Mortal Kombat is a game which stirs in me mixed feelings of nostalgia. I played this a lot in my teens, and some of my fondest memories include playing the arcade version of Mortal Kombat with my friend Ken at a San Antonio Taco Hacienda at 2 AM. Over the years, I’ve had budget concerns remove me from the arcades, and so I’ve not played anything since the MK3 arcade game.
And, I sucked at the games. But I loved playing them, even when people jumped in, because then I could at least see what the other characters were supposed to do when someone knew how to handle the controls. I got familiar with one or two characters at most, and I still got beat up and lost a lot of money. Hence, the mixed feelings about the MK series.
Hearing about a Mortal Kombat for the Vita, I was eager to sign up for this based on good nostalgia plus the positive reviews I’d seen from other people for this port. And, let me tell you, I was not led astray this time. Mortal Kombat is so good, I don’t even know where to begin with the gushing.
You’ve got several different modes to choose from for your fighting pleasure, and Komplete Noobs and Old Fogeys (like me) who need their memory refreshed will find a practice mode that’s rather useful in exploring different combos without being punished by an aggressive AI opponent. For people looking for meaty play, there’s a story mode that spans most of the cast of hero characters, plus a few of the villains. The voice acting is decent, and the cut scenes have great animation standards. This is by far the best cut scenery I’ve ever seen in a fighting game, and up to a certain point, I loved the story.
Then the bad guys lose about 50% through the game, and they’re like, “Hey, screw it, why not cheat?” So they do, and lose…and still win anyway. This game gets ridiculously grim, and it starts upping the ante with some really crazy matches. I was used to playing as one fighter in a tag-team against two other fighters because that was a standard battle throughout the story mode as a way to shake things up. But then in the final chapter, Raiden must face three enemies controlled by Quan Chi all on the same health bar. Lose the last of the three fights, and you still go back to the first match. And, they do this in two waves, making for six enemies on two health bars.
But that’s nothing compared to Shao Khan, the King of the Spam attack. I gave up on the fight in story mode and later beat Shao Khan in Arcade mode with Baraka using cheap shots. I went to YouTube to watch someone else beat story mode with Raiden, and the fight is a dull spam fest of teleport and flying attack, over and over. All the other fights have this mix of moves, because if you spam a move too much, it gets countered. Lots of characters have cheap moves, but those moves all have some form of counter-move. So in every other fight, you have this violent, ultra gory dance between opponents. That last fight with Shao Khan instead is a chance to demonstrate your ability to spam whatever long distance attack you have to stay out of Khan’s range. If you don’t, he has a whole bunch of attacks to spam, and half make him invulnerable to incoming attacks. Even if you stay back, you have to be wary of him throwing his hammer. You can’t block it without being dazed, and given its slow rate of travel, it’s difficult to time a jump to get over it. Just…ugh, hate this guy.
Oh, and on the story mode ending: DOUBLE-UGH. Yes, I know a sequel is guaranteed, but the ending of this is putting in mind an image of a cow being violently milked to death by Scorpion and Sub-Zero. I also get that this is a Mortal Kombat game, so I couldn’t expect a cheerful story. But man, did that ending suck or what?
But, setting that aside, there is nothing else I dislike about this game. I love playing the ladder challenge, where I pick a character and then have a ladder of random opponents set up for me. If I want to change characters but stay on the same ladder, I can. I can play a tag-team challenge and pick two complimentary characters to take on a short tower of tag-team matches. And this is a lot more fun when I can also tag out to an ally, something that never happens in story mode.
The extra characters rock. In addition to the DLC characters that came out for the home console versions (Rain Kenshi, Skarlet, and Freddy Krueger) the Vita version also offers a choice to play Kratos from God of War. I’ve played all of these new characters, and while Kratos is a ton of fun to tank around, I have to go with Skarlet as my favorite of the extras. As for the story mode characters, I think Kung Lao was my favorite to play with. Stryker was the most useless, but I didn’t mind being stuck with him or with certain characters for a few matches because it forced me to keep changing my plans. The game didn’t get old just because I’d played the same opponent twice before. Because now I had to beat them with a different opponent, requiring different tactics each time. Little things about the AI fighting patterns also change from match to match to keep the game play fresh.
Fatalities are a pain in my ass. I can only do a few, and even unlocking the touch screen Fatalities, I can’t sort out how to do most combos right. I have managed to get Baraka’s Babality move consistently, and when I beat Shao Khan in a Ladder challenge, I was also using Baraka. On the beginner level. Like I said, I suck.
Something I can’t test is the online multiplayer. Having a wi-fi only unit, my Vita won’t connect to the network even if I’m sitting right next to my wi-fi router. This is depressing, because I’ll bet getting my ass kicked is just like the old days of Mortal Kombat.
Matches you win give you coins which can be spent at the Krypt to unlock artwork, music, alternate costumes, and secondary Fatality Kodes. There’s no way to tell what you’re buying until you’ve bought it, and playing through the story mode will only net you enough to clear out the first 25% of the Krypt. Aside from winning a trophy for clearing out the area of gory victims, there’s not much here that’s vital. You can Google the fatality lists to unlock moves without buying them, so this is here only for the folks who want to unlock all the achievements.
I dunno, I would have preferred some kind of character upgrade over an alternate costume and a pencil sketch of the levels. Also, I’m not yet clear on how to use those secondary costumes just yet. I can only look at them for now. Which is a little lame, considering how awesome the rest of this game is.
While I love the dual stick controls, some games seem to work better for me with a d-pad. Lumines was a good example and the controls for Mortal Kombat work better for me on the d-pad than they do using the left stick. The right stick is used in tag combos, but it works in a pretty smooth way, and all direction inputs can be sent through the left stick or the d-pad.
I’m still getting back into the swing of Mortal Kombat’s moves, but once I find a character with a broad selection of moves I know, I almost look like I know what I’m doing. But I’ve also lost a lot of matches, and I’ve seen the Fatalities of just about everyone…from the receiving end. That’s not a complaint. I’m really enjoying every level of Kombat, whether I’m winning or losing. The notable exception is Shao Khan, whom I shall hate for all eternity.
Ignoring him, I’ve played most modes in difficulties ranging from the wussy beginner mode up to Medium. And, one day, I may even try hard. Hey, it could happen. The thing is, even playing the game for three days straight, it still hasn’t gotten old. This puts Mortal Kombat on my short list of “games I must keep close by” in case I need a quick fix for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
I know I’ve bitched about the lack of good games on the Vita, but this is starting to turn around, and Mortal Kombat is another release worth the full price of admission. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what this game offers in graphics and special moves, because there’s so much to love about it. If Sony can push out a few more fantastic games like this, Christmas could be a good time to convert some hesitant folks into true believers.
Even with the meh ending and Shao Khan’s cheap ass, I’m giving Mortal Kombat five stars. This is the sort of game that gets better with more time invested in it, and even though I’ve only fought about 100 matches, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up. This is every bit as fun as the original arcade game, but with better graphics, a deeper roster, and a story mode that’s near movie quality. Have I gushed enough? No, but I’ll shut up now and go back to this game. Maybe I can try to rip up Shao Khan with Freddy?