Launching over a year after the home console debut of Mortal Kombat’s modern reboot, simply known as Mortal Kombat, the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) release of the videogame has still be welcomed by the console’s mature audience. Aside from the early offering of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, fans of one-on-one beat-‘em-ups have has little to hold their interest in the three months since launch. And while Zen United’s PS Vita debut was a fantastic recreation of its home console counterpart, no gamer can be satisfied by one title alone.
Mortal Kombat provides an answer to that gap in the market with a welcome taste of its fantasy based brutality. Just as with BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, Mortal Kombat delivers a home console quality experience in terms of gameplay and quantity of content, however it does suffer under direct comparison in terms of visual quality. Mortal Kombat on PS Vita is a brilliantly realised vision of the hugely popular reboot for the much loved franchise, but it isn’t a looker.
As with any beat-‘em-up, the arcade mode – simply labelled ‘Fight’ – seems the most reasonable place to start. In typical Mortal Kombat tradition, players work up a ladder to the ultimate clash with Shao Khan: a simple but effective system. In addition to the basic gameplay mode, Fight hides a tag-team based ladder variation and the ‘test your’ mini-games. As comprehensive as this selection of gameplay modes however, it still takes second place to another in terms of intrigue: Story Mode.
Just as with the home console version of Mortal Kombat, the Story Mode on PS Vita is a fantastic rendition of the first two videogames. Given the same stunningly detailed cut-scenes (although not quite as smooth, and with a much more noticeable transition to the in-game graphics) and quality of voice acting, the design of Mortal Kombat’s Story Mode sets a new standard for beat-‘em-ups. Players will play through the campaign in chapters, with each new chapter presenting a new combatant to play as. Not only does it present one of the most highly detailed, engrossing stories of any beat-‘em-up from the last twenty five years, but it also acts as a tool to push players out of their comfort zone and learn to use some characters that they might otherwise have largely ignored.
The single-player gameplay modes are rounded off with the Challenge Tower and Bonus Challenge Tower modes, as well as Training. The latter surely need no explanation, while the former plays exactly like its home console counterpart, presenting hundreds of bespoke challenges increasing in difficulty. Bonus Challenge Tower is more of the same, but is a completely new addition for the PS Vita version of the videogame.
One of the most significant additions to the PS Vita version of Mortal Kombat doesn’t actually come from it’s gameplay modes however, but rather the implementation of one of the franchises’ most famous mechanics. The Fatality’s can now be performed via swipes of the touchscreen. At first this may sound like an excuse to use the console’s features rather than an intuitive redesign, but the latter is exactly what it is: for the first time in a Mortal Kombat videogame, entering the ‘up’ input on a Fatality combination won’t make your character jump, easing the timing of such strings considerably.
Multiplayer gameplay is delivered via both online and local wireless gameplay modes. Just as smooth as playing offline, the online multiplayer gameplay is a little more basic in it’s variety but no less enjoyable than the home console editions. Ranked matches and friendly bouts are available, and players can still earn those all important Trophies playing against distant enemies.
The visual department is where Mortal Kombat suffers most on PS Vita, clearly inferior to the home console editions of the videogame. The backdrops and stills just as well presented – aside from Shao Khan’s stage, which features an entirely 2D crowd – but the animated models are ridiculously poor by comparison. They are still fluid in their movements and visceral in their bloodshed, but lack the definition sported by their console counterparts, with flat basic textures wrapped around fewer polygons. The sound quality performs better, with the voice acting brought to the portable system in a remarkably complete fashion.
A pleasingly playable release, Mortal Kombat brings the quick fire combat of the home console editions to PS Vita in a remarkably complete form. Including nearly all of the content of the more recently released Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition and an additional gameplay mode delivered exclusively for PS Vita gamers, Mortal Kombat is certainly filling that beat-‘em-up sized whole it intended to. Despite a number of technical flaws, Mortal Kombat does provide what is arguably the best rendition of the franchise to ever grace a handheld console.