Mortal Kombat: Unchained – PSP
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Release Date (NA): November 13th, 2006
Developer: Just Games Interactive
Publisher: Midway Games
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
While on vacation, I left my PS Vita behind and tried to spend some quality time with the oft-ignored PSP. I don’t have all that many games for the noisy little handheld, but one of the bright spots is the device’s version of Mortal Kombat: Deception, which is of course Mortal Kombtat: Unchained. Unchained takes the standard cast of Deception and adds in Shao Kahn and Goro from the GameCube port, plus 4 exclusive characters: Jax, Frost, Kitana, and Blaze, all as they appeared in Deadly Alliance.
On paper, Unchained sounds like a pretty sweet deal. It’s Deception with 6 more characters, intact extra modes such as Chess Kombat, Puzzle Kombat, and Konquest, and an exclusive Endurance mode. Plus, all characters are playable from the start, unlike Deception where several had to be gleaned from Konquest mode. Of course this also means that Deception’s flaws are still evident, including the lackluster newcomers and the expansive and convoluted Krypt with multiple currencies. Even with the PSP’s exclusive characters, they’ve retained their fatality from Deadly Alliance and don’t have Deception’s extra fatality or hara-kiri.
For the most part the fighting is on par with console versions of the game, with combos and special moves all intact. The real problem is how the game’s controls are mapped out. One is free to use either the PSP’s analog knub or the D-pad, though neither offers an advantage. Ducking and especially jumping are major issues. Jumping requires a quick tap of Up, while sidestepping into the background is executed by holding Up; it’s a similar situation with Down, ducking, and stepping into the foreground. Unchained doesn’t do such a great job of registering these “taps,” so it’s very difficult to use ducks and jumps effectively. Instead, you’re likely to see your character sidestepping in circles.
Deception’s Konquest mode has received mixed reception among critics and fans, but I happen to enjoy the open-world exploration peppered with fighting. It’s a fun, outrageous adventure and I enjoy the scenery, the interaction, and all the available sidequests. Unchained preserves Konquest mode in its entirety and really makes it a fun game to pick up and play on the go. I only have a couple of small complaints. The first is the weird camera angles that occasionally pop up with Shujinko is in tight spaces. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if many of the hidden chests weren’t tucked away in these corners so well. It’s also presented a little on the dark side, making the screen tough to see under moderate lighting conditions, especially when night falls in-game.
The other marginally superfluous modes (Chess and Puzzle Kombat) translate well to the handheld port, though I question the usefulness of these modes in the first place. I suppose in some ways they feel more appropriate on the handheld since it gives the game a little more mileage, but these games always seemed a little thin to me and I never quite got into them.
Far and away the worst aspect of Mortal Kombat: Unchained is the excruciating load times. It takes me right back to early PS1 days or even those of the Sega CD, with so much grinding and whirring that you can’t help but wonder if everything is actually functioning properly. I’m not exaggerating. Load times are long and frequent and there’s absolutely no way around it.
Graphically Unchained is a peg or two beneath the console versions of Deception. Edges are little sharper and the detail is scaled back a little, but it’s to be expected with a handheld translation. However, the sound remains fully intact, from the announcements during the fight all the way to Konquest’s voice acting.
Casual fans will probably want to stick with the console ports, but if you have a PSP, this might be one of the better titles to add to your library. If you can suffer through the load times, there’s a good deal of content to keep you busy. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish Konquest on Unchained, but it is nice to be able to pick it up and spend some time reliving one of the franchise’s most epic adventures. Chess and Puzzle Kombat are decent enough to kill time with, and I’m probably more inclined to mess around with them on a handheld as opposed to the console. And let’s be honest: Mortal Kombat has never fared well on handheld platforms, yet Unchained finally gives us a complete, portable version of one of the most expansive MK games to date.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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