I have a horrible memory, but I vividly remember at least one thing from 2011: playing an extensive amount of Mortal Kombat whenever I could fit it in. When that beloved fighting game hit last year on consoles, it became hard to tear myself away from its addictive combat and plethora of extra modes. After sinking over one hundred hours in the console version and waiting a little over a year, Mortal Kombat has finally been ported over to the Vita with promises that the previous versions held in addition to a lot more. How could they cram even more insanity within a smaller, handheld system? I don’t know, but they pulled it off with little fault.
Honestly, not much has changed with this iteration of Mortal Kombat. Yes, this is a good thing. Fatalities, X-Rays, the combat engine, the seamless (and shockingly engaging) campaign, the Challenge Tower, the Krypt, and stupid Shao Kahn have all been kept in tact and remain just as engrossing. I only found two changes within these parts of the game. One being story fights against two fighters only require one victory instead of two and the other being Kratos’ stage has been strangely excised from the game. Everything still applies from the console versions, so if you want a more detailed analysis, give my old review a read here.
So what is new? Surely they didn’t take this long just to pump out an exact port of an old game, right? For starters, all the downloadable content from has been packed in. All of the extra costumes (including some new, Vita-exclusive ones) and fatalities are in there along with Rain, Kenshi, Freddy Krueger, and Skarlet bringing the in-game roster to a whopping thirty-two playable characters (Shao Kahn, Goro, and Kintaro and playable but limited to the challenges).
The new characters are mainly the focus of the new Challenge Tower that sports 150 objectives. This new tower is just as wacky as the normal one (which is still present) but it uses the Vita’s unique features in addition to the new fighters. For example, one challenge will have you tilt the Vita so you always have higher ground (for better powers) and another will have you shake the console in order to correctly flip the screen. However, my personal favorite was the blatant Fruit Ninja knockoff that substituted delicious fruits for bloody limbs. Knocking out these challenges and earning coins is still enjoyable this time around and using the Vita’s technology fits the mood the previous challenge tower emitted. Yes, there are some lame missions (the missile juggling isn’t great) but those are outnumbered by the quirky, fun ones.
A feature that shouldn’t be overlooked is the touch-based fatalities. These aren’t new finishing moves, but a different way to do the old ones. Instead of humiliating yourself and risking this, you can now perform these inputs by swiping your fingers in the appropriate directions. Ditching the face button translates into more fatalities and less screw ups, something a finicky button presser like myself can appreciate. X-Rays can also be activated by touching the screen in the responding lower corner, something that comes in handy in some situations. Even though the d-pad and buttons may take some getting used to, these new input methods don’t feel tacked-on, but actually useful ensuring that the Vita is a great system for fighting games.
Online play was present in the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, but I never felt that it consistently functioned in a satisfying manner. No matter how fast the Internet connection was, there was always just enough lag to negate the much-needed responsiveness and, subsequently, the fun. While connection issues infest some matches, online play through Wi-Fi is smooth in the Vita version. I jumped into plenty of matches with so little lag that they were actually fun to participate in. The lag-fest that was dubbed King of the Hill mode has been cut in favor of having just tag and regular matches, but that is a loss that isn’t missed. This new-and-improved net code will ensure that most players will always be willing to make the jump online.
Sadly, not everything is on equal ground or stands out as an improvement. While the Vita is a strong system, the fidelity of the characters and sound has been considerably toned down for this system. Some sound effects are not as crisp as they should be, and, although a downgrade, none of it sounds terrible. It might take some time to notice the different audio, but the visuals are apparent from the get-go. Character models are sharp in the console versions but they all look a little rough up close. It isn’t as apparent during fights, but in the beginning and end of a match, you’ll notice significantly less detail. Most muscles are just two-dimensional lines, people aren’t as “shiny,” and a lot of the effects (fire, water, electricity, and more) look much less remarkable. It’s not an ugly game by any stretch, but you won’t confuse it with the other versions. Perhaps it was necessary in order for the game to run at the same smooth framerate and for that I can understand but not overlook.
It would have been easy to request an Ultimate Edition of Mortal Kombat with new fatalities and even more new characters, but given how much new and old content is here, it’s hard to be so demanding. The portability shouldn’t be mistaken for holding back, as this is a complete, full version of the game with a bunch of stuff to continually do. Yes, the graphics took a hit, but the gameplay is a priority and still reigns as a king of the genre. I wasn’t going to plan on quitting Mortal Kombat, but now the fact that I can take it anywhere only ensures that I never put it down.
+Same brilliant fighting engine and retains mostly everything from the console versions
+Online play is surprisingly smooth
+More modes and Vita-specific (and exclusive) features
-Graphics and sound have been noticeably downscaled
Final Score: 9/10