I'm No Longer Disappointed That Gravity Rush 2 Won't Be On PlayStation Vita

I'm No Longer Disappointed That Gravity Rush 2 Won't Be On PlayStation Vita

The Vita's showcase launch title will have a sequel on PlayStation 4 only, and that's awesome.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

I love — loved? — PlayStation Vita. And I loved Sony's amazing showpiece launch game for the system, Gravity Rush, on both Vita and in its remastered PlayStation 4 port.

Needless to say, when Sony announced Gravity Rush 2 last fall as a PS4-only game, I felt more than a disappointed. Here was a series that began life as a brave attempt to create a new kind of gameplay that would push the boundaries of what anyone ever imagined could be possible on a handheld system. Gravity Rush wasn't just a 3D action game; it wasn't just a 3D action game with open-world design. No, it was an open-world 3D action game that revolved around defying gravity and moving with 360º of freedom... squared. On a handheld game system. With stunning visuals inspired by French comics. Gravity Rush, and the platform it showed off, should have been unstoppable.

But they weren't, and the fact that Sony decided to take another chance on Gravity Rush at all should be regarded as a small miracle. It's a vote of confidence in the concept, the series, and its characters; it wasn't the game's fault Vita tanked, and maybe Gravity Rush could find better footing on more successful hardware. Speaking strictly in logistical and business terms, Gravity Rush 2 couldn't have been a Vita game; it wouldn't make any sense. Knowing that doesn't make its PS4 exclusivity sting any less, though.

You know what does ameliorate those bitter feelings? Actually playing Gravity Rush 2. The original game was a stupendous feat of portable game design... but the sequel transcends its predecessor's limits and makes great use of the PS4's more powerful hardware. You could already see hints of what the console could do for the game in Gravity Rush Remastered, where the improved graphical resolution alone made for a better play experience. You could make out details of the environment more easily, and everything simply felt more precise.

Sony Japan Studio wasn't happy simply to stop there with the sequel. According to a Sony representative, the game uses an entirely new engine — and that certainly seems to be the case. Gravity Rush 2 features wonderfully detailed environments. Where the buildings and structures of the first game looked decidedly boxy in the remaster, in the new game they feature far more detail. It also includes far superior draw distances to the other game, with clear lines of sight across the city; collectible items no longer pop in at medium range. And heroine Kat herself benefits from the new level of detail as well: The fabric of her clothing ripples in the breeze and offers another subtle visual clue as to which direction is up — a detail that can grow murky as you begin to fling her around through every possible axis of motion.

Fundamentally, though, the action remains unchanged from the original. Which is fine, because it was... well, not perfect, exactly. But unique, and interestingly flawed. There's still an element of clumsiness to the zero gravity mechanics, as you continue to get around not by flying but rather, as the saying goes, by falling... with style. The slightly awkward mechanics help give Gravity Rush 2 its distinct personality, creating a sensation that Kat is barely in control of her powers. The game might be easier if flying were more precise, or the camera a little less confusing... but it wouldn't be nearly as distinct, or fun.

Besides the technical improvements, Gravity Rush 2 also mixes things up by deepening Kat's repertoire of skills. While she carries over all her abilities from the original, including rail-grinding and gravity kicks, she can also activate two new special attack styles while in zero-gravity mode: Lunar and Jupiter. You toggle the former by swiping up on the PS4 controller pad, the latter by swiping down. Each mode allows Kat to perform special situational actions. Lunar style widens the target range of her gravity kicks, making it easier to strike moving foes, and it allows her to rapidly chain actions together up to three times. Jupiter style, on the other hand, adds a special charged attack to her move set; by holding down the attack button, Kat can build up gravity force that explodes in a massive, devastating ripple once she collides with the ground — perfect for taking out groups of enemies or other targets.

Gravity Rush 2 introduces one final new element to the sandbox, though this one wasn't playable in the E3 demo: The ability to control Kat's rival gravity-shifter, Raven. While Raven appeared from time to time as an AI-controlled companion in the first game (and again in the E3 demo), in the new adventure she'll be playable alongside Kat. She shows up toward the end of the demo I played to help take on the boss: A massive, quadrupedal tank that can only be damaged in very specific weak points. How (or if) Raven will play differently than Kat remains to be seen, but most likely she'll add a new vibe to the action to further switch things up from the original. Sony's rep at the demo station claims the sequel is a considerably larger game than the first Gravity Rush, so it stands to reason Japan Studio will want to keep things feeling fresh and varied... and changing up play mechanics for Raven seems like a perfect way to go about doing that.

I enjoyed Gravity Rush and was already interested in the sequel, despite its shift away from Vita. Now that I've played it and have seen what the change in hardware brings to the table, though, Gravity Rush 2 has shot to the top of my most-wanted list. Or rather, fallen (with style) to the top.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

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