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Deep-Dive: Rock Bands and Gamers Collide in Hi-Fi RUSH

Did the buzz about Hi-Fi RUSH–turning the gaming and rock worlds upside down–reach your ears? Or were you too busy rocking out elsewhere? You can go ahead and blink, 'cause you may have already missed it; the Lace Records special edition of video game Hi-Fi RUSH's soundtrack, a collector's dream, has officially sold out. But don't break out your guitar in frustration just yet. Although its vinyl, a visual and sonic masterpiece, flew off the e-shelves faster than a riff at a rock concert, the beat goes on in the streaming world with the full original soundtrack now available in Youtube and Spotify... and it is so much fun.



In an era where video game innovation increasingly blurs the line between interactive art and entertainment, Hi-Fi RUSH, developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Softworks, hit the market as a beacon of creativity for the almost-forgotten genre of music/rhythm video games. Released on January 25, 2023, it introduces players to a world where every punch, jump, and dodge is synchronised to the beat of an electrifying soundtrack. Haven't played it? Neither have I, but the soundtrack's got me itching to shred some air guitar. This game is all about cranking up the volume and leveling up your living room concerts. You might be wondering: what is its music like? Well, this game score is like having a front-row ticket to your own personal rock festival, with tunes that will make you wonder how your console can possibly keep up such energetic demand... am I right, Nintendo? The music of this game is simply mind-blowing.


Of course, before we dive into the beats, let's talk about what Hi-Fi RUSH is all about.



This action-adventure title has not only captivated players with its vibrant aesthetics and engaging combat, but it has also redefined the role of music within the gaming experience, garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews on gaming platforms like Steam. The inception of Hi-Fi RUSH was driven by a desire to create a game with music as the heartbeat of the experience.


Tango Gameworks took a big risk with this game in trying to weave rhythm into all facets of gameplay like never before. From thrilling combat to adventurous exploration, gamemakers faced the challenge of making the game fun for everyone, regardless of their musical prowess, while still rewarding skilled players. The soundtrack, a select mix of hits from iconic artists, is the soul of the game, enhancing its vibrant world and echoing its creative essence. It is a musical journey that is as entertaining as it is enlightening, harmonising perfectly with the history of rock music.


Hi-Fi RUSH works as an awesome game for a weekend jam session, if you ask me. Lets take a deep-dive into the team's licensed music in preparation for their upcoming release on the playstation store.


The inception of Hi-Fi RUSH was driven by a desire to create a game with music as the heartbeat of the experience.

 

Behind the Music and Gameplay

What makes Hi-Fi RUSH so amazing is how its original music works so well alongside the selection of songs from famous artists such as Nine Inch Nails, The Joy Formidable, Prodigy, The Black Keys, Wolfgang Gartner, Number Girl, and Zwan. The songs are not just background music; they really influence the rhythmic functions of the game, making each fight and every part of the adventure feel like a lively music video. I should point out that all of the artists involved in the video game, a line-up that included Kayla Brown, The Glass Pyramids, John Johanas, Shuichi Kobori, REO, and Masatoshi Yanagi, played an integral role in making Hi-Fi RUSH an overnight success. However, these iconic bands and their songs made a huge impact that should not be underestimated.


Hi-Fi RUSH has selected a very exciting set of licensed songs across different rock styles, offering players a rich musical environment that enhances the rhythmic mechanics of the game. Here you have all the licensed songs in the game:


  • Nine Inch Nails - "1,000,000" and "The Perfect Drug"

  • The Joy Formidable - "Whirring"

  • The Prodigy - "Invaders Must Die"

  • The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"

  • Wolfgang Gartner - "Wolfgang’s 5th Symphony"

  • Number Girl - "Inazawa Chainsaw"

  • Zwan - "Honestly"

Hi-Fi RUSH's original music was composed by Shuichi Kobori, who is famous for writing the music for The Evil Within 2 and some Metal Gear games. The game's official credits also include composers Uratani and Yanagi, reflecting the collaborative effort behind its soundtrack. They created these cool tracks, in part, so gamers could livestream the game without getting into trouble for copyright infringement. These tracks have been praised for their fresh approach to a seamless integration with the game's animations and actions. I cannot stop recommending everyone to listen to the original music of this game. It really cheers me up, and I think everyone will feel energized by it.


However, I would not want to spoil the whole soundtrack for you. So, to give you an idea of the sounds of this game without giving too much away, I'm going to focus on the songs that should have served as the blueprint for the entire game. These songs may sound familiar to some of you rock veterans.


 

Licensed Music in Hi-Fi RUSH:

Iconic band Nine Inch Nails, renowned for their groundbreaking music production, stands out as a pivotal force in the industrial rock genre. The group's innovative approach has significantly shaped the musical landscape, influencing a lot of artists across various genres.


"1,000,000", from the album The Slip, encapsulates the band's signature blend of raw energy and deep, introspective themes. The song's structure and thematic content, including its accompanying artwork, evoke a sense of existential angst characteristic of the band's work.


"The Perfect Drug" blends drum n bass with industrial rock, exploring themes of obsession. Its complex production and poignant lyrics highlight Nine Inch Nails' innovative sound, making it a standout track. The song encapsulates the band's ability to push musical boundaries while delving into deep psychological and emotional territory. This is one among my new discoveries.


 

"Lonely Boy" by The Black Keys, the GRAMMY-winning duo, blends garage rock, blues, and indie.

The Black Keys are an American rock duo from Akron, Ohio, formed in 2001, consisting of Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals), and Patrick Carney (drums). They are known for their raw blues-rock sound that draws heavily from Auerbach's blues influences. The song features catchy guitar riffs and soulful vocals, contributing to their widespread acclaim and popularity. The Black Keys have received numerous awards, underscoring their significant impact on rock music. "Lonely Boy", released in 2011 from their album El Camino, is one of their most successful singles.



It is a mix of garage and blues rock. Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney, and Danger Mouse wrote the song, which also has a memorable guitar riff based on Johnny Burnette’s classic “Train Kept A-Rollin’”. The song’s music video, with Derrick T. Tuggle’s famous dance moves, was a huge hit online. The song reached the top of many rock radio charts and received Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song awards at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards.


 

In 2009, the iconic British electronic group The Prodigy released "Invaders Must Die", a track that marked a return to their origins by blending energetic beats with bold synthesizers. This song, the lead single from their fifth album, exemplifies their talent for merging dance music with rock influences. It is energizing and engaging from start to finish. Being an excellent track that combines punk and rave elements, "Invaders Must Die" is one of the most fitting additions to Hi-Fi RUSH, reflecting the vibrant energy of the game.



It pulsates with breakbeat rhythms, powered by intense synths and electronic drums, embodying the band's distinctive sound. This track punches you with such a dynamic energy and groove that it certainly appeals to fans of all generations.


 

But my favorite here is... "Whirring".


The Joy Formidable is a Welsh alternative rock band known for their dynamic and expansive sound that blends ethereal vocals with powerful guitar riffs and vigorous drumming. The band emerged in the late 2000s and made their name the following year with their debut album The Big Roar.



"Whirring", from their debut album, brilliantly demonstrates the band's knack for blending deep emotion with uplifting energy in their music. It solidified their status as trailblazers in the alternative rock scene. The song transitions from a peaceful beginning to a powerful crescendo, highlighting great skill in marrying indie rock's melody with a beautiful and expansive sound.


I'm captivated by the song's enigmatic lyrics, which I believe beautifully illustrate how people experience emotions in unique ways. The track blends melodious tunes with a raw, gritty sound, reflecting the intricate mix of life's splendors and trials. It oddly reminds me of Avril Lavigne's style–perhaps it's the emotional depth and punk-inspired vigor in her tunes that evoke this comparison. In any case, "Whirring" immerses you in its narrative, sharing the band's vigor. The lengthy instrumental ending is particularly enchanting to me.


 

And if instrumental is your vibe, this next one is yours to love just as much as the outro of "Whirring". I surely do. And yes, yes, yes... you know I’m a classical music nerd, right? Well, I’m unsurprisingly grooving with “Wolfgang’s 5th Symphony".


This one takes Beethoven's famous symphony and turns it into a crazy electro house party. The track is full of Gartner's incredible skills and sounds, making it an interesting mix of classical music with electronic moods. It may be a little too cheesy for me, but I still like it. I love electronic dance music, and I really like the vocals on this track.


Without a doubt, it's the track that resonates most with me of all the music used for this game. Ultra Music is the independent electronic music label behind this great track. Ultra's roster features well-known names such as Tiësto, Kaskade, Benny Benassi, Armin van Buuren, and many more. It's great that they collaborate with game studios now.


 

Number Girl's "Inazawa Chainsaw" is a wild ride through the raucous and hazy sounds that make the Japanese music scene so cool. it captures the raw energy and distinctive sound of the native alternative rock band. Known for their loud, guitar-driven music, Number Girl's approach to alternative and indie rock has left a significant mark on the math rock genre in Japan.


Their music, characterised by dynamic changes and a mix of aggression and tenderness, reflects the band's ability to blend influences into a unique sound. I believe that "Inazawa Chainsaw" exemplifies the band's style, combining intense guitar work with energetic vocals, making it a standout song in their discography. Learning more about this band has just shot to the top of my to-do list; I'm intrigued!


 

And then there’s “Honestly” by Zwan, the band that Billy Corgan made after The Smashing Pumpkins. The song is beautiful and wistful, with lovely music and deep lyrics. The band mixes rock and indie, with Corgan's voice and words touching your soul and making you feel all the good tickles of fulfilment. The song is a rather upbeat and optimistic one, with catchy guitar moments and heartfelt lyrics.


This one comes at the end of the game, and it's one of those songs that makes it hard not to want to cry at that moment.



Indeed, "Honestly" captures this mood perfectly, showcasing uplifting rhythms and optimistic lyrics, a departure from the often darker themes of The Smashing Pumpkins. The song became one of Zwan's most popular tracks, highlighting the band's brief but impactful imprint on the early 2000s scene.


 

If you're a fan of both gaming and music like me, you'll definitely want to grab Hi-Fi RUSH from the PlayStation Store. Circle March 19th on your calendar for its PS5 debut. As I look forward to its possible release on Nintendo Switch, maybe you'll be lucky enough to play it on an Xbox or its next release on PlayStation 5... the anticipation is real!


This game is the ultimate excuse to figure out if your rhythm skills are as sharp as you claim. And if you're a wannabe rock star in the making, let this game set the rhythm of your day with a bunch of classic and original hits. I am aware that there are other licensed songs in this game that I am not yet familiar with and may have missed, but Ilook forward to discovering them when I have time to play Hi-Fi RUSH. Stay tuned for more articles from me about videogame soundtracks.


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