After experiencing a year of lackluster sequels, Gravity Rush 2 is a breath of fresh air and a hopefully a harbinger of great things coming in 2017.
Longtime fans of the series will be thrilled to know that this game follows immediately after the events of Gravity Rush and stays true to its roots throughout the game. The game has gotten a makeover in both its gameplay as well as its setting, but the fundamentals of what made me a fan of Gravity Rush are still present throughout.
The story begins with Kat and Syd in a mining settlement called the “Banga Settlement” and a brief introduction of how you guys landed there. For fans of the series, or those who are familiar with the lore in this game, these events occur almost immediately after the closure of Gravity Rush. It almost feels like this was intended to be a “Part 2” to Kat’s story, rather than a sequel. The game does a decent job of introducing the new characters within the world, as well as introducing both Syd and Kat to newcomers. However, the game does lack in its later levels when introducing some of the other prominent characters that came from Gravity Rush.
As an example, in Gravity Rush 2, you can play alongside a character by the name of Raven. This ability is unlocked after a quest is completed in the main storyline, and the story of the quest is dripping with throwback lore to Gravity Rush. Existing fans, or even people who have played through the first game would understand the prominence of both the quest as well as unlocking Raven, however, newcomers would struggle to understand its significance. The game simply assumes that if you are playing this game, then you’ve played through Gravity Rush. This may be the case for the clear majority of players, but doesn’t’ help to get newcomers to the series. Which is unfortunate because when comparing the overall playability of Gravity Rush 2 to Gravity Rush, this game takes the cake.
I was never able to play Gravity Rush in its original form on the PS Vita, but I was lucky enough to play through the remastered version on PS4 shortly before Gravity Rush 2 came out. Although the developers did an amazing job of making this remastered version feel like a PS4 game, there were still pockets here and there where it was blaringly obvious that this game was initially designed to be on a handheld system. The controls for flying were cumbersome to master and the occasional weird glitch during moments of battle were all constant enough for me to feel like I was playing a PS Vita game on the PS4. As a newcomer to the series, Gravity Rush was hard for me to get through because of how challenging it was to master the controls on a PS4 controller. It felt like a grind at times, and I found myself running through the game to experience the story rather than the game itself.
With Gravity Rush 2, I did not experience this feeling once. I wanted to keep playing through all the side quests and challenge missions just to experience more of the gameplay. It was polished and fun to play because it was such a striking change to the first installment. The developers also added several new fighting mechanics throughout the game that you unlock at different points. The level up system is still the same in that you obtain power crystals to then spend on upgrading Kat, but the developers have changed it to allow for more customization in how you play. Instead of spending all crystals on one ability or upgrade at a time, you can allocate certain percentages of your crystals to different abilities to work around how you, as a player, play Kat.
The setting of Gravity Rush, although fun to play through, at times felt drab and dreary. It was always a constant reminder that I was playing a remastered version of a game that had previously been released on a handheld system. Gravity Rush 2, in comparison, felt alive and vibrant. The city setting was so colorful and full of people to pick up with your stasis field and chuck around!
Director Keiichiro Toyama cites that much of the inspiration for the setting of both Gravity Rush and Gravity Rush 2 was drawn from the surreal sci-fi styles of French cartoonist Jean “Moebius” Giraud. “Moebius” was a pseudonym that Giraud used while creating some of his work and is defined as, “an impossible object that loops back into itself perpetually; a single surface that exists as both one and a pair”. This is fitting for a game that you can literally play with dimension at the press of a button, a game where you can see the world as one way and then the next second see it in a completely new light. Gravity Rush 2 far outshines its predecessor in capturing this feeling as you warp space around you and experience the beautiful world from all angles. One critique that I had with Gravity Rush was that even if you were running around on the side of a building or underneath the floating city platform, it felt like you were doing just that. It felt like you had just shifted your camera but that the world itself was still just the same. In Gravity Rush 2 when you shift your gravity to go under or on the side, you feel like you have just stepped into another world within the world you were running around in before.
Putting aside the difficulties new players will face in grasping the story, Gravity Rush 2 is able to pick up where Gravity Rush left off. The controls have drastically improved to make a much more enjoyable experience for both newcomers and longtime fans. The concept of “Moebius” has been taken to the next level in level design and the vibrancy of the world helps to make it a much more immersive experience. But for everything that it does well, if I had not played the first game I would have been lost in the character development and story. This is unfortunate because if they had at least created a prolog to the game, this could have been resolved. This game is far more enjoyable to play than the first game, but the confusion holds it back. For this reason, I score this game a solid 8 out of 10.