I have a long list of games I mean to get to, and I own a lot of those games. As of a couple months ago, Gravity Rush 1 and 2 were not in either of those groups. However, the games caught my eye during the PlayStation Holiday Sale, so I figured I might as well throw them on top of the Darksiders pile.
Two months later, and I'm surprised that Gravity Rush was the one that stuck with me.
Gravity Rush Remastered is a PS4 remaster (shocker) released in early 2016 of a PS Vita (yes, Vita) title that came out in 2012. I just looked that up and I admit that I'm surprised, as the game looks like it could have been a cleaned-up PS3 game. Cell-shading strikes again! In it, you play as the amnesiac gravity shifter Kat and her trusty cat-like thing Dusty. The game's core conceit is pretty simple: you control gravity in a 3D space. Press R1 to start shifting gravity, aim, and press it again to go hurtling off in that direction. You'll stick to whatever perpendicular surface you land on. Kat has a couple other gravity powers and a small handful of combat abilities, but that's about it for the gameplay.
I mean... there's also the Gravity Kick, which gets a flame effect when you fully upgrade it. But. You know. To each their own.
When you're flying through the streets and undersides of Heksville, picking up any Precious Gems (the upgrade currency) you see, the game is just a lovely time. The gravity shifting takes some getting used to (doesn't help that the tutorial is pretty bad), but if you tough it out until Mission 3 (at which point you unlock manual saving and fast travel, so you'd better make it that far), you should find yourself acclimatizing to the basics. You'll never fully acclimatize to the camera, but them's the breaks.
So, yeah, there is some nuance to these controls. Does that mean the game plays well? Depends. Are you fighting? If yes, then no. Yutzing around the environment and collecting gems is where the gameplay shines the strongest. Having to DO something with that gameplay is where the awkwardness of the whole thing becomes hard to ignore.
Listen... when it comes to fighting mobile enemies with specific weakspots, Kat has a little trouble. Just a teensy bit. Now, whether you tolerate this or get frustrated by it depends on you. I could handle it for the entirety of the game, and what really ticked me off wasn't a combat thing - more on that later. The designers appear to have recognized that their game was not built for what they're asking players to do, so they made sure that enemies behaved simply, health pickups were plentiful, and checkpoints were generous. There's no feedback for when an enemy is attacking you outside of your vision, but normal enemy projectiles are slow (only bosses get fast stuff), and the really problematic swordfish enemies don't show up for about half the game. That doesn't excuse them, but hey, it's a positive.
There's this one bit, where you're going up a shaft, and there's this cloud of swordfish off to one side, flying around a big group of the largest gems. Went for it. Got more cuts than cash, but at least I can say I tried.
Still, in my experience, the only apparent way to deal with the flyers and large enemies was with the Gravity Kick. I love using the Gravity Kick, but... hoo boy, that girl has issues. Turning around while shifted is already more sluggish than normal, so when compounded with a kick that misses moving enemies about half the time, sometimes doesn't lock-on when my reticle should encompass the enemy's weakspot, locks you into the animation for a second before you can cancel out of it, and sends you sailing past your targets when you do miss, there are a lot of little frustrations that are sprinkled throughout the game. Regarding your other options, all of your kicks are grounded and rather weak; your three special moves share a rather long invisible cooldown; and your stasis field, while effective at breaking enemy armour and thinning out flyers, is a little more reliable than, say, Silver the Hedgehog in Sonic 06?!
Actually, before we move on to the game's good points, I have a bit more to say on the stasis field. Why, oh why, does using stasis while grounded put you into a flying shifted state? I want to be able to run around whilst holding ammunition, my dudes! Like I said earlier, the camera turns slower when you're shifted, and while there is a lock-on reticle, it's as reliable as the Gravity Kick and can even lock on to the wrong enemy.
At least the story missions you're expected to use stasis in are courteous with how they handle dropped objects. You drop everything you're holding when you take damage, so you'd think there would be a problem, but because the game design is self-aware, there usually isn't. Nowhere is this more clear when you have to carry around sensors for a guy in the fourth-to-last mission and occasionally deal with enemies. Dropped a sensor down a bottomless pit? No problem. Just clear the wave and return to the guy, who's got an infinite supply of spares on-hand. No more enemies spawn until you're finished that step of the mission. How nice!
But I have one more grievance to air. There are three two-part side missions that I encourage people to play through to unlock costumes, experience some fun writing, and get some unique mission design. Seriously, this game milks its limited scope for all its' worth. However, the grievance. Part one of the third side mission is something you should play, because it establishes the personalities of a couple major minor characters and tells you the real name of one of them, which is brought up in a late story mission (possibly without context if you don't play the side stuff). HOWEVER. Approach part 2 with caution, because...
The first section of the mission is a simple affair. Just beat a few small waves of enemies without using any gravity powers. Easy. What's not so easy is the main event: an exercise in quick and skilled stasis usage as you work to put out fires on a battleship and the surrounding buildings. While the ship takes damage from its fires. And more fires appear on the ship over time. And respawning enemies are constantly surrounding the ship. And there's only three fire extinguishers on the ship, so you have to scour the surrounding city for water towers. And I'm pretty sure none of these respawn. And the fires are not designated by objective markers. Neither are the clusters of water towers. And the targeting is TRASH because the usual stasis lock-on applies to enemies, not fires - and once you reach the end of the mission and have to put out any remaining fires on the ship, you get to deal with that mess. The only saving grace here is that completing this mission is totally optional, and you can mainline the rest of the game in 2 hours if you're not up to it.
When I tried to beat it last night, I experienced the first Gamer Rage I've felt in a long, long time. It's not a feeling I care for, and it's not one I come to the ever-polite Gravity Rush to experience.
SO. Now that that's out of the way, aside from the basic core of the gameplay, what got me to beat this game?
Pure charm, that's what. Gravity Rush is a good experience of a game. Its fairly clean cell-shaded art style isn't quite timeless, but it definitely holds up better than many of its console peers from 2012 (Mass Effect 3, anyone?). The way it changes the lighting colour depending on what area of the city you're in is a nice touch (it's not a subtle change either, the sky can go from purple to light green), and its commitment to rendering low-detail models of the entire city no matter where you are is admirable. The well-drawn comic-book cutscenes are much better done than you'd expect from a game using comic panels, as it actually nails the feel of a real, fully-drawn comic. The maps and menus are all well-drawn as well. It also has a great soundtrack, that, while not the most memorable, sets the tone perfectly for every occasion.
The way Gravity Rush acknowledges its basic gameplay by trying to make every mission and side mission unique deserves a bit of expanding on. The game is clearly aware of its habit of making you fight a small wave or two of enemies before you can move on in a ot of missions. To alleviate the repetition, it throws everything from a sneaking mission, to a limited-shifting platforming sequence, to falling down a giant shaft and dodging attacks thrown up at you. The breadth of ideas here is pretty impressive, though I'm not sure how much farther you can take Kat's limited moveset than what we have here.
Even its straightforward anime-y storyline is pretty charming, thanks in no small part to the quality of the writing. I went out of my way to talk to every person with new dialogue in-between missions and pursued the Strangers sidequest part of the way through, simply because I was interested in hearing more about the characters and the world. If nothing else, definitely keep an eye out for those Strangers, cuz' the woman tells some tales that sound a lot like foreshadowing for future games. I suppose it bears mentioning here that Gravity Rush 1 is a deliberately incomplete story, with a bunch of implications and ideas set up for the future, but no hard conclusion. It ends feeling like a superhero movie that's planned to have a sequel, satisfying enough but leaving you starved for answers. I hope 2 can answer at least some of them, cuz' this strikes me as a series ripe for a trilogy.
The main cast is small but tight, with the spunky and altruistic Gravity Queen Kat recieving most of the characterization. I think she's even bigger waifu-bait than Bayonetta, but not quite as much as 2B. Who has a costume in Gravity Rush 2. Hmm. Anyways, out of the rest of the main characters, Raven gets a full character arc, Syd and the Creators do their thing, and Sea Wasp is... there. Everyone gets their moment in the ending sequence, so the named cast still feels utilized and sized appropriately, but there's a lot of room to grow. I hope to see more from them in 2.
Gravity Rush wants to take you for a ride, and earnestly hopes that you'll enjoy the alternative fun that it offers. It's dedicated to being inoffensive and giving you everything it's got. For that, I give Gravity Rush Remastered a 7.5/10. It's not for everyone, but if you can put up with its faults, you'll love its eccentricities.
I'm already one mission deep into Gravity Rush 2, and so far it's the same game, just a bit better. The map is on the D-pad now, which is nice, and you can now move and play the whole game in first-person. Yes, that means moving first-person diagonal camera shots. HHHHUUUUURRK. Anyways, I look forward to seeing what that game has in store for me, and I hope we can see Gravity Rush become a trilogy in another three years!