A franchise with a long history, Mortal Kombat is one of the biggest fighting titles to date. The revitalization of the series hit the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 last year, and it’s now bringing its gory goodness to the PlayStation Vita. Iconic kombatants like Scorpion and Sub-Zero join up with PlayStation-native Kratos in this portable outing to bring the full console presentation onto the PS Vita. Port-itis is an ailment that has hit many great franchises, but Mortal Kombat has such a devoted fan base: it’d be detrimental to ruin such a good thing.
First and foremost, this port of disputably one of the best present-day fighters is exactly how it was delivered on the PS3, with a few additions. Players can expect to see the same level of performance out of the PS Vita version as they would expect from the console version. The tight controls, the gratuitous gameplay, and the inevitable hatred of story boss Shao Khan. Really, this port aims to please: the Krypt, the Nekropolis, and the Challenge Tower all return in their proper forms and can be taken anywhere.
Like most portable games, playing them with headphones is the best bet, and Mortal Kombat is no exception. Listening to the audible atrocities being exacted on your enemies (and even when it happens to you) is truly a great experience. Dialogue translates well from the original game, and cutscenes still have their crisp feel.
The only disappointing part to this portable Mortal Kombat is the lowered graphical quality. Loyal fans will expect the same agonizing detail portrayed in the console version, but it’s not on that level. Indeed, the levels of gratuity are still present, but the detail in gameplay isn’t quite this generation of handheld. Wounded fighters look painted instead of wounded, and physiques that pop in pre-rendered cutscenes don’t carry over the same muscular intensity. I can’t say that the detail is bad, because the game still looks great in motion; I don’t even think about the graphical issues until the victor is chosen.
I don’t want to dwell too long on the visuals, because the game feels great in portable form. In fact, this version includes a PS Vita-only Bonus Challenge Tower, strictly featuring the handheld’s unique functionalities. Players can utilize the gyroscope for balancing, swipe the screen for executing Finishers, and even play a gratuitous version of Fruit Ninja—believe me, it’s as good as it sounds. Now, for avid fans, and anyone interested in a challenge: the Bonus Challenge Tower is as difficult as the original tower, but with fewer levels. To give a perspective, I could get to the 100th challenge in the original tower without a whole lot of difficulty; the Bonus Tower gained that difficulty at challenge forty out of 150. It may not be enough incentive to own both versions of Mortal Kombat, but it really is a great reason to have it on the PS Vita.
The core game doesn’t really use the full functionalities on the PS Vita. It’s not a bad thing, since the control scheme is already well established. It does, however, allow players to press the big X at the bottom left of the screen to activate X-Rays; sure, it’s minimalistic, but it doesn’t overuse functions. The Bonus Challenge Tower uses most of the functionalities at the PS Vita’s disposal, so the game doesn’t get convoluted with forced control options. Still, maybe including the touchscreen as a sort of short cut for combos could have been something, but that would more than likely be blasphemous to the series.
Realistically, having a PS Vita version of Mortal Kombat allows for many people only with access to Sony’s new handheld the chance to play a very disciplined fighter. With this in mind, it’s really hard to rationalize the decision to exclude cross-platform play from this franchise when other fighters on the PS Vita have it, including the upcoming Street Fighter x Tekken. With this being a potential deal-breaker, it’s hard to say that the few added pieces of content justify buying this game after owning the PS3 version. The game still plays incredibly well, but it’s limited solely to playing the versions on the same console.
Mortal Kombat takes the classic experiences of our childhood and puts it in the palms of our hands with the PS Vita version, allowing us to bash through enemies and get robbed of victory by cheap Shao Khan moves. The graphical quality hit isn’t detrimental, since the game still looks glorious, but the online experience is hindered a bit by the lack of cross-platform online play. Still, the game offers everything fans could want, even in a time frame where fighters litter the PS Vita. NetherRealm has given the PlayStation Vita a Fatality worth taking with you; just be mindful that fighting Shao Khan can potentially deem dangerous physical damage to your beloved Sony handheld.