Devil May Cry Meets Guitar Hero.

That’s the elevator pitch for Hi-Fi Rush. It’s a rhythm action game where players have to perform bonkers, robot-juggling combos while staying on beat.

That left me asking an important question though: can I play Hi-Fi Rush even though I suck at rhythm games? Yes. Yes I can. And if you’re in a similar boat, so can you.

Screenshot of Hi-Fi Rush's bombastic combat

I’ll be honest, I was extremely skeptical at first. Spectacle fighters are notoriously difficult already. Now you want me to attack, dodge, and parry in time with the music? Are you nuts? I could barely keep track of what I was doing during the later levels of Bayonetta. Never mind that I have 2 left feet. At first glance, Hi-Fi Rush seemed like it was going to be way too hard to get into.

As it would turn out, that wasn’t the case, which proved my initial misgivings unfounded. A lot of care has been put into ensuring that Hi-Fi Rush is fun for players of a wide variety of skill levels, and that includes those of us who have trouble with rhythm games.

A Variety of Visual Cues

The first, and most obvious, of Hi-Fi Rush’s basket of tricks are its visuals. It isn’t uncommon for rhythm games to prominently feature visual aids to help players stay on beat, but Hi-Fi Rush goes well beyond what is normally provided. Throughout each stage, numerous background elements will bump along to the music. The first few levels are chock full of examples as players roam the production centre of their robot adversaries. Conveyer belts, machine presses, and robotic arms all sway, and clack in time with the music.

It’s not just the background that boops along to the music: Chai, the game’s protagonist, does too. He, and his sidekick 808, will sway in time with the music at all times. 808 even gives out a handy visual indicator that perfectly syncs to the beat, which can be customized in the options menu. Chai also snaps his fingers to the music while standing idle, and his run cycle is tied to the rhythm of the current song. This all looks a little strange, but does an excellent job providing the player with numerous ways visualize the cadence they’re meant to perform with.

Gif example of how all actions are on beat in Hi-Fi Rush

If that wasn’t enough, the UI also oscillates in time with each track in the game. This is the least intrusive of the visual aids in Hi-Fi Rush, as the UI needs to remain readable at all times. Players can also optionally enable a classic rhythm bar at the bottom of the screen with the press of a button.

All of these visual accoutrements may sound excessive, but I found them hugely beneficial. Whenever I started a level, my eyes would immediately look to Chai, and 808 so I could find the beat. I’d then start tapping my foot along, while performing a few basic combos on the air to make sure I’d gotten a proper handle on the timing. That didn’t stop me from completely dropping the ball in the heat of combat, but I faired far better than I would have without all of this assistance.

How About Audio Aids?

Were these visuals not enough, they’re complimented beautifully by a host of audio aids. This was a nice addition as the combat can often get a bit unwieldy. When that happens, the various audio snippets that play whenever the player hits perfect timing will provide immediate feedback about how they’re doing.

The most noticeable of these are the guitar rift, and tambourine that play as you jump, and dash with the music. However, the real standout is the cheering from the crowd. As Chai lands his combos on beat, an imaginary crowd will begin cheering him on. This is probably the single most useful piece of audio feedback the player receives, and can help to keep them on track while they’re bouncing through hoards of robot baddies.

You Can Always Button Mash

Look – I know this isn’t how the game is meant to be played, but hear me out.

One of Hi-Fi Rush’s greatest advantages is how lenient it is about execution. Chai will always act on beat, regardless of when players press buttons. The game is much more concerned with keeping you in a flow state, than scrutinizing whether you’re on beat. This means that, if all else fails, you can realistically button mash your way through an encounter.

Korsica from Hi-Fi Rush

Now, obviously button mashing isn’t the preferred way to play. To that end, Hi-Fi Rush rewards players with a damage boost for any attack they perform in time with the music. Crucially, you’re never punished for missing a beat. This is important for maintaining the pace of combat, but is also the lynchpin that keeps Hi-Fi Rush from becoming a frustrating mess for players that struggle with rhythm games.

None of this would matter if enemies could do whatever they wanted though. Thankfully, they’re beholden to the same rules as the player. They’ll take turns attacking in time to the beat, which gives combat the feeling of a highly choreographed dance number. When it all comes together, it’s truly a sight to behold.

If it wasn’t already clear, I love Hi-Fi Rush. It feels like such a rush of creativity, and has an extremely fun core gameplay premise. I’m glad I gave it a shot even though I suck at rhythm games. It’s an incredibly fun title, even if you can’t always stay on beat. So fun, in fact, that Hi-Fi Rush might just be one of 2023’s best.