- Hi-Fi Rush Review - February 19, 2023
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Area shooters tear me apart. Even as a veteran gamer, the sheer amount of quick-time events, tone awareness, and agility demanded from games like DOOM, Dusk, and ULTRAKILL leave me feeling stressed and embarrassed beyond belief.
So it was with great surprise that I ended up loving Hi-Fi Rush, a robot-themed rhythm game tasking us with defeating enemies to the beat of the music. With a variety of quirky hipster friends, lovable corporatist villains, and an ultra-adorable robo-cat, the cutesy cyberpunk take on a rock-and-roll future left me laughing and howling with delight.
For those looking for a reprieve from grimdark RPGs and depressing soulslikes, Hi-Fi Rush offers a charming experience with stellar combat and fun characters. If we can get past the somewhat lackluster introduction to the story, we’ll find a captivating experience to rock out and slay some quirky robots.
A Groovy Transhumanist Tale
While its colorful world and quirky robots offered an excellent first impression, the initial narrative felt jarring and simplistic. Though I enjoyed watching our hipster hero, Chai, morph into a defective cyborg freedom fighter, his initial dialogue and motivations were beyond annoying. Don’t get me wrong; I grew to love Chai, Peppermint, and the other characters we befriended along the way (especially 808 and Korsica), but their beginning dynamic felt absurd and forced at the onset.
Luckily, the game pulls it together with its hilarious villains brimming with character and charm. From a ridiculously buff wrestler boss to a kid’s cartoon villain, Scottish Fem Fatale, and more, I was delighted to watch our antagonists rant, rave, and suplex our protagonists into oblivion. Even the robot side characters and environment are dripping with narrative glee, like a robot stacking boxes in the shape of a dog or text logs with a robot narrator having an existential crisis over doors.
Overall, I grew to love Hi Fi rush’s story over time. While it’s a more childish tale with only a few mature moments, the humor and relative innocence of the characters offered a hilariously fun adventure that left me feeling warm and fuzzy by its end. All-in-all, though it’s not particularly profound or intriguing, Hi-Fi Rush’s narrative offers a colorful feel-good escape into a robotic land of hilarity and whimsy.
Revenge of the Rocking Robots
Hi-Fi Rush’s combat rocks out. While it primarily consists of hack-and-slash fighting with combo attacks, parrying, and special abilities, the core combat of the rhythm game rewards attacks that land on the beat. Even if we’re tone-deaf or forget our combos, the constantly pulsating world, and availability of rhythm indicators made it easy to anticipate enemy attacks and deliver a cathartic punishment to a crowd of imaginary peers shouting our name.
By the game’s end, I had achieved a flow state of combat where I could perfectly parry, dodge, and smash robots to bits. I even took the time to memorize a few easy combos to leverage and reward our mastery. While the arenas feel somewhat repetitive toward the end (it’s usually just a same-sized circle with a different environmental backdrop), the frequent addition of new foes with unique attack patterns always kept me on my toes.
Overall, the rhythm-style combat was an exceptionally unique and fun affair. Putting aside a few quick-time events that tested my sanity and nearly brought me to tears on a livestream, the refined musical combat felt challenging and fair. While we may be disappointed with our “C” or “D” ranking at each stage (or “chorus” in the game’s vernacular), It was refreshing to come back to earlier levels and wipe the floor with foes to earn that delectable S ranking.
Breathing Buildings and Dancing Decorations
Hi-Fi Rush’s visuals are a gorgeous mix of a living comic book and a kid-friendly Borderlands game. Each inch of the world, from the swaying enemies to a funky fern, pulsates to the beat of the music and sells the lively world’s feeling and tone.
Even while the game primarily relies on a steampunk OSHA’s-wost-nightmare style to its levels, the environments are incredibly distinct and seamlessly change from 3D to 2D on a moment’s notice. From navigating volcanoes in a geothermal plant to climbing a cylindrical tower Mario-style, the meticulous detail and precision make themselves known with every platform, grappling hook, and zipline through cargo crates.
My favorite environment by far was the Vandalay Museum which promoted its killer robots as emotional support bots and adored its walls with absurd paintings of robot evolution.
While I sometimes wish I spent more time exploring these areas than fighting enemies, the mirror-polished cutscenes offered at each stage’s end offered a delightful reward for making it this far. I periodically felt like I was watching a kid’s cartoon for adults every so often and was always hungry for more at each one’s conclusion. Overall, I was delighted with the effort poured into the game’s visual design and treasured each boss fight as a visual treat.
UI: Defects DESTROYED
Except for audio rarely de-syncing during cutscenes, I ran into zero issues while playing through Hi Fi Rush. The enemies never stuttered or stood in place, and I never had to worry about the game crashing.
My only gameplay issue was our character’s jump ability, where we needed more control to drift through the air and control our landings. While this was only a minor annoyance, the precise moment required by some of the platforms meant retrying a section or starting combat with reduced health because I kept falling into lava beforehand.
I’d only expect these issues to matter if we’re going for S rank scores; otherwise, the constant presence of checkpoints meant we could continually make mistakes without much fallout.
Killer VAs and Lovely Tunes
With stellar music and top-tier voicework, I loved listening to the quirky character interactions punctuated with a lively soundtrack. Even though I groaned at the immature exchanges between Chai and Peppermint, I was captivated by each Villain’s rambling monologue peppered with insecurities and absurdities. Though some lines felt repetitive mid-combat, they were rarely noticeable and never aggravated me.
Especially toward the game’s finale, the music reached an all-time high, hitting that perfect mix between optimism and excitement that encouraged me to give it my all. Though it never made me cry like Undertale or Wandersong, I enjoyed feeling in perfect sync with the optimistic finale, charging headlong to meet the enemy with a fellowship of heroic friends.
Cyborg Hipster to Transhumanist Warrior
I only grew to love Hi-Fi Rush as our journey continued. Each level offers a new weapon to test, like the parry, grappling hook, and ally attacks that helped to elevate and accelerate combat. Though perfecting the parry mechanic essentially ruined battles (we became invincible), reaching that state took a great deal of time.
On the other hand, introducing new minibosses tended to halt a nearly perfect run. While most of these foes went down easy enough, enemies like the Robot Samurai, which requires a near-perfect set of parries to defeat, could take as long as boss encounters. Though I appreciate the compulsion to use our new items, expecting us to apply them perfectly felt like too much.
Overall, while I was excited to get a new ability or explore a new area, the addition of most enemies tended to feel unbalanced. While we’re fine towards the endgame after memorizing their attack patterns, the first introduction of these foes made me consider lowering the difficulty.
Playthrough 2: The Hipsters’ Strike Back!
Players still hungering for more of the musical combat can enjoy a fully revamped hardcore playthrough and set of Spectra challenges. While it’s essentially a permadeath mode that ends our run if we fail to maintain an above “C,” Rhythm Master Mode is fantastic for making us sync with the beat. Especially returning to old areas with our new abilities, this was the best mode to reexperience Hi-Fi Rush without feeling too easy.
Also, with the unlock of new characters, we can finally explore those hidden areas and locked Spectra doors we encountered earlier in the story. These room-specific challenges offer another final test of our skill and reward a secret ending with Kale if we can complete all 16 challenges.
All-in-all, Hi-Fi Rush’s postgame content offers some tremendous challenges and narrative closure if we were left wanting more. While all of this is optional, it feels like something the developers would’ve added as paid DLC or an anniversary patch, so it was refreshing to play through nearly an entire game’s worth of postgame content for free.
More Dance Battles for Your Consideration
Putting it bluntly, Hi-Fi Rush isn’t for everyone. The simplistic narrative and shallow characters can disappoint us if we look for a more serious game.
Instead, we can check out other games that prioritize a gritty, serious tone over Hi-Fi Rush’s whimsy. For a more refined narrative experience (with entirely capitalized names), we can enjoy the following arena shooters and rhythm battlers:
- Crypt of the NecroDancer
- Metal: Hellsinger
- DOOM: Eternal
- Friday Night Funkin’
- Beat Saber
Overall Pros and Cons
- Unique Musical Combat
- Immaculately Designed World
- Extremely Accessible
- Well Executed Humor
- Simplistic narrative
- Trope-y Characters
- Repetitive Arenas
- Predictable Ending
JT spent 9.5+ hours smashing robots and rocking out! He beat all 12 stages, defeating a megalomaniacal corporation and saving the world from robo-enslavement. Plus, he unlocked most of Chai’s special moves and gave the secret boss a thorough beating. In the coming weeks, he intends to finish a second playthrough on Rhythm Master Mode.
Question: What’s the Premise of Hi Fi Rush?
Answer: Hi-Fi Rush centers around a Hipster cyborg’s quest to take down an evil corporation bent on enslaving the world. Along the way, we gather a cohort of quirky friends and defeat a horde of anime villains.
Question: How Long Does Hi-Fi Rush Take to Finish?
Answer: A full playthrough of Hi Fi Rush can take about 9-10 hours. However, scouring the world for secrets and returning to old levels for special encounters can easy add 2-3 more hours.
Question: How do I Unlock Hi-Fi Rush’s Secret Ending?
Answer: After defeating Kale and beating the game, we can return to the secret doors scattered throughout the game to compete in a series of Spectra challenge rooms. **SPOILERS** After defeating each room, we can confront an AI version of Kale we’ve accidentally reactivated, who’s ready to reactivate Spectra. However, luckily a tiny cleaner bot tangles itself in the power cord to Spectra, deactivating the apparatus and saving the world.
Verdict/Score: 7.5 Good
Overall, Hi-Fi rush was a terrific musical adventure with a unique combat style I hope other games choose to emulate. While it suffered from a simplistic narrative and shallow main characters, the lovable villains and emotional payoff at its end made it worth the effort to finish.
While arena fighting did feel repetitive toward the end, I adored the excessive detail poured into the dancing robots and living environments. Even choosing to add an entire game’s worth of postgame content with a fake, spoiler-bait ending was a bold, novel way to finish the game.
All-in-all, I’m looking to replay Hi-Fi Rush in its hardcore mode to gain that last bit of closure with my favorite rhythm fighter to date. While I still can’t call myself an expert arena fighter (my consistent C and B rankings can attest to that), it was thrilling to ground-pound some robots while dancing to the beat! I can’t wait to fight more foes while dancing to the disco!
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