Two PlayStation Vita games from Japan to watch
by Garnett Lee, shacknews.com, Sep 19, 2011 7:00AM PDT
Vita was the star attraction at this year's Tokyo Game Show, evidenced by its long lines. Two games under development right here in Japan made strong impressions: Gravity Rush and Lumines: Electronic Symphony.
Gravity Rush (shown under its Japanese working title Gravity Daze) caught my eye with its stylized graphic novel look. It held my attention when I saw that world get twisted and turned every which way in the blink of an eye. The game’s heroine Kat possesses the ability to control gravity, which she learns about from a black cat she comes across when she awakes in a new city with no idea how she got there. Her powers allow her to suspend gravity at any time to float in mid-air, reassign “down” to any direction of her choosing, or snap things back to normal.
Chaining these tools together allows her to move around 3D space in complex ways. For instance, by reassigning gravity and then “falling” up she can gain momentum, but then toggle back to normal gravity to bend her direction of travel, or if things aren’t going quite right stop right there in stasis and readdress the situation. Keeping up with the action could prove challenging but in addition to right stick camera control, the entire Vita can moved around using the internal gyroscope to guide the camera, which looked like a natural fit.
The game to go with this system wasn’t being described too much. The basic premise is that gravity wells have begun appearing all over the city and threaten to rip the whole place apart and crush it in on itself. Using her powers, Kat must flit around the increasingly disorienting distorted gravity environment, close the gravity wells, and save the city.
I already knew from the original game that launched years ago with the PSP that the combination of music and dropping block puzzles in Lumines would click with the Vita. I also worried that its successful formula might lead to the new game being simply a new soundtrack. Q? Entertainment has put a lot into making sure that isn't the case with Lumines: Electronic Symphony for Vita.
While it may appear the same at first, the game is now completely 3D. This lets the designers pull a number of new visual tricks with the blocks from something simple like moving the light source around the space and creating various shadow effects to more complex effects such as generating the skins covering them on the fly to correspond with the music and action in the game.
A couple of changes to the puzzle mechanic of the game add new tactical options to the game without breaking its fundamental simplicity. The important chain special block now takes out every block of the same color that are touching each other, without needing to be used in a square first. This makes it a friendlier get out of trouble tool. They can also be earned, by tapping in time with the music on the Vita’s backside touchscreen, which brings in another layer of planning ahead. There’s also a new shuffle block that when it drops rearranges all the blocks in the cluster it touches.
The game’s producer, James Mielke, explained that these tweaks reflect their desire to improve the game by adding to it, not changing it. One change they are making, though, is in the music department. For one thing there won’t be any Genki Rockets on the shipping version. We’ve heard plenty of them in Q? games Mielke says. The soundtrack will feature dozens of licensed tracks, and they’ll stick to the electronica that fits the game so well but cover all its eras and subgenres. Mielke said that the goal with the music was to create a soundtrack as memorable and lasting as that of Wipeout XL.
Exact release timing for either of these titles in North America has not been set, but based on where they are in the development process; I’ve added them to the list of games I want when the Vita launches.