It may not be apparent at first glance, because the aesthetic screams Dreamcast or Xbox or Gamecube, but Hi-Fi Rush is an incredible technical achievement.
It obviously isn’t in the graphics department, or the performance. The system requirements are not particularly high as listed on its Steam page (minimum for CPU is at i5-6500 or Ryzen 3 1200, recommended at i7-6700, Ryzen 5 1500x). It isn’t exactly a showcase for graphics at lower specs, as Nintendo games like Pikmin or Xenoblade are usually designed to be.
The ambition in Hi-Fi Rush is fundamental to the game itself, and in fact it’s a detail that you can completely miss and never think about, all the way through to finishing the game.
That would be the game’s rhythm. As Chai’s music box pulses to the same tempo throughout the whole game, every bit of in-game action follows it. In fact, as keen observers took the time to confirm, all the cutscenes also match the rhythm as well. While Hi-Fi Rush does a very good job of pretending to be a basic action game, that rhythm mechanic sets it completely apart from more traditional flow based action games, such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, and the extremely difficult, but take-your-time style of Soulsborne and masocore games like Dark Souls and Nioh.
Hi-Fi Rush’s director, John Johanas, took a few minutes in an IGN interview to explain how the team at Tango Gameworks pulled off this incredible accomplishment:
“The long answer is basically, we need to tweak how our animation system works so that every animation you do, whether it’s a little bit early or late, it’ll always, basically, interpolate it so that it’ll land on the beat. We have to create this new animation flow and people would make these cool animations, but we’d find it didn’t feel like — hit the beat or things like that. It was constantly trial and error. Luckily, as we got further into development, most of us got the hang of what was necessary to do this, so that helped out.
The cutscenes were an immense undertaking. Our cutscene director, Jun Watanabe, and I spoke at length about how we can do this, how we can do it in the stylized stuff. We had a script and we had a BPM and we would put everything to a click track and we animated. I would estimate it took about three times as long as it would take to make a normal cut scene.”
For all the fans who think that Hi-Fi Rush is just a nice little short game, this should make you realize that there was a lot more to it than you can see watching those cutscenes, or other people play, or just watching. You would have to have been listening, or even better, playing, to really see what Tango Gameworks did here, and why they put so much effort into it.
Hi-Fi Rush is available to play now on PC via Steam, Xbox Series X|S, and Game Pass.