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Gravity Rush (PS Vita) Review

/ Jul 3rd, 2012 No Comments

Gravity Rush Review

Gravity Rush Review

Gravity Rush Review

The PS Vita wasn’t blessed with the strongest of launch title line-ups, but things are starting looking up for the fledgling hand-held. Easily the most hotly anticipated post-launch title to date, Gravity Rush takes advantage of the Vita’s robust hardware and delivers an experience uniquely suited to the device. The game takes place in a fictional, floating city called Heksville. You play through the story as Kat, an amnesiac with a nebulous feline-like companion that gives her the power to manipulate gravity. With this power comes the responsibility of protecting the people of Heksville from the threat of a Gravity Storm and the monstrous Nevi invasion. Gravity Rush is a refreshing new take on the JRPG that traverses unexplored terrain while still bringing that feeling of nostalgia.

Gameplay

Gravity Rush for PS Vita

Gravity Rush for PS Vita

Gravity Rush’s gravity-centric gameplay mechanics offer new and exciting ways to engage in combat and explore its open-world environment. As with any good RPG, your powers are limited starting off and it takes a good 3-4 missions before you really get the hang of it. It is one of the first titles to really integrate the Vita’s touchscreen and gyroscope in a truly purposeful way. Whether it’s because I’m a creature of habit or impatient, I prefer to use the analog stick over the gyro while shifting through the air. However, gravity sliding requires both thumbs on the touchscreen, and the gyroscope works well in this case.

While story missions are rather linear, the game offers an array of side missions and welcome distractions. To level up, Kat must gather gems that are scattered throughout Heksville, offered as prizes for conquering challenge missions, or dropped from the Nevi you’ve destroyed. Taking time to fly around Heksville to gather gems can take time, and it’s akin to the “grinding” of JRPGs past. However, there are many other discoveries to be made while exploring the open-world, and that keeps the game interesting.

Gravity Rush employs a real-time battle system in which Kat must use her gravity powers to take down the Nevi. The combat takes some getting used to, and it may be off-putting for gamers who are expecting this to be a solid action game. However, for an RPG, I found my scuffles with the Nevi to be both entertaining and challenging at times. Combining both gravity techniques and traditional brawling, with a screen swipe or two thrown in for good measure, keeps the combat interesting. Some techniques take more time to master than others, but practice makes decent (or something like that). Overall, it works well within the confines of the story. There are no random encounters in the game and the Nevi only appear in story or challenge missions.

Story

Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush’s setting is very whimsical and slightly reminiscent of Miyazaki, with a bit of European flair. Heksville is a fantastical representation of industrial revolution era Europe with a great steampunk-vibe. The story follows Kat, our protagonist, an amnesiac with powers that have been newly bestowed on her by her cosmic cat-like companion. With her new abilities, she takes it upon herself to help the people of Heksville by fighting the Nevi, the game’s resident monsters, and retrieving parts of the city that were swept away by the gravity storms. She makes new friends, encounters several foes, and even builds a humble home in the sewer system below town.

Gravity Rush’s story isn’t the most sophisticated, and the characters aren’t the most compelling or original, but it retains a certain kind of charm that just works for this kind of game. Storybook political corruption, over-the-top bad guys, incompetent cops, a pushy and arrogant military, and a naïve young female protagonist abound. It’s something more reminiscent of Disney than Taratino, which can be a nice change of pace in a world where exaggerated violence and gore is par for the course. Not that I’m opposed to any of the aforementioned.

Graphics

Screenshot from Gravity Rush

Screenshot from Gravity Rush

Visually, the game is stunning. Gravity Rush’s cell-shaded animation and comic-book art style work wonderfully to bring the world of Heksville to life. From a distance, the cityscape is represented as a simplistic ink-outline with details filling in as Kat makes her approach. While this is likely done to avoid overtaxing the cpu/ram, the transition from a 2D skyline to a richly detailed 3D landscape adds to the fantastic feeling of the game.

Gravity Rush’s cut scenes employ both animation and interactive comic book panels to advance the story. The comic book panels are dynamic and occasionally include animated sequences. They also shift in space with the Vita’s gyroscope. Swiping through the comic portions of the game is a nice touch, as it also serves to distract the player while the game loads in the background—which makes the load times feel very brief. The character design and animation has a very Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli feel to it (if that means nothing to you, think “Japanese Disney”). It lends to the epic and fantastical feeling Gravity Rush’s game-world gives you.

Sound

Gravity Rush doesn’t feel like a stripped down title designed strictly for portable gaming, and that’s due in large part to its overall production values. The developers certainly didn’t skimp when it comes to the soundtrack and sound design. From the game’s epic orchestral opener through the various areas of Heksville, we are treated with a wonderfully thoughtful soundtrack that further adds to the animated movie-like qualities of the game. We’re not talking an entirely synth-generated orchestra here either. SCE Japan actually hired real musicians to record the soundtrack, something usually reserved for big budget console franchises. As trivial as this may seem to the non-musically inclined gamers out there, this is truly something special. While the PS Vita’s built-in speakers do an admirable job of reproducing the music and sound effects of the game, I would highly recommend putting on the headphones, or a good pair of earbuds, for this one even if you don’t have to.

Overall

With its high production values, entertaining storyline, and unique gameplay mechanics, Gravity Rush is a breath of fresh air for Vita owners looking for something other than a port of a game they’ve already played. While it’s definitely not for everyone, Gravity Rush should certainly please fans of the JRPG—a club in which I’m a full fledged-member. It’s a new twist on the genre with clever mechanics, a real-time battle system, and plenty of side-quests to keep the player busy.

Overall Ratings – Gravity Rush (PS Vita)

Gameplay:

9/10

Story:

8/10

Graphics:

9/10

Sound:

10/10

OVERALL SCORE:

90%

Joe Van Fossen

Joe Van Fossen

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Joe Van Fossen is an avid gamer, film nerd, and unabashed gadget geek. When he's not playing games, watching movies or gadgeteering, he's writing about it (or he's off playing music in some seedy bar somewhere in L.A. or Orange County).
Joe Van Fossen

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