Review: Mortal Kombat (PSV)

Title: Mortal Kombat
Format: PlayStation Network Download (3056 MB) / Game Card
Release Date: May 1, 2012 (US), May 4, 2012 (EU)
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Original MSRP: $39.99 (US), £39.99 (EU) (PSN and Game Card)
ESRB Rating: M
Mortal Kombat is also available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The PlayStation Vita version was used for this review.

The Mortal Kombat franchise is one that is near and dear to the hearts of many gamers worldwide. Those of us that grew up with the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo systems can celebrate a 20 year anniversary of the creative Mortal Kombat universe that would change the face of the fighting game genre for years to come. Those of us that were first introduced to Mortal Kombat in the PS2 generation may tell a different story. Unlike most other fighting game franchises, Mortal Kombat has been plagued by years of sub-par titles, lack of depth, and gimmicky use of the brand to sell copies. I am incredibly proud to say that the PS3 version of Mortal Kombat that was released in April, 2011, and this latest Vita iteration bring the IP’s dry spell to a screeching halt with awesome gameplay, smooth combo systems, and a level of competition that has been commended worldwide.

Gameplay:
One of the things that I loved most about this game was the amount of single player content. In other fighting games, we are usually not offered much of a sense of accomplishment. We can amp up the difficulty and train in a practice room with our favorite fighters, but there isn’t much more to do (apart from going online) once you’ve gone through the short arcade modes with every character and unlocked all of the endings. This is not the case with Mortal Kombat. Players can expect to enjoy a total of 450 challenges, about a 5-hour story mode, a slew of mini-games, and 32 characters. The fast paced action of an average match runs at a smooth 60 frames per second, truly testing the skills of any kombatant with a Vita. Tag-team mode introduces longer fights and pushes players to their limits with tag kombo strings that demand perfect timing and creativity. The slow, sluggish Scorpions and Sub-Zeros of the past are no more and this iteration is by far the best entry into the robust Mortal Kombat katalog. This game puts us back in our 2D roots and proves that fighting games are best enjoyed when side-stepping and moving in to the backgrounds and foregrounds are eliminated from the equation.

Mortal Kombat displays a high level of balance between characters which can make or break a fighting game. The super meter is very well done and does not offer any sort of unfair advantage/disadvantage to either player. At the bottom of the screen, each player has a meter with 3 sections to it that fills up at a rate that is perfect in relation to the gameplay. Fighters can choose to use one section to enhance a special move, 2 sections to break a kombo or enhance 2 moves, or finally use the whole meter to perform an X-ray attack; a move that can take upwards of 40% of your opponent’s life with some characters. This sort of damage can be offset by skilled players as some kombos can reach that same amount of high damage if done right. The player on the receiving end of the X-ray will rapidly build his/her own meter to level out the playing field.

The story mode is a collection of cutscenes separated by different types of matches. You will sometimes take on two competitors in addition to the regular one on one fights. The story itself is decent but forgettable, as the same type of tournament information is rehashed from games passed.

The challenge tower is fun and a great addition to the game. It makes use of the Vita features by forcing players to use their fingers to wipe blood off of the screen as they fight Shao Kahn while other challenges demand that gamers shake and tilt the Vita to straighten out the on screen world. One of the mini-games that stood out to me was the “Test Your Slice”. It is a Mortal Kombat version of Fruit Ninja with apples and oranges replaced by severed limbs and decapitated heads.

In comparison to the PS3 version: Mortal Kombat on the Vita mirrors Mortal Kombat: The Komplete Edition, which is a version of the game that includes all of the released DLC. Quan-Chi and Cyber Sub-Zero do not have to be unlocked by playing the story mode as is the case in the original PS3 version. Rain, Kenshi, Skarlet, Freddy Kruger, and all of their respective costume packs will all be available without any extra downloading, as will 4 Klassic fatalities and 7 Klassic Kharacter Skins. Both the PS3 and Vita versions have the same frame rate which is an impressive feat and the Vita boasts an exclusive 150 count challenge tower in addition to the 300 count challenge tower from the PS3 game. There are also some mini games that are exclusive to the Vita and involve the touchscreen and accelerometer.

Visuals:
Mortal Kombat definitely does not push the graphics processor of the Vita. It becomes most obvious when the camera zooms in on the fighter during his/her victory stance. In extreme cases, it almost looks like a character from a PS2 game has been imported into the fight. Backgrounds are often flat looking and lack dynamics. The cutscenes in the story mode break in certain visuals and can really serve to disappoint a player that has already seen the home console iteration of the game.

In comparison to the PS3 version: The graphics are much better on the PS3 in such an obvious way. Justice is not done to the beautiful OLED screen on the Vita and some other games that come out for both platforms are made to resemble each other much more closely.

Audio:
The voice acting in Mortal Kombat is great. Shao Kahn definitely sounds like a tyrant emperor and the classic “Finish Him”, “Round 1 Fight”, and “Fatality” sound bites are better than ever. The music in the game does not stand out but definitely fits the gameplay. The sound effects of the bone-breaking X-ray moves, the death screams, and the punch and kick noises demonstrate impact and are executed perfectly.

In comparison to the PS3 version: There was no noticeable difference or any instance worth noting.

Online/Multiplayer:
The Mortal Kombat fan base consists of fierce competitors that can make the online play both fun and challenging. There has been almost no lag in my experience and features like King Of The Hill Mode can provide hours of entertainment as players line up to face the winner of the match that came before their turn. It is the online equivalent to making the loser pass the controller and it is done in such a way that both retro and new age gamers can appreciate. Fighters even have the opportunity to watch the matches that are happening before their turn as an avatar in an on-screen theater. This is all in addition to the regular ranked, unranked, and tag team matches.

In comparison to the PS3 version: The Vita version of this game comes with all the balance tweaks, patches, and updates that the PS3 game did not have at launch. The online seemed almost broken on the PS3 and the lag time made it feel like I was playing a different game. Online, I could not pull off any of the kombos that I’m used to performing when playing with friends in the same room, on the same TV. The Vita version has absolved these issues.

Konclusion:
After its initial debut, Mortal Kombat’s reputation had been polluted by failed attempts to enhance gameplay with things like fighting styles, weapons, interactive backgrounds, and 3D environments. Controversy and bankruptcy were just some of the things that affected the development house at Midway and those dreary occurrences seemed to have been making their way into the games. This new Mortal Kombat is stripped of all previous failed attempts to add depth and is done with a new company at a new studio with the backing of Warner Bros. Interactive. All of these advantages have culminated to make the great Mortal Kombat game that we have all been waiting for. The lack of graphical prowess is made up for by the fact that everything else from the PS3 version and more is available on the go. Mortal Kombat is a must have for fighting game fans and lovers of the MK mythos.

Score:
9.0

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Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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  • Never got around to picking this up on the PS3, so will definitely have to on the Vita – looks awesome.

    Great review Emrah 🙂 Welcome to the team!

  • FalseCracMedEvac

    I LOVED THIS ON MY VITA 🙂 the perfect fit for my current situation… beach plus short entertaining gaming sessions = WIN

  • MastaMold

    Great review this is the best fighting game of 2011 and now its on the PS Vita

  • embelievable

     Thanks Raj, it feels great to be on board.