Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
May 1, 2012
NetherRealm and Warner Bros. bring Mortal Kombat to the PlayStation Vita handheld. Along with the komplete 32 character roster and a bonus second challenge tower, will portability prove to be worth a purchase, or is the game in mortal danger?
For many many years Mortal Kombat has been a tournament, fought between kombatants with the fate of Earthrealm hanging in the balance. Over time this evolved with the addition of countless characters, betrayals, and plot twists making the plot almost irrelevant. So when Ed Boon and Nether Realm decided to reboot the game, naturally the only way to do this is time travel. Remarkably this is probably the best thing they could have done, as Mortal Kombat for the PS Vita takes the story of the first three Mortal Kombat games and strings them together for a surprisingly coherent tale of the heroes of Earthrealm and the villainous Emperor Shao Kahn and his many powerful minions.
As Shao Kahn gazes upon the fields littered with the decapitated bodies of kombatants the only surviving opponent is Raiden. Badly beaten and near death he uses the last of his power to implore the Elder Gods to intervene. With their help Raiden sends a vision of the events that have come to pass to his earlier self, around the time of the first tournament. These short visions are all he has to help him guide Liu Kang and the other defenders from Earthrealm to salvation. For each attempt Raiden makes to improve the future, a new twisted timeline begins to take shape. As these visions become increasingly unclear it will be up to each member of the tournament to shape the future in time for the ultimate konflict, one where the Emperor may still yet stand triumphant over all life.
The Vita is a powerhouse to be sure, but unfortunately Mortal Kombat doesn't make use of its full power. The character movement is fluid to be sure, but the graphics are PlayStation 2 at best. The game's stages bring many familiar faces from the past, including the Acid Pit, Emperorís Throne Room and Goro's Lair. The details of many of these areas are good from a distance, but during the kharacter (see what I did there?) intros many of the pixilated flaws can be seen. The Arena is probably the best example as the stands are filled with horrible 16-bit looking blobs with random bits of colors that I suspect were supposed to be on-lookers. The characters fare no better up close, as many of them look like they were beaten thoroughly by the ugly tree trunk of doom and boy do I mean that. Look below if you don't believe me.
With that out of the way it's on to bigger and better things when it comes to the cutscenes. Although not jaw dropping in any way, these are remarkable as they transition from cutscene to actual gameplay without as much as a second thought. It is evident to me that the graphics may have been pared down simply to ensure the gameplay doesnít suffer a more than welcomed trade off in my opinion.
Mortal Kombat for the Vita does feature full voice over work just like Mortal Kombat for consoles and I'm sure fans couldn't be happier. The voice work is good; certain characters like Johnny Cage take the cake in my opinion, with good performances here and there for other characters as well. The voice acting certainly lends to the experience of story mode, but aside from that, other modes won't get nearly as chatty with the player. The sounds of battle you will hear are just as good as they are nostalgic though.
When it comes to music though, Mortal Kombat is a tossup. The compositions that play during certain stages sound ok, but further listening through the game's Nekropolis leaves you feeling that they suit the mood well enough, but lack a certain personality that makes a game. Thankfully you probably won't be paying too much attention to the soundtrack anyway, as you'll most likely hear nothing but the screams as you rip your opponentís spine out. Now that is music to my ears!
To be completely honest with all of you right now, I am not a fighting game aficionado. There are plenty of other people here that have more experience with fighters than I do, and more skill for sure. But from the perspective of someone who is at least versed in a few fighting game franchises, I can pick up on some of the more amazing points about this game. The most amazing, and most noticeable is how this game feels. The controls are totally responsive. There is seemingly no lag from button press to screen, an absolute must for any fighting game. Whereas other handheld fighters are good enough, Mortal Kombat really wows when it comes to its super smooth handling. The 60 frames-per-second action never lets up no matter what gameplay mode you enter. It's so good any person who has been playing the console versions will easily be able to execute all their same combos on the Vita with no problems.
True to its console cousin, Mortal Kombat for Vita carries over Arcade, Story, Challenge Tower, Training, and Versus modes. The Vita version also adds the Bonus Challenge Tower as well, for another 100 all new challenge missions that also use the Vita's features such as touch screen and SIXAXIS tilt sensors. What is also impressive about this title is the amount of content. First off this game is essentially the "game of the year" version because it contains all the DLC characters from the console version of this game. Basically you get all the original kombatants plus Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain, Freddy Krueger, as well as the PS3/Vita exclusive Kratos of God of War fame. That makes 32 playable characters all ready to go from the moment you turn the game on!
When it comes time to actually put boots to asses in Mortal Kombat the games many modes will keep you entertained with plenty to do. Arcade mode features a normal arcade Ladder of 10 rounds at any one of the game's difficulty settings from beginner to expert. There is also a Tag Ladder mode that allows you to play arcade mode with the tag team style gameplay. There is also Test your (fill in the blank) with little challenges that go from the traditional Test Your Might, to newer odder challenges like Test Your Sight or Test Your Balance. These are basically just ways to replay specific challenges you've already unlocked in the challenge tower and bonus challenge tower already all sorted and ready to go.
When it comes to Story Mode however the game takes on a life of its own. The Story Mode is surprisingly vast and if you were expecting this story mode to last any less than 8 hours you'd be mistaken. As I said before the story is surprisingly coherent and actually pretty exciting. You take control of one of Earthrealm's defenders for a chapter, seeing the story unfold from their perspective. This allows you to get a feel for many of the characters in the game, making this mode good for anyone new to the game as well as those interested in seeing the story unfold. When all is said and done the story's 16 chapters are great reminders that even fighting games can go out of their way to give us great stories.
The Challenge Tower is basically unchanged, and players have to go through 150 levels of fights that require more strategy than normal. Some floors may have you defeat an opponent with X-ray moves locked or similar criteria. Aside from being more gameplay, it's also another good way to expand your skill and strategy. Once you manage to conquer the first tower, the Bonus Tower is full of 100 new Vita exclusive challenges to mix things up. Shaking, slicing, and tapping the touch screen plays a part in most of these new challenges but there are some that are similar to those in the previous tower as well. One hilarious challenge has you fight as a group of zombies with very low health. When you win the zombie does a "Thriller" victory dance which was every bit as much of a reward as the actual Koins I got for completion. It's things like this that keep the MK experience fresh, and I have no doubt this game was as fun for NetherRealm to make as it is for us to play. When care like this is put into a game it is quite obvious and passes easily on to the player, and Mortal Kombat shows it at every juncture.
Being a fighting game, the greatest lasting appeal will always be fighting against friends or strangers, whatever your preference. With MK on the Vita you can do this in a few ways. Local ad-hoc is available should you and a friend both have a Vita and copy of the game, or you can go online via Wi-Fi and challenge people anywhere in the world. This is a very welcomed inclusion as I can't see how this game could have been at its best without online multiplayer. The pot it sweetened further here as online mode is not watered down aside from lacking a spectator mode. You can participate in ranked matches, random player matches, or even fight against friends as you send invites through the Vita's messaging application. Rankings are of course tracked for ranked matches though I don't believe the stats are cross platform at all.
That aside, Mortal Kombat also has plenty other features to keep you coming back. The challenge towers, and Test Your (insert here) are pretty fun, but the real meat is in the Krypt. With Koins you collect during the game you can unlock extras such as alternate costumes, fatalities, music, koncept art, and Kombat Kodes (yes the Vita version still uses them!). It's pretty awesome to see all the various extras included in this game and unlocking them all will take a bit of work!
There are also trophies of course for you trophy fans out there, including Platinum. Some are obtained through online or versus playing meaning actual skill is required to get this game's platinum but there are plenty others for beating story mode, kompleting the Krypt, etc.
Mortal Kombat for the Vita is a port, yes, but it is an exemplary port. When Sony said they wanted to create a powerful handheld that could give players a console experience on the go, they were talking about Mortal Kombat for the Vita. Not only does it feature new challenges that take advantage of the Vita's exclusive functions like the touch screen and the tilt sensor, but it carries over the feel from the console versions of this game almost flawlessly. Sure, the graphics look like they could have been done on a PS2, but the game runs smooth and lightning quick. To top it all off, the amount of content found in this Vita version is really impressive. To call this game worth the money is an understatement in my opinion, and one that often made even better by the occasional sale price on this title. It is easy to get the impression NetherRealm has produced a game that they truly love to play, and dedication like that always makes a game shine brighter than the sum of its already impressive parts.
Also, Shao Kahn is a ****.