The Essay: The Wonders Of Gravity Rush and Its Under-Appreciated Beauty

By Ronald Gordon

I just kept going. It’s not often that I find myself focusing my attention on a game for long enough that I try to get every achievement possible. Most of the games I play seem almost impossible to 100% finish, either because of their sheer size or the complexity of their achievements. Yet Gravity Rush gave me something to play for. It wasn’t merely the achievements, or the idea of completing the game 100%, it was the joy I got out of just playing; the energy alone was enough to keep me grounded in the series for more than 100 hours. It only seemed fair that I do my best to collect every achievement possible.

Gravity Rush, known in Japan as Gravity Daze, is a series of amazing action-adventure games, developed by Japan Studio and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the Playstation consoles. First developed in 2012 for the Playstation Vita, where it had a bit of a bumpy start, Gravity Rush Remastered came to the Playstation 4 in 2016. Many people were taken by its charm, but it wasn’t a complete experience. That’s because the original launch was a rushed job that left a lot of room for the second game, which had begun development at the same time as the first. Gravity Rush 2, released in 2017, added much more than just a fitting conclusion to the underappreciated masterpiece of a story that had begun in Gravity Rush.

I liked how you didn’t learn everything right off the bat; you were allowed to build your own story as time went along, assembling the bits and pieces of what happened while leaving the backstory of Kat, the protagonist, up in the air until the very end. This allowed Kat to develop through her own actions, creating a fun and interactive character we watch grow and change alongside the cast of colorful supporting characters.

When the story does fully emerge, however, it reveals how impactful a lot of those past moments are in relation to the Gravity Rush world and the people within it. For instance, in Gravity Rush 1, the city of Hekseville was small until Kat helped it thrive by helping to bring back its parts from the various Gravity Storms that had sucked them up prior to her arrival. That also allowed further conflicts to materialize thanks to the lack of communication between people and the failure of the power structure to help those in need. In Gravity Rush 2, the contrast between Jirga Para Lhao and Hekseville allowed for a vastly expanded array of interactions, which in turn brought new friction and fresh story elements.

The characters are a particular strength of Gravity Rush. Kat is one of my all-time favorite Protagonists ever; her humorous mannerisms and good-natured attitude make her come across as something other than a generic hero. She doesn’t have a superior moral code or many ethics to follow. She lives in a run-down sewer pipe with borrowed furniture, for crying out loud! Even as people began to recognize her as “The Gravity Queen,” Kat never considered herself a celebrity and only wanted people to see her as a friendly face, furthering her appeal to those she wished to help. But even though she isn’t after fame, that doesn’t mean Kat doesn’t try her best to do what she thinks is right. 

Of course, that’s what she thinks is right, not what some others might. Parts of Gravity Rush 1 and 2’s main and side story content revolve around Kat disagreeing with someone else over the correct path to follow, like Gravity Rush 1’s antagonist Mayor D’nelica, who believes in using the always-attacking Nevi as a weapon. Kat disagrees: she thinks that the Nevi should just be dealt with and not manipulated. Kat even comes to blows with friendly characters such as Lisa from Gravity Rush 2 who, after having lived under the boot of the rich and powerful all her life, regarded fighting back as pointless until Kat takes matters into her own hands, inspiring many like her to do the same. This manner of interaction fleshes out not only those two characters, but the various others in both games, since everyone has their opinions, everyone has their goals, and it’s Kat’s relationships with them that brings out the truth of their personalities. The friends she made along her journey were all loveable sorts, and they all felt like family to Kat and were family to me, too, as I played through the story.

The gravity shifting and combat is something uncommon, hard to learn but easy to master after some time experimenting with the controls. It’s one of the most discombobulating games I’ve ever played, because of how absurd the camera can become when your character can stand on any surface. Yet that’s what makes it entertaining, because you can fiddle around and end up in a place you never expected just by aiming to land on a wall and walking around. And Gravity Rush’s main gameplay mechanic only improves with the second game and the addition of new gravity styles.

The fluidity of the combat, a heavy part of both games, is also fun to mess around with. Right from the first game, Kat has a laundry list of moves you can use to your advantage: The gravity kick, the slide attack, the stasis field, and the special moves all have their own uses. And with Lunar & Jupiter styles from Rush 2, Kat’s full arsenal makes her a beast in offensive and defensive combat, giving the player a lot of wiggle room. With a dodge, you can interrupt a gravity kick – a move where Kat launches herself at the opponent with her heel out – and reposition yourself, picking up items in a stasis field and throwing them at strange and unorthodox angles. That allows you the freedom of aerial combat, and you can even employ grounded combat while completely upside-down or sideways. None of the various things I’ve listed ever felt strange or unwieldy; it all blended into a comfortably awkward experience that makes the game special.

This series is honestly one of the most charming I’ve ever experienced. The game simply feels natural to play. Maybe it’s the world it’s set in, with its collection of densely packed cities floating atop an ocean of clouds that cling to a nearly unending tree stretching high into the sky and reaching far below into a swirling black void. It could be the lovely music of its soundtrack, upbeat and cheery yet ever changing to fit the mood and circumstance. Perhaps it’s the characters and their mannerisms or even the language they speak, which sounds like a blend of French and Japanese. I’ve never felt happier than when I was zipping around the various parts of Hekseville, flying through the waves of buildings or leaping through the regions of Jirga Para Lhao to see all the clusters of people doing their-day-to-day shopping or travel, stopping to glance at the spectacle that is Kat the Gravity Queen and her shifting abilities. I believe I’ll remember Kat as one of the most charismatic protags from one of the most delightful games.

But I’m saddened as I write this and realize how small a foothold Gravity Rush has in Sony’s backlog. It’s truly an underappreciated masterpiece of a game series, one that I hope gets a third installment in the near future. If not, I’ll have to be satisfied with what I’ve experienced so far. I’d buy it all over again if I had the chance to. 

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