Previews

Gravity Rush: Sony talks us through Vita's mental adventure

Keiichiro Toyama on his innovative third-person action game.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sony's PS Vita is the amount of games you will be able to buy for it - we're promised no fewer than 33 for the UK launch. And it's not as though they are mere ports of games we've seen before.

Gravity Rush is a classic case in point: an entirely new IP with a distinctive look and third-person action-adventure gameplay with a gravity-controlling twist that makes it unique. At the PS Vita's Japanese launch, we caught up with the man behind it, Keiichiro Toyama.

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Toyama cut his development teeth at Konami, as game design and scenario director on the original silent Hill, before moving to Sony's Japan Studios, where he worked on Siren and Siren 2. Nowadays, his official job title is Creative Director, International Development. So he's clearly one of those rare Japanese developers with an eye on the international market, too.

Given that it's a completely new IP, yet has emerged fully formed as a launch game for PS Vita, we wondered how Gravity Rush came into being. Toyama replied: "It was originally going to be developed for the PS3, using the 6-axis controller, but when the PlayStation Vita came up, we tested it, got a good feeling for the floating in mid-air and the camera angles, and decided it was more fitting for the PS Vita."

Toyama said that the starting point for Gravity Rush was his love of the comics created by French artist Moebius. He said: "It's based on a French comic I liked when I was young. I didn't just want to use that, but to mix it with Japanese comic culture. So we adapted a French comic as background, but with the main character, we wanted to create a hero who felt like she was from an American comic, like Batman, say."

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Toyama described that lead character: "She's called Kat (or Gravity Kitten in Japan). She has lost her memory, but has found a black cat with magical powers. In the town in which Gravity Rush is set, the people are worried about a gravity storm, and as she fights the gravity storm, she starts to regain her memory."

Toyama worked through a demo, explaining how the controls work: "It's a third-person action-adventure game. The right-trigger causes a gravity shift, while the left-trigger returns you to normal gravity. You can use the motion-sensor to aim your gravity-shifting, and can stop in mid-air by gravity-shifting when you're falling back to the ground.

"Kat attacks monsters using the square button, and right-trigger then square launches a gravity kick. With bosses, you can use touch to launch a finishing move. At first, she only has a gravity kick, but as she practices, she acquires other techniques like a gravity strike, and gravity-control powers that can move objects around.

"There are some areas where Kat has limitations with gravity, so you have to solve those problems - that's the closest the game gets to having puzzles. We think the main story mission will take you 10 to fifteen hours to complete, and there are a lot of challenge missions and hidden missions."

Our hands-on time with Gravity Rush confirmed its promise: it's visually impressive, with typically black-outlined comic-book-style features augmented by recognisably anime-influenced characters (particularly Kat, who is very nice to behold and kicks some serious ass), and the gravity-manipulation adds an interesting new game mechanic which works will with the PS Vita's motion-sensors (although you can opt to aim your gravity-warping with the right analogue stick if you prefer).

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Even playing the short demo hints at some pleasingly dark undercurrents - although not, surely, as dark as Toyama's first project, Silent Hill? Toyama said: "Gravity Rush looks very different to Silent Hill, but it is similar to my previous work - my games are always set in small towns or villages where something sinister and worrying is going on."

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