For those that never played Gravity Rush, like myself, back in the Vita’s early days, here’s the jist: Gravity Rush is an action-adventure game that puts you in the shoes of Kat; a young lady with the surprising ability to manipulate the gravity around her. Appearing in a mysterious world, Kat suffers from memory loss as she stumbles in to issue after issue just trying to help the people around her and find out who she is. In this remaster, the graphics have had their edges smoothed and the additional content is packaged in as “Side Missions”. So how does Gravity Rush hold up against the ravenous beast that is time? In short, remarkably well, but you didn’t come here for short, did you? Then read on for the rest of my Gravity Rush Remastered Review!
It’s worth noting that the original release of Gravity Rush happened in 2012, for those of you wondering if they might be about to max-out their Playstation 4’s to run a game, so the buildings and miscellaneous people appear a little bit dated, but the main character models have a timeless cel-shaded style that naturally ages well. Couple that with Bluepoint’s legendary remastering pedigree and its fair to say that Gravity Rush Remastered is fine to behold. You’ll be speeding past most of the structures without worrying too much about them, but if we’re talking graphics, we have to say that there’s an obvious disparity between the characters and their surroundings. That aside, every looks fine to me. The enemy models are a bit of a one-hit wonder, shifting mostly in shape but never in visual. I understand they’re going for a uniform look with the Nevi, but eventually you’re just shattering red and black blobs no matter the fight. Again, not a major issue, but I’d like to see the imminent sequel spice things up.
Some notable positives are how Kat floats in the air with her gravity shifting powers convincingly, and that her hair and scarf always remain obedient to the natural laws so you can tell where the legitimate ground is even when you’re running on the ceiling. Not only is the latter worthy of light visual praise, but it also provides function without shoving it down your throat. I appreciate these subtle cues. Having never played the original release, I can’t speak too much for the “improvements”, but I can tell you that the fidelity and performance are both great, making for a positive port to the console space.
Arguably the weakest element of the experience, Gravity Rush’s story is a strange arrangement of oddly shaped plot pieces that come together to form a passable whole. I led this review with a brief summary, but let’s get a bit more in-depth. Our protagonist is found by a black cat underneath an apple tree. Having lost her memory, she leaves the underground area to be called upon to assist an old man’s child before he gets sucked in to this gravity storm. Kat agrees to help using her “Shifter” abilities that she somehow recalls having with the help of the cat, Dusty, that lacks the ability to speak, as all good cats do. Having done so, she meets various other character that ultimately lead to her coming across a looming to everything she’s helped to rebuild.
The characters themselves are great. I love Kat and her charming, outspoken self, but I also couldn’t come to terms with why she’d even help the people around her and why she didn’t seen more concerned about her memory loss. Especially after her initial interaction wherein its implied that this world has a problem with “Shifters”, but there’s only ever one other Shifter in the entire game and you’re rarely treated as an outcast after this instance. So while the over-arching narrative wasn’t that interesting, the characters did manage to rummage their way in to my good books pretty quickly.
Its main problem is a lack of an antagonist. The character they decide to set up as your rival takes a turn that, for that character, I approved of in the end, but it led to a gaping hole in the form of a believable “villain”, and even the aforementioned character attempts to hint at the future revelations that didn’t hit home for me. Its also never made entirely clear what the Nevi are. Nevi are the black and red enemy units, and they’re related to these gravity storms, but the game never clarifies what they are exactly. How do they take so many different forms? I assume they’re vicious manifestations of the gravity storms themselves, but that is very much left to one’s own imagination.
As we delve deeper in to Kat’s character, we learn what she once was, but it seems to have no real significance. In truth, this game has a character that seems to be trying to set up the big reveal and yet again fails to deliver. It’s almost as if this game were designed to deliver an eventual sequel, so I hope that with their fairly-well developed characters, they can flesh out this thin universe. One final note: what the hell is Dusty? Is it a positive Nevi? Why did it seek you out? What possible reason could Dusty the Cat have to grant you the power over gravity, and why is Raven’s a, well, Raven? None of these mysteries are addressed from what I can tell in the main plot. Perhaps they’re touched upon, although I didn’t notice, and as a result I found myself caring more about the intimate details of Kat’s interactions with people like Gade and Zaza than I did about the big, old pointless threat that falls flat in the finale.
On a positive note, the comic cut-scenes (of which I’ve experienced many lately!) were pleasantly done. Similar to the first inFamous in that respect, and they really work in this game given the limitations of the original hardware it was developed for.
Polar-opposite to the plot, Gravity Rush’s mechanics are fantastic. As Kat, you manipulate gravity with the R1 button. This makes you float in there air, and you trigger a gravitational shift by pressing R1 again in the direction you wish to go. Say you were in a boxed room: if you aimed at the wall, you’d be pulled towards that wall and, if you decided to land on it, you’d be able to walk on it and jump as if you were on the regular floor for as long as your gravity meter lasts. The greatest joy you’ll receive is when you’ve upgraded a great many of your skills and you’re travelling for minutes in the air, shifting directions as you please and landing dive-kicks on your bland, Nevi adversaries. It’s surprising just how much fun you can have floating around in the air, what with the movement feeling so very fluid.
You’ll spend your time undertaking Main Missions, Side Missions and Challenges. Main missions will advance the plot and range from simple combat to forced stealth that doesn’t particularly work, but the latter is incredibly rare so it doesn’t drag on too much. Side Missions consist mostly of the downloadable content packed in to the game and only one appears before the main story’s completion. They can have you take the place of a Maid at the local witch’s mansion (not an actual witch) or collaborating with the military. You get new costumes for Kat as a reward for completing these missions and they’re entirely cosmetic. Still, if you like costumes, there you go. Finally, Challenges grant you Precious Gems for completing their gold, silver or bronze targets, and are likely where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. Precious gems are used to upgrade your abilities, and these upgrades become more and more vital as you progress through the story. These challenges ask you to race around the city using all of your abilities or to begin with no gravity meter that doesn’t manually refill, or they can ask you to defeat as many enemies as possible within the time limit, offering time limit extensions upon certain milestones. Most of these can be fun, but there are frustrating elements, such as the “Time Attack” challenges having you defeat enemies for points but if you get defeated, you lose and have to restart from your last save. I mean, during a challenge? Surely it should just end the challenge or dock some points from your score, not end the game. Luckily there are generous auto-saves, but its still a nuisance. The races are my favourite challenges, particularly the gravity slide races, wherein you hold the triggers (L2 and R2) to slide (speed dependent on upgrade level) and reach the checkpoints in time.
The combat is interesting, but not as fluid as the general movement. You have an evasion ability mapped to R2, but no matter how high an upgrade you have on that skill, the evasion is weak at best. This went beyond a shadow of a doubt during a specific fight that has you unable to attack and having to maneuver out of the way of your opponent’s attacks. Otherwise, you’ll probably find yourself using the gravity divekick ability to destroy the Nevi cores and float your way to victory. Though the Nevi appear very similar, their techniques vary enough to keep you on your toes and some come encased in a shell that requires more effort to break. Ultimately, it’s a rinse and repeat system, even after the acquisition of special attacks, that’s reminiscent of Zelda boss fights. For all of the flaws, the moment to moment game-play is so much fun, thanks almost entirely to how well the gravity movement in the air works. The best parts of the game have you traversing the inner-workings of another world, noticing the difference your upgrades to meter capacity and falling speed have. I could fall through that world forever, I just wish the rest of the game matched the brilliance of this fresh mechanic.
Kat is an endearing character being dragged through an under-developed plot with confused but redeemable characters, to an extent, and definitely warrants a second chance on the market. Though there are many frustrations in combat and some occasional camera issues in confined spaces, Gravity Rush has managed to create a unique “flight” mechanic that feels natural and pleasant to use. If it plays to its strengths and digs a little deeper in developing this universe, Gravity Rush could absolutely be a top-tier franchise in my eyes, but so far, its a decent game with a promising core.
Game: Gravity Rush Remastered
Review Format: Playstation 4