- Developer: Project Siren
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Platform: PlaySation 4
- Release Date: 2 February 2016 (US)
- MSRP: $29.99
Gravity Rush, known as Gravity Daze in Japan, was originally released on the PlayStation Vita in 2012. Created by Keiichiro Toyama of Silent Hill and Siren fame, Toyama had come up with the concept nearly 10 years before the game’s release. A hidden gem on the Vita, Gravity Rush is an open-world action-adventure game centered around gravity manipulation. A sequel was released in 2017. Now is a good time to determine if the series is worth getting into.
Gravity Rush centers around the main heroine, Kat, and her exploits in the city of Hekseville. It’s basically a superhero story. The game begins with our main heroine waking up next to a strange cat-like creature. She has no memory of who she is but learns that she possesses a unique ability to manipulate gravity. She is what is called a Shifter. There is some connection between her powers and the cat-like creature she names Dusty.
The game chronicles Kat’s exploits in Hekseville. Kat must fight hordes of shadowy creatures called Nevi, which are terrorizing Hekseville. At the start of the game, the floating city is torn apart by gravity storms. One of Kat’s missions in the game is to put the pieces of the city back together, often entering another dimension to do so. To enter the other dimension called the Rift Plane, she must go inside an old hobo. It’s not as dirty as it sounds.
She meets several odd characters as the story progresses. There is Syd the clumsy police officer, the mysterious thief Alias terrorizing the city, an old hobo who claims to have created the world, a spacey girl who has a spirit sealed within her (never really explained), and the sultry Raven. Kat is very energetic and totally adorable. You can’t help but lover her. Raven acts as a foil to Kat. She too is a Shifter. Raven begins as Kat’s rival but they soon team up together to save the city. That’s usually how these things go.
A problem with the story is that so much is left unanswered. Raven’s backstory is only briefly touched upon. I wish we could have found out more about her. Kat’s identity is never explained either. The amnesia plot point is never resolved. Those of you who value story driven games will be disappointed by the lack resolution for various plot points. It feels like a bunch of unconnected events strung together. Typical superhero saves the day from destruction. Kat fights Nevi, saves children, saves the city from total annihilation, competes with rival, and transports people. The story is a flimsy excuse to justify the gameplay. The true spirit of Gravity Rush is found in the charm of the world and the gravity mechanics.
As the name Gravity Rush suggests, Kat can “shift” gravity. When Kat shifts gravity, she can “fall” through the air in any direction the player wishes to go. Flying uses the gravity gauge. Once the gauge runs out, Kat will fall to the ground. Don’t worry, there’s no falling damage. The gauge replenishes after a few seconds. R1 is used to shift gravity or float while L1 returns gravity to normal. The player aims Kat with the right stick. While flying, you can adjust her trajectory with the left stick.
The main enemies in Gravity Rush are the Nevi, shadowy creatures wreaking havoc on Hekseville. Nevi are defeated by hitting the red orb located somewhere on their bodies. Tough Nevi have multiple orbs. Hit the Nevi’s weak spot for massive damage (excuse the dated meme). Kat’s main method of attacking is kicking. Normal ground kicks are performed by hitting the Square button. A more powerful kick is performed while floating in the air. Evasion is important in combat. When timed right, Kat will perform a counter kick. Failing to evade will become problematic later in the game when the number of enemies increase.
Kat has additional special abilities unlocked as the game progresses. These are performed using the Triangle button. Spiraling Claw is performed by simply pressing the Triangle button. Kat will dive forward while twirling. This can be difficult to control and is best used in close-combat against a single strong enemy. Tilt up on the left stick along with the triangle button to perform the Gravity Typhoon, in which Kat tosses many boulders at enemies. It’s very effective for hitting multiple enemies from far away. Tilt down on the left stick with the Triangle button to perform the Micro-Black Hole, which creates a gravitational vortex, very effective in close-quarters combat when surrounded by many enemies. After the special move is used, it will take some time to recover. The gem in the Gravity Gauge will reappear when the special move can be used again.
Kat can also attack by picking up objects and throwing them using the Stasis Field. Like the Silver campaign from Sonic 06, except not shitty. The Stasis Field suffers from some of the same problems as Silver’s power. You can easily miss your target. A fun game mechanic is the ability to perform a Gravity Slide. While shifting gravity, Kat can slide up or down buildings and other such objects. This is performed by holding down L2 and R2. Reminiscent of grinding on rails in Sonic games or the slide levels in Mario 64.
These abilities can be upgraded by collecting gems strewn across Hekseville and the rift planes. The abilities follow a level system. The cap on these levels increase based on Kat’s current title. Titles are earned as the story progresses. Surprisingly, this is where the game shines. Typically, I hate collect-a-thons but flying around never gets boring. Most of the enjoyment comes from playing around in the city. The player has the freedom to dick around with the gravity mechanics. Sometimes you take the citizens for a ride with you. I can still hear the screaming. Throwing things at people and watching them fall over or run away out of fear is hilarious. It’s cool to reach the top of tall buildings and see the view of the city. The sense of speed puts Sonic to shame.
The game consists of the main missions, side missions, and challenges. The main missions generally have Kat fighting off hordes of Nevi, defusing bombs, transporting people, finding missing people, and defeating a boss at the end of the episode. The side missions are optional content that were originally DLC in the Vita version. Side stories are inconsequential to the main story. These missions unlock new costumes for Kat. By the way, she looks ridiculously cute in all of them. My favorites are the maid and school uniform costumes. Challenges are unlocked by using gems to fix broken machinery found throughout the city. These usually consist of racing or defeating Nevi within a given time. The challenges are somewhat repetitive and feel like busy work. They serve as a quick way to earn gems.
Despite my praise, this game has several shortcomings. Combat can get frustrating. Kicks on the ground can be difficult to land on taller enemies. Enemies can overwhelm the player, making it difficult to evade attacks. It can be easy to completely whiff on Gravity Kicks. The Spiraling Claw is difficult to control. It easily spirals out of control (eh! eh! get it). I wish that Kat’s abilities offered more customization. Giving the player more choice of how to fight would have made the game better.
These shortcomings didn’t hurt my enjoyment too much. The Remastered version fixed many of the control issues found in the Vita version. The Vita version used gyro controls to aim Kat. While this gave the game a unique feel to it, it also made it frustrating. The Remastered version is the superior version. I don’t think I can ever go back to playing Gravity Rush on the Vita.
The graphics in Gravity Rush Remastered are not impressive for PlayStation 4, excusable as this is a port of a Vita game. The cel shaded art style makes up for the lack of graphical power. The art style is anime-esque mixed with western comic book style. Cut-scenes involving dialogue are often told in comic book panels. I thought this was pretty cool. It stands out from most modern games. The color palette is somewhat limited, but it has a unique look to it. The city is infused with steampunk elements and European architecture. Japanese and Western aesthetics combine to create a distinctive viewing experience. Toyama was aiming for a style that stands out amongst the photorealistic graphics most modern games use. Gravity Rush succeeds in accomplishing that goal. This game just oozes charm and the art style adds to it.
Framerate is not perfect but rarely has significant drop-off. There is some clipping, such has Kat’s hair going through her body. The graphics are not mind blowing but has an appealing aesthetic. I’ll take a unique style over realistic graphics any day.
The soundtrack was composed by renowned anime composer Kohei Tanaka. He was most notably the composer of Gunbuster, G Gundam, Gundam: 08th MS Team (a.k.a. the best Gundam), and One Piece. He also composed the soundtrack for the original Sakura Wars game. The music in Gravity Rush uses orchestral arrangements, fitting the European steampunk setting. It has an epic quality to it, perfect for falling through the sky with style! Gravity Rush’s music always fits the tone of the location and moment.
Gravity Rush does have voice acting but is limited. It’s mostly characters reacting to something happening. When characters do speak, it’s in a made-up language that resembles a combination of French and Japanese. This does not bother me, though it does not add much either.
Gravity Rush was a fun experience. Flying is so exhilarating. Hekseville is full of life. Kat’s energetic nature makes her an endearing protagonist. The setting and characters ooze charm. Kat’s gravity abilities make Gravity Rush stand out amongst the generic shooters. The cel-shaded graphics compensate for its technical shortcomings. That said, combat can get frustrating and the story leaves too many plotlines unanswered. This could hold back a few people from enjoying the game. This didn’t detract too much from my experience. Gravity Rush Remastered will make an excellent addition to any PS4 collection.