I mentioned my minor gripes with Gravity Rush 2 before, and I explained how trivial they seem to me. I’m bothered less by the game’s unreliable viewpoints or stealth missions than I am by something completely frivolous: the bonus costumes.
I will not argue that Gravity Rush is above pandering. It stars two women soaring around in relatively revealing clothing, after all. It’s always struck me as low-key in its sex appeal, however. Kat’s outfit is no more revealing than, say, an all-ages version of Wonder Woman, and if Raven’s getup is nonsensical…well, things could be worse.
Gravity Rush and Gravity Rush 2 present extra outfits for Kat, unlocked by regular gameplay and side missions, and most are disappointing. It’s not just that they’re sexy. They’re also the same vaguely fetish-driven getups forced on women in many other games: a maid costume, a nurse’s short-skirted fatigues, two different school uniforms, and so on. For a game designed with the sensibilities of an experimental comic, Kat’s wardrobe is mostly banal.
But I like some of the costumes. These three especially.
THE JAZZ SINGER
One of my favorite parts of Gravity Rush 2 has no flying, fighting, or major turns of plot. It comes when Kat sneaks aboard a military base and is mistaken for a singer. The player helps her assemble verses , and she sings them in that faux French language invented just for Gravity Rush. It’s a cute little interlude that tells Kat’s story in vignette: she’s insecure at first, but she finds her groove in no time.
And she gets to keep a long red dress for her trouble. It amuses me just because it’s the least practical thing to wear when combating cyclopean goo-monsters in floating cities. Much of Kat’s accoutrements are unrealistic (I still hate her high heels), but this red cocktail number pushes things to an absurd and hilarious apex. The game’s repertoire of poses also lets Kat sing wherever she wants. All she needs is strangers tossing change at her feet.
Raven fills several roles in the GravityRush series. At first she’s an imposing and vicious rival, a gravity shifter who’s already mastered the same powers that heroine Kat barely grasps. By the end of the first Gravity Rush she’s a reluctant ally. In between games she becomes such good friends with Kat that they’ll hang out and eat junk food together, though amnesia reverts her to a temporary antagonist by Gravity Rush 2.
Most of all, though, Raven is a big tease. She’s exactly the sort of character who should be playable, if only as a postgame extra. Yet Gravity Rush comes and goes without letting the player control Raven and her shadowy avian familiar, Xii.
Gravity Rush 2 almost does the same thing. We’re given minimal opportunities to control Raven in the main drag, but a bonus DLC quest (offered free, no less), explores Raven’s backstory. As we saw in Gravity Rush, she was one of several children marooned when their aerial bus crashed on isles further down the giant pillar at the center of the strange little world of Gravity Rush. Raven managed to escape and return to Hekseville above, and she grew up while the rest of the kids, her brother Zaza among them, stayed locked in the pillar’s timeless purgatory.
The Ark of Time: Raven’s Choice gives her a chance to set things right and Gravity Rush a chance to finally get Raven under the player’s control.
Gravity Rush and its sequel offer forthright ideals. Some harsh decisions arise in the inscrutable powers behind the strange world Kat and Raven protect, but their choices are usually clear. Even if they’re not entirely understood or appreciated, our heroines do the right thing.
That’s refreshing. We tend to favor morally opaque tales, but there’s something to be said for characters who know what’s right and a story that lets them pull it off. After the Pyrrhic bloodshed of Nier: Automata, Gravity Rush 2’s themes are a comforting wraparound.
A problem arises with Kat’s new enemies, though. Unlike the inhuman Nevi that glare and swarm like shadowy Scrubbing Bubbles, the oppressive troops of Jirga Para Lhao are people. Kat’s free to fight them with any of her techniques: kicking them, smashing them with objects caught by her gravity field, or hurling them off the floating city aisles…to an apparent death or endless fall.
Gravity Rush has an appropriate heroine in Kat. She’s gifted with unique abilities, devoted to protecting the people around her, and all too often marginalized and misunderstood. So too is Gravity Rush shuffled aside, and it only deserves that fate in a small measure. It’s not polished to a triple-A gleam and it’s not cautiously encoded for mock-ironic subculture fetishes. But it’s fascinating and unlike anything else out there.
I never tire of playing Gravity Rush, and I never tire of talking about it. Not even in that desperate, convenient list format the kids seem to enjoy these days.
These aren’t the only reasons I like Gravity Rush, but I can’t overload these daily entries.
1. THE WORLD Gravity Rush presented a strange picture: cities floating on partly natural, partly man-made islands, all orbiting a strange stone pillar and cloaked in endless, frequently clouded sky. The game dropped Kat into this realm without memories or direction, but before long she and her cat, Dusty, found their way from one section of Hekseville to the next. Questions never stopped, though. What is that giant column, and why does time creep slower further down? Where did Kat come from? And just what keeps this little archipelago afloat in the air?
Gravity Rush 2 doesn’t answer all of these. It doesn’t have to.
Instead, Gravity Rush 2 drops Kat in new places. A ragtag fleet of sky barges is home to merchants and misfits. The tropical spread of Jirga Para Lhao brings bustling markets and buzzing airships. Skyscrapers floats like bees. Mansions and elegant terraces lie above. Kat plunges into stranger places: she’ll mine crystals in the murky depths, float through dimensional rifts, and dash about a ruined city just as it’s ripped from reality. And then she’ll head back to Hekseville.
Exploring it all is marvelous. The game never explains or connects too much, and thus it leaves a little edge of uncertainty, that dreamlike sense of forces powerful and incomprehensible churning just beyond the world. When Gravity Rush 2 pulls back the curtain, it only reveals more mysteries, sending Kat on a slide through a glittering world of mirrors and asteroids or a foray through a starlit sepulcher where ammonite shells hang like enormous tree ornaments. Thank goodness.
I didn’t write about Gravity Rush 2 nearly enough. Yes, I talked it up a great deal before its release and even ran a contest about a ridiculous note pad, but I was silent about it after it arrived.
This was by design. I didn’t want to review it in the traditional sense, because that would mean rapid playthroughs and quick impressions and a patina of hasty accomplishment that would nag at me. I wanted to savor Gravity Rush 2 in the traditional sense, which involves settling in and taking a month or two to finish a game instead of hurling through it for nothing but the warped obligations of social media.
And Gravity Rush 2 was worth it.
I know it wasn’t the best game of 2017 when put under merciless critical scrutiny. It lacks the spacious worlds of Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the bleak turns of Danganronpa V3 or Persona 5, and the wonderful narrative knife-juggling of Nier: Automata. The Gravity Rush formula is still flawed, after all. Technical problems are inevitable when you send a superheroine flying through the sky, walking on the undersides of floating isles, and fighting monsters with unfettered aerial freedom. Gravity Rush 2 even makes some less excusable missteps by including a few mandatory stealth missions, never realizing that it’s the worst possible game to host them.
I loved it anyway. Gravity Rush 2 may not cohere the best, but it’s my favorite game of the year even with its inbuilt advantages. Kat her companions are endearing, their world is a lovely blend of Mobius-manga cities spread atop a marvelously surreal cosmology, and I never tire of visiting it. Soaring through a skyscraper archipelago. Plunging into the toxic mists of bizarre city ruins. Sending Kat off a building, watching her plummet, and then reminding her that she can fly the second before she hits the ground. I could play it forever.
There’s a problem, however. Sony plans to take down the Gravity Rush 2 servers this January 18, which leaves us only a week and change to enjoy the game’s online features.
This may not seem a great loss. The online element offers no multiplayer battles or vital interaction. It just lets you leave hints and challenges for other players, with Dusty Tokens for rewards. The single-player storyline will remain intact, minus a few of the bonuses available only through online tasks. It’s not as grievous as, say, a Street Fighter game losing its netplay.
Yet it’s unfortunate all the same. Gravity Rush is a series forced to fight for any scraps of attention, and losing any piece of it is a shame. One gathers that Gravity Rush 2 didn’t sell up to Sony’s standards, and it probably won’t get a sequel. Perhaps it was lucky to exist in the first place. That’s all the more reason to save every bit of it, especially a bit that lets Gravity Rush fans share the game.
Those fans will not endure this in silence. There’s a small campaign making the rounds under the Twitter hashtag #dontforgetgravityrush, and you’ll find the usual pleas and protests. I doubt it’ll do any good, but I’ll plead right along with them. Surely the tide will turn once Kid Fenris himself tells Sony to keep the servers up.
In fact, I’ll dedicate this week to talking about Gravity Rush. Each workday will see a new entry about the series, even if it’s just a list of merchandise I’d like to see for it. Space pens and balancing toys are the keys to Gravity Rush’s future, I swear.
Well, the Gravity Rush 2 Contest turned out much better than I expected. I had seven whole entries from four different people! And they were pretty good!
The winning entry came from Craig G, who cut mercilessly deep with the above revelation. Even so, Gravity Rush lets Kat throw enemy soldiers and average citizens off the edges of floating islands, allowing them to plummet into an ominous void. Perhaps she really is evil after all.
But that wasn’t the only good entry I received! Check out the others!
Gravity Rush 2 is little under a month away, and I prefer to pretend it’s already here. I’m running a Gravity Rush contest for a few more days, and I’m busy playing the demo that went up on the PlayStation Network last week. And just today, Sony released the two-part Gravity Rush: The Animation – Overture. Sure, you can watch it for free on Sony’s YouTube Channel, but why do that when instead you can read my opinion of it?
Or maybe I’ll just use a picture.
A bridge between the first game and the sequel, Overture answers at least one important question about Gravity Rush: what do the characters like to eat?
Yes, it goes all of two minutes before trotting out a harmless but tiresome cliché: the heroine flying into a violent fury when a precious, newly acquired snack is destroyed. Floating around a market, Kat buys a kabob, loses it, and trashes bug-eyed Nevi shadow creatures, whereupon Raven, her less cheerful rival, shows up and lends a hand. This occupies half of Overture’s running time.
The second half jumps back a short while and finds Kat and Raven eating snacks (of course) and discussing a recent spate of disappearances in their home city of Hekseville. They’re suddenly sent to a mysterious floating island where a HAL-like computer holds children hostage in little power cels. Two half-masked, mummy-like antagonists appear, and then everyone ends up warped to the strange new city we’ll see in Gravity Rush 2.
Overture is an enjoyable gap-filler, all things considered. I can’t imagine it swaying those with no interest whatsoever in Gravity Rush, but it brings up the game’s best points. The animation is vibrant and mostly fluid, capturing the details of the floating city and Kat’s bubbly personality—which fortunately develops beyond “I like to eat” in the second half. It also keeps the fictional language from the games, as the characters all use the same melodious semi-French, semi-Japanese tone (in which Kat and Raven’s names sound the same as they do in English). I’m a sucker for made-up languages. I’d watch Barb Wire if everyone talked like they were speaking Italian and Swahili backwards.
Short as it is, Overture stokes my Gravity Rush 2 interest, which was, of course, crazily high already. I’m gonna go play the demo another dozen times.
Gravity Rush 2 was delayed, and I needed to compensate somehow. Sony wasn’t diplomatic about their reasons, either. Both Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian are shipping in late November or early December, and those games would bury Gravity Rush 2 and bury it deep. The solution? It’s now coming January 17. That way Resident Evil 7 and Tales of Berseria can bury it.
Without any chance to buy Gravity Rush 2 this year, I decided to buy something related to Gravity Rush 2. I went to eBay and looked for the cheapest possible fix.
I found this, an apple-shaped Gravity Rush 2 notepad. Apparently given away at conventions, it’s pretty much the only promotional trinket I’ve seen for the game. It’s about the size of a standard Post-It pad, and it was only 99 cents. That wasn’t bad, even if buying it would mean that I spent money on blank pieces of paper somehow connected to Gravity Rush 2.
Gravity Rush is my favorite game from last year. It was the reason I bought a Vita, and it’s the reason I still own a Vita. It gives a woman named Kat control over her personal gravity, and she slowly becomes a floating city’s misunderstood resident superhero. The journey isn’t entirely smooth for her or the player, but there’s rarely a tepid moment. It’s incredibly fun just to mess with gravitational defiance, to send Kat hurtling across skyscrapers and racing along the underside of a metropolis that’s part Mobius comic, part Russian art deco. It’s a shame that the Vita’s limited success keeps Gravity Rush out of reach for many.
A certain part of Gravity Rush is troubling in one way or another. The game uses the Vita’s touch screen primarily for menus and one rather unnecessary sliding move, yet there’s a secret addition. If you touch Dusty, Kat’s pet cat and floating companion, he’ll disintegrate in a puff of smoke and re-materialize himself a second later. If you touch Kat, she’ll gasp in surprise and look around her.
Many of the Gravity Rush players who’ve noticed this assume that it’s some perverted joke, and they point out that Kat vaguely motions at her rear end as though to shield it. Sadly, this would fit with another unpleasant part of Gravity Rush. While the game takes the high road a good deal of the time, at least one scene subjects Kat to the sexualized nonsense that comic books often visit upon their heroines; a visitor catches her just after a shower, so she loses her towel and blushes. Haw haw. And since Kat’s an exceptionally likable and sympathetic heroine, this event grates even more than it would in a mediocre game. Gravity Rush, you are better than this.
But let’s give director Keiichiro Toyama and the Gravity Rush team the benefit of the doubt for a short while. Kat’s response is the same no matter where the player taps her, and her motions are identical to those she makes if she drifts too far from the city and warps back to safety. It suggests that she’s perplexed rather than harassed, or at least that the director left it purposefully vague.
Kat’s reaction is still disturbing, but for a much better reason. She’s felt the presence of some unseen entity, a being that exerts control over everything she does. Kat may be esteemed as the “Gravity Goddess” in her own world, but she now realizes that she isn’t the top of the pantheon. Unlike the player lending prayers to the final battle in Earthbound or fielding questions from the robot-girl of Wonder Project J2, there’s nothing comforting about Kat’s brush with her manipulator. She clearly doesn’t know what she experienced, only that it came from a place beyond everything she knows. As with all cases of omnipotent intercession, she can’t be sure it even happened.
Kat recovers quickly from her tinge of divine influence, and it leaves any reflection up to the player. Perhaps you, the meddlesome architect of Kat’s triumph and suffering alike, should feel bad about confusing her. You’ve dropped her off floating cities, crashed her into streets, and pressed her into service for both a scheming military and ungrateful citizens. Now you’re giving her existential tremors.
Dusty, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care about otherworldly taunts or the fragile curtain of Gravity Rush‘s reality. He’s a cat, after all.
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