Mortal Kombat (PS Vita) Review

I have great memories of the Mortal Kombat series.  Many hours and many quarters were spent back in the day playing in my local arcade.  I even remember parties in high school where a group of us sit around the TV and we would have mini tournaments passing the controller back and forth   To be honest I’ve even played even played Mortal Kombat while out on a couple dates, because really, nothing says I like you like a perfectly executed fatality.  When Mortal Kombat was revived and released last year my love of this gruesome fighting series was renewed.  It was one of my favourite games of 2011 and arguably the best fighting game of year.  It featured some of the characters we’ve come to know and love and it reverted back to the classic 2D style of gameplay.   When I heard Mortal Kombat was going to be ported to the PS Vita, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Impressively, the full console version has been ported over for play on the go.  Story mode, challenge tower, Krypt, everything that made the home console versions so great can be found in the Vita version.   As well, all of the content found in the Komplete edition released earlier this year is included, with the DLC characters Skarlet, Rain, Kenshi, Freddy Krueger, and Kratos playable at launch.  At total 32 characters can be found on the roster.  This is an impressive feat indeed and something that fans of the franchise should appreciate. 

The lengthy single player campaign retells the first three Mortal Kombat games.  It consists of 17 chapters (including the frustratingly difficult final boss battle with Shao Kahn) with a different character playable in each one.  If you haven’t played through it before it is a great way to acquaint yourself with some of the fighters and learn their basic moves; however, without the addition of any bonus chapters, there really isn’t much to offer if you’ve previously played through the story on the home console versions.

AIthough I did play the story mode, I spent the majority of my single player time playing through the challenge tower.  Ported over from the console version, the challenge tower offers 300 different training missions, fights, and mini games.  Completing these challenges rewards you with “koins” to spend in the Krypt, where you can purchase items like costumes and fatalities.  An exclusive “Bonus Tower” has been added to the Vita version, adding an additional 150 challenges, making use of the Vita’s touchscreen and gyroscope.  While it’s great that this additional content was added to the Vita version, some of the challenges were just plain weird, like swiping blood from the screen, preventing a giant head from exploding, or juggling a character by tilting the system.

You will also find two new Vita specific modes, Test Your Slice and Test Your Balance.   Making use of the Vita’s front touchscreen, Test Your Slice is best described as Fruit Ninja, but with body parts.  You simply slash through dismembered body parts that fly up onto the screen while avoiding the occasional bomb by shaking the Vita to diffuse.  I rather enjoyed this, gleefully slicing through limbs and heads, much to the dismay of the elderly lady sitting next to me at the doctor’s office.  Test your Balance makes use of the Vita’s tilt feature.  The character on screen stands on a plank, and you tilt the Vita accordingly to maintain his balance while body parts are thrown about.  Failure to maintain your balance will send your character plunging to a gruesome death into the pit below.

There is much to offer in multiplayer.   While the 8 vs. 8 King of the Hill mode found on the home console versions was not ported over, players are able to connect in 1 vs 1 or tag matches online using the Vita’s Infrastructure mode.  I was quite pleased with my experience playing online.  Previous Vita titles have left me frustrated with connection errors or lack of online play, so I was indeed quite happy to find that this portable version of Mortal Kombat did not disappoint.  In just under one minute I found myself paired up with another player without any connection or lag issues.  Voice chat worked quite well and I could hear the other player cursing at me clearly as I pummelled him mercilessly.   An ad-hoc (local) 1 vs. 1 or tag mode is also available.

Controls for this PS Vita version of Mortal Kombat were quite good.  Much like the console versions, each button is mapped to a limb.  Using the buttons along with the d-pad will give your character the ability to do some great combo attacks.  Performing combo attacks fills up a special x-ray meter, which gives you access to special moves, breakers, and the brutal x-ray attack, the latter which can be performed with a simple touch of the meter.  I’m not as skilled at fighting games as some, and I do admit that I can be more of a button masher now and then as I may not be able to pull off some of the complicated combos or hit the buttons for fatalities fast enough.  I am also the player you hate, the one spamming the same move repeatedly while I have my opponent stuck in a corner.  The controls on the Vita have changed this for me.  Using the Vita’s d-pad I found that special moves are seemingly easier to land.  Combine this with the ability to use the touchscreen for fatalities and x-ray moves and I now feel I am a force to be reckoned with.

Mortal Kombat looks gorgeous on the Vita’s 5” OLED screen with the exception of the character models. If I hadn’t played the console version I don’t think this would be much of an issue but after seeing how great they looked in HD on the consoles it is a rather disappointing to see them look more blocky and muted.  That being said, the poorly detailed characters is a small sacrifice for such smooth gameplay (the game runs at 60 fps), and is really only noticeable during the cut scenes.  As for the game’s environments, the are spot on from the home console version and I think that many fans will appreciate the detail that was in the home console games is found on the Vita version.  Oh, and for those wondering, all the gruesome fatalities and special finishing moves are found in this portable game too, so as par for the course, the game is not for the little ones as it once again easily earns the mature rating found on the box. 

With an extensive single player campaign, hundreds of challenges, and a smooth and functional online multiplayer mode, Mortal Kombat for the PS Vita has certainly lived up to my expectations.  Control of the on screen action even feels better with the inclusion of the touchscreen support.   Despite a few graphic issues, I consider this game a must own title for any PS Vita owner, let alone any fighting game fans, as there is so much content packed into this $40.00 game.  Go now and find it at your local gaming store, as you won’t be disappointed.

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