Hi-Fi Rush Review – A rocking good time.

Hi-Fi Rush starts with one of the most impressive openings.  There’s a strong stylized animation, an interesting premise, and a good beat.  The story starts with the main character named Chai, who gets his arm repaired by Vandelay Industries, a clear Seinfeld reference, but an accident happens and his iPod style music device is implanted in his body along with a brand new arm being attached.  The iPod gets him marked as a “defect” by Vandelay, and much of the game is Chai fighting against the Vandelay Industries security, bots, management, and eventually the owner to a rocking soundtrack. 

The game is also legitimately funny and that’s not something that I normally say.  The cutscene in Hi-fi Rush  feels like a great opening, and luckily, HI-Fi Rush is able to take a similar artstyle, and delivery of it’s story with great presentations throughout the game. 

There’s quite a few characters involved in the story, but every character works here, and the story has a lot of funny and light hearted moments that feel fresh in an industry that pushes a more grim-dark world.  While there are serious consequences, the main character’s upbeat attitude makes most of the story enjoyable to watch, and there’s always a question of what will happen next, rather than a by-the-numbers experience. 

With the main character implanted with a music player, music must be part of the gameplay, and sure enough Hi-Fi Rush finds a good place for it.  The combat in Hi-Fi Rush reminds me a lot of Bayonetta, large battles with huge attacks and enemies, along with cinematic scenes, and high octane combat. It’s true that it doesn’t mention the music, but that’s also because while the music is important, it’s not actually at the heart of the game itself.

Many people have and will call this a “Rhythm” game, and I disagree with that.  Players can use the rhythm aspects to do more damage to the enemies, it enhances the power of the attacks, but after beating the game, it’s pretty clear that the majority of the experience here doesn’t necessarily require rhythm or perfect rhythm timing.  It will help and on harder difficulties I’m sure it will be more required, but all the system seems to do is make the game slightly easier. 

I averaged about 50 “just timing” hits in most of my battles, and never really required them.  The few times the game switched to a full rhythm experience in a boss, or a head to head battle, there were enough attempts, hints, and trial and error that even players who don’t have a lot of rhythms won’t be held back here. 

The music, controller vibration, visual cues, and general timing will make it easier to follow along with the beat, and the game is welcoming to both those looking for a more rhythmic experience, and ones looking for a simple action game. 

While the gameplay works early on, and continues to build on itself over the course of the 12 levels, the game’s second half does lack a bit.  The first few levels bring a new and fresh environment, but after a few very unique locations, the levels lack a bit of visual punch.  Even some of the more interesting ideas and designs for the later levels don’t land as well because the game tries to thread the experience between interesting locations and arenas for battling, and it’s rare to find in locations that really stand out.  Even when you have an interesting concept such as fighting in an augmented reality lab, the environments become the same as every arena before, and while there were some interesting VR style battle arenas in earlier stages, the final half of the levels feel like they ran out of interesting and novel ideas and just go through the motions. 

Levels do have some platforming, and sections where the camera moves to a 2D side scrolling experience, and while these work, they also will become something you’ve seen far too often by the end of the game.  While platforming is interesting in a large junk yard while trying to reach locations, having to platform through every level makes each level feel the same.   The 2D effect is interesting but never really feels as solid as the rest of the game.

It also doesn’t help that most levels don’t have a large boss at the end.  Those moments shine a bit and there’s a few boss battles that stand out, but after a couple levels, the final encounters are very similar to all the fights you’ve had before it.  There might be one new enemy, but it’s not enough of a difference to make the player feel like they’ve reached a major milestone. 

Perhaps this was done to pad the game out more, or make the length of the game hit some arbitrary bar, but when the game took me over 12 hours, possibly even longer, I think a tighter delivery would have been better, or at least shaving some of the repetitive encounters out of the overall experience. 

Ultimately Hi-Fi Rush’s biggest problem is how strong the experience starts and how it ends.  The final two levels and the final boss, feel great, but Hi-Fi Rush starts so strong, and dips down towards an average game before rocketing back to a strong finale, and the thing that will keep me from returning is that eventual dip in quality. 

However I also can’t deny this is a fresh and new idea for a game, and absolutely should be picked up by anyone who wants to play something different, or with a vibrant color palette that isn’t just going through the same motions as every game from large publishers. 


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