Also on: PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Medium: Digital Download/Vita Card
Players: 1 – 2
The Mortal Kombat reboot which was released in 2011 for the PS3 and Xbox 360 was a critical and commercial success for both Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and NetherRealm Studios. The game was exactly what fans wanted from the series and went above and beyond what a modern fighting game should offer. Taking that already great fighter, shrinking it down onto the 5" screen of the PlayStation Vita, and adding a rather significant amount of new content, gives us probably the very best version of the game so far.
From the Challenge Tower and deep story mode, to the more traditional arcade ladders, online play and huge amount of unlockable extras, Mortal Kombat was positively loaded with content, probably more than any average gamer would have time to actually play through. The PlayStation Vita version literally has all of that and a whole new set of Challenge Tower events, all of the released console DLC characters and balance tweaks, and even more extras on top of that. There is a serious, almost daunting amount of content in the game and it's a wonder that they were able to cram it all into a 2GB+ download / PS Vita Card. And best of all, it all translates beautifully to the PS Vita.
Among the many great decisions that Sony made while developing the PS Vita, blessing the portable with one of the best modern d-pads in portable history is a pretty important one in my opinion. The controls in Mortal Kombat most definitely feel like they were designed around a traditional control pad instead of an arcade stick, and the game is very much at home on the Vita. The d-pad works perfectly so you'll never have an issue with screwing up a combo due to the hardware, and there are more than enough buttons and touch-screen actions available to suit almost any style of reconfiguration. The touch screen, in regular gameplay modes, is primarily used to trigger an X-ray move by tapping on the X-ray bar instead of using L & R together, and it works well enough if you find your fingers out of position. Other than that, the touch screen and accelerometers are used for the PS Vita exclusive Challenge Tower events and the Test Your Slice, Test Your Balance type of mini-games. You can also swipe out fatality movements in some instances and it actually works quite nicely. Most of the time, you'll be playing the game with the d-pad and buttons though so it’s not like you’ll be required to utilize dumbed down gestures in any way. The only control related issue I had with Mortal Kombat Vita was with flicking the right stick to do tag-related actions since it feels slightly awkward at first. It’s not as convenient as hitting an L or R button (though you could change it), so really isn't an issue once you get used to it or work around it.
In terms of visuals, Mortal Kombat on the PS Vita looks alarmingly close to the PS3 version. You can see a few spots where the textures appears softer, characters more angular, and some of the lighting isn't quite as dramatic, but honestly, you'll have a hard time complaining once you see it all moving at 60fps during gameplay. The X-ray moves occasionally cause a few frames to drop, though again, it's nothing out of the ordinary even as compared to the console versions. One thing in particular that bothered me somewhat was the occasional extra small and/or sometimes blurry text. I'm not farsighted by any means, but it seems that NetherRealm may have just ported some of the UI menus and text from the console version without realizing that players will have to read it on a much smaller screen. The Challenge Tower details and the tutorial mode text are good examples. Overall, in terms of graphics, Mortal Kombat easily holds its own against Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom and, most likely, the upcoming Street Fighter X Tekken.
In terms of audio, Mortal Kombat sounds every bit as nice as the console version, from the dramatic soundtrack and booming voice samples, to the (sometimes hilarious) voiced story mode scenes. Sound is more than acceptable from the Vita's speakers but a good pair of headphones doesn’t hurt.
There's a lot to love about Mortal Kombat for the PS Vita. The game controls like a dream, the modes and gameplay lend themselves extremely well to short bursts of play, and NetherRealm even included solid online multiplayer gameplay and functionality. And in case you're wondering, load times are virtually non-existent and actually seem quicker than either of the console versions (which weren't terrible to begin with). It's pretty safe to say that I prefer to play the PS Vita version of Mortal Kombat over the others at this point, and I'm sure it'll have a permanent home on my PS Vita Memory Card.