PS Vita Review – Mortal Kombat

At first, you may think that the team at NetherRealm Studios performed a Babality on the console Mortal Kombat, shrinking it down to fit on the PlayStation Vita. That’s not at all the case: Mortal Kombat for the PlayStation Vita is the real thing, every bit as feature packed as the console version, if not more.

Mortal Kombat for the Vita, is very much the same game as the recently released Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition. In fact, I don’t really understand why it wasn’t just labeled as the Komplete Edition; because if anything, there’s more content in the Vita version.

During the transition to the Vita, the graphics took a bit of an uppercut. Environments are just as detailed and gorgeous. But the character models themselves fall a little flat. Part of it is because everything else looks and feels so much like consoles, that the character models stand-out. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but they are a bit washed out and jaggy. Physical deterioration is here, too, although it’s less-pronounced. Remember, though, this is a portable system, so these are comparisons being made to the console version. If there was no console comparison to be made, the game would be applauded for how good it looks.

Minor nitpicks about graphics are a worthy trade-off, though, because the game runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. This ensures that the fighting itself—the whole point behind the game—is flawless. And oh, how it is. Special moves, combos, X-rays and fatalities work without a hitch. Except, exclusive to MK for Vita, you can touch the screen to perform an X-ray, or swipe the screen for fatalities. Swiping the directional inputs for fatalities brings a accessibility to newcomers, while series’ veterans like myself, may even find it a pleasant surprise. For one, I first though the addition was blasphemous, and now, I use it most of the time. It just feels natural. Besides, you only need to enter the directional movements, dropping that final button press to initiate the fatality sequence. It also negates the need to hold block during some fatalities to prevent jumping. I like that a lot.

The entire roster is here, plus all of the DLC characters and costumes that were available post-launch on consoles. There are even a few Vita-exclusive costumes added in for good measure. Much of the costumes can be unlocked through the Challenge Towers, giving more reason to play all the way through them.

Also in-tact is the full story mode. Mortal Kombat‘s story mode is by far the most enjoyable, involved story mode in a fighting game ever. Playing through it gives you a massive dose of Mortal Kombat lore from the first three games of the series, fills in some backstory, and does a great job with introducing you to the various characters and their fighting styles.

The Challenge Tower returns, but with a second added bonus Challenge Tower with 150 challenges focusing on the Vita’s unique touch and tilt capabilities. Just like the first challenge tower, tasks are varied in both scope and in difficulty, all with a smidge of NetherRealm Studio’s signature humor. Challenges are enjoyable most of the time, but there are a few that are frustratingly difficult. But hey, it’s not called a Challenge Tower for nothing. The majority of the challenges have some sort of touch or tilt integration, sometimes both. Tilting your Vita, in some matches, can literally turn the entire arena. Touching is more straightforward, such as tapping incoming projectiles to stop them from causing damage, wiping blood off the screen, and more.

The bonus Challenge Tower also introduces you to two new “Test Your” mini-games. The other ones are there, too, but for the purpose of this review, I’m only going to talk about the new additions. “Test Your Balance” sets a kombatant out on a plank, hovering over a deadly pit. The plank leans to one-side, and you must tile the Vita in the opposite direction to keep your fighter balanced. As they get more difficult, decapitated heads get tossed at you to try and break your concentration. For “Test Your Slice”, the decapitated heads make another appearance, but this timed, they’re tossed in the air and you use your finger to slice and dice them, Fruit Ninja-style. There’s no two ways about it, this is a complete knock-off of Fruit Ninja, but with a gore-filled Mortal Kombat touch. Watch for modifiers like Sub-Zero’s head, which freeze all the other heads in place, allowing you to build up more and more score. It’s fun, it’s gross… it’s perfect for Mortal Kombat. But truthfully, you probably won’t spend much time playing these if you didn’t spend much time doing “Test Your Might” or the others.

The game features all the other modes, such as Ladder, Tag Ladder, Practice, and Versus. The Krypt is even back, too. Versus can be done via local ad-hoc connection, or online over Wi-Fi. The eight-player King of the Hill matches are gone, unfortunately, but both 1-on-1 and tag matches are available however you choose to connect. Online connected with any issues, and the result was a perfectly stable few matches against a number of foes. Online also includes voice chat via the Vita’s built-in microphone, great for talking smack.

[Highlight text between spoiler tags to reveal spoiler] There is a hidden Augmented Reality mode, inspired by the original “Fight Anyone, Anywhere” commercial, tucked away in the game’s Practice mode. It uses the Vita’s rear-camera to superimpose the selected fighters over whatever it is the camera is facing. It’s so damn cool, but is unfortunately relegated to only the Practice mode. To unlock, press triangle at the character select screen to select an arena, then press L and R on the Vita. Shao Kahn will laugh in a sinister way, letting you know that you’ve unlocked the AR mode. [End spoiler]

As a complete package, Mortal Kombat Vita is an impressive piece of software and a near-flawless port from consoles to a handheld. It’s one of the best fighters of this generation, magically tailored to work to PlayStation Vita’s advantages. Although unfair yet impossible to avoid comparisons will be made of it to its console counterpart, the Vita version proves that console-quality games and experiences are possible on Sony’s new portable. And it proves that it can be done with hardly any compromise.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+Everything the console version offers, and more.

+Fighting, both online or off, is flawless.

+Touch controls offer some benefits to normal gameplay.

8.5 out of 10