As EGM’s resident hardcore Vita fan—though my co-worker Ray might change that to “only existing left in the world” Vita fan—I’ve had to come to terms with seeing some of the portable’s best exclusives get ported to other platforms over the last few years. One of the biggest of those instances for me came early last year, when the PlayStation 4 was given Gravity Rush Remastered, an updated version of Sony’s Japanese-developed action adventure game. I’d fallen deeply in love with the story of a young girl named Kat who, unable to remember her past, tries to make a new life in the city of Hekseville, becoming its protector of sorts as she learns to fully harness her ability to control and manipulate gravity.
As much as I didn’t want to see the Vita lose one of its most unique and engrossing reasons for people to give it a chance, I knew the move would be better in the long run for Kat and her newfound home. And, after playing and completing Gravity Rush 2, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the move was worth it.
The game opens up with Kat and her friend Syd having found themselves stranded in a strange place far from home, where the duo work in a mine to make money to survive. Between their hard labor job, and the ramshackle village that they’re currently calling home, the scope of the game felt relatively small. Soon, Kat, Syd, and some of this new place’s other residents travel to the city of Jirga Para Lhao, and what the game truly has in store for players finally comes into view.
When Kat first steps into the Lei Colmosna district of Jirga Para Lhao, the area is a visual delight. As opposed to Hekseville’s dull, muted colors, things are bright and lively here, with far more NPC residents than we ever saw before going about their lives, shopping, relaxing, or manning the stalls of the marketplace. Everything on display is of so much higher resolution and texture detail now, from the architecture to the cobblestone streets, or even the smallest of objects scattered around the city. And then—because I couldn’t hold back any longer—I sent Kat shooting up into the air, and I felt a sense of awe when looking out upon the horizon.
Size-wise, the area I was just in wasn’t all that different from one of Gravity Rush’s four city segments, but surrounding it were floating buildings and airships and other types of places to explore of all sizes and types. Having played the original game multiple times, I’d been taught to not go exploring out too far until it’s the right time, but Gravity Rush 2 demands that you unlearn all of the habits you gained the first time around. See a building far off in the distance? You can get to it whenever you’d like. Fly higher than you think you should be going? Why look, there’s more city up there. Let Kat fall far enough that she would have been vaporized in the first game? Congratulations, you’ve discovered yet another area. In the first Gravity Rush, Kat was a character who had been unshackled from the normal rules of direction, but the city itself still remained a relatively 2D space. Here, places to go existed no matter which way might go rocketing off into the distance, leaving Gravity Rush 2’s world feeling like what I’m sure Keiichi Toyama and his team had always wanted to give players in the first place.
While you’ll be free to explore Jirga Para Lhao (and the other places you end up travelling to) to your heart’s delight, you can also sit back and let the storyline push you in those various directions. One of the things I loved most about Gravity Rush 2 is that the campaign is constantly asking you to go to new places and partake in different activities, which keeps things progressing along at a good pace, while remaining interesting to boot. As many fond feelings as I have for the original game, there were a few points at which it became a bit of a slog gameplay-wise (even if the accompanying narrative in those segments was rewarding). In Gravity Rush 2, the team did a better job of mixing up exactly what it is you’re tasked with at any given moment to a point that, at times, you’ll swear you were clearing out more creative side tasks instead or required story-focused missions.
As much as I think the gameplay in the campaign was nailed in Gravity Rush 2, I do have to give Gravity Rush the edge when it comes to the story itself. It’s not bad here at all, don’t get me wrong—but there are times when I felt like certain events were happening a little too suddenly, or when certain elements didn’t get their proper chance to be fleshed out before becoming major plot points. The best way that I can describe it is that Gravity Rush 2 comes off sort of feeling like it was originally meant to be two games that were then condensed into one—I can tell you exactly where and how they would have been split—with some story arc smoothness being lost in the process. Still, it’s hard to complain too much about that occasional roughness given how much of a joy the story is in so many other ways, and a lot of that is directly riding on the back of the game’s cast of characters.
Kat is easily one of the best characters Sony has at their disposal, but everyone else around her is also interesting—from her formal-rival-turned-best-friend Raven, to the badass leader of Bagna Lisa, to the mysterious yet honorable young man Fi. There’s plenty of other cameos from returning characters and nods to the first game to be found as well, and due to that, Gravity Rush 2 comes as an impossible recommendation to anyone who hasn’t played through its predecessor. While you could play the game and still get joy out of it from beginning to end, there’s just so many connections that you’d miss out on, not to mention some major plot revelations that might fall flat with you due to your lack of context on why they were important. Gravity Rush is still absolutely worth playing, so please, go do that first if you already haven’t.
For those of you who have, one of the biggest love-it-or-hate-it elements to the original game were the movement and combat systems. If you didn’t like how the battles and falling—remember, Kat falls, not flies—worked in the original game, then things aren’t going to be different enough in Gravity Rush 2 to win you over. The good news is, if you did like how the previous game played, then there have been a few improvements. The camera reset feels snappier this time around, you can actually change course to a decent degree after sending Kat soaring in a particular direction, and some harder-to-perform moves such as the Gravity Kick feel a little easier to get right this time around. Strangely, I did find one change that I wasn’t sure I agreed with: it seems that you can no longer use motion controls when aiming to shoot projectiles that you’ve collected in your stasis field. I can understand why that would work better defaulted to the right analog stick, but not even having the option (that I could find) to choose feels like a mistake.
By far the most major change to come to Gravity Rush 2’s combat is the addition of two new gravity “styles,” Lunar and Jupiter, which can be switched to at any time once unlocked. Lunar causes Kat to be lighter on her feet, jump much higher or farther than normal, or automatically lock onto enemies when attacking—which helps reduce the frustration of trying to hunt down harder-to-hit aerial foes. Jupiter, meanwhile, makes Kat heavier and slower, but her attacks are far more powerful, she can break through enemy shields, and she can power up her Gravity Kick to take out a whole group of enemies at once. (Trust me, some of the most satisfying moments in the game are when you switch to Jupiter style and have Kat just punch the holy hell out of enemies that have earned your ire.)
Going into Gravity Rush 2, I was a little worried that the two styles could end up feeling more like “we need something new” gimmicks than worthwhile additions to the gameplay, but that’s absolutely not the case. I found myself switching back and forth between Kat’s three modes on a regular basis—not because I had do, but because I wanted to. A bit more gimmicky are Talismans, special crystals that you’ll find throughout the game that can give you certain buffs depending on which you choose to equip at any given time. They provide a benefit and they definitely don’t make anything in the game worse, but they also feel like an option that really wasn’t needed at the end of the day.
One other change of note is that, unlike the first game, you’ll only be upgrading Kat’s combat styles using the pink gravity gems you find scattered around the world, and not other attributes like health, shifting speed, or recovery time. (Those other attributes instead automatically upgrade while you complete the game and the various side missions.) It’s not a bad change, or a good change, but simply a change. Personally, I liked the other method for doing things, because I could better focus on what specific improvements I wanted sooner; however, this new method is probably the better choice for more casual fans, and means less having to hunt down gravity gems to avoid falling out of gravity shift or dying every five minutes.
Finally, the Project Siren team has built a few online-focused elements into the game—and while that statement could easily have filled me with fear, the result was actually pretty neat. As you play, you’ll come across Treasure Hunts that send you looking for hidden apple-shaped chests filled with gems or special items. Once you find one, you’re tasked with taking a photo (using Kat’s new camera) to serve as a hint, and that photo is then sent out to other players to help them find the same chest. Doing that—or taking photographs in general and having them rated by other players—earn you Dusty tokens, which will help you unlock new outfits, props to use when taking pictures, or decorative elements to spruce up Kat’s home. If you want something a little more gameplay-related, you can now send or accept challenges from other players for the different types of missions, where you’ll then race their ghost, try to get the better time than they did, or see if you can beat their high score. These online additions don’t change Gravity Rush 2 into some deeper experience it wouldn’t have been had they not existed, but they’re a fun Dark Souls-esque “multiplayer” addition that adds to the overall experience for anyone who finds them fun.
The original Gravity Rush flew in and swept me off of my feet when it first arrived on the Vita, and now, almost five years later, I’m left with a bit of sadness having finished its sequel. Gravity Rush 2 is a fantastic game, one that reaches the heights its predecessor was always reaching for, and every one of the twenty-five hours I spent playing it was spent with a smile on my face and warm feelings in my heart. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but it’s probably the best follow-up to the original that I could ever have hoped for. And yet, even as much as I enjoyed going on another adventure with the Gravity Queen, I’m worried that this might be the last time we go flying through the skies together.
|Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment • Developer: SIE Japan Studio, Project Siren • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.20.2017|
While the original Gravity Rush pushed the Vita to its limited, Gravity Rush 2 is unleashed upon the far more powerful PlayStation 4, giving us a game that’s as big in scope and substance as the concept designs its world and characters were born from. Among Sony’s efforts to give their console a wide array of more niche experiences, this gravity-controlling Kat is Queen.
|The Good||The wonderful characters, gravity mechanics, and storytelling style from the original all return, now built upon a bigger and more beautiful world, and which is filled with a deeper variety of things to see and do.|
|The Bad||Some moments of combat—especially midair with smaller, faster enemies—can still be a chore, making you wish the game had a proper lock-on; the story is a bit fragmented and rough at times.|
|The Ugly||Gravity Rush feels eerily similar to Dark Souls, with a world that never seems “right”, people that you’re always sure are going to betray you, and where every action you take feels like you’re making a mistake. Given its director is the man who gave us the original Silent Hill, I guess that shouldn’t be surprising.|
|Gravity Rush 2 is available exclusively on PlayStation 4. Review code was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|