Triple A gaming has been a… rough thing for the last few years. Practically every release has been plagued by bugs, pointless battle passes, borderline painful writing, and an overall lack of content for their $70 asking price. Not to mention that they all look the exact same, with bland photo-realistic graphics that don’t impress like they used to. Most of them spend years hyping everyone up for it only to fall flat on its face.
Then there’s Hi-Fi Rush. Which did the unthinkable by being an actually functional, complete, well-written, content rich, and beautiful game! All for a shockingly cheap price! And more than anything: it’s fun! Like, insanely fun!!
This game came out of nowhere! No cinematic reveals years prior, no major news articles, no trailers, nothing! It came out literally the same day it was announced! This is the shadow drop to end all shadow drops!
Wannabe rock star Chai volunteers to be a test subject for Project Armstrong, a major new project from the world’s leading tech company, Vandelay Technologies. However, an accident occurs and he’s combined with his MP3 player, giving him musical powers along with a new robotic arm. Deemed a defect, Vandelay sets out to destroy him. Now he, along with master hacker Peppermint and her robot cat 808, and a few other friends, must take on Vandelay’s sinister upper management and uncover the truth of the company’s other new project: SPECTRA.
It’s a fairly simple story. Sort of like a Saturday morning cartoon. A really cool, really fun show that kids and parents alike would enjoy because of the sick action scenes and hilarious dialogue.
All of the characters do a fantastic job of elevating the material. Chai quickly became one of my favorite video game protagonists; he perfectly balances cocky wannabe rock star with lovable moron. The supporting cast is all really cool too; the group chemistry all the heroes share in this game is a constant delight! All of the villains are just as colorful and fun as well; one of them is just a WWE star and another is a walking JoJo reference!
Oh, and then there’s 808. Maybe the cutest cat in any video game ever.
While the plot itself is hardly complicated, that’s not to say it’s completely without depth. Much of its humor is rooted in satire poking fun at modern working conditions. There are text files scattered all throughout the game that are just exasperated emails from disgruntled employees or bosses making humorous and unreasonable demands. Zanza’s whole level is basically a long joke about poor leadership in game development! It’s as hilarious as it is painfully relatable.
Okay, one last note on the writing and then we can move on: I really love the ending of this game. It doesn’t do anything spectacular, but it’s so damn sweet and satisfying! It stuck the landing perfectly and big ass smile on my face doing it!
Now, let’s talk visuals. Buckle up: this is where things get crazy.
From the moment I first looked at Hi-Fi Rush, I knew I was going to love it. It’s style, it’s animation, it’s music, all of it is exactly the kind of stuff that I adore! And that was all before I knew about the rhythm mechanics!
Graphically speaking, this game looks fantastic. It’s got an incredible cell-shaded 3D comic book style that I am head over heels for. Every action is punctuated by onomatopoeia, even small stuff like when Chai snaps his fingers in his idle pose. Not to mention that each boss has a badass 2D splash screen reminiscent of a full-page spread!
Speaking of 2D: a good number of this game’s cutscenes transition from 3D to 2D. And those transitions are as smooth as butter! Not to mention that the 2D animation itself is stellar!
I could go on and on about every little detail here. It’s all just so damn colorful and creative and fun! Every single character has a phenomenal design, from all the main cast to all the robot workers you’ll meet along your journey. Not to mention that they’re all animated wonderfully; they’re so damn expressive in every single scene!
And it all looks even better thanks to its buttery smooth framerate; even when the action is at its most insane, it never once dipped!
Then there’s the music. Holy shit, I love this OST! All of the original tracks are absolute bangers! As if that weren’t enough, it even has licensed music, including songs by Nine Inch Nails! Normally, I’d complain about licensed tracks, but the ones used in this game compliment the original score perfectly! How could I complain?!
Now, here’s the insane bit. See, Hi-Fi Rush is an action-rhythm game. As such, keeping up with the beat is very important. So, what did the designers do?
They made everything sync up to the beat of the music. Everything! From Chai’s idle animation to every single one of the attacks and enemies to even the UI and the environment itself! Even the action animation in cutscenes syncs up! Literally the only thing that doesn’t is the dialogue! This shit is insane, dude!!
It’s also insanely helpful. Turns out, it’s a lot easier to keep rhythm when literally everything you can see and hear is doing the same thing.
As I said earlier: Hi-Fi Rush is an action-rhythm game. In each level, you make your way through various platforming challenges and finding collectibles before being confronted by a group of enemies. Kill them as stylishly as possible to maximize your score. Rinse and repeat until you reach the end of the stage and/or a badass boss fight. Think games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta.
Where does the rhythm part come in, you ask? The answer is: everything. See, if you time your combos and button presses just right, you can add extra oomph to your moves. For example, if you time your dodge just right, you can extend it into a triple dodge. Time your hits just right and they’ll do more damage. So on and so forth.
Sorry, button mashers. This is not the game for you.
This shines especially well with this game’s parry system. It’s so much more than just ‘perfectly time block to reflect attacks.’ Certain enemies and bosses will bring you into a rhythmic duel. Basically, they’ll do a rhythm to attack; parry that same rhythm perfectly and you’ll instantly kill them. This system is so damn cool and fun that they made an entire boss fight out of it and it’s the coolest boss in the game!
Chai isn’t performing alone, though. You can also summon three of your party members to help you out in battle! These guys will be essential; not only do they help boost your combos, they also tear down the shields from invincible enemies, increases stun, and other such helpful effects.
As if this game weren’t badass enough, they had to add in Marvel VS Capcom style assists!
And then there’s the Chip system. With this, Chai can equip passive upgrades that assist the player in battle or exploration. Each chip can be leveled up, but each level makes the chip require more slots. For example, you can equip five level one chips, or two level one chips with one level three chip. Don’t worry; you can change the level of any given chip at any time, so you’re not permanently locked into or out of anything once you upgrade them.
This was the one part of the game I wasn’t super excited by. Mainly because I kept on forgetting it was even in the game. I don’t wanna micromanage stat buffs! I play Final Fantasy for that, not action games!
Now, let’s talk about those boss fights. They’re all awesome! Each one is the highlight of their respective levels. From their designs to their movesets, they’re all so damn fun! Not to mention challenging; some of these guys will mess you up if you aren’t good enough. If you’re looking for a game with badass and flashy cinematic boss battles, then this is the one for you!
Finally, there’s the post game. After beating the main story, you unlock a plethora of side content! This includes a special combat challenge called the Rhythm Tower, in which you’ll need to defeat enemies on a time limit – think Bloody Palace from Devil May Cry.
But forget that! The post game also offers the most important thing in any game: cosmetic items! Once you beat the game, you’re given the ability to buy all sorts of wacky and fun costumes for all the characters! You can straight-up customize each and every piece of Chai’s clothing, from his robot arm to his weapon to even his hair color! AND THERE ARE TONS OF THEM!!!
None of it is tied to in-game purchases. There is no Battle Pass. There are no loot boxes. You unlock all of this exclusively by playing the game. Did I mention, by the way, that this game only costs $30?
It is 2004 and I am a little kid again, discovering the magic of video games for the first time!
I absolutely adore Hi-Fi Rush! It’s everything that I love about video games all rolled up into one package! Its writing, its characters, its visuals, its music, its gameplay, all of it is masterfully done! It feels like this game was made for me!
If you’re even slightly interested in playing this game, I’d highly encourage you to do so. In an era of disappointing and underwhelming big budget releases, Hi-Fi Rush is an absolute gem! It’s worth every penny and then some!
Hopefully other triple A game developers will take notes from this game’s success. We could use more polished and creative games these days. Especially new IPs.
They probably won’t, but hey! There’s always the indie scene.