If you're like me, you may be a bit skeptical whenever a new rhythm game is announced. Even the best stories and most fun gameplay can feel forced when there's a rhythm element to it, alienating a segment of the gaming population that would otherwise love the experience. That's where Hi-Fi Rush sets itself apart: It rewards you for being on rhythm, but the game can still be played as a more typical action game, making it one of the more accessible titles I've seen in the genre.
Attack On the Beat. Or Don't. It's Up To You
In Hi-Fi Rush, your attacks and combos will do more damage if you attack directly on the beat. The musically inclined among us will pick this up right away, but for others, it can take some practice. Thankfully, the entire game world was designed around helping you have every advantage right away.
In Hi-Fi Rush, the beat is not only heard, but it is seen. The entire world comes alive and pulsates to the music that's emanating from an MP3 player embedded in our hero's chest. You'll see pipes throbbing to the rhythm and steam systematically shooting out of vents with the music. Plus 808, your robot cat companion, will pulse with light to help you better time your attacks.
And if all that isn't helpful enough, a simple button press on the Xbox controller or keyboard opens up a visualizer for the beat, making it easier to time your attacks precisely. The best part though? Almost all of this is completely optional anyways.
Yes, in later boss fights you will want to know how to string combos together and blast your way to victory, but Hi-Fi Rush gives you plenty of time to learn all the mechanics. Our protagonist, Chai, will always attack in rhythm with the beat, even if you press an attack button at an off-beat moment. Your attack will still land, it will just do less damage.
I did have trouble keeping rhythm through the first couple of levels, but with a little bit of practice, I found myself tapping my fingers on the controller in step with the music, making it easier to land perfect combos and deal massive damage.
Hi-Fi Rush Is Many Games in One, and It's Perfect
I'm currently playing through Hi-Fi Rush on Normal difficulty and love the balance that it provides me. I can both feel powerful when stringing together epic combos while also feeling satisfied when I defeat a boss or tear through a legion of enemies.
Maybe you're a player who has difficulty with rhythm games or platforming games, but Hi-Fi Rush perfectly blends different elements together in a gorgeously colorful world. It's a true video game I can jump into when I want to just chill out with some music and have a great time. Land attacks perfectly with the beat? Great. Just button-mashing as you move through the level? That can work, too.
And after a couple hours in the introductory areas, the more complex mechanics of Hi-Fi Rush begin to make more sense. Stringing attacks together not only by attacking on the beat but by skipping beats when necessary allows players to land even more powerful hits, not to mention collecting gears and discovering secrets in each level that allow you to upgrade Chai's skills over time.
Up until now, I've discussed how not playing in step with the rhythm won't hold you back... until it will. The good news is, the introductory sections perfectly prepare the player for everything that comes next, including later boss battles that do heavily rely on hitting and parrying with the rhythm in order to defeat them. Compared to the rest of Hi-Fi Rush this is definitely more of a challenge, but with a little bit of strategy, even the most uncoordinated can come out victorious.
The Hi-Fi Rush Shadow Drop Was a Brilliant Move
By revealing and shadow dropping Hi-Fi Rush in the same announcement, people were able to pick up this game instantly and discover everything it had to offer. Not only was this an incredible financial decision, as Bethesda didn't need to spend any advertising dollars, but making it immediately available ensured people would be playing and talking about it, spreading the game through word of mouth.
The Game Pass tie-in encouraged many people who wouldn't normally be interested in a rhythm game to pick it up. Those like myself, who have crushed through games like Donkey Konga in their younger years, may have been intrigued but not motivated to click the download link at full price.
The combination of the Hi-Fi Rush release, a Game Pass subscription, and an Xbox in my living room was the perfect recipe to get me into this game. It's possible and even likely that Hi-Fi Rush will be a one-and-done for Bethesda, but if they choose to follow up with a sequel, they have an extremely colorful world with a diverse cast of characters to follow up on. Hi-Fi Rush delivers on what it promises to do and doesn't alienate those who just want to play their own way, and that's a huge reason for how successful it has been.
Hi-Fi Rush being available day one on Game Pass ensured that it would have a captive audience almost right away without players needing to shell out the $29.99 asking price. Even after spending hours jamming to the beats and taking down enemies, I still want to return and do it all over again.
And that's what makes Hi-Fi Rush so great: it encourages you to learn its mechanics but doesn't penalize you if you hit an attack off the beat or can't get into the rhythm. Even the most uncoordinated amongst us can have fun in this colorful comic book world.
And honestly? Even if you don't want to play, it's worth it to just throw on some headphones and listen to the songs. Who knows, you may even discover you have more rhythm than you give yourself credit for.