As I turned gravity on and off like you would a lamp, I was constantly reminded of Douglas Adams and his famous words on how to fly in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s something I was reminded of because of how often I failed to heed his careful words. “There is an art,” it says, “or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” The quote rolled through my head like a stock ticker as Kat would miss a kick and smash herself square into a building. But even though I’d miss more kicks than an American soccer player, Gravity Rush: Remastered creates an attractive world that pulls players into the most anime video game ever.
That last sentence is somewhat of a loaded statement: if you enjoy animes, you’ll find a lot of simularities with the art style, plot development and devices, and characterization in a way that I haven’t actually seen in most other anime-like video games. The game almost has what would oddly be called an “anime atmosphere,” feeling coherent and well thought out. It even has things like the traditional costumes for the main character, the first two of which I correctly predicted as being a schoolgirl outfit and a maid outfit. I’d theorize that it’s because Gravity Rush isn’t just a rehashing of an existing property, giving the writing team more room to gear the plot and its elements towards a video game format.
The consistency in atmosphere could also be due to the successful work of Keiichiro Toyama, lead director of Gravity Rush, who also directed the original Silent Hill. While the plot to the original Silent Hill wasn’t the greatest, the game’s ability to create a coherent environment and atmosphere is still one of the best examples to date, even 17 years later.
Gravity Rush’s first surprise occurs when you start it up. I slipped the disc squarely into the slot of my PS4, went to the bathroom to let it start the modern gaming tradition of a game download/game update, and was surprised to find only a title screen. That’s right, the game just works straight off the disc! It’s a modern marvel that SCE Japan should be given some sort of award or prize for, even if Gravity Rush is a heavily enhanced port of a Vita title.
Gravity Rush starts by tapping an apple and watching boring old regular gravity do its normal routine: have the apple fall next to a girl’s head. The girl wakes up with the classic case of full-blown amnesia, completely forgetting basic facts about the world around her, where she came from, or who she is. Like all amnesia patients, she’s followed around by a strange creature that only talks in inhuman groans and seems to have the ability to manipulate natural law. Unlike in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, though, the creature is a harmless cat that looks like it was the test subject of a child’s late-night bedazzling experiments.
The girl with no name decides it a more pertinent task to name the cat Dusty, leaving her vulnerable to what’s classically known as minor character naming influence, with which the name Kat is given to her by a police officer. It’s revealed that the town she finds herself in has been ripped from proper time and space, leaving them floating in a fragment of gravitational forces and under the constant threat of some force called the Nevi. They’re Jello-like creatures that have energy orbs keeping them alive, leaving combat to focus around “hit the Nevi in the balls.”
Kat then also becomes aware of her ability to manipulate gravity, which she quickly connects to Dusty. With the flick of a button, Kat neutralizes the gravity around her, causing her to float aimlessly in the air. With a second click of the same button, she changes the direction that gravity pulls her towards the direction the reticle is pointed. This can allow her to walk on walls, fall in a direction that looks like she’s flying, and allow some of the most fun traveling experiences ever. The gravity feature eliminates gravity in a small orb around her, meaning that you can accidentally pick up barrels, garbage bags, and even the denizens of Hekseville, leaving them to hurtle onwards into a red and black abyss.
The key is using the gravity mechanic most effectively in combat. Players can pick up objects and fling them at enemies, perform a flying kick into enemies, or even just use the gravity to fly around and avoid enemy shots towards Kat. While initially the enemy design is pretty basic and minimal, the Nevi creatures begin to create more devilish and daring creatures. Once you pick up how to use the gravity mechanic, combat becomes a somewhat disorienting, yet engaging, system that could only be improved by adding more moves than just kick, gravity kick, tossing objects, and the three specials that you eventually acquire.
Cut scenes are done in one of two ways: either as a scripted event in the game’s environment or as a manga-esque strip of scenes. The oddest part of it all is when the game attempts to have Kat “speak” by only having subtitles at the bottom of the screen. She’s not a “silent protagonist,” since in the manga-style scenes she’s obviously talking. But then she’ll just have some sort of internal monologue with herself when in-game or during cut scenes, which was just odd. I feel like Kat’s character should have had some sort of voice actor with it to help better articulate her, rather than making her feel like some sort of mute in one scene and a chatter box in the next.
Overall, Gravity Rush has managed to create a video game that captures the essence of animes and mangas. There were moments where I’d get hints of Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, while things like combat and enemy design were more reminiscent of Nogarami. Lacking any direct source material, Gravity Rush has overwhelmingly topped games like Naruto Shippuden or One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 in emulating the feeling of a top-tier anime. Gravity Rush’s unique setting, solid characterization, and quirkiness make it a solid title to add to the ever-growing list of ported and enhanced Vita titles.