One thing I like to say is that no 2D action platformer has ever nailed the speed and precision of movement for both mobility and melee combat that the Mega Man X (and Zero) games offered. Until Gravity Circuit. The game wears its influences on its sleeve as clear as day, offering a visual style, controls, and a level design philosophy straight out of the games featuring X and his ponytailed compadre.
It’s true that many games attempt this same thing, but the results here are impressive enough that Gravity Circuit is easily better than about half of the Mega Man X games. It only takes three-to-four hours to complete, and the overall challenge level for much of the game isn’t extremely high, but this is a winner of a 2D platformer, even if its difficulty balance and lack of game-changing moves and upgrades can hold it back a bit.
The player character, Kai, is known as the Gravity Circuit, one of a handful of robots fighting against an evil virus. When the other eight Circuits go rogue and betray robotdom, it’s up to Kai to stop them from doing untold amounts of damage. Gravity Circuit has about as much dialogue as the Mega Man Zero games did. Much like those, the plot here is actually pretty good for this sort of game.
“Gravity Circuit is absolutely one of, if not the best Mega Man X/Zero inspired games I’ve ever played…”
There’s a lot of dialogue and even a couple of plot twists here and there, bookended by some pixel art cutscenes at the beginning and end of Gravity Circuit. The visuals are stylistically 8-bit, with characters typically being composed of a single primary colour. The presentation is excellent, but it’s a bit odd that a game that’s so clearly a loving tribute to 16-bit games would make the more lo-fi choice.
Kai is fast, and the controls are pitch-perfect. He predominantly fights with melee attacks and specials called Burst moves that use up Burst energy that enemies drop. His melee attacks vary based on directional input, so he’s got an upward strike, downward drop kick, and multi-hit combos to take advantage of. The gamefeel is exactly where it needs to be. Hits feel highly responsive, and the gameplay is simply satisfying. Mobility-wise, Kai plays very similarly to Zero, save for the fact that he can run and slide. Kicking your way up walls is, of course, a constant presence.
While it does appear at first that you have to fight at melee range, Kai has a grappling hook that lets him swing from the ceiling. But it can also be used as a medium-ranged weapon. He simply feels extremely versatile. Once enemies are beaten, they turn gray and can be knocked into other foes or destructibles or grabbed and thrown. Enemies beaten with the grappling hook will be grabbed automatically. It all works splendidly. Gravity Circuit begins with an intro stage before dropping you in an HQ in which you can move around and talk to other robots. Then you’ll select one of eight stages. Subsequently, there are four final stages after you beat the initial eight.
“This is a winner of a 2D platformer, even if its difficulty balance and lack of game-changing moves and upgrades can hold it back a bit.”
The level design is extremely unique and memorable. Some levels can be somewhat low on challenge, while others offer a much steeper threat. Each of the eight levels has eight robots to rescue that grant you tokens that you can use to purchase skills, of which you can have three equipped at once. These can be used to reduce certain aspects of the Gravity Circuit’s challenge majorly and can be swapped out on the fly.
Of the eight main bosses, most of them are simple enough to beat on your first or second try on Normal, so don’t expect a Mega Man level of challenge from these, especially since Kai doesn’t learn new default moves or get new weapons or abilities from beating them, which is a shame.
While those eight levels aren’t all that difficult, the last few can be brutally hard, especially with a uniquely tough spin on the “fight all eight bosses again to progress” challenge that always pops up in the Mega Man games. They’re all tied together as part of one larger boss battle that itself has multiple phases. It’s pretty rough. The final boss is also quite tough, as are many of the more devious platforming challenges in the last few levels.
Once you beat the game, a New Game Plus and a mode that lets you convert health to Burst energy whenever you want becomes available, so there’s more to do once you finish the game. Gravity Circuit is absolutely one of, if not the best Mega Man X/Zero inspired games I’ve ever played, and any fans of that series would be remiss to not give it a play.