Some of the best game reveals have been ones that follow an immediate release, mere moments following its announcement. While these reveals have been rare, they have happened on more than one occasion. Previously, we looked at Tunic, which had a simultaneous announcement and was released on Game Pass. What was a title I wouldn't have immediately looked at became a charming Legend of Zelda-like isometric adventure title. Hi-Fi Rush is the second game we're covering that follows the "game reveal + release" formula, except it was a title that caught most of the gaming industry off guard.
Hi-Fi Rush is an eclectic cartoonish rhythm action-adventure hybrid that's full of vibrant color, rocking tunes, and interesting gameplay. The latter is especially true considering the developer, Tango Gameworks, and most notably its producer Shinji Mikami. Best known for his work in the Resident Evil series and The Evil Within, Mikami had expressed interest in working on a totally new IP. This IP, directed by The Evil Within 2's director John Johanas, would be a complete departure from the horror genre the developer is best known for. Their most recent work, Ghostwire Tokyo, was a slight departure from survival horror, instead focusing on the mysterious and the supernatural with comedic cues that helped break the tension of an alternate version of Tokyo.
There are no yokai, demons, or other supernatural mysteries to solve this time around. Hi-Fi Rush is a high-octane animated video game, even down to its story. Chai is a down-on-his-luck poser with dreams of becoming a rock star and his big break in working for a megacorporation is put on hold after a freak accident. During his initiation process, his music player accidentally becomes fused with his heart as well as gaining a robotic arm in the process. This "music player heart" allows him to see the world in rhythm, but also affect the world around him to his beat. Having been labeled as a "defect," it's up to Chai, his companion robot cat 808, the owner of said cat Peppermint, and other allies to "fight the system" through music.
I mentioned that I'm a fan of action games with music elements in the past. Lunistice, an amazing Sonic the Hedgehog-style platformer, featured a level where platforms change in accordance with the beat. Hi-Fi Rush also features platforming segments that match the beat of the music, but this affects the entire game world. Trees and background environments will always interact with the rhythm of the music, enemies will attack on the beat, and the player will also attack on the beat as well.
There are two forms of attacks in Hi-Fi Rush. Light attacks hit on every beat, making them easy to hit perfectly and score a bonus in the process. Heavy attacks hit every other beat, which means slowing down and finding the tempo is important to ensure you hit the rhythm perfectly. Even Chai's idle animation is him tapping to the beat, letting the player know that finding the rhythm is a requirement to play Hi-Fi Rush efficiently.
For rhythm game fans, this makes the flow of gameplay reliant on the player's ability to never drop the beat even outside of combat. Chai can double jump which jumping to the beat will increase his height. He can also dodge enemy attacks up to three times on beat, which also helps in keeping the tempo should there be a situation where Chai cannot attack. A boss fight for example may have downtime in which Chai needs to avoid its attacks and since everything is on the beat, the player can gauge when and how to dodge before putting on the offense. Music is done in-house as well as a combination of real bands including The Black Keys and Nine Inch Nails, the latter first introduced in the game's first boss fight.
What I enjoyed about Hi-Fi Rush so far is how attentive the game is to teach players its game mechanics. This game is unlike most action hack-and-slash games so these tutorials are much appreciated. As rhythm games are some of my favorite video games to play, I decided to begin my journey on Hard difficulty and I feel this is the perfect starting point for those familiar with action games. Players who are finding it difficult to catch the beat can always rely on visual indicators scattered throughout Hi-Fi Rush's vivid world, as well as turning on an optional visual metronome to assist the player.
Performing special attacks and powerful combos requires the combination of pressing light and heavy attacks to the game's rhythm, but every action in the game will always register on the beat. Mashing the light attack button is discouraged, but even when the player does, Chai will always attack in tempo. This means that there's no punishment in not following Hi-Fi Rush's rules, but there's no reason for the player to ignore them. After a while, things caught on and I was dashing and moving to the beat. Even when I wasn't sure where an enemy was, I was grooving to the beat. Ultimately, that's what I enjoyed during my first two levels of Hi-Fi Rush.
The rhythm game action hybrid tends to be straightforward, like Hextech Mayhem, a spin-off involving Ziggs from League of Legends where he, well, causes mayhem to the beat. Hi-Fi Rush is a different twist to the genre that also proves Mikami's word in the vision he wants for Tango Gameworks moving forward. For a developer best known for creating wonderous yet horrific survival horror titles, Hi-Fi Rush couldn't be any different. Like many, it blew my expectations before I could begin to develop any and this is why the "reveal on release day" marketing tactic works for games like this. Now I'm intrigued to see the future of Tango Gameworks in developing non-horror games if they can create titles with as high quality as this.
Hi-Fi Rush is available on PC and Xbox Series X/S via Xbox Game Pass. It is also available on Steam.