It’s been a somewhat bumpy road for the Mortal Kombat series after its initial success back in the 1990’s. Thanks to NetherRealm Studios though, last year’s Mortal Kombat reboot finally managed to rediscover some of the series’ form by returning to the fundamentals that made it so popular. Now one year later, a port has been unleashed onto the Vita and with a plethora of additional tools at the developer’s disposal, we’re intrigued to see how Mortal Kombat’s ultra violence and bone-breaking fatalities translate on Sony’s shiny new handheld.
Game: Mortal Kombat (PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Netherrealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
The original Mortal Kombat reboot featured several modes, the main crux of them being based on becoming the best fighter by winning best-of-three round fights and climbing tournament ladders or progressing through a story, as well as a challenge mode that helped improve specific gameplay techniques. Although Mortal Kombat on the Vita is a port of that original, there are a few differences from its console counterpart that will be apparent from the moment you boot it up. Most notable is the additional ‘bonus’ challenge tower mode and a host of the original’s dlc characters that all manage to bolster a game that already had an impressive amount of content to wade through.
The two main modes, Fight and Story, are similar in some respects but both approach your rise to awesomeness slightly differently. With Fight mode you pick one of the 32 characters that include series favourites such as Scorpion and Sub-Zero as well as some other new faces, then you get to reel off fight after fight in either a ladder or tag-ladder format until you’ve kicked everyone’s butt into the netherrealm. With the Story mode however, the player you control changes as the game progresses and you’re greeted with cutscenes the usher you from one fight to another. These often lengthy and unskippable cutscenes aren’t particularly Oscar worthy, but integrate nicely by creating an ebb and flow that serves the mode well despite some questionable dialogue; “Throw that on your bar-b, Shrimp!” being one of Johnny Cage’s more memorable quips.
The gameplay is very much as you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat game and is a carbon copy of the reboot asides from the Vita specific additions. There’s plenty of blood spattering and bone-breaking combos, along with the typical fatalities and special cutscene ‘x-ray’ moves that can really bring the pain if timed well. The Vita achieves intuitiveness surprisingly well for a portable fighter, making those special moves a breeze to perform by utilising the touchscreen. You’ll be using the normal button layout by default with the odd swipe and onscreen button but the developers have sensibly added the option of not having to use the touchscreen at all if you’d rather not, meaning that there’s a control scheme for everyone here.
Audio is okay without doing anything remarkable, but visually, Mortal Kombat isn’t nearly as good as its console counterpart. Moving from the cutscenes in to the standard gameplay on the Vita in some ways make the flat un-contoured look of textures stand out all the more. In fairness, as far as portable games go the graphics are pretty decent, but with the documented power of the Vita anyone would be forgiven for expecting something slightly less underwhelming and mediocre. On the flip side (and perhaps the cause of the average visuals), the frame rate and smoothness of the whole experience is exemplary, leaving you to punch, kick, stab, and crush skulls to your hearts content without missing a beat. Mortal Kombat is quite frankly a joy to play, if not to look at.
With all the modes that even include online play and achievements to hoard, there’s a ton of fun stuff to do and play through, all with the added pick-up-and-play element that makes it easy to jump in and out of whenever you feel like. No more so than the new Challenge Tower modes that get down and dirty with the Vita’s array of features. This mode isn’t really for skill honing like the original Challenge mode ladder, but acts as more of a set of really entertaining mini-games to complete as you climb up the levels. Using the tilt sensor, touchscreen and other Vita specialities you’ll be balancing, missile exploding, bomb diffusing, blood wiping and even slicing in an ode to Fruit Ninja – of course, it’s severed limbs and body parts rather than fruit. You’ll quite easily find yourself passing scandalous amounts of time in these mini-games alone, without even touching the main game.
It’s fair to say that not all ports are desirable to all and even though the extra content is excellent, it might not be enough to persuade fans who already own it on another system to pick this version up for the overall experience alone. However, gamers looking to take a solid and engaging fighter on the road with them have definitely been given something to think about with Mortal Kombat on the Vita. So if you can get past the slightly disappointing visuals, then the sublime frame rates and fun mini-games that are bundled on top of the original’s features not only make it a very enticing proposition for anyone, but also make it one of the best Vita games available to date.