Alternate Title: Gravity Daze 2 (Japan)
Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 4/26/20
Three years after the events in "Gravity Rush," Kat, Syd, and Raven get caught in a gravity storm and find themselves in an unfamiliar world. Kat and Syd end up at a mining colony where they are forced into hard labor recovering gravity ore from dangerous rift planes. Dusty is missing, so the former Gravity Queen has lost her powers and has to get by as a normal girl. Farther away in the city of Jirga Para Lhao, Raven has been brainwashed and is being used by the military as a weapon for oppressing the poor and downtrodden. Dusty is found just in time for Kat to uncover an extortion plot, which then leads to a revolution against the rich upper class and the sinister ruling council. But that's not all! After the liberation of Jirga Para Lhao, another gravity storm takes Kat back to Hekseville, which is now ruled by a brilliant scientist who has developed a robotic defense force. Unfortunately, he turns out to be an insane madman, and it's up to Kat to save Hekseville from destruction once again. But a Gravity Queen's work is never finished, and the liberation of Hekseville leads to another threat as Kat and Raven ascend the World Tree to learn more about their pasts. That's when I stopped playing. Saving Hekseville and watching the credits was perfect closure for me. The people were safe and happy, Kat's reputation was restored, and relations with Jirga Para Lhao were going well. The thought of dealing with another catastrophic event and a gauntlet of even more challenging boss battles didn't appeal to me at all. As much as I would have liked to delve into Kat's past and learn about her true identity, I knew the increasingly difficult gameplay would just frustrate me and make me angry. So I walked away, leaving Hekseville and Jirga Para Lhao frozen in time at a perfect moment. Ironically, this is precisely what the villain wanted to do as well.
Similar to the original game, "Gravity Rush 2" is gorgeous and visually astonishing. The level design is incredible and the world map is reportedly 2.5 times larger. You can spend countless hours exploring every nook and cranny of every floating island and still not see everything. The music is fantastic, although the new themes aren't as subtle as the original Hekseville themes, and they can become grating after a while. Kat is still delightfully charming and upbeat, and is a total treat to play. She's super friendly and always ready to help those in need, but she also has a quick temper and won't put up with anyone's bullshit. She has a strong moral compass and actively seeks to aid the disadvantaged and battle injustice. Syd, on the other hand, is a lazy and annoying deadbeat who spends all of his time wooing young girls and devising ways to get out of doing work. Raven is still full of mystery and is much more serious-minded than Kat. She's a vengeful spirit who harbors a lot of darkness, tragedy, guilt, and despair. The writing is superb and does an excellent job of fleshing out the characters and their relationships with each other. Conversations are always interesting and engaging, and the humor is genuinely funny. Just like the original game, conversations are presented as static head shots with text bubbles, accompanied by the same bizarre French-sounding mash-up language. However, the voice acting is excellent and the characters do a wonderful job of emoting through vocalization, which proves that at a base level, human language is universal.
Flying around and manipulating gravity is a consistently fun and liberating experience. The camera can be disorienting and fussy in tight spaces, and it took me a while to figure out that a quick press of R3 resets the orientation so that you can get your bearings and figure out where you are in relation to everything else. After playing for extended periods of time, I found myself feeling like I was falling every time I closed my eyes, which made sleeping problematic. The controls are intuitive and responsive for the most part, although I couldn't find a comfortable speed for Kat. She either runs too fast or walks too slow. This is also the first PS4 game that I've played that takes full advantage of the DualShock touchpad, which registers both presses and gestures. The game also needlessly responds to controller movement, so it's important to hold the controller as still as possible, or risk additional camera orientation issues.
Combat is where the game stumbles, and even on the easiest setting it becomes infuriatingly difficult as the game progresses. Zeroing in on enemies is tricky and nearly impossible when the targets are moving quickly. Raven lends a hand on some missions, and it's not unusual for her to take out more enemies than Kat. The giant boss battles are the worst, and whenever I would line up a shot, the target would move or disappear. Adding insult to injury, the controls tend to fail under the intense pressure of combat, and Kat would often ignore my commands and go flying out of control, regardless of my attempts to stop her.
As if combat wasn't challenging enough, the game adds more complexity in the form of multiple gravity styles to choose from and a talisman system that grants extra abilities. The Lunar and Jupiter styles are required for fighting certain adversaries, but in general it's better to stick with Kat's normal gravity sytle. The talisman system is a confusing and overwhelming mess that's not documented anywhere, which makes it nearly impossible to use. It reminded me a lot of the overly convoluted and similarly undocumented chip system in "NieR: Automata" (2017). As a result, I only equipped a couple and didn't bother with the deep customization features.
The game is considerably longer than the original, and I put in nearly forty hours before deciding to put it away. There are twenty-seven story chapters, dozens of side missions and optional character conversations, and there's even a free DLC adventure that focuses on Raven's attempts to rescue the children who are asleep in The Ark. I only made it through half of Raven's story before it became too difficult and I lost interest. Kat's side missions are a lot of fun and do an excellent job of world building and character development, although the injustice of class discrimination tends to be laid on pretty thick and lacks subtlety. Kat ends up doing lots of crazy things, including delivering newspapers, playing fetch with a dog, chasing a writer who missed his deadline, spying on unfaithful lovers, helping a reckless journalist get a dangerous scoop, delivering noxiously smelly pickles, taking pictures of pretty girls for an ailing dirty old man, advertising for an ice cream shop, playing a stuntwoman in a movie, dressing up as a pop star and escaping from rabid fans, uncovering an alien invasion plot, helping a mother track down her wayward son, aiding the police with training exercises and unsolved cases, and chasing a dog with an excitable bladder. That's right. I'm pretty sure this is the only game I've ever played where I've been peed on by a dog. I only encountered three side missions that were too difficult to complete, and similar to the original game, one of them is literally impossible.
The game encourages exploration and gives you plenty of time to take in the sights at your own pace. Early in the game, Syd gives Kat a camera, which unlocks another series of objectives in the form of photo albums. The albums require Kat to take photographs of certain people, landmarks, and graffiti artwork found throughout Jirga Para Lhao and Hekseville. Taking these photos is a lot of fun, although some of the clues aren't helpful and I had to look online to figure out where 4-5 locations were. Kat can also use her camera to take selfies, which takes advantage of the costumes, props, and gestures that can be unlocked. Kat has eighteen available costumes, although it's impossible to get all of them. Three of the costumes from "Gravity Rush Remastered" are available if you have a save file from that game on your system. Four costumes are available as free DLC, including two variations of 2B's outfit from "NieR: Automata." One outfit was only available as a pre-order bonus. Three costumes can be unlocked by earning Dusty Tokens online, but the server was shut down in 2018. The remaining costumes are unlocked through Kat's side missions. While I'm extremely fond of 2B's outfit, it doesn't quite work within the context of the game world and all of the black tends to obscure Kat's silhouette. All of the costumes are adorable, and Kat always gets excited at the prospect of dressing up. In the end, my favorite ended up being the Super Star costume. Kat can also unlock furniture, which can be used to customize the look of her sewer pipe home in Hekseville.
Overall, "Gravity Rush 2" is an incredible game and one of the best experiences that PlayStation 4 has to offer. Apart from the difficult and frustrating combat, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kat's multiple worlds. The production values are top notch, the art direction is superb, the level design is truly astonishing, and the writing is thoughtful and uplifting. I loved being able to revisit Hekseville, which brought back wonderful memories of the original game. It's almost like having two complete games in one. It really is a feel-good game, and Kat's tireless crusade to help people and improve the world was a constant source of happiness and joy. Games like this are few and far between, and must be cherished.