Gravity Rush 2: Class Strife, Revolution and Flying Cats
Gravity Rush 2 is a bombastic superhero game that deals with issues of class divides and economic inequality with a surprising amount of grace. No, actually, Gravity Rush 2 is about a girl that lives in a sewer pipe with her cat and does odd jobs around the city for anyone that asks. Wait, no, Gravity Rush 2 is the continuation of the first game’s minimal story, picking up its loose ends and bringing the series to a satisfying conclusion.
Gravity Rush 2 is really all three of those things at once, and the result is the most charming, memorable mess I’ve played in a long time.
To get you up to speed, the first Gravity Rush began with a girl named Kat falling from the sky with no memories of who she is or where she came from. She’s quickly accompanied by Dusty, a cat that looks like it’s made of stardust, who grants her the power to control gravity. With these abilities, Kat saves the city from impending doom, while doing odd jobs on the side. There’s not a whole lot else to the story of the first game, honestly. In retrospect, most of it is a setup for the sequel — a random, slice-of-life weirdness, like when a woman’s request to fetch a letter to her boyfriend turns into a journey across time and space to a city of lost children (yes, really).
The sequel starts with an almost clean slate. After an accident, Kat is separated from her friends and stuck in a new city, Jirga Para Lhao. The city is massive, and full of color, energy, and people; it is perfect for Kat to explore. With the power to shift gravity, she can run on walls, throw things with her mind, or just fly. In the fifty-odd hours I spent across these games, leaping off a building and flying across the city never got old. The game makes it easy to move through the air, and aside from slight disorientation and minor camera issues, it is a solid gameplay hook that easily lasts across two games.
What’s weird, though, is that Gravity Rush 2 chooses to spend most of its time making you use fantastic powers for mundane tasks. Side missions have you helping out random people, and even when they’re frustrating or not particularly fun, they’re always interesting. They give the player little insights into Kate’s world and the people inside it. You’ll go from stopping teenagers trying to perform demonic rituals, to solving an assault in police headquarters where the culprit is alcoholism (yes, really), to breaking into a military base to steal supplies for the lower class. I love the weird little stories in the game –they’re what hooked me in the first place. Gravity Rush 2 is not for everybody, as sometimes what you’re asked to do is obtuse, but in the end, it all comes together harmoniously.
The weirdest thing of all is that I could see all of this coming. If the first game consisted of these weird vignettes, why wouldn’t the sequel? Gravity Rush 2 wasn’t content still sought to surprise though, and I was caught off guard by the game’s main story and how it decides to tackle a lot of heavy themes head on. The issue of class division and economic disparity are discussed as a fact of life in Jirga Para Lhao, where you can find the lower class literally beneath the city, cramped together on floating houseboats, while the upper class live in mansions that take up entire islands, and are right above the heads of the poor. These obvious metaphors quickly become the main story of the game’s first act, which had me worried. Video games have a nasty habit of tackling big issues, only to backtrack towards ambivalence and “both sides are the same” nonsense (Looking at you, Bioshock Infinite). Gravity Rush 2 is shocking because it avoids that, instead tackling the issue in a straightforward manner, leading Kat to kickstart a revolution. This was a relevant and poignant twist in an otherwise goofy anime game, but it works so dang well at fleshing out the world and actually leaving an impact on the player.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Gravity Rush if it didn’t have a bizarre twist. After the revolution, the game throws Kat into a completely different city for a completely different story, which is followed by the credits before showing the actual conclusion to the game (YES, REALLY). But even as the game moves away from politically charged ideas to fate-of-the-world stakes, it stays true to those concepts of fighting for the marginalized until the very end. I went into Gravity Rush 2 expecting silly anime superhero escapism (and I certainly got it), but it still found a way to surprise me by taking me beyond.
(P.S. – There’s an article on Waypoint about some of this stuff, written by other fantastic writers. Check it out!)