I’m going to keep this one relatively short. In a nutshell, the Vita version of Mortal Kombat offers everything that was found in the amazing console version from last year and is, unsurprisingly, a solid release for Sony’s latest handheld.
I could leave it there, but I’ll delve a little deeper.
Make no mistake, there are corners cut in order to fit this massive game onto a handheld, of which I’ll get to in a bit, but they barely distract from the overall package. In fact, there’s something to be said for how NetherRealm Studios makes up for the game’s minor shortcomings by showering us with new, shiny things for this release – be it the new Challenge Tower, touch-based finishers, new character skins and all previously released DLC for free. Mortal Kombat Vita might be a port of a nearly year-old game, but it’s a damn good port, maybe one of the best in recent memory.
If you played MK on the console last year, then you know what you’re getting with this version. MK Vita comes with that great (and hilarious) single-player campaign, the classic (or is it klassic?) ladder tournament, online multiplayer lobbies (both Wi-Fi and AdHoc) and the original Challenge Tower from the console release. Having played the original console version at length, all of this content is fantastic, so I’m not going to spend more time going over it.
The first real significant addition is the secondary Challenge Tower with all-new tests; including some utilizing the Vita’s touch gestures. You might be yelling from the mountain tops at the gods above for forsaking you with forced gimmicks, but let me stop you there; the touch-based mini-games that pay homage to titles like Fruit Ninja, for example, work because of how absurd they are. Mortal Kombat, from a conceptual level, is ridiculous. Therefore, mini-games where you swat away bombs to instead slice chunks of flesh don’t feel that far fetched.
Likewise, balancing on a beam using the Vita’s accelerometer to avoid falling to your death in a pit of spikes fits right in line with the legacy of what Mortal Kombat represents — ludicrousness. These mini-games aren’t huge selling points for the title, but they do represent extra content that you would be foolish to turn down.
Speaking of touch controls, the Vita version of Mortal Kombat introduces a few tweaks to gameplay that actually improve the standard combat experience. For starters, you can now perform fatalities by just swiping the correct directional inputs on the Vita’s touch screen, no need to worry about pressing any buttons, directional or otherwise. Now you’ll never run into one of those embarrassing scenarios where you go to press the final button in your fatality combo and mistakenly perform a sweep of the leg on your opponent – this is Mortal Kombat, not Karate Kid.
You can also choose to use the Vita’s touchscreen to perform the game’s X-ray moves. A simple tap of the X-ray bar when full performs your character’s unique bone-crushing maneuver. It’s a nice addition, one that you can choose to ignore if it pleases you, but it makes pulling off these moves very easy and intuitive.
Now’s the part of this review where I discuss the Vita version’s biggest shortcoming: the graphics. It’s clear that NetherRealm had to scale things back for this release. The Vita version of MK does not look nearly as slick as its bigger console brothers. Textures are flat and muscle definition looks painted on with every character. You really don’t get the full effect of Shao Kahn’s six-pack, for instance.
With that said, however, the rest of Mortal Kombat looks pretty solid. Stages are still dynamically animated, with plenty going on in the background to distract you from the battle at hand. If you can get over the lack of definition found in the foreground, what remains is more than enough to show off the power of the Vita to your friends who might still find themselves on the fence with the system.
When all is said and done, NetherRealm should absolutely be commended for their work on MK Vita. When most gamers hear the word “port,” they immediately think inferior product. That is just not the case here. Sure, the game has toned down visuals, but it more than makes up for them with the amount of content available from first boot-up. If you’re a Vita owner in dire need of a new game, it has arrived in the form of Mortal Kombat, whether you played the game a year ago or not.
Full Disclosure: CraveOnline received one advanced DL voucher for Mortal Kombat for the PS Vita from Edelman, on behalf of Warner Bros. We were held to the embargo date of Tuesday, May 1, 2012, at 12:01am PST. Before starting our review, we played through the majority of the single player campaign for a second time, as well as all other modes for a number of hours.