Raven fills several roles in the Gravity Rush 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.
Not that we should build things up too much. Raven plays a lot like Kat, only with different projectiles, a birdlike ultimate form, and an attack method that favors slamming the button rapidly. It’s an interesting turn, but it never makes Raven into the experienced, graceful gravity shifter you’d rightfully expect her to be.
Raven’s Choice also pulls away from actual combat. Following some initial battles in Hekseville, Raven finds herself in an ornate dimensional fissure. She roams about as a child, defenseless as she dodges the robotic creatures who devour time anomalies. It’s less annoying than Gravity Rush 2’s few ill-advised stealth missions, though, and the peek behind the curtain is compelling. Gravity Rush is a place of pocket dimensional oddities and bizarre interludes, running on logic that’s vaguely explained at best. Instead of hand-wavy nonsense, however, it seems deliberate and satisfying. Who would want a prosaic, exacting revelation for a game full of sky cities and larval versions of the oil slick monster from Star Trek?
The side-story eventually brings back adult Raven for some familiar, gravity-based brawling. And then it’s pretty much over. At only six missions, it’s a morsel, and that’s likely why Sony decided to give us this bonus for free.
Brief as it is, Raven’s Choice at least gives its heroine her due attention and an end to her struggle. The finale trots out a cliche that I can’t explain without spoiling a few things, so here’s a paragraph break.
It’s halfway tragic: Raven rescues her childhood friends and brother, but she gives up her memories of them, warping the timestream to the point where the accident never happens and she’s able to meet herself. Fortunately, everything works out, and we’re left to ponder this increasingly common plot device.
It often strikes me as a weak compromise: if you can’t kill off a character, do the second most vicious thing and wipe their memories. You’ll get a vague sense of loss without doing any damage. And hey, new memories congeal over time.
I don’t mind that cliche so much here, though. Gravity Rush is a series that messes with its own reality like a stew of Legos, and it hits a little harder when Raven has to give up a sliver of her being. When the entire world trembles at the eye of a gravity storm, all you really have is your identity.
Oddly enough, Raven’s Choice delivers one newly playable character while introducing two more tantalizingly unavailable ones. Raven faces the embodiments of the world’s yin-yang forces: the exuberant Lumino looks to have stumbled out of Asura’s Wrath, while the dyspeptic Tenebria is a gloomer version of Morrigan from Darkstalkers (or Slan from Berserk, if you must). Their light-and-dark abilities are seen in far too brief boss fights, and their roles end with Raven’s Choice. I’d hope for their to be playable in the next Gravity Rush game, but…well…
At least this little offshoot grants Raven center stage. She’s also selectable in one of the main game’s mining missions once Kat’s cleared enough levels there. Too bad Raven’s not playable in the entire core of Gravity Rush 2.
I’ll say this, too: Raven gets the better deal when it comes to Figma’s line of Gravity Rush toys. Based on nothing but promo images, I think the Raven figure does a better job of capturing the character. The Kat figure isn’t terrible, but her default face makes her look like a sunburned chipmunk grandmother. If I could bring myself to spend sixty dollars on an action figure the size of a regulation Ninja Turtle, Raven would be my first choice.