Hi-Fi Rush Is A Wonderful Time Machine To 2005

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                                                                             Story Highlights

  • Hi-Fi Rush is a recently released action game from Tango Gameworks, the makers of The Evil Within games and Ghostwire Tokyo.
  • The game is a heartfelt reminder of the 2005-era pop culture, from its music to its general vibe.
  • Hi-Fi Rush feels like it’s straight from the heyday of Clover Studios, with many of Clover’s talent currently working at Tango Gameworks. 

Hi-fi Rush is by far one of the most surprising releases in recent memory. Released with no prior marketing campaign into the wild, and ended up being a massive hit. While there were many factors to its success, what really helped was the fact that the game is just…seriously good.

The game itself is developed by Tango Gameworks, the talent behind The Evil Within series and last year’s massively underrated Ghostwire Tokyo. The studio is led by Shinji Mikami, one of the most influential figures in gaming history and the man behind many classics such as Resident Evil 1 and 4, Vanquish, God Hand, etc. 

Before I talk about Hi-Fi Rush, I feel it is important to go into detail regarding its studio’s background. Much of the talent behind Tango is from Clover Studios, which itself housed talent that worked on many of CAPCOM‘s most successful IPs, from Resident Evil to Devil May Cry. 

Clover Studios was founded after the launch of the GameCube release of Viewtiful Joe. The formerly called Team Viewtiful was now turned into Clover. The studio itself was formed to produce new IPs for Capcom as well as a sequel for the first Viewtiful Joe. 

Clover Studios were responsible for numerous games that were later regarded as all-time classics for the PlayStation 2, particularly their last two titles, God Hand and Okami. 

Both of those games formed a quintessential legacy, while Okami was a fantastic Metroidvania and action platformer, God Hand was a phenomenal beat-em-up. 

However, due to the poor financial performance of both games, the studio was eventually disbanded, with most of their talent now ending up at Platinum Games and Tango Gameworks. 

Clover Returns

There is a reason why I went into this history lesson, as almost a decade later, Hi-Fi Rush feels like it came straight from the prime years of Clover Studio, a title brimming with originality and style, a bold return to Clover’s glory days and possibly the best modern action game we’ve had since 2019’s Devil May Cry 5. 

After one and a half playthroughs of Hi-Fi Rush, I can say that it not only feels like a Clover Studio game but is quintessentially a game straight from the heyday of the PlayStation 2 era Action platformers. 

Hi-Fi Rush
One of the best levels in Hi-Fi Rush has players fighting and platforming through a museum.

A lot of the game’s identity is rooted in that specific era, from its use of bands such as The Prodigy and Inazawa Chainsaw to its distinctly of-its-time-level design.

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiqFcc_l_Kk(/embed)

However, modern tech and hardware allow for much longer stages that would rarely be possible on the PlayStation 2 and a lot of technically impressive moments that remind you that you’re still playing a modern game released in 2023. 

For example, the seamless transitions from in-game cutscenes to the animated 2D cinematics would turn your PlayStation 2 into the freaking God Hand the way it goes on fire. 

It’s a perfect hybrid of modern and classic ideas that meld into one of the most joyfully nostalgic experiences I’ve had in years. A game that has all the bells and whistles of a modern game with everything else straight out of 2005. 

It’s also a *complete* experience. Almost half the price of an average AAA game with actual post-game content that isn’t sold as DLC or behind a special edition. 

An Action Classic 

Looking past its inspirations, Hi-Fi Rush is the best action game we’ve had since 2019’s Devil May Cry 5. While it’s inspired by classic Action games like DMC, Bayonetta, and other similar games, Hi-Fi Rush, like all the best action games, has its own strong identity. 

The game uses a ranking system similar to most of Platinum’s games, with every level having a set number of encounters, and you get a certain ranking at the end of each encounter, depending on your overall performance in combat. 

Hi-Fi Rush
This was the only level where I could showcase the S-Ranks since I haven’t been able to get consistent S-ranks on any other level in the game so far.

Play to the beat and frequently nail perfect combos and parries without getting hit, and you’ll get a much higher rank if you mistime your attacks and take damage frequently. The ranking going from D to an S+ which requires you to get an S rank in all 3 categories and beat an encounter without taking a single hit. 

That’s easier said than done as in classic action game tradition, Hi-Fi Rush has plenty of unique, tough enemies that will do anything they can to get in the way of those S-ranks. One of my favorite enemies is the Samurai robots that recite a Haiku before they do their desperate final attack. 

A Simple Tale Well-Told

A strong likable main cast alongside an engaging story elevates what is an already fantastic action game to a new level.

Watching the main man Chai (named after “Tea” in Urdu/Hindi), grow throughout the game’s 12-hour story alongside a lovable cast of misfits makes for an entertaining journey. My personal favorite character though, happens to be the Scottish redhead fighter Korsica. 

Hi-Fi Rush Zanzo
One of the main antagonists of Hi-Fi Rush: Zanzo.

The game’s main ensemble of antagonists all stands out in their own ways as well, each of whom is introduced with a flashy comic book-style panel for their introductions.

It’s a Kill Bill-style roster of villains, each with a distinct personality, from a villain that’s basically a JoJo character, right down to the insane poses, to a stylish fashionista obsessed with her fame and public image. In that respect, it’s somewhat similar to last year’s SIFU, a game that I enjoyed enough to place it as one of the best games of 2022.

Conclusion

Hi-Fi Rush is the perfect homage to a very specific cultural period when punk rock was at its height, and people were still eagerly anticipating flying cars by 2020. It’s a game made by the generation of people who grew up on PS2 classics and want to give that exact experience to a newer generation, and it’s near perfect.

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