Mortal Kombat was one of the finest fighting games released last year and marked a fantastic return to form for this iconic series. Developer NetherRealm Studios decided to port the game to PS Vita, and took it upon itself to handle the conversion rather than outsource it to another developer. This decision has paid off handsomely as Mortal Kombat on PS Vita is just as good as the console version, albeit with slightly less impressive visuals and fewer multiplayer modes.
The game is not just a straight port, however, as it contains plenty of welcome extras such as a brand new Challenge Tower, touch screen fatalities and all the downloadable content (DLC) content from the console version. It’s unusual to come across a handheld title that has more to offer than its console counterpart but that’s exactly what you get in Mortal Kombat’s case!
Two of the main elements that set Mortal Kombat apart from its rivals are quantity and quality. The game may not have as many characters as Street Fighter X Tekken, for example, but the wealth of modes and depth of each one is a rare sight in the fighting genre. Mortal Kombat has a lengthy story mode featuring sixteen playable characters and dozens of pre-rendered cut-scenes, two Challenge Towers boasting 450 missions between them, as well as a Ladder mode (standard or tag) where you fight ten AI opponents of increasing difficulty to earn a character-specific cut-scene for any one of the 32 fighters on offer.
Add to the mix hundreds of unlockables, a robust training mode and Ad Hoc or online versus matches (standard or tag) and you have the definitive fighter of this generation. What makes the package even more impressive is that each character has a unique repertoire of moves and animations – a far cry from some of the older Mortal Kombat games where certain fighters were just palette swaps of each other.
Mortal Kombat’s gameplay is a wonderful blend of kicks, punches, throws, weapon attacks and special moves. All the action takes place on a 2D plane and stages typically extend off-screen to the left and right. There is a super meter at the bottom of the screen that is divided into three sections and that slowly fills up as various conditions, such as landing an attack, are met. With one section of the super meter full you can perform more powerful special moves, with two sections full you can cancel your opponent’s attack (called a ‘breaker’), and with three sections full you can perform a devastating X-Ray move that sees your opponent’s bones and internal organs being savaged in slow motion – definitely not for the faint-hearted!
Mortal Kombat’s gameplay may not appeal to some fighting game purists as many characters have ‘cheap’ moves that include warping to the other side of their opponent or shooting a projectile that temporarily paralyses them. While it’s possible to ‘spam’ online rivals from a distance, odds are that if they’re experienced enough they’ll have a method to counter any cheap tactics you may employ.
As I mentioned earlier, the two Challenge Towers in the Vita version of Mortal Kombat feature 450 missions collectively – perfect to chip away at when you only have a short time to play on your handheld. These missions typically place you in the shoes of a single character and present you with some challenge to clear, such as killing ten advancing zombies using a projectile attack before they reach you. These missions are a lot of fun, and many of the 150 new challenges in the Vita version are designed around either the four DLC characters in the game (Rain, Kenshi, Freddy Krueger and Skarlet) or the handheld’s touch and tilt functionality.
For example, one mission requires you to land a single hit on your opponent by tapping the missiles he fires at you while inching closer using the D-pad until you finally get close enough to land an attack. If you’re stuck on a particular mission you can always use Koins you’ve earned in one of the game modes to bypass it, although this could mean missing out on an extra character costume or PlayStation Trophy.
Mortal Kombat’s graphics were excellent on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and this was one of the factors that made is so appealing. While the Vita version still has impressive visuals, the character models are a bit of a let-down – particularly when the camera zooms in on them before and after battles and during X-Ray moves. The characters’ faces and exposed muscles haven’t endured the graphical downgrade very well and lack the detail that you’d expect from a fighting game running on PS Vita.
This is not an issue when you’re actually fighting, however, and during gameplay the characters animate fluidly and look great. The stages are almost perfect recreations of their console counterparts and boast fantastic lighting along with all the background movement present in the original game.
There are a couple of components missing from Mortal Kombat on Vita that are worth a mention. Firstly, the menus are exactly the same as the console version and haven’t been optimised to utilise the system’s touch functionality. You can’t scroll through missions in the Challenge Tower by moving your finger up or down on the touch screen, for instance – you have to use the D-pad or left analog stick. Secondly, the game doesn’t use any form of Augmented Reality (AR) – a feature that would have been a fun addition to view character models in 3D or to fight a friend in an AR arena over an Ad Hoc connection. There is a secret training arena that basically just replaces the background with whatever image your Vita’s rear camera is receiving, although this can hardly be classified as AR.
The last gripe I have is that once you’ve finished story mode you can’t select individual chapters – you’re forced to start over again. Since you can’t save manually to different slots during story mode, it becomes a real hassle when you want to revisit your favourite parts of the compelling campaign.
Despite these omissions, it’s hard to fault Mortal Kombat on what it does bring to the table. This game offers the complete experience for fighting fans, whether you want to enjoy smooth online matches over WiFi or chip away at a couple of Challenge Tower missions on your daily commute.
Mortal Kombat’s excellent story mode is reason enough to own this Vita title, never mind all the additional challenges that serve up hours of glorious gameplay. This game is currently the definitive portable fighter and it will take a superhuman effort to knock it out of the ring!