Last year’s Mortal Kombat was a revelation for a franchise that once dominated the arcades. Released during a unique moment in time where the desire for more Mortal Kombat was at a fever pitch due to the release of a spectacular fan film reboot and the less than favorable outing of the previous game, the bizarre Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe mashup. Wanting to bring the game back to its hyper violent roots, Ed Boon and Nether Realm studios created one of the most successful reboots in recent history. Although originally released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Mortal Kombat finds itself ported to Sony’s PlayStation Vita. This brings up familiar yet inevitable questions such as what sacrifices have been made in order to accommodate the port? Will there be a significant lack of content? While the game does suffer a compromise in the visual department, you won’t be lacking for things to do as the entire console experience can be found here and then some. As a result, Mortal Kombat offers one of the best experiences and value propositions on the Vita.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty years, Mortal Kombat is a fighting game that places a strong emphasis on over the top violence. The game is a direct port of last year’s reboot and includes a massive fighter roster that spans the entire franchise. All the familiar faces are here, Scorpion, Liu Kang, Sub Zero, Raiden, Johnny Cage, the list goes on and on. Included in the Vita version are characters that were originally made available as DLC, meaning Kratos, Freddy Krueger, Kenshi, Rain and Skarlet and are immediately available at the start of the game. No codes or unlocks required!
There are a host of different game modes to play through apart from quick, instant matches. The story mode is a lengthy campaign that offers an alternate retelling of Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3 in which Raiden receives a warning from his future self to influence the Mortal Kombat tournament lest the evil Shao Kahn travel to Earthrealm and destroy mankind. If you finish the story, or wish to take a break from it, you can either launch into short individual matches with a character of your choice or complete a Challenge Tower that features 300 individual matches that must be completed by various conditions, such as initiating a stage Fatality or spill a specific amount of your enemy’s blood. The Challenge Tower is also a great way to learn how to play as the first few rounds explain the combat system and give you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the controls.
If you complete the Challenge Tower and find yourself hungry for more, the Bonus Challenge Tower (a Vita exclusive) offers an additional 150 match fights and mini-games. Test Your Might, Sight and Strike are accompanied by Test Your Balance and Test Your Slice. The Balance game requires tilting the Vita left or right to maintain the character’s balance atop a pole set high above a deadly pit. Test Your Slice is a Mortal Kombat-themed version of FruitNinja and much like the source material, you’ll swipe your finger across the screen to slice body parts (instead of delicious fruit) and multipliers while avoiding bombs. The Vita’s gyroscope and touch screen come into play in a few Challenge Rooms as well. In one round, you must shake the machine in order for powerups - that have positive and negative effects - to fall from the sky. In another, blood will splatter onto the Vita’s screen and you’ll have to use your fingers to wipe it away. One challenge in particular requires you to tilt the Vita in such a way to give your fighter the high ground advantage which yields helpful boosts. But be careful, tip the Vita the wrong way and your opponent will get those buffs. No question, some of the fights in the Bonus Challenge Tower are quite bananas.
Other gameplay features include the training arena, where you can practice the move sets and Fatalities for any of the characters, quick matches (both 1 on 1 and Tag) and a multiplayer Versus mode. Multiplayer matches can be played online via a local, ad hoc connection or wireless. I tried to get into a multiplayer match over my wi-fi connection, but was unsuccessful (this could be due to not many folks playing the game ahead of time for review or the Vita’s capability for online play isn’t all that great here).
Whether you choose to play through the story mode, both Challenge Towers or fight against computer controlled opponents in various ladders, you’ll earn Koins for every victory that can be spent in the Krypt, a massive grave site outside of the Outworld’s Nekropolis. Just like in the console version, you can spend these Koins to unlock alternate costumes, additional Fatalities, concept art and other behind the scenes materials. From the Nekropolis, you can browse through the biographies and stats of every character and any of your unlocked assets.
That’s a whole lot of game for $40!
As I said in the introduction, MortalKombat for the Vita is a near perfect port. In order to make room for the sheer number of content in the game, the graphics for the fighters had to be scaled back a bit. In the original console version, the transition from pre-rendered cutscenes to the fight was seamless, both from a technical and visual standpoint. While the transitions are just as seamless on the Vita, the fighters lack all the minute details of their pre-rendered counterparts which results in some pretty jarring graphical transitions. Once the camera zooms away from the characters after their initial taunts, their visual weaknesses become less of an issue as your attention shifts to the fight. The game runs at a smooth frame rate and with all the little things going on at once, from the background animations to the many, many visual effects, not once did I experience a drop in framerate. It is a shame that the stunning detail of each fighter couldn’t be carried over, but I have a hard time faulting the game for it.
Mortal Kombat, right now, is the best experience you’ll have on the PlayStation Vita. The sheer amount of content loaded into the game will make it difficult to be bored as there is always something to do, whether it’s practicing Fatalities, discovering what character works best for you, playing the mini games and the Challenge Towers. The Challenge Towers are fantastic, as you’ll never know what crazy direction the game will take. I don’t consider myself an avid player of fighting games, but I have completely fallen in love. It is very friendly for beginners and casual fighting fans as the in-game tutorials are betting than anything come before it in the genre.
Mortal Kombat also proves just how well built the Vita is. Between frantically shaking the device to slamming down on the face and shoulder buttons, I haven’t had to worry whether or not I am going to break the device. It’s solidly well built. This is one of the moments that I’m really thankful that the Vita replaced the PlayStation Portable’s analog nubs with bonafide joysticks because this game would pretty much be unplayable without them.
I cannot recommend Mortal Kombat highly enough. This is a game that belongs in your Vita’s library and the price is just right. For $40 you get everything the console versions had and then some, as new characters fill out an already massive roster and new challenges will test your combat skills. It may not have the stunning in-game visuals of its counterparts, but that is forgivable considering what Warner Bros. has managed to pack into the product.
A must buy.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.