's Simon Flesser.
For the Nintendo fan who has a fondness for mobile games, the developer Simogo has been a regular on Apple devices for the better part of a decade. The two-man Swedish team has been a mainstay on iOS devices with releases like Device 6, Beat Sneak Bandit, and Bumpy Road. Their next game, Sayonara Wild Hearts, was first unveiled on Nintendo Switch last year and while it’s still coming to iOS alongside the Switch release on September 19, this is the first time the team will have a game launch on a Nintendo console upon debut.
We caught up with Simon Flesser, one of the two founders of the company (their name Simogo comes from Simon and Gordon (Magnus "Gordon" Gardebäck) with the “o” coming from the Swedish word for “and”), to pick his brain about the studio’s history, their past with Nintendo, and the inspirations for Sayonara Wild Hearts.
“We came from a company that had focused mainly on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN games” Flesser explained. “We were tired of the underdeveloped backends and systems and all the politics that came with console development.”
When Simogo came onto the scene in 2010, the mobile gaming space was vastly different than it is today. Diving into development on iOS was easy and approachable, which is a far cry from where it is today. That increased complexity across the mobile market might have been why Sayonara Wild Hearts is also coming to Switch as, according to Flesser, “the development environment and easiness of Switch reminds of how nice it was to develop for mobiles back in 2010.”
However the Switch wasn’t the first time Simogo met with Nintendo. A meeting during the 3DS era didn’t bear any fruit as the duo pitched a project for the portable that didn’t go anywhere. A few years later, Nintendo approached them with the purpose of bringing their 2013 iOS/PC game Year Walk to the Wii U. Flesser elaborated: “[It was] part of a program to localize and bring smaller games to Japan. We decided it’d be fun to make it a little more than a port, and it very much became its own very specific Wii U thing.”
Year Walk on Wii U was well received and while nothing else from the studio would hit Wii U, they remained in touch with Nintendo. None of their other past games are set to be ported to Nintendo platforms, but eventually, Simogo showed Sayonara Wild Hearts to Nintendo and then the Switch became the lead platform for the project.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is referred to as a “pop album video game,” which sounds preposterous but seeing it in motion and playing it back at PAX East 2019 proved to me that the concept held merit. If you need an entrypoint, it draws inspiration from Nintendo’s own Rhythm Heaven. “The remixes in Rhythm Tengoku (the Japanese name of the series) has definitely been influential to Sayonara Wild Hearts,” Flesser said.
When I played it at PAX East, it reminded me of Eurovision, the international song contest that I’ve personally paid more attention to in recent years. Sweden, Simogo’s home country, is a regular contestant, winning the competition twice in the past decade. I was curious if it played a role in inspiring their latest game. “I don’t think you’re incorrect,” Flesser replied. “There is a spirit of “no shame” in the Eurovision that flows through Sayonara Wild Hearts as well.”
Aside from that, Sayonara’s inspirations are numerous, as he describes: “the teddygirls subculture, the café racer subculture, video game culture, music, anime culture – it really is a soup of pop culture”
Tarot cards play heavily in Sayonara Wild Hearts, with characters based on specifically on them. I was curious if Flesser had any past interest and dalliances with fortune telling. The answer was straightforward as he said “I grew up with witches so it’s always been present and in the back of my mind.” With that in mind, I’ll play any Simogo game that draws inspiration from growing up with witches.
While no Nintendo cameos are happening, Flesser did offer up ones he’d hope for. “Selfishly I think Kumatora from Mother 3 would be awesome,” he said, reminding us all that life is short and Mother 3 will never be localized for the west. “But thinking from a perspective that might make more sense, racing against Mona from WarioWare, on her scooter, to her Mona Pizza theme song? Maybe with Kat and Ana attacking with her their swords.” The art styles might clash, but Mona, Kat, and Ana could easily hang with the cast of Sayonara Wild Hearts.
Being a pop album at heart, certain Nintendo characters could also fit in, whether it’s the actual pop stars like like Ribbon Girl from Arms or Cali and Marie from Splatoon. Flesser also postulated the idea of Marin from Link’s Awakening (“we know [she] is a good singer”) and Rosalina (“[she] could put on a nice space pop show?”).