GAME NAME: Gravity Rush
DEVELOPER(S): Japan Studio
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): PS Vita
RELEASE DATE(S): USA 12th June / Europe 13th June
Ever since the Vita was originally revealed, and especially since the system’s February launch, everyone has been awaiting the release of Gravity Rush. The title – developed by Japan Studio – looked like it would revolutionize the gaming world, with charming graphics, unique gameplay, and not forgetting a stunning soundtrack, but does the Vita’s most ambitious title yet deliver the goods?
You’re quickly placed into the position of Kat, a young woman who awakes with no memories of her past, and who quickly unearths her unique gravity shifting ability, thanks to a rather mysterious black cat who accompanies Kat on her adventures. Immediately, you’re thrust into the thick of things as an approaching ‘Gravity Storm’ threatens to rip the idyllic city of Hekseville to shreds, but the people are wary of Kat, quickly giving her the title of ‘Shifter’. Tasked with returning missing parts of the city which have fallen down below, you must venture into dangerous locations to complete your missions. Returning these results in the reuniting of friends and family, and gradually the people come to see Kat as one of their own. Whilst adventuring on your journey, you must learn the truth behind masked criminal Allias, fellow gravity shifter Raven, and most importantly, yourself.
Hekseville is the perfect setting to showcase the breathtaking visuals of Gravity Rush. The town bustles with residents going about their daily lives, with buildings towering high into the skyline and indescribable detail across every item. Pin sharp comic-book style cutscenes pop with colour; it’s unimaginable how much refinement has gone into the graphical side of things. The cel-shaded graphics are charming, and rather than showing the Vita’s capabilities as raw power, craft it into something far more lovable and gorgeous.
Hekseville is not only the perfect place to showcase Gravity Rush’s graphics, but also to introduce the title’s unique gravity shifting element: Press L to enter gravity mode, and press L again to fly at breakneck speed towards any of the humongous skyscrapers within Hekseville. It’s extremely simple, yet extraordinarily effective. The shop/house/person that you land on then becomes your new floor, which Kat is free to walk around upon. Of course, you can do things the old-fashioned way and walk, but the ‘Rush’ you get from flying through the air is absolutely phenomenal, not to mention some unbelievably accurate (but importantly, optional) gyro controls which are a far better alternative to using the right analogue stick as per normal. The control scheme is sleek, easy to familiarize yourself with, and without a doubt, brilliant fun. The only minor niggle is the timer implemented early on, which restricts the amount of time that Kat can ignore the laws of gravity for. Fortunately, handy stat upgrades (more on that later) mean that within a few hours the restriction is virtually non-existent, assuming you upgrade Kat’s gravity gauge.
Unfortunately, Gravity Rush’s ‘unusual’ combat doesn’t fare quite so well. It’s by no means bad, but in comparison to the rest of the title, lacking and rough around the edges. As with the gravity shifting element of the game, combat is kept fairly simple, Kat being equipped with a standard kick, sliding kick, gravity kick, and three special moves too. Kicks are performed by a tap of the Square button, whilst special moves are mapped to the triangle button, with dodging coming from a quick flick of the finger in the desired direction you wish to go on the touch screen. So far so good, but when it comes to fighting the Nevi – mysterious monsters attacking the city – things are far too simple and easy. Each Nevi has a glaring, pink orb, which – believe it or not – you must smash. Bosses work in a similar manner, with outrageously obvious weak points highlighted to everyone miles around, and even later on, the game aids you hugely by blatantly pointing out any weaknesses before a battle. We don’t see the harm in helping less able players along, but these ‘hints’ make combat far too easy and completely eradicate any room for strategic or tactical combat whatsoever. Smashing into enemies and watching them blow up in a puff of smoke is without a doubt fun, and the astounding animation is a joy to watch, but combat is often very slow and littered with small, irritating problems, such as the massively overpowered special moves coupled with frustrating aiming problems.
On the other side of things, Gravity Rush incorporates a great stat upgrade system which eliminates a common problem within pretty much every other JRPG: grinding. Everyone knows the feeling, when you simply cannot defeat that boss however hard you try, but luckily you’ll experience no such feeling here, as Gravity Rush takes a new approach to leveling. Rather than being rewarded for smashing enemies into oblivion, Gravity Rush rewards its players for being adventurous and exploring Hekseville, which just-so-happens to be littered with the currency needed to upgrade stats: gems. Gems are often scattered across outlandish locations which require masterful precision of the gravity shifting technique, but just as often you can find gems lying across rooftops and inside buildings. As well as attaining gems through searching the surrounding area, you can take part in some of the game’s brilliant sidequest/minigame thingies, which introduce you to new gravity skills such as gravity sliding. If you complete the mission well, you’ll be rewarded with a bundle of gems to be spent on upgrading stats and also helping the citizens.
To top it all off, Gravity Rush features an epic soundtrack which will take you to heaven and back. Each district comes equipped with its own unique audio, which gives off a distinct vibe and atmosphere. As a whole the audio is breathtaking, with music to suit all styles from deep, industrial sounding drum beats to beauteous piano melodies for more relaxed areas of the game. The lack of proper voice acting (aside from the odd sound effect) is a slight disappointment, but the fresh feel that the music brings to Gravity Rush more than makes up for it.
Gravity Rush may have its faults, but in every sense of the word Gravity Rush is unique. The visuals are astounding, the graphics are charming, and, whilst the gameplay has a few faults, Gravity Rush will often whisk you away on a tantalizing tale, at which point you will no longer remember the minor flaws that keep Gravity Rush from being perfect. Easily the best Vita game yet, and the prospect of a sequel is getting us excited already.