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[Gamer's World] With All-New Games, 'Hi-Fi Rush' Rocks and 'Forspoken' Falters

Going beyond sequels and remakes in games, with Forspoken, Square Enix has taken a gamble on trying something new. On the other hand, Hi-Fi Rush is pure fun.



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(© Square Enix)

Launching a brand new game is hard. While 2023 has only just gotten started, we've seen two high-profile new games come out of Japan – and with wildly different results.

After suffering several delays throughout the pandemic, "Forspoken was finally released on January 24 for PlayStation 5 and PC. Developed by Luminous Productions, the Square Enix-owned studio that developed the ambitious and successful Final Fantasy XV, Forspoken draws on familiar action-RPG elements, set in a mystical world of swords and sorcery. But while it looks like it could easily fit into the Final Fantasy universe, Forspoken is its own game, with a modern Young Adult twist on the genre.

Hit-and-Miss New Yorker Twist

The game's protagonist Frey is a regular New Yorker who finds herself in the unfamiliar land of Athia, suddenly able to cast magic spells and perform acrobatic parkour moves. Unlike the characters in a typical fantasy RPG, she speaks modern slang, making her more relatable – a fish out of water in an Alice in Wonderland world.

When I tried a demo of Forspoken at Tokyo Game Show 2022 in September, I was impressed by its accessible spellcasting system, its variety of magic attacks, and its zippy parkour that made its open world fun to navigate. I was excited for its eventual release.

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Frey leaps into the magical open world of Athia in Forspoken. (© Square Enix)

But upon release, the reception to Forspoken hasn't been great. The game currently has a 66% average review score on Metacritic, alongside a dismal 3.6/10 user score on PS5, and even lower on PC.

I haven't had time to play the final version for myself yet, so I can't give my opinion. But according to a wide swathe of media and players alike, the game has some technical issues. Meanwhile, quite a few players have been quick to make memes of Frey's street dialogue, with a ton of criticism of its script in particular. 

Despite some stellar writers on the team, including Rogue One writer Gary Whitta and Uncharted creative director Amy Hennig, the general snarky tone of the dialogue seems to be rubbing audiences up the wrong way. At the same time, others have criticized the use of all white writers for the game's black protagonist. Repeating identical lines of dialogue over and over appears to have broken the immersion even further.

Looking at the Talent Beyond the Brash

I have to say, I'm personally still highly interested in Forspoken – in part because of its appealing setting that reminds me of the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series I loved as a kid. But also because it is a smaller, lighter experience than the typical RPG, which can take dozens or even hundreds of hours that I simply don't have. 

Also, while reviewers have been critical of the story and script and many have described Frey as irritating, the game's central spellcasting and parkour mechanics have been fairly widely praised. This suggests it should still be a fun time for the right audience. 

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The portal that leads Frey from her New York home to Athia. (© Square Enix)

I also love the idea of a fantasy game aimed at younger players, which on the surface is what Forspoken appears to be. It has its more identifiable modern-day New Yorker protagonist, the logical next step after Final Fantasy XV's roadtrip bromance. 

It could be that a hardcore game audience is not the real target here, which might be why they don't like it. That said, Frey swears like a sailor – every clip I've seen is littered with F-bombs and S-grenades, the sort of language you might not want your teenage daughter to hear. So either way I guess it maybe misses the mark. 


Gamers often complain that game companies rely too much on sequels and remakes. With Forspoken, Square Enix has taken a gamble on trying something new. The reaction so far suggests that this may not lead to a new franchise, but if they do choose to make a sequel, there's always a chance to improve. 

As for me, I'm reserving judgement for when I finally get around to playing it.

A Very Different Game In Hi-Fi-Rush

While Forspoken had over two years of marketing hype to trip over, another game launched the very next day that was quite the opposite. Hi-Fi Rush is a brand new game from Tango Gameworks, the Japanese studio run by Resident Evil veteran Shinji Mikami. While Tango has previously made the gritty survival-horror series The Evil Within and, last year, the spooky supernatural action game Ghostwire Tokyo, Hi-Fi Rush is very different. 

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Chai and his electronic cat 808 jump into action in Hi-Fi Rush.  (© Tango Gameworks)

Blending elements of rhythm-action with the stylish action associated with games like Devil May Cry, it throws its protagonist Chai and android kitty 808 into a vibrant world that pulses to the beat of its soundtrack, tasking him with taking down an evil robotics corporation. And it rewards players for attacking robot enemies in time with the music. Its soundtrack includes tracks from Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, and revered Japanese band Number Girl, and it boasts a colorful animation style, irreverent humor and a fun tempo that make it instantly appealing.

And that's just as well – because Hi-Fi Rush was released instantly, too. Tango Gameworks is owned by Bethesda, which in turn was acquired last year by Microsoft. And during an Xbox showcase livestreamed on January 25, Hi-Fi Rush was announced for the very first time – and released the same day.

Thrilling Surprise

This is not what a game company usually does when marketing an unknown new IP. Usually they would build up exposure over months or more typically years, building interest in the game before opening up preorders and working towards a launch. But Hi-Fi Rush was in a unique position to do things differently.

For one, it was a complete surprise. We've seen shadow drops before where a game that has previously been announced is suddenly put on sale without warning, but Hi-Fi Rush was a complete and total secret. Besides its title leaking a day or two before the Xbox showcase, the game had been made in secrecy for some five or six years. 

So when it arrived as a complete package, with a well-made trailer and gameplay introduction video all set to go, it was a thrilling surprise.

And more so because of the pedigree of Tango Gameworks and the game's director, John Johanas, who previously directed The Evil Within 2. Yet even more so because it looked so completely different than anything Tango has made before, which caught players off guard. And yet again more so because no one expected the studio to release another game so soon after 2022's Ghostwire Tokyo.

On top of that, Xbox released so few first-party exclusive games in 2022 that kicking off the year with a brand new title felt like a much-needed adrenaline boost.

Laying the Groundwork

Of course, Xbox has laid the groundwork for this with its Game Pass service. Game Pass allows subscribers to play a well-curated list of hundreds of games without buying them, kind of like a gaming version of Netflix. And Microsoft has pledged that all of its first-party games will come to Game Pass on the same day as they go on sale. 


This meant that when audiences saw Hi-Fi Rush announced, saw how much fun the trailer looked, and noticed all their mates raving about it on Twitter, then heard it was already available, all they had to do was turn on their Xbox or PC and start playing.

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Chai's undying obsession with music makes him a robot-trashing rock star. (© Tango Gameworks)

This is not an approach that would work for every game. The conditions were just right for Hi-Fi Rush – and the fact that it's actually really fun to play has resulted in word of mouth any game publisher would kill for. As reviewers scramble to cover this surprise release, on Metacritic it is sitting at 86% with many more reviews likely still to come. 

Close to 100% of user ratings on Steam are positive. That is making it one of the most highly recommended PC games of recent months. Hi-Fi Rush has already beaten Forspoken in its first-week sales charts on PC.

Scoring Hi-Five Rush

We at IGN Japan scored the game 10/10, writing, "Hi-Fi Rush is a rock-themed masterpiece rhythm-action game. Its combat makes you feel like you're performing on stage, and its wholesome story is exhilarating throughout. In 2023, there is simply no rhythm-action game that we could recommend more."

There are many ways to launch a new game. And what works for a game like Hi-Fi Rush may not work for a game like Forspoken. As gamers get more and more choice in a market that is forever growing, the risks of trying something new are ever greater ー as are the rewards of success. 

2023 will bring plenty more new games ー and maybe one of them will become your new favorite.


Author: Daniel Robson

Daniel Robson is chief editor of videogame news site IGN Japan. Read his series Gamer's World on JAPAN Forward, and find him on Twitter.

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