You're watching the Xbox "direct", you see a cartoonish trailer paired with cool characters, an interesting plot device, some sleek animation, and then it says "From the makers from The Evil Within...", which happens to be Tango Gameworks. You're intrigued. You think to yourself "Self, they're already talking about games that are coming later in 2023. Don't get too excited." You watch more, because it's made by Bethesda, (?!) and they're responsible for games like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and the upcoming highly-anticipated Starfield. And then you see that it's a rhythmic action adventure platforming game. This first paragraph alone was enough for me - and everyone else - to play the shadow dropped, and very exciting Hi-Fi Rush.
For those of you living on the edge, who haven't played the game, the story goes like this. Chai, your unlikely hero, has found himself at a company called Vandalay Technologies volunteered to be a part of Project Armstrong. Project Armstrong is a program that perfectly fuses technology with human bodies, mostly through limbs. Chai wants to just be a rockstar, but his arm won't allow him to do so, which is why we are here. Chai goes into the machine to be fused, having to give up his belongings, which include his MP3 player. Now, Vandelay Technologies, ran by Kale Vandelay doesn't care for "losers" like Chai. He wants people for his own motives. He has a plan. And while talking about his plan, he takes our the MP3 player, throws it, and it lucky bounces onto Chai's chest right when the infusion process takes place.
When Chai comes to, he finds himself in post production, and ends up outside on the company campus. He has a full magnetic, robotic arm, and thinks that this is his moment. Unfortunately, he is stopped by security robots, and considered a reject because of the "foreign object" found on him. The guards attack him, and activates the MP3 player, now embedded inside his chest, which triggers an automatic defense mechanism. Chai uses his magnetic waste claw arm to attract other metal parts into a make-shift guitar sword, and the game tells you to get out of your current situation. You have a light attack, and a heavy attack. Swing away. Once you defeat those first thugs, the lyrics to the song start to become clearer. And that's the first of many music phrases I will be using in this review.
Chai's attacks are paired with the beat of the in-game soundtrack. He can swing on beat with just the light attack, or he can use the heavy attack for a 2 count. Every song in the game is in 4 beats. And the tutorials in the game will definitely help you along. You can also jump to the beat, and later dodge and parry. The cool thing about this game is that your attacks are definitely stronger, and more chance to combo and get higher damage, if you're on beat. You are NOT penalized if you get off beat. At all. And everything in the game is also in sync with the beat. All the enemy attacks, all the backgrounds, all the animations. Everything. The beat goes on, and if you use it wisely, you will hardly ever find yourself in an losing situation. As the game progresses, you will find hint robots, who will tell you how combos, and defense work in the game. The game will walk you through everything you need to know before you get into the deep water.
Right out the gate, you will meet your first helpful character, a cat named 808. (get it?) And 808 will give you a beat meter. The cat will show you what the beat is doing, no matter what the tempo. Use this cat to keep your attacks coming. 808 will also teach you to learn a combo ender, in this case referred to as a "beat hit". A beat hit usually knocks your foes down, and lets you focus on the other 6 or 7 trying to surround and attack you. A beat hit happens when you align two on-screen circles that overlap each other. Think of it as a quick time event. You will always have a chance to end a combo with a beat hit, no matter if you use all light attacks, all heavy attacks, or if you mix them up. Again, these enemies are also on beat, so if you are catching the beat, they have indicators to let you know what's to come. 808 is controlled by Peppermint, who knows what Vandelay's plans are, but she leads on that she doesn't know why.
I have to mention how fluid and gorgeous this game is. I don't even know how to describe it. The cut scenes are just ever so slightly better than the in-game animation. Every character in this game has different expressions. Everything is crisp with no slow down or tear. Very colorful environments don't take away from the fact that if you just leave Chai in idle, he moves to the beat with a foot tap and a snap. In the background, something is always moving. Robots everywhere, and interacting with each other. The cut scenes and the gameplay flow into each other, and it plays like an episodic streaming series. It's pretty amazing to see it all in action. And not just visually. Audibly, whether it's the licensed music or the game's original soundtrack, the sound design is dynamic in every part of the game. When you're running around or exploring, the music plays a stripped down instrumental, but every time the fighting starts, the music amps up, and sometimes with lyrics, without missing a beat. And ALL NPC's, characters, villains and whatnot, are have voice actors for them. Every. Single. One. Truly a feat.
The bosses in this game are absolutely fantastic. All of them. Larger than life, and with one mission. And that is to stop Chai from completing the take down of Vandelay. Whether it's a giant robot, or my new favorite boss character of all time, Rekka, every single one has a different personality. And these aren't cookie cutter boss fights. Sure, you can use the moves you learned up to the point, but just when you think you have all the answers, they change the questions. You get a preview of each boss as you go through the level, and it's such a cool thing to think you know what you're up against, only for them to prove you completely wrong. And sometimes in the easiest way possible. Also...Roguefort. So very very cool.
Peppermint is the first of Chai's helpers in the game. She will not only reveal that she's been controlling 808, and speaking to Chai through that cat (yes, you can pet the cat), but she is also there to get you through the levels via narrative banter. She can also help in game by calling her in like a summon. Whether it's to destroy shields with her gun, or to knock platforms down, Peppermint is your girl in the chair. She's going to get you where you need to be. She's not the only one, but she is your go to for a nice chunk of the game. You literally call her in like Marvel VS Capcom assist character, and she has a recharge meter, meaning you can't call her in again until that has refilled. If you use the right sequence of buttons, you can use her for more than a quick jump in and jump out. Peppermint will also allow Chai to buy new moves in between levels, as she brings Chai back down to Earth, constantly reminding him that he's not doing this alone. Buying new combos and moves are the keys to success here.
Starting the game, you have a life meter, and eventually get a special attack meter. If your life runs out, it's start from the last checkpoint. In normal difficulty, if your life is low, smash some enemies, and they'll give it right back. Your special meter allows you to unleash a flashy finisher, with a beat hit. You can pull these off in mid combo, or out the gate. As you navigate around the levels, you will find in game currency, referred to as gears. Gears will help you buy aforementioned moves and abilities, as well as permanent upgrades like life meter extensions, and the ability to double your special gauge. You also get gears from defeating enemies, and smashing boxes as you dora the explorer the level. You will do this alot, and for good reason. Sometimes, you find pieces of permanent upgrades, and those aren't really hidden as well. There are also quick time treasure chests unlocks as well. There is a lot of money and items to be collected. Go places where you think you can't go. The platforming on this game is part sandbox, part side scroller. But smash those boxes, and check every corner. Beat up the service robots. Trust me on this.
If you find yourself low on money, there are small achievements you can complete throughout the levels. And you can collect on these achievements back in the hideout. If you jump on beat 50 times, you can get some bread. If you destroy 50 low level robot thugs, money cometh. There are many ways to unlock the cash and prizes. There's a whole list, and no, you're not going to be able to keep track of the things you need to complete, so again, do everything. Your money is very important here. You can breeze through the levels with a little rhythm, and by buying the right moves, assists, and special attacks. I say again, go everywhere, and do everything. The final boss isn't easy, even if you have most of the stuff unlocked. Eventually, you unlock a Chip system. Peppermint can fit Chai with different chips for even more help, such as a regen, or a faster recharge for the assists. These chips can be bought and upgraded with gears. The chip system is a little bit weird. From the beginning, you only have one slot for the chip, and the more you upgrade one chip, the more slots it takes up. It's a very weird mechanic, especially since the first slot upgrade is 50,000 gears (the game's currency). Chai is a rockstar, not a dentist. Musicians don't make money.
The options menu is dynamite. You can choose to change the in-game language, both audio and text. You can change the sensitivity of the camera, and invert it if you're a crazy person. You can turn auto target on, change the latency input and even remap. With a flick of a button, you can turn that motion blur all the way off, and adjust the sound. Another flick, and you have a full accessibility menu, such as single button rhythm game, and auto action mode. This game is actually quite customizable on the Xbox Series, so I can only imagine how many other things you can do on PC. There are SO MANY other elements in this game that you will fall in love with, and callbacks to games like Parappa The Rapper, Gitaroo Man, and even DDR.
My only real complaint about this game is that the levels are about an hour long, but most of that is Chai running to the beat, all whilst collecting money and things. There is no button to move faster, and though you can dodge to the beat, it doesn't make you move faster. My collecting addiction didn't want me to breeze through the game. Far from it. However, Chai could move a little faster for my tastes. Rekka is also the second boss, and that makes me sad for many reasons. Other than that, this coming out this early in the year will be tough to beat. Icing on the cake is that there is "new game plus", where you can go back through the levels on higher difficulty, and find places you couldn't go before. I can only imagine Chai becoming virtually unstoppable. And yes, you can buy and change everyone's clothes after you complete the first run through. There's a slight spoiler.
Hi-Fi Rush is a light-hearted game about comradery and taking down corpo, mixing fantastic animation, amazing character development, larger than life bosses and more charm than a bassist after getting props for a gig. If Bethesda is doing games like this in 2023, hand me that guitar pick. I'm ready to rock!
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Joseph is the resident streamer for Gaming Nexus. He grew up playing video games as early as the Atari 2600. He knows a little about a lot of video games, and loves a challenge. He thinks that fanboys are dumb, and enjoys nothing more than to see rumors get completely shut down. He just wants to play games, and you can watch him continue his journey at Games N Moorer on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook gaming!View Profile