Mortal Kombat Review for PS Vita

Mortal Kombat Review for PS Vita

Fatalities On The Fly

The Mortal Kombat series has an extensive history of praise for solid fighting mechanics and intriguing backstory, but also controversy due to the extreme violence, which mostly stems from the many opponent-dismembering fatalities you can perform. The 2011 version delivered exactly what fans were yearning for, while shunning the conservative outcry, testing the boundaries of the ESRB with its graphic content.

The PS Vita version is technically a port of last year’s title, but is crammed with so much more stuff that it’s worth checking out, even if you already own the console copy.

Although quick versus battles are the standard fare of any fighting game, I wouldn’t exactly call it the meat of Mortal Kombat. The story mode will take you awhile to chew as well, and each bite packs flavor. It’s the standard plot of old, with a group of Earthrealm warriors pitted against the combatants of the Netherrealm in mortal kombat. Some have enlisted of their own volition, some coerced, and others by happenstance. Relationships are formed and broken, there are internal conflicts on both sides, side stories permeate the plot, and it’s all blended perfectly into the context of the tournament. In fact, the progression of the story transitions seamlessly into the gameplay itself, and again back out when the battle is finished. Depending on your skill level and the difficulty you’ve chosen, you could eat up quite a few hours just seeing the story through to its epic conclusion.

Mortal Kombat Screenshot

If you need some extra training, the game comes equipped with combat and fatality tutorials, as well as a practice arena. With each character sporting their own exclusive basic and special attacks, combos, and a handful of fatalities and babalities, it’s always worthwhile to hone your skills before hitting the PvP or testing the harder difficulty ladders. Added to the mix are tag team battles, where you can swap between characters mid-battle and unleash more attacks and combos. You can even record your practice round, creating custom chains that you can refer back to whenever you need a refresher. Each character’s move list can be accessed via the pause menu in any battle against the A.I., allowing you to jump into combat from the get-go and build your combo training as you see fit.

If you’re looking to dive right into the nonstop action, the first choice on the title screen—aptly named “Fight”—is where you’ll want to head. The classic arcade Ladder awaits you, where you work your way through several opponents and eventually embark on a final match against Shao Kahn. For an extra kick (literally), there’s a Tag Ladder where you pick two characters to take on your opponents. You have access to all thirty-two warriors right off the bat, including Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain, and Freddy Krueger (the post-launch characters from the console title). Also, since this is a Sony-exclusive version, Kratos comes packed as a bonus. It’s a robust list to choose from, and if you’re eager to master each one (which is a requirement for you Trophy completionists out there), that alone will rack up the hours needed to justify the value of your purchase.

Mortal Kombat Screenshot

But the action doesn’t stop there. For some quick spurts, you can test your Might, Sight, Strike, Luck, Slice, or Balance. Might and Strike have you breaking boards, bricks and other objects using strength or precision. Sight is a variation of the shell game, except the shells are replaced by decapitated heads. Luck throws a slot machine into the mix, adding several handicaps in the match for an added challenge. Slice and Balance are two exclusive diversions for the Vita. Slice has different body parts flung onto the screen which you must swipe with your finger to split in half, while Balance has you teetering over a pit where you must keep steady by angling the Vita back and forth, with failure plunging you to a gory death. It’s a couple of fun ways to pass a few minutes with the new control functions, but it’s nothing groundbreaking.

In combat, the bone-crunching X-Ray attacks can be implemented with a quick tap on the screen, which in the heat of a battle is a nice, simple method using the system’s touchscreen. However, not all is executed well. Fatalities can be performed by swiping your finger in the pattern of the move specifications, and, while responsive, this certainly is not as quick as inputting the sequence via the control pad and thus feels completely tacked on. Thankfully, this is optional, as is the use of the analog stick for movement. In a game where combos are key to success, the control pad greatly overpowers the stick in accuracy, and with no diagonal inputs or sweeping motions to worry about, it’s simple and requires far less memorization. This is a good thing, because one of the most touted features of Vita version is the 60 frames per second, which keeps the action at a fast clip. The powerful hardware of the system keeps the resolution strong, and I have yet to see any lag. In this respect, it certainly feels like a successful crossover from the console version.

Mortal Kombat Screenshot

What did take a hit, though, are the character models. Of course, the cinematics are spot-on from the 2011 version and look absolutely gorgeous, but because the game transitions directly from cutscene to combat, the close-ups definitely show where developer NetherRealm trimmed the memory. It’s not that they look bad, but the character models are easily discernible from the varied backgrounds, and some of the facial designs are just plain scary. Johnny Cage, as the prime example, looks more like Nicholas Cage with an afro during his pre-combat taunts. And I simply can’t look at or listen to Raiden during a cinematic scene and not picture Superman wearing the God of Thunder’s costume.

One of the controversies surrounding this game is the fact that the Australian ratings board would not accept the version, even with the claim for the publisher that the smaller screen tones down the impact of the fatalities. I will have to take sides with Warner Bros. on this one, as it did seem less graphic. Not that anything has been changed in the executions, but seeing it on a five-inch screen rather than a fifty-inch seems to lessen the effect.

Everything sounds just as good on the portable version, though I suggest donning your noise canceling headphones if you want to hear every bone snap and crunch as you perform those X-Ray attacks. The voice work is top-notch, and each character delivers a believable performance, except Shao Kahn, who for some reason just doesn’t sound imposing enough to make his underlings tremble at his feet. The action commentary is as good as it’s always been, and the impact sound effects still resonate, making you feel the pain as you hear it.

Mortal Kombat Screenshot

Online battles have a couple of offerings, with ranked and unranked matches using a single combatant or tag team, user statistics, and a leaderboard to check out. Since this was a pre-release review, the player list was sparse, but the couple of matches I did partake in ran lag-free, making it a great way to strut your skills against friends and strangers remotely; you simply can’t taunt them afterwards.

If you’re looking for even more content, you’ll be happy to know that the original Challenge Tower is included, as well a new hundred-and-fifty-stage Bonus Challenge Tower for the Vita. Many of these stages use the alternate control schemes of the system. As you would expect, they start nice and easy, but eventually make you want to rip your hair out. Also, every match or challenge will reward you with Kurrency, which can be spent in the Krypt on new fatalities, alternate costumes (with the Vita version again providing exclusive extras), and, of course, music and concept art, which can be viewed along with character bios in the Nekropolis.

Picking up Mortal Kombat for the Vita should be a no-brainer for any fan who’s purchased the portable, even if they already have a console copy. The added character roster, new costumes, and extra Challenge Tower should be enough to sway those on the fence. But remember that it’s Kombat on the go, so you can show off those fatalities anywhere, and all this content is a mere forty dollars—twenty bucks less than the barebones console copy at its launch—making an already stellar game an unbelievable bargain.

Great detailing and varied environments, as well as awesome cinematics. The in-game character models are a little lackluster. 4.4 Control
Controls are smooth and responsive, and some (but not all) of the new Vita controls are nice additions. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Really nice all-around music and effects. They don’t sound great out of the Vita’s speakers though, so wear some headphones. 5.0 Play Value
So much content for a handheld game price, you’ll feel like you’re ripping off Warner Bros. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Taking advantage of the handheld’s technology, Mortal Kombat delivers the ultimate on-the-go fighting experience, providing online connectivity, two Challenge Towers–one all-new!—and exclusive game modes designed specifically for the PlayStation Vita system.
  • Mortal Kombat PS Vita makes the franchise more accessible than ever before. Players can now get their fighting fix wherever they go via ad hoc or WiFi connection.
  • Warriors, environments, and fatalities are as brutal as ever on the PS Vita’s 5-inch OLED touchscreen. From internal organs to the most “realistic” blood effects, Kombat looks as good as ever.
  • Fatalities return to their original violent form as Mortal Kombat for PS Vita with Touchscreen Fatalities. The game also features the popular X-Ray move which gives fans a cringe-worthy “inside” look at the internal damage their favorite fighter takes.
  • All the classic warriors, including Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Raiden, Kung Lao, Kitana, Mileena, Sonya Blade, and Jax, as well as Kratos, the God of War, and DLC favorites Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain, and Freddy Krueger.

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