Near the end of this Summer, some part of my brain broke and I convinced myself buying a PS Vita was a worthwhile endeavor. I’m not sure if it was worth it, but dammit I’ll get my money’s worth out of it, even if it kills me. I made sure to get one I could use homebrew on, so I can get emulators and… other things. I kept reading that the fat model is superior since it has an OLED display, but it’s honestly not that great, and that model has a proprietary charging cable whose housing broke the second time I plugged it in. In retrospect, the slim model is the better choice, it’s lighter, has a micro-usb port, and has cooler colored models, at the expense of an LCD screen. The hardware is nice enough, but the proprietary, overpriced memory cards and the poorly implemented back touchpad are big downsides. I’ve made do with a 16GB memory card, but if you have homebrew you can buy a microSD card adapter which is much more economic. I’m not sure if I could recommend a Vita on the hardware alone, since it’s the software that really sells it.
And one of the biggest early exclusives for Vita was Gravity Rush, a neat little action game with an equally neat mechanic. Its developer is notable: Project Siren, a group led by Keiichiro Toyama, most notable for writing and directing the first Silent Hill.
Anyways, Gravity Rush tries to make use of a lot of the Vita’s functions, to some degree of success. The big mechanic is in the title: you can shift gravity around to “fall” in any direction. Like jumping in a platformer, or aiming in a shooter, it’s the main mode of gameplay, and just about everything the game asks of you is related to it. The implementation of this in gameplay is pretty intuitive, especially with the use of motion controls. You press R, aim where you want to fall, then press R again. You can reset gravity with L, which also refocuses the camera. The aiming is done with both the right analog stick and the motion controls, which feels natural, since you’re moving the screen at the same rate as the camera. Motion control aiming in other games is also nice, but it works especially well for Gravity Rush since the aiming is in 3 dimensions, while most other games (like shooters) will generally focus on one 2D plane.
The combat in Gravity Rush also makes use of the gravity shifting mechanic, though almost to a flaw. You can press square to attack while on ground, but while falling it does a kick that hones in on enemies. So the best way to defeat an enemy is by shifting, then doing the gravity kick towards its weak point, rinse and repeat. The combat is fairly repetitive, but there’s some enemy variety to mix things up. Incoming attacks will have to be dodged, which is done by swiping the screen in the direction of the dodge. This is a hit-or-miss mechanic, and kind of ruined the combat for me. It’s not intuitive to take your thumb off the buttons and swipe, and it sometimes doesn’t recognize the input. It was easier and more effective to just shift gravity in a different direction, or run away, in order to avoid the attack. Besides, attacks come from literally all angles, so you’ll have to stay on your feet anyways to perform in combat. There’s also enemy variety, but nothing to write articles about.
Oh, and this game is open world. With a main mechanic all about traveling great distances, of course it is. I’ve always thought good open world games have interesting movement mechanics, and my two favorite examples are Spider-Man 2 and Just Cause 2. Both of these have unique travel mechanics that add new possibilities to “fucking around” gameplay, instead of the standard open world gameplay established by Grand Theft Auto 3. So the open world in Gravity Rush falls under the “good” category, except it sabotages itself by its gameplay. There’s almost never a reason not to fly around the city, so you barely ever do any actual exploration. There are crystal things you use as currency, but they’re always at the tops of buildings or underneath the city (oh yeah, it’s a floating city like Bioshock Infinite but good), but you get plenty of them through missions so they’re practically worthless. You unlock extra portions of the city through the story, and each has a unique theme, but they’re all pretty much the same.
In the city, there are also side missions, which are the only thing to do outside main missions. They’re usually races, or small fights, or score attacks. Basic, predictable stuff with fairly challenging goals. These can be unlocked by spending a little bit of money on upgrading the city, like activating a factory or opening a bridge or whatever.
Oh, there’s a story, too, but it’s nothing special. Certainly nothing bad to say about the story, outside how many damn loading screens there are.
This follows through all the side missions as well, and it gets very annoying. I suppose this is a problem with the Vita’s hardware, as it isn’t fast enough to load a different part of the city fast enough, but it’s still very frustrating. The loading in the open world isn’t as bad: the LOD is quite noticeable, but it’s good enough to not have a huge impact on gameplay or framerate. There are FPS drops, more than I would like, but it’s to be expected on a handheld. The whole game looks fine on a 5 inch screen, but after seeing screenshots on a big monitor, the low resolution is apparent. I want to say there’s some sort of anti-aliasing on the Vita, because it
certainly doesn’t look bad in-game. Again, maybe it’s just the small screen that hides the rough edges. there is a remaster on PS4. I’d assume it solves a lot of framerate and graphical problems, as well as add content or whatever. There’s a sequel exclusive to PS4, which is probably also worth checking out.
Final verdict? I’m not sure. The game is pretty unique, but it’s not something anyone absolutely needs to go out and buy. There’s some problems, like repetitive combat, but overall it stays pretty interesting. Don’t buy a Vita for it, but if you already have one, give Gravity Rush a try. I’d recommend the Vita version over the PS4 version based off the novelty of motion controls on the handheld, but I’m sure it works fine on a controller as well.
The maid costume is DLC. Pesky Sony, charging more for the stuff we really want
Also published on Medium.