Mortal Kombat (2011) – PS Vita
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date (NA): May 1st, 2012
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Rating: 7 out of 10
One of my more specific interests in the realm of gaming is the Mortal Kombat franchise, which I’ve followed diligently since the time of Mortal Kombat 3. In fact, I daresay I’ve been into MK longer than I’ve been into gaming in general. I own all the major titles, and I casually attempt to collect each release for each system. Having purchased Mortal Kombat (2011) (I wish there was something better to call it; I’m sure Boon thought this was a genius idea but it only serves to attach the “2011” suffix to the game for all time) for the PSV long after playing through the 360 version and shortly after acquiring the “Komplete Edition” for PS3, I thought myself in a good position to review it not only as a game but as a comparison to the console releases.
Gone are the days of sub-par ports to handhelds. This version contains features identical to the 360 and PS3 releases, as well as an all new Bonus Challenge Tower tower that really shows off the interesting was in which the PS Vita’s technology can be integrated into a fighting game. Many challenges include having to touch the screen to defeat opponents (via several methods) and dotted in along the way are minigames. The minigames still retain the Mortal Kombat flavor, but without fighting. One is essentially a version of Fruit Ninja with body parts instead of fruit, another forces a player to balance by subtlely tilting the system left and right. Tons of interesting glimpses in the MK universe are offered in this tower with NetherRealm Studios even going so far as to included a fight with Tremor (from MK: Special Forces) and several alternate /classic versions of character costumes to be unlocked. One of my favorite features is to execute fatalities using only the touch screen. While fun and novel, this sort of gameplay can become a little frustrating, so it’s good to see it stuffed away in a totally optional area. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about touch screens and fighting games being mentioned too seriously in the same sentence. The amazing joystick on the Vita will delight many MK veterans, but I’m still pleased that the D-pad hasn’t become completely obsolete. Otherwise the graphics are amazing (especially if you’ve got your Wii U plugged up to your old tube-based TV like me) and the load times are acceptable.
On to Mortal Kombat Two Thousand Eleven itself, it’s a nice break from the complex fighting mechanics of many previous MK titles. Most fighting is fairly straightforward with move lists included in the Pause Menu that older MK fans will recognize a little easier than those of the last half dozen releases. Blood and guts remain a staple of the franchise, and added to (parenthetically notated video game) is the “X-Ray” special move which lets you see slow-motion internal damage such as bones breaking and organs shifting. A neat feature initially, it becomes an unwelcome interuption of the fast paced fighting, although there is no denying its relative simplicity to execute and the massive damage incurred by the opponent. Depending on one’s experience level, this could be good or bad. The 2.5 dimensional environment brings the MK series back to what it was best at rather than the clumsy and sometimes unnecessary 3D mechanics present since MK4.
The ongoing storyline of the MK universe has always been one of the first things I look forward to in each new release, but Mortal Kombat, not to be confused with the 1992 game, this one was released in 2011, leaves something to be desired. In a well received effort to return the series to its former glory, there is an especially contrived tale involving time travel which more or less brings us back to the events of MK3/UMK3/MT with a splash of MK2. While this story is a stain on the rich mythology of the franchise, I do like the quasi-reimagining of those earlier games along with the familiar character roster. I am not a fan of the decision to begin the game with so much of the roster locked, but on the other hand it does add some purpose to fighting match after match
The major drawback of Mortal Kombat 9 (what they should’ve called it for God’s sake) is the lack of a story oriented 1-player mode. Beginning somewhat with Deadly Alliance, coming into its own in Deception (yeah I know everyone else hated it), and waning in Armageddeon, the franchise aimed to increase replay value by adding in a fun 1-player mode. Much of it revolved around the standard fights, but there was also a good bit of gameplay dedicated to moving through the game’s storyline. MK2011 eschews any such gameplay by offering a 1 player mode with a variety of cartoon cut-scenes interspersed through regular matches that retell MK2 and MK3 only, well, a little differently because of the Raiden time travel amulet death shit. Example: Sub-Zero is a robot and Smoke remains human! There are a few things besides basic fighting worth checking out however, especially the two challenge towers. The bonus PS Vita minigames Test Your Slice / Balance also provide respite from fighting.
Is (2011) the best in the series? Not exactly. Is it the best title since MKT? I’m not so convinced, but then again I actually like MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero AND I get my fair share of fun from MK Special Forces. I do think it’s a good start for distancing itself from the ridiculousness that the franchise was becoming in some ways, but the Mortal Kombat brand name has got a good bit of ground to cover before re-emerging as the powerhouse it once was.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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