When Mortal Kombat relaunched on consoles last year it proved to be a fantastic reboot of the series which catered to both the old fans and new gamers. Now the game arrives on PS Vita as a much needed high profile title for Sony’s device. But can this shrunken version of the fighter still knock us out?
Amazingly, Mortal Kombat on the Vita doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to providing content. All the modes from the recent Komplete Edition, including the four extra characters, are captured in the tiny cartridge and NetherRealm have even managed to squeeze some exclusives in there too.
Mortal Kombat has always been about speed and brutality, as well as the infamous Fatalities, and the new reboot of the series provides these with aplomb. Story Mode follows events from the original Mortal Kombat games in an animated movie-style event. Imagine an animated Mortal Kombat where you get to play all the fight sections and you’ve pretty much got the idea. While it falls into the cheesy category a little too often, it’s still the best piece of entertainment since the original Mortal Kombat movie and it brings a greater sense of meaning to winning a fight as you follow each character on their quest to win the tournament.
While the Story Mode is nothing new, various fighters have previously tried to tie in a story element, Mortal Kombat manages to cement the relationship between narrative and gameplay far better than any fighting game has ever managed before. It may not be the mode you keep coming back to, but I certainly found it the most entertaining element of the game.
Arcade and Multiplayer modes make a return, the former being a simple one on one fighter with the AI. Multiplayer is the mode that will keep you coming back for more, though. While it obviously doesn’t feature a local option, I found the online multiplayer mode easy to find and set up a game and there was no noticeable lag when playing, even with so much action kicking off on screen.
It helps that the fighters are so well balanced. Some have better defence techniques or are distance fighters and others work better up close, but I never had the feeling that one specific character had the advantage. Even the new characters like Kratos and Freddy Kreuger were designed well enough to be worthy opponents.
Netherrealms have also refined the controls on the Vita release, not only using the D-pad and buttons of the PS3 game, but also allowing for swipes and presses. This comes into effect for the special moves. A bar at the bottom, the Super Gauge, fills as you take hits and provide punishment to your opponent. Within the bar are three sections which can be used to perform a super attack. With several sections filled more options become available. A series of button presses allows you to reverse an opponent’s attack, giving you an extra few seconds to return with your own combo.
Once you fill all three sections of the bar then you get to use the stunning X-ray attack. Pressing on the X at the end of the bar or pressing the two shoulder buttons will send your fighter in to a set routine which results in some literally bone-crunching animation where your opponent’s injuries are displayed with an X-ray vision that allows you to see all the breaks and bruises you inflict.
The damage of the X-ray can make a huge dent in the enemy’s health and leave them wide open for a finishing move. However, storing this up leaves you with a dilemma; it won’t allow you to use the super moves in the meantime and an accidental press of the shoulder buttons or the screen during the heat of battle will use up a section of the bar, making you wait for another recharge. It really adds an extra level of strategy to every game.
The Challenge Tower provides something a little different to the standard fighting action, tasking you with completing a match with a set number of moves or against several opponents, using fireballs to kill a horde of approaching enemies and even bringing back the excellent Test Your Might levels from classic Mortal Kombat days.
The Bonus Challenge Tower is a unique addition to the game which utilises the Vita’s touch controls to create a completely new experience. It can sometimes seem a little gimmicky (there’s even a mini-game which resembles Fruit Ninja) but is none-the-less a very welcome bonus in an already feature-packed title.
Every one of these modes moves with such fluidity you have to be impressed with the effort the developers have put in. Only one thing stands in the way of this becoming a perfect title and that’s the graphics. While the cut scenes, finishing moves and menus are all polished, the in-game characters seem to have been badly rendered, with jagged edges all over the place. That said, in the heat of battle it really doesn’t show and only when you’re looking over the shoulder of someone else playing or you pause the game do you realise the sacrifice that has been made to make the action so fluid.
All the single player modes allow you to earn coins, including the Story Mode. These coins are then used in the Krypt to unlock artwork, music, a second Fatality and more by kicking gravestones or other items which have a specific value. It doesn’t seem like much until you wonder around the Krypt and realise just how many items there are to unlock. Getting a second Fatality for a certain character is a pretty exciting reward for saving up your money and because you don’t know what to expect when you choose an item, it’s a Kinder-egg style surprise every time.
With a comprehensive training mode that even allows you to practice (and therefore witness) every characters’ Fatality and so much content on offer, Mortal Kombat is the ultimate fighting game for the PS Vita and an essential title for Sony’s device.