Gravity Rush 2 –Review

At last, Kat’s gaze turned to the top of the Pillar.

When you stop to think about it, it was kind of a dick-move to have the sequel jump ship from the Vita to the PS4. Gravity Rush was the game, the killer app, the essential product that you would get if you bought a Vita back in the day. Hell, Kat was practically a mascot for the thing for a not insignificant period of time. Then, after all the enthusiasm and loyalty that fans had shown, Sony more or less just shrugged their shoulders and said “hope to see you on the PS4!” It’s evened out slightly by the fact that a fair number of people who owned a Vita were probably intending to get a PS4 anyway, but it sure as heck left everyone who were happy to continue with just the hand-held in the dust. I understand why they had to make the jump, since the physics and graphics in Gravity Rush 2 definitely couldn’t have been achieved to the degree they were on the Vita compared to the PS4, but you can understand the complaints.

In any case, welcome to the Gravity Rush 2 review! This is coming immediately after the Gravity Rush 1 review since there’s no real reason to delay making this, but it’s worth warning that this review will assume you’ve played and completed the first game, and thus have a lot of spoilers. If you haven’t completed the first game, I would recommend playing through that one first, not only because it’s a great game, but it’ll be way easier to see if Gravity Rush 2 would be any good for you. While this sequel addresses a lot of the concerns and problems from the first game (and actually remembers to have a conclusion), if you weren’t a fan of the first I don’t think this game will have changed enough to win you over.

That all being said, if you do intend to get this game, it’s worth taking a look at this short animation that was uploaded to Playstation’s YouTube account (in this particular upload, you need to turn on captions). It’s an interquel animation that bridges the gap between the first and second game, and should probably be viewed before starting up the second game. Heck, ‘probably’ is maybe too light of a term, since there’s stuff in GR2 that outright won’t make sense unless you’ve seen the animation, up to and including crucial plot-points. While it’s odd that such crucial elements are completely separate from the games and are easily missed, this is honestly the least egregious example of this kind of thing from a Japanese development group, mostly because the absolutely mind-boggling Kingdom Hearts hand-held spin-off series exists.

With all that out of the way, let’s actually dive into the game proper, and see what kind of trouble Kat has managed to embroil herself in. The rate that this girl goes at, she’s going to need a lot more than nine lives…

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Unlike the first game, this game’s opening is a lot less enigmatic: we follow someone dressed in what looks like an old-timey diving suit as they’re lowered into a gravity storm. Through a series of conversations between a radio calling in to check on this person and a different guy dressed in a similar suit, we can gather that this seems to be some kind of mining operation. Turns out that there are a few stable gravity storms that one can use to travel great distances, and into what appears to be minor Rift Planes. Indeed, the diving suit crew are walking through a ruinous Rift Plane looking for spots to mine out ore (which appears to contain the precious gems you use for upgrading yourself). Unfortunately, as soon as they’ve arrived, reports come in that a huge gravity is incoming, and the only place this one will take you is to an early grave. The two miners we’ve been following make the questionable decision to try and quickly grab some ore before they run, resulting in getting caught in the storm. While dodging falling debris, their suits are damaged, and which result in them having to throw the things off.

Surprise surprise, it’s actually Kat and Syd! The question of what the hell they’re doing mining and why Kat isn’t using her powers will have to wait, as they can only survive for a few minutes without the suits before the pressure of the Rift Plane kills them, and the fact they’re still in the eye of a gravity storm. Thankfully, just as it appears that they’re completely done for, a woman riding a flying bike comes soaring in for the rescue, and all three bomb it out of the Rift Plane just as the storm reaches its climax.

Here we’re given a rundown of just what the heck is going on. The important points are, A) after getting dragged into the gravity storm at the end of the official animation, they’ve completely lost the ability to get back to Hekseville. B) During the madness of getting dragged into the storm, both Dusty and Raven were lost, and their current status is unknown. C) Since Dusty gives Kat her powers, she’s basically reduced to just having her eternal optimism as her only superpower. D) Until any other these other problems can be solved, Kat and Syd have fallen in this group of miners, becoming temporary residents of the flying community known as the Banga Settlement. Important folks in Banga include Lisa, the woman who saved Kat and Syd, who is the official leader of the place. She runs a tight ship, and reminds our two heroes that the suits they just lost are coming out of their meal tickets. The other most important individual in Banga is a quiet girl called Cecie, who is the unofficially adopted daughter of Lisa. Cecie is important mostly because she’s one of the few residents who are completely nice to Kat and Syd; believes the former’s claims that she used to be able to manipulate gravity; has mysterious golden eyes, and has amnesia. Considering the only other amnesiac in the entire cast is the main character, you just know the otherwise unassuming Cecie is important somehow.

In any case, after performing a few errands and getting a nice appreciation for how much we as players also miss Kat’s ability to fling herself through the air, it’s not long before Dusty reappears. After regaining her powers and saving the day, Kat’s place of respect in the community skyrockets, and she can finally move out of the duck-shed she and Syd have been sleeping in (seriously). Kat and by extension the player is then given some time to re-familiarise themselves with Dusty’s powers. For the most part, Kat’s basic movement is unchanged: simply click a button to active her gravity state, choose a direction to ‘fall’ in, and off you go. Much like before, Kat’s momentum is entirely controlled, she can change direction at any time, and hitting a surface will allow you to walk on it unhindered.  There are some minor changes, however, mostly in your camera control. Due to the motion control within the controller, it’s now possibly to change the direction the camera is facing in game by moving the controller IRL. This effect is only active when Kat is shifting gravity, and the camera can be reset at any time by pressing in one of the thumb sticks. This can be kind of a pain, since moving the controller even a little bit unintentionally can cause your view to go all over the place, but can be surprisingly useful for fine-tuning your aim while shifting gravity, and also helps to sell the sensation of tumbling and falling through the sky. In short, it’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s going to be useful or a hindrance.

You’re going to have to make that decision fairly sharp-ish, though, because troubles are brewing. It turns out that Banga is currently getting the crappy end of a deal with a group called  ‘Sun Shipping,’ who sells the ore Bagna collects. Sun Shipping is run by two brothers, one a soft-spoken martial artist, and the other…well, a prick, for the most part. Vogo (the prick) is using some underhanded tactics to rinse Banga out of cash and to push them to getting more ore than was originally agreed on. Thankfully, Banga has Kat on their side, and through a series of events that include travelling to a Rift Plane and a crazy martial arts fighting match, eventually everything is set right. Just in time too, because Banga is setting sail for the game’s main location, Jirga Para Lhao.

Jirga Para Lhao is basically Gravity Rush 2’s version of Hekseville, being a varied metropolis split into four districts, each with their theme and place in the economy. There are a few points that separate the two locations, however: for one, Jirga Para Lhao is bloody huge. There was apparently a lot more land-mass to go around for this city, since the smallest district here could comfortably contain the biggest district of Hekseville, although it probably helps that the entire city is flying. Unlike Kat’s old haunt, Jirga Para Lhao isn’t attached to any large structure or World Pillar, instead using some kind of anti-gravity technology to keep the entire city afloat. This allows the location to have a lot more verticality, since the districts can now just outright float over or under each other. Another thing that separates the two cities is just how much more colourful Jirga Para Lhao is. While Hekseville’s locations did have some theme colouring to them (pink for the entertainment district, green for the business, etc.), it had a fairly neutral tone overall, since most of the buildings were of made out of dark materials and kept fairly subdued in colour. Jirga Para Lhao meanwhile has a much more vibrant and varied use in its colour palette, up to the point where even the sky is a lot clearer and blue in this new city compared to Hekseville. Unfortunately, this only applies to most of the districts and not all, because another thing that sets Jirga Para Lhao apart is its MASSIVE disparity of wealth. The poor folk of the city live on the lowest tier in ramshackle huts that look ready to fall apart, while the rich live up in mansions on the second highest tier. While Hekseville had its share of problems, mostly in its poor choices of mayoral candidates, the gap in wealth had clearly not been as aggressive as it is in this new location.

Still, it’s not all bad. With this new location comes an excuse for developers to once again show that their music department is really earning its pay check. Like in the first game, the musical direction in this game is really strong, and I dare say even stronger than the first game. It continues its main theme of having this energetic and jazzy feel for it, though the new location seems to have strengthened the string section. As usual, since I’m musically illiterate, I’ll just dump some of my favourite tracks from the OST, since showing is better telling. Of note, the new battle-song “Storm and Triumph” (which is a great name for a battle-anything) is partly remixed from the first game’s battle theme, Resistance and Extermination. It manages to capture the frantic rush of combat while still holding onto this very heroic and adventurous pace. On a slightly more chilled scale, we have “Lei Havina” the theme for richest district in the city. If a song can sound pampered and opulent as hell, while still being a pretty great tune, this is definitely it. Although one of my personal favourites has to be the theme for the local marketplace, which is pretty distinct for being the first song you hear from Jirga Para Lhao. This is a great introduction to your new environment, because it is so different from anything you heard from the first game; it’s a real tone setter for your first steps into the new city. Take a second to appreciate the new music as you go from district to district in Jirga Para Lhao, because these new tunes are really class-A stuff.

Speaking of districts, let’s talk about Jirga Para Lhao. I’ve said it once before, but it’s worth saying again: the detail in the environment for Gravity Rush is amazingly good. While Jirga Para Lhao is somewhat more fantastical than Hekseville, mainly due to the fact this is a literal flying city, this still very much feels like a place where people work and live. The market place is a crowed and noisy space where buskers stand on every corner, the docks are suitably huge for all the commerce this place must see, and the design of everyone’s choice of clothing is notably distinct from anything you would have seen in Hekseville. There’s even the neat attention to detail that there’s a lot more flying vehicles than from the first game, which makes sense considering they’re the only way to get between the islands (presumably they run on the same tech that makes the city float, which would explain why they’re a lot more common too). The environments don’t skimp out on the sheer fun of exploration that the first game created, either. With buildings being more spaced out due to their floating nature, and the fact that everything has a lot more verticality in its layout, it’s even more entertaining to just take some time to screw around and jaunt around taking in the sights. The game gets double points for the fact that the entire map is open from the beginning: by this point Kat has gained enough mastery over her powers that she can freely fly from one district or the other, and the game won’t stop you from just going wherever you want to go. This means you’re free to explore this wonderfully detailed world at your leisure, and to find all the tiny details.

Still no explanation on where all the food is coming. Somebody mentions offhandedly something called the “mainland” exactly once in the game, but I doubt that explains things very much. I’m going to guess that the writers are going to avoid answering that particular question for as long as they’re able.

In any case, the game clearly wants you to have a good look around and treat this whole thing like a big vacation, since a new gadget that Kat gets upon arriving at Jirga Para Lhao is a portable camera that Syd fixed up. You can whip out the camera at any time, including when you’re shifting gravity, and take a picture of your environment. The camera comes with a number of features, including the ability to set up a tripod and have Kat enter the picture, which (when combined with a new ability to have Kat make various gestures) means you can create some pretty funny and neat pictures. The camera also allows the player to drop in an assortment of ‘props’ to help liven up the picture, and even allows you to change Kat’s costume on the fly. It’s surprisingly good fun to just mess around with this new feature, finding newer and stupider ways to interact with the environment. You can walk on walls and wave to the rightfully confused passersby, use the ‘surprise’ gesture to scare the hell out of someone, or just stack up a ton of toilets in one place. The possibilities are surprisingly varied for a mechanic that’s primarily just to mess around with.  Likewise, the camera plays a part in a number of side-quests, and is used in the game’s online components, so you’ll be seeing plenty of use out of the thing even if you don’t screw around as much.

Actually, let’s talk about the ‘online components,’ since I’m sure your just as confused as I was when I first heard that Gravity Rush was getting something like that. There’s numerous minor side activities you can do that connect up with other players, including rating other people’s photos, going on what’s essentially treasure hunts in the city, and even challenging people’s high scores in some of the other time/point side activities. These are actually pretty harmless: they don’t get in the way of any of the single player content, and the only thing they affect are minor cosmetic details (you can only get some costumes by collecting the ‘Dusty Tokens’ that these events give out). Overall, they’re fun, neat additions, and a good example of how to include online components in a single player game without making them too distracting. There’s also timed events where you can find challenging Nevi and go on more fruitful mining expeditions, but I managed to go the entire game without using those aspects, so I can’t really comment on them.

These online components are one part of one of the bigger improvements that Gravity Rush 2 has over its predecessor, namely that there’s a crap load more side activities and distractions to get caught up in. The sequel ups the ante a bit on the side missions by not only including a lot more varied situations and shenanigans for the player to get caught up in, but to also include more side-characters and details about the world in them. The side missions, while maintaining the stance that they’re often really low-stakes, fun shenanigans, give a lot more information on how life must be in the city and the different kinds of odd ball stuff that happens. Unlike the DLC missions from the first game, there’s a much wider cast of characters you’ll meet along the way in the optional missions, and more varied gameplay. In addition to races and combat, you’ll also have side missions that have you defending a shop by throwing junk at thugs from the rooftops, and even a mission where you have to take a dog on a walk. It’s all good stuff, and continues the important trend that they all serve to highlight more reasons to find Kat as a likeable protagonist.

Speaking of Kat, her fun sight-seeing tour is interrupted when she starts seeing first hand just how bad things are for the less fortunate in Jirga Para Lhao. Being unable to ignore her call to heroism, Kat decides to do what she can to help out while she’s in the city, knowing that she’ll have to leave with Banga when the settlement is done trading. While she tries to be low-key about the affair, she’s forced into action when she has to defend the poor citizens from a raid from the local military forces. It turns that the entire city is being ruled with an iron fist by the shadowy and extremely dick-ish Council, a group that makes crushing the poor and unfortunate into an art form. Unfortunately, her actions start to get her some negative attention from the Council’s leaders, something that Lisa is quick to remind her will affect the folks of Banga. Not one to be put off, Kat continues to offer aid to the people, which pits her against the military’s own gravity shifter, Night Gale, a woman who- wait a damn second.

GRAVITY RUSH™ 2_20170122025653

Kat is, thankfully, not stupid enough to miss the obvious: that is almost certainly Raven. However, Raven seems to not be herself, since she completely ignores Kat, and answers to the orders the military are giving her almost robotically. It takes fighting Raven (something Kat is probably used to by this point) and physically beating the weird iron mask off her face before Raven comes to. The other gravity shifter is dazed and somewhat confused, but she’s back to her old self again. Unfortunately, there’s no time to celebrate, because there’s several battalions worth of soldiers gunning for Kat. The odds are almost even, but these poor sods decided to try and attack Kat while Raven was in the vicinity, and even sending highly powerful, bipedal tanks at the duo isn’t enough.

This is where we see one of the game’s great features, namely the partnership between Kat and Raven. This is a really fun gameplay feature since Raven is extremely useful in battle: if she’s not already attacking another enemy, she will target whatever unfortunate target Kat is currently using her signature gravity kick on, and add her own version of the kick into the mix. Likewise, if you use one of the three Super Attacks you have in the game while Raven is around, she’ll combine up with Kat to make an already dangerous attack completely devastating. Even when she’s not directly helping you cut through the horde of enemies you have to deal with, she’s more than proficient at taking on enemies by herself, which is a god-send when you’re trying to mop up the last stragglers of an enemy wave. Even outside of a gameplay context, however, Raven is still a really great addition to the main cast due to how well she and Kat’s personalities bounce off each other. Having fully and definitely buried the hatchet after the events of the first game, the two have become good friends impressively quick, and have some great banter in their off-hours. We get to see that the two are more alike than previously thought, since both willingly go out of their way to help others (Kat slightly more so), have a strong desire to protect those they care about even in seemingly impossible odds, and both have humongous appetites. Raven’s slightly more cool-headed nature makes an amusing contrast to Kat’s somewhat more earnest one, and seeing them both naturally jump to watch the other’s back is great after their rivalry in the first game. The game really does all it can to sell the two’s very genuine friendship, and I’d say it was worth every effort.

(I won’t completely ignore the fact that there are a few moments where the game might be suggesting that Kat and Raven’s relationship might be slightly closer than simple platonic friendship, but I always think that’s something each individual player is going to have to interpret for themselves. I also won’t lie and say I would be against such a partnership, but I feel like I’ve already said too much.)

It’s around this stage of the game where the differences in the combat system from the first game also start to make themselves more apparent. There have been a few general tweaks to make things more interesting, for one making ground combat more viable by increasing the ground combo’s length, making dodging quicker, and just adding a nice punchy feeling to the combo. Additionally, they radically changed how throwing objects works; instead of jumping straight into the gravity state when grabbing objects, Kat will now stay put on the ground and retain her ability to run around. This makes ranged combat a lot more viable and about ten leagues less irritating. But all of these changes pale to the completely new and completely fun ‘Luna’ and ‘Jupiter’ styles. These additions are really cool for not only how much they change up the gameplay, but because they’re very thematically appropriate. For the most part they just change how much gravity affects Kat (Luna reduces gravity’s pull on Kat, while Jupiter increases it), but they notably change how Kat’s attacks operate. This means that they have some interesting applications to combat, with Luna making Kat extremely agile and allowing her to relentlessly hunt down fast enemies, while Jupiter turns Kat into a physical powerhouse capable of punching out even the toughest enemies. In addition, each style has applications outside of combat: Luna is extremely fun to use to just parkour around the city, and is quite rightly used as an alternative method to normal gravity-based flying in several missions. Jupiter, meanwhile, has less applications but is never the less pretty useful since it has the fastest gravity slide in the game, in  addition to the fact that it makes Kat rocket through the air when using the bread and butter flying techniques. On top of all of this, it’s worth noting that you can change between all three states (Luna, Jupiter and Normal) instantly, meaning combos are encouraged. Gravity Rush 2 improved on its predecessor in many ways, but just making combat and general travel even more fun was definitely one of its best aspects.

In any case, now that the crew is finally back together, Kat and co. need to address the elephant in the room and try and figure out how the hell they plan to get back to Hekseville. After all, they’re potentially hundreds of miles away, and have no idea which direction is the right one since they fell through a gravity storm to get here. Even if they could, the Council and the military are now gearing up to throw everything they’ve got at the two shifters, and Lisa’s fear that they might be starting to line up their sights on Banga is looking more and more likely. Even worse than all of this is one question that no one in-universe can even think to address: how the hell are the writers planning to actually close up Kat’s back-story now!?

As always, I don’t intend to spoil any of the major plot points, but I can at least say that the writers actually do get around to giving out the details for Kat’s mysterious past…eventually. You see, much like its predecessor, Gravity Rush 2 really likes to take it’s time when telling its story. Like before, I actually quite like the kind of pacing it sets, and the idea that Kat’s story is made up of a lot of different narratives rather than just being her own, but this does run into a pretty major issue. Namely, the game leaves it incredibly late before we actually start getting answers for the questions for the first game proposed. Gravity Rush 2  let’s itself get caught up in numerous sub-plots/story arcs before it finally checks it’s watch and realizes that its approaching the fourth-act and we still know jack-all  concrete facts about Kat’s past. This results in a lot of the story, often pretty important parts, being crammed into the final hours, nowhere near enough time to let the ideas it creates actually breathe. I don’t necessarily see this as a deal breaker, since the journey to get to that point is still great fun and even if the conclusion is a little rushed, at least this game actually had a proper conclusion, something the first game felt a little lacking in. Even if I kind of feel like priorities were a little skewed I’d be lying if I said the writing wasn’t still incredibly enjoyable, and seeing these characters getting up to more mischief is still great to watch. Hell, it even doubles down on the super-hero-comic-like feeling from before, with more nuts and themed villains acting as boss-fights throughout the game.

Maybe, in a weird kind of way, this kind of story telling works. Even if it can be a little bit all over the place, we nevertheless get to see Kat get stuck in with different scenarios that a more clean/simple story might have missed, and Kat grows as a character at each step. While we obviously can’t go into too many details about the story for spoiler reasons, I’ll risk saying that the ending to Gravity Rush 2 only increases how endearing Kat is as the protagonist.

Of course, all of that is something that’s for the far future. Kat still has to deal with a tyrannical government, find a way back home, and (unbeknownst to her) try and find out the exact nature of Dusty’s entire existence. All the while, despite being thousands of leagues from the thing, the mysteries of the World Pillar persist to dog the gravity shifter, and this time Kat will have to climb until she has answers…

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I have to admit, I kind of love these games. The Gravity Rush games aren’t really like anything else that I can think of: they’re games that have gravity based movement that, while simple, never stops being simply fun to use. A story that oddly kind of reminds me of super-hero comics due to both having an outright superhero as a main character and its use of definable story arcs. Over it all is this amazing sense of scale and detail to the environment, resulting in a world that manages to be as charming and engaging as the characters that inhabit it.

I’ll admit however that the series has it’s faults; oh boy does it have its faults. I am continually baffled by the developer’s apparent insistence on drawing out Kat’s back-story, to the point where even when they reveal details it kind of feels like they’re keeping all their cards close to their chest. Not to mention that, even after being radically improved for this second game, I still wouldn’t say that Gravity Rush’s combat is the most engaging thing in the world. Likewise, despite all the extra content that Gravity Rush 2 has, it’s still a little on the short side.

Despite all of that, I would heartily recommend Gravity Rush 2 to anyone who even just mildly liked the first game. I’m not sure if it’s changed enough to win over anybody who disliked the first game, but if you liked the first game, then you’ll probably appreciate how much this one expands on its predecessor. If absolutely nothing else, get it to try out the new Luna and Jupiter styles, which are great fun to screw around with, and are a breath of fresh air for the combat. If absolutely, absolutely nothing else, get it because this game actually remembers to have a conclusion.

The director of the series, Keiichiro Toyama, has said that he’s not necessarily planning on continuing the series for the time being, since he feels like they’ve done what they set out to achieve with these two games. That isn’t to say he’s against making a Gravity Rush 3, but he expresses the hope that he would be able to use utilise some new hardware if a hypothetical GR3 became possible. This could mean any number of things (Sony might push for a new Gravity Rush to go out when the inevitable PS5 is made, or maybe we can expect some kind of VR project at some point in the future), but it definitely means that future games are still very much a possibility.

Wherever the series goes from here, even if it actually turns that these two games are all that actually gets made, I would definitely say that Gravity Rush 1 and 2 have earned spots among my favourite games. I guess no matter how you view the world, whether you’re the right way up, floating upside down or standing on a wall, a game with heart and character is great no matter how you look at it.

2 thoughts on “Gravity Rush 2 –Review

  1. I just played the first one on vita so I can’t really compare them, however this one seems to have been graphically and technically improved. It is fascinating the use of gravity, you never get bored in that sense. It also has this comic way to tell the story which is great.
    As a huge disadvantage, the childish missions.
    Thank you for this review

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, I’m super glad you enjoyed the review! And yea, I’m a big fan of the use of comics to tell it’s story as well; they’ve got a lot of character.

      Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by the childish missions?

      Like

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