Last year’s Mortal Kombat reboot delivered the brutal fighting goods in spades, and old-school fans of the iconic franchise were – for the most part – satisfied. Now, enter the handheld iteration for Sony’s new PlayStation Vita, which not only boasts all the content from the console version, but also a huge Challenge Tower that greatly enhances the game’s already-significant longevity, and a silky smooth 60 frames per second presentation. In short, this is a damn fine portable experience.
When you face off against an opponent in the Vita installment of MK, you’re going to be impressed at the level of detail and that aforementioned rock solid frame rate. This looks and feels more like a console production than most any Vita game launched thus far (exceptions being Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048 ). The only issue involves the “jagginess” that can be spotted; the character modeling isn’t quite as refined as I would’ve hoped, but the good news is that you only notice this during periods of inactivity. …and when it comes to MK, those periods are very few and far between.
The audio isn’t quite as impressive as it was in the console version, as it unsurprisingly sounds tinnier and not as robust. That being said, the soundtrack is as good as ever and the sound effects are top-notch. There’s not much else to say, besides the fact that the technical elements capture the vicious insanity of this fabled franchise. Although the sound doesn’t smack you upside the head as it did last year, the music and effects remain prominent and fitting, and when you combine this with fantastic animations and engaging gameplay, you get a well-rounded product.
Mortal Kombat is all about shameless, unabashed violence, doled out via the rapid, precise presses of well-trained fingers. One might think the relatively complex combinations would be difficult to execute with the Vita’s smaller buttons, but this really isn’t the case. Everything seems to work extremely well, from front to back. The controls are responsive and accurate, you never feel as if the port is simply too much for the handheld world, and you’re always riveted. I don’t even like fighting games and I couldn’t stop playing. That tends to happen with MK, though.
Remember, we get all the content from the console version plus four new DLC characters that are available from the outset. Kratos is also included (he was in the PS3 version), and that Challenge Tower will give you hour after hour of satisfying – albeit somewhat frustrating – entertainment. The touchscreen and motion controls aren’t exactly necessary but they’re still completely functional and even fun to use, which I can’t always say about such features. Tough fatalities are a lot easier with the touchscreen, for example (although you can still use standard buttons).
The roster is gigantic and although I still say the AI can freakin’ cheat , victory is almost always sweet. Those ridiculous X-Ray moves are back and they’re almost as grotesque as they were last year. As for that Tower, these are separate challenges that will toss any number of objectives at you; if you’ve got the patience and skill, you can survive and conquer. There are two fresh modes, too: Test Your Slice and Test Your Balance. The former has you slashing at the screen with your finger, severing body parts as fast as possible. It's just grisly fun.
As for Test Your Balance, you won’t be surprised to learn that this requires the use of the Vita’s tilt functionality. It’s a little finicky, though, and I just found these particular challenges to be mostly boring. Test Your Slice never seemed to lose its appeal, though. Furthermore, the Tower will task you with using each of the four new characters – Skarlet, Rain, Kenshi, and Freddy Krueger – so you can become familiar with their abilities as well. All in all, there is always plenty to do, and don’t forget about the ad-hoc multiplayer options. Your friends are just begging for a beating, right?
Usually, when a console game is ported over to a portable device, you have to expect a few sacrifices. But this time, the handheld version is actually bigger and packed with more content, so there’s virtually no reason to complain. Plus, it’s essentially the same game, despite the very minor alterations made to the technical aspects. If you want to bring your brutal bashing on the go, NetherRealm Studios has given you a gem, so take advantage. I still say some combos should be more accessible and that AI can piss you right off, but even so…
From a portable standpoint and comparing Mortal Kombat to the rest of the handheld competition, this one is a clear-cut winner. The control is just about right, the graphical presentation is loaded with beautiful animations, the roster is huge, and there’s a ton of content. The story is still totally lame, the Challenge Tower can sometimes feel unfairly tough, and the AI is…well, MK AI, but those aren’t deal-breakers. If you were wondering how Mortal Kombat would look and play on the Vita, I’ve got only one thing to say— Buy it and find out.
The Good: Fantastic animations. Translates very well to handheld gaming. Tons of content. Challenge Tower is great for variety and longevity. Great for hardcore Mortal Kombat fans.
The Bad: Slightly jaggy character modeling. AI can still feel cheap. Two new Tower modes aren’t all that substantial.
The Ugly: “Damnit, you always do that sh**!"