Hi-Fi Rush – Game Review


Hi-Fi Rush

(available for Xbox Series X & S, and PC. Xbox Series X version used for this review)

Hi-Fi Rush was not a game that I had on my review schedule, mainly because up until the latest Xbox Developer Direct at the end of January we didn’t even know this game existed. It wasn’t one of the listed games to be featured in the show, but at the beginning of the show, the presentation made it clear that there would be a surprise announcement from Tango Gameworks, the team behind games like The Evil Within and Ghostwire Tokyo.

What we got is really different, despite the fact that it has the same director and a lot of the same team as Ghostwire Tokyo, Hi-Fi Rush is a cartoony rhythm action game. The best way to describe it is it has the combat of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry with the look of games like Viewtiful Joe and Jet Set Radio, as well as the rhythm aspect of Rhythm Hellsinger and Crypt of the Necrodancer.

The game basically centres around a kid named Chai, who wants to be a future rockstar, and moves to a campus where he undergoes a procedure to get robotic prosthetics. In doing so, the procedure goes wrong and his music player gets embedded into his chest so he starts learning the beat of the world. Now being hunted by the corporation that runs the campuses robots, he teams up with a hacker named Peppermint and a cat named 808, along with a few other rebels to take down the corporation, one board member at a time. Each board member kind of serves as a boss fight, and there’s a lot of them to do, but they have a lot of variety to them.

The game itself is designed to be very accommodating, the game gives you several methods in which to play it- they do not want to push anyone out. I’ll go into the accessibility options later on, but I’ll just say that do not turn away from this game just because it’s a rhythm game.

Now, shadow-dropping a game after a presentation that’s going to be an Xbox exclusive on consoles is a bold move, but has it paid off for Microsoft?

PROS

  • Combat

Combat is a bit more simplistic than something like Bayonetta, but the same basic features are there. A for jumps, X for light attacks, Y for heavy attacks, and B for parrying – which is used for summoning your support members to aid you in battles, as well as dodging. You’ll want to hit the beat because you will gain extra power behind your attacks depending on how well you match the beat, as well as how well you can jump and dodge – there are bonuses you can get later on in the game for counterattacks for perfect timed parries and dodges.

If you think that rhythm games aren’t for you, don’t panic, you only get bonuses for performing to the beat, and this game won’t punish you for being off beat. If you’re worried about not being able to hear the music timing, almost every aspect of the environment also performs to the beat. You’ll see lights on computer screens, and even the way steam moves out of vents is to the beat – and if that’s not enough, the robot cat 808 also emits lights to the beat, so all of this can aid in your attack abilities.

If you’re used to games like Crypt of the Necrodancer, you can press a button on the controller to bring up a beat tracker which will give you an extra visual aid. I turned this on on occasion. But at times when I needed to do the perfect parries, I would turn it off. This game is incredibly accessible for anyone who wants to play.

The combat is also very in-depth if you want it to be. The second that you finish the first mission a shop opens that allows you to buy more combos, as well as things like guitar chips which activate extra abilities and some other special attacks. You’ll want to take your support characters with you to increase their abilities since they will aid you greatly too. Each one is useful for certain situations, for example, Peppermint has a pair of guns that can break barriers, whereas Macaron enables a heavy attack which can destroy more brute-force shields.

In short, the combat is excellent, and I really can’t find a fault in it. If you really like games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, this game is definitely one you need to check out.

  • Graphics & Animation

Hi-Fi Rush runs at a very good 60 frames per second during the gameplay, but the way that the animations have been done is excellent! The game moves seamlessly between the two. I made a lot of comparisons with games like Viewtiful Joe and Jetset Radio, (and to a lesser extent Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker), and this is mainly because it emulates the cell shading style that those games go for. The difference is that this game allows for some incredibly expressive characters. Seriously, this is one of the best-looking games on the Xbox Series X right now, and I say with absolute certainty that it will stay that way for quite a long time, even with big hitters like Redfall and Starfield coming out later this year- the only game I can see challenging it anytime soon will be the upcoming Hellblade 2.

The animation style is really interesting. Anime has clearly played a big part, and I’ll talk about that more when I talk about the narrative of the game, but Hi-Fi Rush looks like something that could appear on Toonami. It also helps that the character designs are fantastic! When you have one of the bosses existing only to make Jojo references, you know that something has gone right in the development process.

  • Story and Humour

The story behind the game is really about fighting corporate greed, and the game has some excellent villains, Kale Vandelay, who I was surprised to find was voiced by Roger Craig Smith, the current voice of Sonic the Hedgehog in the video games – which is surprising considering he sounds really different in this role! It proved to me what a versatile voice actor he is.

I already mentioned that anime was a big influence, and it’s because this game clearly takes inspiration from studios like Trigger and Gynax and other 90’s Animes, as well as Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It definitely reminded me of Fooly Cooly as well.

While the story isn’t anything ground-breaking, it’s still enjoyable because of the character interactions between all of the various on-screen personalities. It also helps that Chai is a likeable protagonist and that the writing is actually really funny at times, aided once again by the expressive animation. The dialogue is written well too, and I thought that it was so enjoyable.

  • Soundtrack

Obviously, the soundtrack is incredibly important if you’re playing a game like this. The music that has been composed for the game is once again excellent.

There are licensed songs, but most of the soundtrack has been produced by Tango Gamework’s in-house sound designer, Masatoshi Yanagi. The music that he has composed is really good! It’s easy to keep to the beat and it is enjoyable to listen to. Some of the songs do come off as a bit samey, but as a whole, it’s a really good soundtrack, and he should really be commended for it.

The licensed songs also have a great selection, featuring songs by artists like The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, and The Joy Formidable, but particularly 9 Inch Nails plays a part by having 2 songs on the soundtrack. They’re mostly reserved for particular sequences or boss fights, and a particular highlight for me was when the song ‘Invaders Must Die’ by the Prodigy played, which really marked one of the big heights of the game. I won’t spoil why it happens, but it was really good!

MIXED

  • Level length

For the most part, the levels are a good length. The game is around ten hours from start to finish, and most levels won’t go over an hour. Later levels, however, go on quite a bit longer. If you’re playing on your first playthrough and don’t have access to the hideouts, there are times that you won’t get a break in story mode. There are times when I stayed up a bit later than usual, and I’ll say that thankfully Xbox Series X has a quick resume that you might want to take advantage of.

  • Boss fights

I mentioned that the boss fights are pretty good, and they are- they’re real highlights of the game and they often introduce new parts of the game so none of them feel stale. There are two towards the end including the final boss where I feel like the difficulty spiked too much and I was really tempted to turn the difficulty down both times. I didn’t end up doing so in the end, but I will say that there’s no shame in doing so since they are really difficult. The game will eventually give you the option to go back and redo levels since some levels are inaccessible on your first playthrough and require a character that you picked up after it, but this is only unlocked post-game. If you want to try it again later on, you absolutely can.

CONS

  • Latency Issue

I didn’t personally experience this, but I’m making a note of it since a few other reviewers did. It’s pretty easily fixed, though. The game will advise you, in the beginning, to turn your computer or monitor to Game Mode, which I really recommend doing so that you don’t have any latency issues when trying to match the beats. I also read a few issues that when people were using a capture card to get the footage they had trouble with this also. These are minor issues that can easily be worked around.

I would advise you to play the game with headphones, since not only does it help you play the game better, but it would make up for any minor issues if they arise. The capture card aspect will only affect people who want to stream the game to Twitch, in case you’re worried about the licenced music, don’t worry, there is a Streamer Mode available in the game that changes the music so that you won’t get a strike.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Hi-Fi Rush is a fantastic game and a brilliant new IP for Microsoft to have for the Xbox. Tango GameWorks has created a brilliant passion project that really puts all of their love on screen and I’m all for it. The combat is excellent, the art and animation are fantastic, and the game overall is just a joy to play. This is already a Game of the Year contender in my opinion. It’s only available digitally right now, and I would really recommend picking it up on the Steam Deck or on Xbox. The game is half-price from a full retail-priced game and if you have an Xbox Game Pass it is included as part of your subscription. Please pick it up because I really want this to be turned into a franchise going forward.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Calvin
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.

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The Next Axia6th March 2024
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