The Feel of Gravité

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After taking a glance at the previous posts I’ve made concerning Gravity Rush (or Gravity Daze in Japan), I realized I’ve never dedicated a single post to talking about it. That’s pretty sad, honestly, because it’s more than deserving of one, and it’s a game that warrants the attention of anyone who appreciates new IPs and the combination of inspirations and new ideas within the gaming space -- especially on handhelds. It’s by far the most interesting and unique Vita-exclusive project, though it doesn’t have a lot of competition on that front. And that’s precisely the reason why it’s going to fly under the radar. That, and it’s on a handheld that’s not having a good start. I figured a certain someone should do something to make amends for the lack of attention being given to it on this blog, and that brings us here.

 

Gravity Rush was developed by a team from within Sony Computer Entertainment of Japan known as Team Siren. They haven’t said precisely when the game started development, but it had to have started soon after Siren: Blood Curse/New Translation released for PS3 in mid-2008. This is further evinced by the concept video uploaded to the game’s official Youtube account recently from ’08, back when the game’s title was Gravité (French for “Gravity,” which was previously the tentative title for the west until “Gravity Rush” was settled on) -- a fitting name considering its aesthetics. This means this game has been in development for at least three years. All for a game that will sell around half a million copies worldwide -- and that’s being optimistic. There is probably something wrong with this picture!

 

And don’t tell anyone who thinks it looks intriguing and doesn’t (or has no plan to) own a Vita that it was originally in development for PS3. Sometime during its development, Sony realized they probably needed an intriguing-looking exclusive for their new handheld, and moved it to Vita. That was a huge risk, one that sadly may not pay off.


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Upon reading hands-off impressions from random onlookers across the internet, I often see that many of them think this game visibly looks very “anime.” While that viewpoint isn’t entirely wrong, there’s quite a bit more to it than that. Gravity Rush’s background art style is inspired by the works of Jean Giraud and Enki Bilal -- and the mention of the latter ended up being sadly timely, since he recently passed. The style the in-game art style takes inspiration from is bande dessiné; specifically, French comics. That’s likely the reason why the game has comic-style cutscenes as well. This isn’t the first Japanese game to have European-inspired art, but this game takes it and puts its own unique spin on that concept. The characters themselves, however, are anime-inspired. There’s a healthy dose of pretty concept art on the official Japanese website.

 

There are also a bunch of comics there, cleverly called “Gravity Days,” that I hope Sony gets around to translating into English. I don’t think the chances of that are very high, though. Heck, they may not even bother doing an English website.

 

This project was helmed by Team Siren director and designer Keiichiro Toyama (who also directed the original Silent Hill), who wanted to handle a game that wasn’t another survival/horror title -- despite insistence from fans to make another one since the genre has seen better days. Its gameplay and open world style were inspired by, of all games, Xbox 360 exclusive Crackdown (mentioned at the same link as the one above, on the Playstation Blog). Japanese developers don’t often take inspiration from western games despite playing them more often than the Japanese public, which makes this an interesting and welcome change. Toyama also said he came up with the concept for this game around ten years ago, and was one he always wanted to make.


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The music is also beautiful, the work of accomplished composer Kohei Tanaka. There are plenty of samples on the game’s official Japanese website. He tends to stick to anime and movies for his work, but his compositions seem to fit what the game is going for. It’s always a treat when the video game industry welcomes a composer that doesn’t usually work in the field.

 

The combination of its approach to gameplay and the art style make it like nothing else on the market, and that’s by far its biggest potential hurdle. It’s admittedly on a system currently bereft of original titles (in established IPs or not), which could make it stand out more. But it’s still highly likely that it won’t be as appreciated as it should be, precisely because of the risky approach it takes. The game is currently available now in Japan, where it’s getting quite a bit of critical praise (with DLC releasing intermittently). It releases in America and Europe (where it’s now getting a physical release) on June 12 and June 13, respectively.

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