After a fairly poor showing with Mortal Kombat Armageddon and Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe you can imagine our surprise when NetherRealm Studios released Mortal Kombat last year and it turned out to not only be a fantastic Mortal Kombat game, but it is still one of the best fighting games to be released in years.
When it was announced that they were going to bring Mortal Kombat to the PlayStation Vita we leapt to our feet and shrieked with joy. After all, Sony has long said that the PlayStation Vita is a powerful handheld capable of recreating the console experience in the palm of your hand, and the prospect of a fully functional Mortal Kombat in our pockets was almost too much to bear.
Now that the game is out we’ve had the chance to fully scrutinise it and, for the most part, Sony’s claims appear to be pretty accurate. Sure, there has been a slight graphical compromise, particularly with the character models, but all in Mortal Kombat on the PlayStation Vita feels and plays almost exactly the same as the console original, with the added bonus of having all downloadable characters and costumes included in the bundle and a heap of new features.
The game visually resembles the console versions – although the screenshots we have taken don’t really do it justice – and it has managed to recreate the same fast paced fluid combat without any major loading times. In a lot of ways Mortal Kombat is the ideal portable game. It can be played in short 10 minute bursts, or you can literally loose hours playing it in mammoth sessions.
One of the most significant changes to the series that was introduced in the console version of Mortal Kombat is the risk / reward power up system. Every time you get hit or your opponent blocks one of your attacks you fill up a small amount of your power up bar. Likewise whenever you hit an enemy or block their attacks you fill up their power bar. This bar is broken up into three segments and these can be used to perform a variety of powerful moves.
The most basic technique is using a single segment to power up your standard special moves. Pressing the R button while performing your special move augments it to deal out more damage. The next technique, the Breaker, is a more defensive move that costs two segments of your metre. This can be performed by holding R and pushing forward while you’re being pummelled by an opponent, allowing you to smash out of the combo.
Spending all three segments performs the visually stunning X-Ray move. These are a series of brutal attacks that peel away the layers of flesh to give you a glimpse of the damage your attacks are doing to your opponent’s innards. Each character has their own exclusive X-Ray move and they are all gut wrenchingly hideous. Skulls are shattered, ribs broken, and eyeballs gouged out. They are grisly, gruesome, and utterly fantastic.
Each of the 30 or so characters has at least two main fatalities, a babality (in which they turn their opponent into an infant) and can perform a number of stage specific fatalities, such as shoving an enemy’s head into a pool of lava or feeding them to a carnivorous tree. In past Mortal Kombat titles the requirements for performing fatalities became far too complex, requiring pinpoint positioning on screen and memorising long sequences of button presses. Thankfully NetherRealm have opted for a far more forgiving fatality system, making pretty much every ghastly fatality far more accessible.
Another brilliant feature is the inclusion of a well written and lengthy story mode. One of the most impressive things about the story mode is the way that the cut scenes manage to pretty much seamlessly shift to fights. Rather than chosing your own character to play as you’ll spend your time playing a set characters for short periods of time. This gives every major hero character their time in the spotlight, while also giving the player a chance to experience characters they may not normally play as. The story revolves around series big bad guy Shao Khan finally overcoming all obstacles and destroying the world. In order to prevent the calamity from happening Raiden sends a message back in time to his past self to warn him of the upcoming danger.
This gives us a chance to experience an alternate take on the Mortal Kombat story, from the original Mortal Kombat through to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Pretty much every major character shows up in some form or another, making this an ideal starting place for those that are new to the series while also offering tonnes of cool character moments that’ll have the fans giddy with glee. Your standard fighting game story mode is usually pretty poor in terms of delivering a coherent narrative, but Mortal Kombat does an exceptionally good job of telling a clear and detailed story.
As well as the expected arcade and online modes there is also a lengthy challenge mode, consisting of 300 missions. These start out as fairly simple exercises in blocking, and performing special moves, gradually getting more challenging until, for instance, you’re facing off against all of the major boss characters with only one bar of health.
An entirely new bonus challenge mode has been created for the Vita, featuring a further 150 challenges. Most of these revolve around utilising the exclusive vita features – such as the touch and tilt functionality – or involve getting to grips with the four characters that had previously only been available on consoles as a download. Completing these challenges unlocks bonus costumes, including classic outfits for Mileena, Kitana, and Noob Saibot. This new challenge mode is about the only place that really makes use of the Vita’s exclusive controls. One of my personal favourite missions puts you in the role of Scorpion who, upon being offered a teddy bear by Mileena, takes it upon himself to kick the snot out of her, tear the teddy bear up (by shaking the vita) and then throw it in front of an oncoming train.
Similarly there are two new test modes added; the Mortal Kombat series originally featured the Test Your Might minigame in which you bashed buttons to fill a metre in order to smash increasingly tough objects. The console version of Mortal Kombat introduced new tests including Test Your Sight and Test Your Luck, while the Vita version has brought in a further two tests. The first is Test Your Slice, a Fruit Ninja inspired minigame in which you slice through body parts as the pop up on screen. Various powerups appear on screen, as well as objects that aim to hinder you. The second game, Test Your Balance, requires you to tilt the Vita in order to keep your character steady while severed heads are thrown at him/her or else you will fall into a pit and die a gruesome death.
Of all the Vita missions those that require you to tilt the console are probably the least satisfying as it invariably obstructs your view. This isn’t a problem with most of the early missions, but towards the end some missions require you to move the Vita so much while you’re fighting an enemy that its very difficult to keep track of what’s actually happening.
Another disappointment is the lack of cross platform compatibility with the PlayStation 3 version of the game. I suppose that they decided not to include the feature so as to encourage you to play through the challenge tower again, but I cannot help but think that it would’ve been preferable if they allowed you to take your PS3 save file and continue it on the go through the Vita. Still, as the game stands, Mortal Kombat successfully fulfils Sony’s promise of bringing console quality titles to a handheld with very few compromises.
Graphics: 4/5 – Although some of the character models look a little basic the environments and cut scenes are of an exceptionally high standard.
Sound: 5/5 – Great music and sound effects are complimented by strong performances from the game’s voice cast. The sounds made from every blow, be it the shattering of skull, the tearing of flesh, or the squelching of vital organs being crushed, are phenomenal.
Gameplay: 5/5 – Fast paced and fluid combat is buffed up by the brilliant risk reward system of the power up metre. The Challenge Towers offer up plenty of gameplay variety, and offer a significant challenge to those that feel like testing their mettle.
Longevity: 5/5 – Over 30 characters, each with their own endings, a lengthy story mode, and 450 unique challenges to master. This game is crammed full of content, and that’s even before you venture out into the online multiplayer.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
Mortal Kombat is a phenomenal fighting game that manages to perfectly transplant the console experience to the PlayStation Vita while bringing with it a wealth of new features. If you like fighting games and own a Vita then you must buy this game.