Unikum’s Corner of Hidden Treasures is a column in which Unikum’s writer recommends pieces of media they believe more people should know and love. 

2023 was an incredible year for video games, so much so that we were drowning in epic experiences. From The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Alan Wake 2 and Resident Evil 4 Remake to Baldur’s Gate 3, Super Mario Wonder and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. Every gamer’s wallet was broke and tarnished (Elden Ring pun intended) before the new year could be rung in. So, in this vast sea of greatness, it’s no wonder that the amazing Hi-Fi Rush got slightly drowned, despite winning Best Sound Design. Even more baffling is its release, it was just shadow-dropped on January 25th, the full game available without any prior trailers or marketing. Regardless of its lack of advertisement, the game was favorably received amongst critics and even sold a decent amount, landing around the three million mark. And despite all of this, it never seemed that the game quite reached the public gamer discussion at all, only cooking in a niche discourse.

Hi-Fi Rush follows the story of Chai, a wannabe rockstar who is in the pursuit of his rocking dreams but somehow gets tangled up in the nefarious plot perpetrated by the capitalistic Vandelay company. It’s really just as simple as that, the game never aims for the writing grandeur of something like Baldur’s Gate 3, what you get instead is the vibe of a Sunday morning cartoon, with goofy and silly humor sprinkled into every corner of both the storytelling and characters. Every character is so likeable and brimming with personality, from the protagonist Chai himself to the robot Cinnamon, who constantly draws on new faces as to not appear so stoic and frightening. The cast has an amazing dynamic, and the game lacks no hijinks antics, constantly throwing the player into bizarre and fun situations. The humor is stellar and constantly lands a homerun, multiple times did I find myself chuckling loud at the hilarity which ensued.

The game is absolutely breathtaking, having a cel-shaded artstyle, but adding thick lines to capture the cartoony feel of everything, making everything pop. The bright colors used in every visual aspect further heightens this feeling of playing a living comic book.

But the absolute knockout aspect of the game is the music and sound design which is tightly woven into the gameplay. Hi-Fi Rush is a hack-and-slash game in the veins of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, but what makes it unique is that every attack is enhanced if the button input matches the beat of the background music. Every single detail in the game follows the beat, from the background elements surrounding the areas you traverse, to the attacks of enemies, even jumping and dodging to the beat will boost the respective commands. And with such an emphasis on music, it will come as no surprise that the soundtrack is absolutely solid and delivers constant musical delight. It mainly focuses on the rock and punk genres of music, but occasional veers its head into other genres to reflect a particular area, character or boss. Every boss even has alternate versions of their songs, one licensed and another unlicensed which is tied to a “Streamer Mode”, in case you want to make a video or stream the game and don’t want to be copyright claimed. Not only is this very considerate by the developers towards its audience and content creators, but it adds even more glorious tracks to an already stacked discography!

The game is short, clocking in at around 10 hours for a normal playthrough, but there’s tons of achievements to unlock, ranks to conquer in each stage, and plenty of unlockables. But that keeps its pacing perfectly intact, and the game never overstays its welcome. It’s an experience unlike any other, and even if you’re not the most musically apt person, the game will ease you into its rhythm, and make sure that by the end of it, even you can find a beat in every song. Hi-Fi Rush doesn’t just deserve a courteous applause but a roaring ovation, one which might inspire more people to play this great game, because when you’re done, you’ll be amongst the fans that are wishing for an encore.

 


Header image from Xbox Wire: https://news.xbox.com/en-us/2023/01/25/hi-fi-rush-reveal-out-now-game-pass/

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