Gravity Rush and Super Mario 3D Land: Falling in Love With Falling

July 2, 2012

The similarities between Gravity Rush and Super Mario 3D Land are surprising. Playing them alongside each other a.) was the best month of portable gaming I’ve had in a while, b.) revealed interesting parallels between the two and c.) was so fantastically fun (see a.)). I got a 3DS at the end of May, which is why I was so late to the party with Mario 3D.

They’re both published by one of the big three—Nintendo and Sony Computer Entertainment—for the companies’ respective current-gen handhelds. The 3D concepts play out beautifully in both games, although I often passed on cranking up the 3DS’s 3D slider (an effort to salvage the remaining vision left in my eyes). Mario levels feel wide and sweeping, with plenty of secrets tucked away in cleverly concealed nooks for you to discover. Your next step on the path is clearly insinuated by camera angles, landmarks and your own curiosity rather than blunt instructions. That familiar Miyamoto-inspired sense of discovery is alive and well.

Vertigo? Check.

Gravity Rush’s French-styled steampunk cities seem sprawling at first, but navigability was always a breeze. The Vita’s SixAxis-like motion sensor allows a quick fine-tuning of your course. Sure it’s simple enough with the analog sticks but being able to adjust a your current flight path a smudge with a tiny tilt of your Vita was incredibly convenient. (If you’ve played Uncharted: Golden Abyss, this handles very similarly to the tilt-sensitive sniper controls.) I never got lost or was wondering where to go next. Open-world RPGs take note—this is how you craft a large-scale yet traversable sandbox.

They differ greatly, however, on falling.

Falling is everything in Gravity Rush; it’s just what you do. The deeper you dig into the game and the more you put into improving Kat’s powers, the more refined it feels. Rarely is falling such a rewarding feeling. As repetitive as the combat gets (activate gravity powers, line up a gravity kick, attack, repeat), falling always feels exhilarating, uncomplicated and worry-free. And, hey, even if you do lose track of your gravity gauge usage and plummet to the ground, Kat’s seemingly iron body will glance off the ground and create a small crater, which she’ll recover from unnervingly quick.

Ah, flying upside-down. Never gets old.

Super Mario 3D Land is, of course, consistent with it’s predecessors: Falling constitutes outright failure or in some of the more grandiosely scaled levels, a large leap that’s 5 percent faith and 95 percent precision. If you die multiple times within a level, you can opt for the glittering Tanooki suit, a fail-safe that grants the Star power-up’s invincibility on top of the plain Tanooki suit’s standard flying ability. The only thing that can stop you then is, well, falling.

Each form of falling has its challenges: maintaining the right momentum in Gravity Rush and sticking the landing for your survival in Super Mario 3D Land. I can’t quite quantify which is more “fun”—choosing between a polished flashy new IP that plays to my tastes versus an old favorite that’s more of the same but better. I *do* recommend picking up both of them if you have either system. (Also, if you can help me find the last few Travelers in Gravity Rush, I’d appreciate it!)

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