"Kompact Kombat For Less Koin"
The 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat (informally called "Mortal Kombat 9" by fans) was a surprise hit for the long-running yet often-beleaguered fighting series. It was a fresh start for veterans of the original hyper-gory parent-offending video game, as well as an accessible jumping-on point for those who wanted to try their first fatality. With streamlined gameplay mechanics, an endearingly cheesy story mode, and extra features that went way above and beyond the call of duty, Mortal Kombat 9 was easily one of 2011's best fighting games. While some concessions were made when porting the series to the Vita, the result is still a blast of gratuitously violent fun.
The story of this Mortal Kombat is set between various points of the original 16-bit trilogy, thanks to time travel and precognition. All the uninitiated gamer needs to know is that the characters are competing in an interdimensional martial arts tournament, with the fate of all worlds hanging in the balance. The moves are relatively simple compared to other fighting games, but the gameplay is fast and brutal, and the characters are diverse in their bizarre traits (including the guy with a razor-sharp boomerang hat, the ninja who can turn himself and others into ice, and Johnny Cage, who needs no explanation. In traditional Mortal Kombat fashion, the brutality of the fighting is kicked up to eleven, with every punch causing a spurt of blood like a burst red water balloon, and the victor of every match given the opportunity to pull off an especially grotesque finishing move.
On the PS3 and Xbox 360, Mortal Kombat was a beautiful game in its over-the-top 1990s way, with impressively detailed character models and environments. Unfortunately, this isn't true for the Vita version, where the graphics have taken a massive hit in the conversion. The frame rate is impressive, so the characters look good in motion, but they look simplistic up close, as though they were from a PSP game. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but the loss of graphical fidelity is especially jarring in the Story Mode, when the high-quality cutscene videos are immediately followed with the much lower resolution playable segments.
Still, nobody plays Mortal Kombat for anything but the violence, and the Vita version delivers where it counts. The prodigious amount of content of the console versions is completely intact, complete with all the modes, challenges, and extras. Though the Vita game doesn't support Cross-Play with the PS3 version, all that version's downloadable content is included on the card, as well as the Sony-exclusive playable Kratos (a "hero" perfect for the barbarism of this universe).
Best of all, the Vita version sports new features, including challenges using the handheld's unique features. These include gyroscopic balancing tests, touch-screen fatalities, and a Fruit Ninja parody that involves slicing severed heads. None of these are revolutionary, but it's great to see the developer adding some funny surprises for Vita owners, and it goes a long way towards making Mortal Kombat a mandatory purchase for portable gamers with sufficiently strong stomachs.
GameDynamo's Score for Mortal Kombat (PS Vita)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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