With a lineage of over twenty years, as far as fighting games go, Mortal Kombat is one of the undisputed powerhouses of the genre. In the years building up to its 2011 revival the series hadn’t done much in reclaiming its former glory; Shaolin Monks, Armageddon, Unchained and even MK vs. DC were all solid games, yet missed the mark.
Pieced together by the recently-formed NetherRealm Studios, Ed Boon and the team went back to basics, producing one of the sharpest, best-polished fighting games of the current gaming generation – at least on the consoles.
MK Vita even supports online play for both single and tag-team matches. There’s a myriad of content inherited from the original game, but it’s hard to miss the bonus features NetherRealm has served up exclusively for its new-found Vita fanbase.
Putting itself head-to-head with the recently-launched MK: Komplete Edition, the handheld port includes every byte of downloadable content that supported the console version post-launch. The wardrobe of added costumes may only catch the attention of nostalgia-hunting MK fans out there, but everyone will appreciate the four new additions worked into the character roster.[drop2]These additions are Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain, and Freddy Krueger ( fromNightmare on Elm Street), who all have their own unique move sets, fatalities and cinematic arcade endings. As with the stock cast of fighters, each one is balanced incredibly well, though require different techniques to master. Players will also be happy to hear that MK’s pool of unlockable characters will also be available from the get go including Quan Chi, Cyber Sub-Zero, and the God of War himself, Kratos.
One of Mortal Kombat’s surprising highlights when it launched in 2011 was the newly-conceived Challenge Tower. Offering hours of extended play, this game mode featured 300 pre-built scenarios, each with its own menacing twist; it proved just entertaining as it was testing, and was a huge discussion point for players. As expected, the developer has ported the original challenge tower in its entirety, NetherRealm going that step further by adding 150 extra missions.
Luckily, you won’t have to trawl your way through the plethora of old stages just to get at the new ones, the “Bonus” challenge tower being its own separate entity. Though identical in premise, the missions available to handheld players are noticeably more robust, working in a number of the Vita’s hardware capabilities seamlessly and intuitively.
In some fights, players can tilt the system, granting stat bonuses to whichever character has the high ground. In others, you can shake the system to prompt buff items to fall from the sky or swipe blood and projectiles using the touchscreen.
MK Vita even has a sizeable pool of mini-games. Test Your Balance requires players to slowly tilt left and right to remain standing on a beam as off-screen tricksters pelt you with body parts.
Another mini-game, Test Your Slice, is just as accurate and addictive, emulating Halfbrick’s popular iOS hit Fruit Ninja, swapping out your five a day for bombs and dismembered heads. There are plenty more scattered through the challenge tower and, though they aren’t the stand-out feature, it’s great to see some diversity in between MK’s visceral fatalistic pugilism.
Minor control variations aside, Mortal Kombat Vita is near enough identical to the PS3/360 versions in every way. The fighting system is largely centred around basic combos which can also be used to perform special attacks (by combining them with your super meter) with devastating effects. With most characters having their own unique approach to combat, playing defensively and analysing your foe’s next move often turns each melee into a battle of minds more than anything else.[drop]Through a combination of landing and avoiding attacks, your “super” gauge will begin to ramp up, allowing you to either empower a single special attack using one bar, “break” an enemy combo using two, or unleash a devastating x-ray attack by draining it completely. Standing in as semi-fatalities, these unbreakable attacks can easily dish out damage in excess of twenty five percent, often turning the tide of battle; not only that, they are incredibly fun to watch.
As first-wave software, there have been a few noticeable concessions however. Visually, MK Vita still looks a treat, but it’s difficult to ignore the how flat and jagged a number of character models look.
Liu Kang is perhaps one of the worst examples.
Without the same degree of texture detail or articulate lighting/shading effects that prop up consoles version, the Shaolin powerhouse looks stale and saggy. Equally, if not more scantily-clad than Liu Kang, MK’s roster of femme fatales don’t suffer as badly, at least not between the neck and waistline, if you know what I mean.
It’s easy to whale on how dated the game can look in parts, though one has to assume that giving the game an additional layer of polish would have taken considerably more time for the developer, not to mention the impact it would have on the MK’s frame-rate. Running at a slick 60FPS, NetherRealm has clearly gone for substance over style, an understandable sacrifice, especially for a game that requires pinpoint accuracy.
- A solid roster of well-developed characters.
- Intense gameplay, running at 60FPS.
- Substantive story mode that easily outshines throwaway “arcade ladder” fiction in other fighting games.
- Features every byte of content from Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition… and more.
- Dozens of story-driven cutscenes.
- In-game collectibles will keep you coming back.
- More options for online play would have been nice.
- No cross-functionality with the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
- Cutscenes cannot be skipped. Story mode’s checkpoint system is pretty vague.
- Looks flat and unattractive in parts.
Without a doubt, Mortal Kombat for the PlayStation Vita is inarguably one of the finest portable fighting games to have ever been released. Boasting at least twenty hours of single-player content to kick and punch your way through. It’s also one of the system’s most convincing ports with a platter of mini-games and exclusive features, organically worked into the overall package.
If you’ve yet to experience the gore-soaked revival of Mortal Kombat, the Vita version is an ideal starting point. What it lacks in visual fidelity is easily compensated with stacks of additional content, not to mention the convenience of having a copy to play on-the-go.
All images used in this review were captured directly from the game Mortal Kombat (Vita) using the system’s screenshot capture functionality.