Fall in love with Gravity all over again.
My sealed copy of Gravity Rush for the Vita will likely always remain so, thanks to the Gravity Rush Remastered copy I received for review last year on the PS4. Like many, it was a game that looked undeniably cool, but was frozen in a backlog until I played through the Remastered release *and loved it.*
Gravity Rush 2 (GR2) picks up just a few months after the events of the first game which saw our heronie, Kat, and her pet cat named Dusty, triumph and save the town of Hekseville from peril. While it’s ideal to have played through the first game before diving into the sequel, it’s hardly required. Personally I think it’s a good idea for developers to include a synopsis video, for example like what we saw in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, to remind or introduce players to the context of the game, but that it’s missing here in Gravity Rush 2 is not a problem.
Anyway, GR2 begins on the small floating town of Banga. It’s ran by a head-strong woman who is currently letting Kat and Syd live there, so long as they earn their keep by mining ore deep inside gravity wells, or vortexes. It’s a dangerous, painful job, especially for Kat who has become separated from Dusty, the mystical cat that gave her the gravity-bending powers the game is known for. This opening hour or so of the story introduces players to some of the characters and concepts, but soon enough you’re reunited with Dusty and the real meat of the gameplay mechanics and elements come to the fore. Kat’s ability to ‘fall,’ fly, slide, kick (both on the ground and with the help of gravity), and throw (using the stasis field) are all here from the first game. In practice, they’re used in the same ways, although the Gravity Throw has been significantly improved making it easier to target multiple enemies and do impressive damage to them. This means you will be spending less time performing constant Gravity Kicks during battles against the Nevi, and now also a Council army, than in the previous game.
Taking a step back, I have to say, I don’t think there is a cooler, more consistently fun way to navigate your character around an open world game than what SIE JAPAN Studio has created with the Gravity Rush series. It’s so much fun to just ‘be’ in GR2 — to navigate the massive, floating city of Jirga Para Lhao, which is 2.5x the size of Hekseville. Jirga Para Lhao has a wonderfully colorful, jazzy atmosphere about it being both inspired by Latin America and Asian influences and it’s a really potent blend. Kohei Tanaka’s score is superb, too.
Jirga Para Lhao acts as the main city for the game, and there is a ton of things here for the player to do. A well-designed map interface, available at anytime by pressing right on the d-pad, helps you figure out what events are available to you and you can set a waypoint on any marker to help get you there quickly. A variety of mission types are available: Story, Side (over fifty included), Challenge, Mining, Treasure Hunts, A-sync Online Races — and within these is a lot of smile-inducing creativity as well. For example, sometimes you need to help deliver newspapers in the city, racing against time to do so. Other times you’re trying to follow a bird that stole your lunch just as you bought it from a street vendor. Or maybe you need to figure out what gift you can get the boss of Banga. You can also take on races and ‘defeat all enemy’ encounters. A photo mode is included with alternate costumes, gestures, and the ability to upload and share your photos to get rated by other players. Treasure Hunts and a-sync online races are yet more ways to get involved in the online community should you choose to. Unfortunately, with the timing of when we got our review copy and when the server side data needed to be wiped, I didn’t get to do these, but, they’re not really my cup of tea anyway.
What is much more appealing to me, unlike many open world games, is taking on every Story and Side mission I can. The map makes it easy to stay on top of what’s available, and the design of these makes them appealing enough to keep doing. The Side missions typically focus on more character and story development angles, and are sometimes surprisingly long, but, they’re always worthwhile in my experience. Heading into the Mines is similar to doing the Rift Planes challenges in the first game; here you can find plenty of gems, tough foes, and Talismans, a new type of power-up that you can equip three different types of to alter how your character heals and moves, attack power, and so forth.
GR2 also brings two new gravity styles that you can switch to quickly by swiping on the touchpad. These come after several hours of gameplay, but you will get both a Lunar style and a Jupiter style. The Lunar style gives Kat a cool bluish look and makes gravity lighter, which means you can jump higher. Your Gravity Kick and Throw change, too — the Kick becomes the Wormhole Kick, meaning you can warp right up to your enemy and kick them, avoiding their attacks along the way. It’s not a powerful kick, it’s more likely to hit your enemy. The Throw changes to the Vortex Throw which stuns enemies as they’re pummeled with multiple hits. Jupiter style is basically the opposite — slower, yet more powerful. The Surge Kick has an area of effect to cause splash damage to surrounding enemies while the Debris Ball does exactly what it sounds like — Kat forms a large sphere of whatever is nearby and launches it at the enemy, causing a potentially staggering amount of damage.
New ways to play and new things to do add up to a lot more available gameplay in GR2 than the first game, which is not to suggest that the first game was short in anyway. Whereas you might have spent fourteen to eighteen hours of the first, given the sheer size of the world in GR2 and the amount of content, you could easily spend into the high 30s here. A Stats screen in the pause menu can help you realize where you stand with all of the different missions and upgrades, too. Speaking of upgrades, there’s quite a few — and for those players that take the time to explore just outside of the main areas, there are a ton of gems to find and I haven’t been this addicted to collecting things in a game since the first Gravity Rush, and probably not since Crackdown before that. Exploring in GR2 is a fun diversion because, and I know this is both subjective and vague, it’s simply fun to be playing GR2 in the first place. The pacing, freedom, atmosphere, difficulty, controls, it’s all so well balanced and inviting yet still rewarding enough to the player that it makes it a treat to play.
As I wrap up this review, I find myself in a similar position as I was one year ago when I reviewed GR Remastered — having a ton of fun and finding very little to complain about. That’s not to say GR2 is perfect, or that any game can be, but any gripes I have would be minor and far overshadowed by the game’s resounding positives. It’s fair to say it’s 2017’s first must-have game.