SCE Japan Studio
Sony Computer Entertainment
June 12th, 2012
One of the most buzz worthy titles promised to Vita owners was none other than Gravity Rush, also known as Gravity Daze in Japan. SCE Japan Studio and Sony Computer Entertainment bring this wildly imaginative portable title to the masses. As the amnesiac gravity shifter Kat, you can bend and break the rules of gravity, but will it be the rush fans were waiting for or just a vertigo inducing plummet to bargain bins everywhere.
Ah, the apple. The apple has been associated with many things, probably the most famous being the apple from the tree of knowledge that got Adam and Even tossed out of Eden and onto their asses. As the story goes though, Sir Isaac Newton developed his theories on gravity after watching an apple fall from a tree. Itís no surprise then, that the game opens up with an apple falling from a tree, only to land by a girl whoís been kicked out on her ass. With no memory of who she is or where she is from, she discovers very soon she has the power to alter gravity. Does this power come from the peculiar looking cat that has been following her around since she woke, or from somewhere else? Who is she and where did she come from? Who is Raven, the red and black haired girl who seems to have similar powers? What are the monstrous Nevi that appear throughout town? What will become of Hekseville and its citizens? All of these questions will come to a head amid urge game's dizzying finale!
More than anything else Studio Japan creates a very episodic feel in Gravity Rush. Basically each mission does not always expand the main story, but the ones that don't focus on adding character development. Keiichiro Toyama said he was very influenced by the form of storytelling in anime and it shows, as Gravity Rush would have made a great anime if they had chosen that instead. The characters are all unique and nearly everyone makes reappearance at some point later in the game leaving me feeling as if the world of Gravity Rush goes from new and intimidating to familiar and welcoming. Personally, I genuinely cared about many of these characters and the story, while odd at times, is definitely enough to drive the game forward on its own. The only real drawback is the ending. Gravity Rush is almost certainly going to be sequelized, which I for one would welcome whole heartedly. Donít worry though, there is resolution to the story, but resolution doesnít guarantee all your questions will be answered.
Cel shaded graphics are at the heart of everything you see in Gravity Rush. The game has a very rich and luscious color palate as well. The "green-scale" that much of the artwork shows is located in only one of Hekseville's four areas, with the others featuring wildly different color schemes. The entertainment district of Pleajeune features a dark red/purple skyline with neon lights. The industrial district of Endestria has the bright yellow of dawn in the sky with yellows, blues, grays, and greens making up this section of town. Auldnoir, which is actually the starting area as well, has the faint red of sunset, and the browns, reds, and golds making up the district. All of the areas feature impressive buildings structures that are pretty varied. Not every building is unique, but many are. One thing I did find to be very repetitive was the textures for buildings. As many are beyond large, the pattern repetition becomes very obvious, especially when patterns in bricks repeat at the same height very often. Simply varying the height or making the texture pattern larger could have avoided this very obvious oversight. The best part of the architecture of this game is the heavy influences by French artist Moebius. The settings both in Hekseville and out played a huge part in the design of the game, especially Moebiusís Arzach.
Now as you can imagine you will be traveling at very high speeds throughout this game and the Vita is a great machine but it canít work miracles. Buildings or skylines that are too far away from you will exist as mere outlines on whatever backdrop there is for them, but heading toward them will begin to fill them in pretty evenly. The dreaded "pop-ins" are avoided this way and coming up on a building looks pretty amazing but pop-ins do occur when it comes to smaller objects and people. This makes it difficult sometimes to locate a particular person from a distance or while travelling fast but thankfully was not too much of a hassle thanks to the fact most objectives or people have a highlighting sort of aura around them.
Kat of course has a couple costumes, with three more added in DLC, and they are all great. But how are the other characters you ask? Many of the characters have very distinct designs which are great. Many of them are just as zany if not more than Kat. The Nevi can be semi-repetitive but there are quite a few different types of enemies so itís not terrible, and considering they are supposed to be monsters in masse, I never got annoyed at the lack of variation. NPCs are a bit different of a story. You can see variations of them from district to district, but within these districts there are perhaps six different NPC models with slight variations in colors to try and set them apart. this isnít really a huge issue however as you will probably wonít give these NPCs so much as a passing glance most of the time.
When you arenít playing the game you are probably watching one of the games gorgeous comic panel style cutscenes. These accentuate the feel of being a gravity shifting super hero of sorts and are drawn well to boot. The best part about them, hands down has to be the way the Vita's gyroscope affects them. While viewing you can tilt the Vita to tilt the panels themselves. Many of them have layered images and doing so will show you things from a different perspective, literally! You probably will never see anything hidden by doing this, I didn't, but it is a simple inclusion that shows sometimes it is the little things that help make a game better.
The soundtrack to Gravity Rush stands apart from most others. Whereas most soundtracks set epic battle music that can play almost intrusively on the gaming experience, that is not the case here. Most of the music, including the little dittys that play in different sections of Hekseville, is reminiscent of town music from older JPRGs of yesteryear. Other tunes from certain missions or rift planes are certainly well done, but don't give into the current trend for "anthems" or "epic scores". It's best to think of the soundtrack as an extension of the areas themselves, not the events.
When it comes to sound, there are some pros and cons. Many of the sound effects are very good, from whooshing noises as you fall around town to the hustle and bustle of the more populated sections of Hekseville. These do well to fill the world with life and vibrancy almost as well as the graphics do themselves. Then there is the annoying beeping sound as you float in the air. I personally have no idea why this sound effect would even be added at all, after all, when has a beeping sound ever been a pleasant addition to the gameplay experience? As I float weightlessly in the air, my awe and wonder is pierced by a low volume, high pitch beeping noise. Yeah. Aside from that, many of the other effects regarding attacks and other situational effects are good, but not great.
When it comes to voices, you may or may not be disappointed. Each main character is usually given some voice work but don't plan on ever understanding it! Yes, subtitles on folks, the world of Gravity Rush is one that does not speak English. If you're thinking this is the product of keeping the game in the original Japanese voices that is not the case either. The voices are all in a language that exists entirely in the world of Gravity Rush. This French-inspired language certainly adds to the established Moebius theme, but I think it adds a certain verisimilitude to the game as well. It really seems as if you are peeking into another world, foreign in every aspect. As much as this was a very positive addition for me, those not fond of reading may disagree. Either way you slice it, the voice work does still portray the proper emotion, even if you can't realize it without reading the subtitles.
Imagine a typical open world game; running around a large city, being able to activate certain quests or missions as you come across them. Now imagine that experience in a world where the rules of gravity are yours to command. Although that is Gravity Rush in a nutshell, the description hardly does it justice. The world of Gravity Rush is wickedly expansive, with four floating sections of a city all making one very large playground. You can discover many side streets and tunnels to get to a certain point which is certainly a little reward for players who love the exploration aspect of open world games. When you can shift gravity though, itís very easy to just "fall" to your next destination. While this is certainly a quick method you do miss out on the ins and outs of the city of which you can tell Japan Studio put quite a bit of work into. Even some of the other areas of the game, the rift planes, have rewards waiting for those who take the time to explore, such as challenging optional boss fights.
This brings us to ďshiftingĒ. Shifting is the principal mechanic in Gravity Rush and one that sets it widely apart from other games (inb4 Inversion came out first, it didn't). These powers take a little getting used to but thankfully begin coming to the player pretty early on in the game. As long as Kat has appropriate energy, you can press the "R trigger" to float weightlessly. A blue reticule appears on screen and pressing "R trigger" again will shift gravity in that direction, causing you to fall towards it. While this is hand for getting around, it can also be used offensively. Floating in the air and pressing the "Square", or kick button will allow you to do a high speed Gravity Kick on the target you aim towards. Kat can also use her Stasis Field to pick up objects around her using zero gravity, and hurling them at terminal velocity where she chooses. Pressing the lower left and lower right corners of the Vita's front touch screen will also initiate the Gravity Slide, tilting gravity enough to allow you to slide at high speeds. Because your thumbs are occupied the games gyroscope becomes the method for steering Kat. While this is a good use of the Vita's features, it can sometimes put players off to using the slide in certain situations. A prime example would be my affinity for gaming while riding in a car, don't do it man, don't do it! Each time the driver turned, the gyroscope would sense the change and throw Kat into a wall, messing up what would have otherwise been a perfect Gravity Slide! Other powers like the Spiraling Claw attack and Micro Black Hole become available after certain missions. All Kat's powers can be upgraded easily by spending collected red gems. These gems can be found in a variety of places, either hanging around the city, during missions, or after defeating Nevi.
Gravity Rush does a great job of progressing at your pace. You can jump straight into each mission one after the other, or take time between missions for side quests and challenges. Though youíll be missing out on gaining reputation from side quests, which in turn raises the cap for upgrading your abilities, you don't have to do any of them. Certain citizens hanging around town will also have dialogue bubbles above their heads which means you can strike up conversations with them. Most of these just help set up the next mission, or are simply for fun, but there are a few that might lead to a trophy later on...
Gravity Rush's story will probably run you more or less 15 hours worth of free falling goodness, with some other stuff that can add another 5-10 more hours. Of course trophy hunting is always in season on the Vita and Gravity Rush is no exception. The game has quite a few trophies that are obtained through the normal course of the game, but if you want that coveted platinum trophy you will have to jump through some hoops, quite literally. Undoubtedly the game's toughest trophy to obtain is one for gold medaling all challenges. This isn't impossible by any means but it might take some patience and dedication.
Aside from that you can go back to any of the game's rift planes by talking to Gade, and to Boutoume by talking to Cyanea to look for anything you might have missed, including the mysterious travelling couple. These are also good places to mop up any trophies for defeating enemies, or collecting more gems for leveling up.
Three DLC packs have been dated and announced so that Gravity Rush fans can keep the rush going. The Spy pack, the Maid pack, and the Special Forces pack, all contain an extra costume to be worn, two side missions, and two challenge missions. They'll run you $2.99 on the PSN and will be released every two weeks until the end of July!
Gravity Rush is, for lack of a better word, a rush. The gravity manipulating is something I've never seen done quite like this, or quite this well before. Even the near steampunk, Moebius-inspired style stands alone. All that aside though, the game plays fantastically, showing off much of what the Vita is capable of, including precise gyroscope controls and impressively expansive environments. It has very few hang ups or flaws, which are mostly cosmetic, and really brings some real magic to the Vita's currently underwhelming software library. There no doubt in my mind that this is the one of the top five titles on the Vita right now and certainly the best open world game. With so many things about this game that are impressive, it's no wonder Kat is called the Gravity Queen, and long may she reign!