How Hi-Fi Rush made fighting on beat fun for non-beats

Throughout my life, I’ve experienced a critical block to fully enjoying rhythm games: I have no rhythm. But that didn’t stop me from giving it the old college try. For years, I suffered through Guitar Hero performances and B-rank scores in Dance Dance Revolution Games. Enter Hi-Fi Rusha game that combines the hacking and slashing of a 3D action game with rhythmic combat. Hi-Fi Rush it’s fun no matter how tuned your inner metronome is. I sat down Hi-Fi Rush director John Johanas to ask him: How exactly do you make a rhythm game for those who don’t have rhythm?

Johanas told me that the team at Tango Gameworks always imagined Hi-Fi Rush as a rhythmic game. In the game, you play as Chai, a down-on-his-luck young man who dreams of becoming a rock star. After a lab accident, an iPod is implanted in his chest and he tunes in to the rhythm of the world around him. It’s up to Chai to escape the surrounding world of Vandelay Technologies. As he hacks and slashes, battles are fought to the beat of rock tracks by artists such as Nine Inch Nails, The Black Keys and The Prodigy.

When I asked Johanas how the idea came about, he said, “Strangely, it was relatively unchanged from the original pitch. And while many of the team members were like, Will this really work? they were supportive of at least trying it.”

Chai attacks a robotic enemy in Hi-Fi Rush

Image: Tango Gameworks/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

The challenge became how to combine the two genres – rhythm game and action-adventure – and maintain it. “The first thing we did was build a system where whatever you did, everything would be synchronized so that it landed on the beat,” Johanas said. From there, the team implemented a system where failing to hit everything perfectly wouldn’t penalize you — even if you don’t time your attacks right, Chai will still perform the moves in rhythm — but land hits in his rhythm song gives you an extra bonus.

“Music doesn’t limit you, you know, you can do whatever you want. You can make whatever combinations you want,” he said. “Enemies will move like a normal game. It just all syncs up like a music video.”

The developers were careful in how they implemented the pacing mechanics. The game contains a small visualizer that shows the tempo very clearly if you’re having trouble tuning in to a particular song. The game world is also full of other visual cues, like the billowing steam around Chai or the rhythm that taps his fingers.

As development progressed, the team ended up cutting some features to keep them simple and powerful. In Hi-Fi Rush, you can summon allies who will come into the field and attack enemies for you. During development, the team tested a feature where you could completely switch characters mid-battle and play the game at a different pace.

An image of Chai video chatting with several other characters in Hi-Fi Rush.

Image: Tango Gameworks/Bethesda Softworks

“Nobody could figure it out because it was so complicated to jump from one character that had a certain pacing style to another, like on the fly with the chaos of battle. So we’re like, Ok, we’ll make it as simple as possible. So now it’s literally a button where you don’t have to worry about timing the call to your partners, they’ll do it for you.”

Hi-Fi Rush it’s not just an accessible rhythm game. Tango Gameworks also made a great entry point for those looking to try the 3D action genre. The moment you enter a game as you say, Bayonet, you have a relatively large repertoire of combinations to practice. In Hi-Fi Rushthe game guides you beat by beat, button by button.

“The game was made with accessibility in mind, with the idea that these are usually genres that people tend to shy away from because it’s not their genre, and we wanted to make something that was accessible and fun, even for people who struggle with [it] he can probably play until the end.”

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