Mortal Kombat is now on Vita, and, much like the first game in the series that hit arcades in 1992, its unflinching portrayal of kombatants being ripped limb from limb is shockingly graphic.
Yet, focusing on the characters being torn asunder, the pints of red stuff spilled, or the bone-shattering moves is missing the point. At the throbbing heart of Mortal Kombat is a solid, often thrilling versus fighter with loads of characters and a lengthy single-player story.Fight!
All the expected modes of play are present in this Vita iteration. Ladder and Tag Ladder offer 1-on-1 and tag team arcade-style fightathons, in which you climb the ranks until you take down Shao Kahn.
There's Versus mode, too, for ad hoc and online scrapping, both of which work well. Your mileage will vary with regards to the online lag, but with a good connection, it's a smooth process to get into games.
The Training mode, meanwhile, shows you the ropes, but more could have been made out of teaching you the advanced techniques you'll need for top-tier play.
Challenge Tower and a brand-new Bonus Challenge Tower mix up the game's rules and add new ideas not found in regular matches. You can experiment with everything from regenerating health bars to fighting without arms in these two modes, plus Bonus Challenge Tower throws in some motion-based mini-games, including a totally serviceable Fruit Ninja clone (where you slice limbs as they're thrown into the air).
But, the real meat in Mortal Kombat for Vita is in the Story mode. Reinvigorating the franchise via a completely new plot (albeit with stock characters and well-worn Mortal Kombat themes) ensures that fans and newbies will gain just as much from its gib-filled tale.
Centred on the struggle between Earthrealm and Outworld, it's a classic good vs evil narrative involving time travel, mysterious destinies, and the odd corny gag. It's steadily paced and flows from cutscene to kombat without pause.Not quite a flawless victory
In fact, the only clue you'll get that you're about to fight is the significant downstep in visual quality from pre-rendered animation to in-game graphics. The Vita version suffers in comparison to the home console editions in this respect, with the developer clearly - and rightly - prioritising frames of animation over fidelity.
Moment-to-moment play is heavily weighted towards combination attacks, where you must string long chains of hits together after spotting an opening to success. Counters provide a lot of back and forth between fighters, though I did find that there were moments where the AI began cheesing moves.
Otherwise, Mortal Kombat on Vita is a fast and approachable title that button-mashers can muck through, picking up strategies along the way. Hardcore fighting fans have much to learn and to exploit from its systems. If you've got the time and patience, the game divulges its deeper secrets at a steady rate.
More than the sum of its body parts, Mortal Kombat is a rewarding brawler that anyone can enjoy, whether alone or with others. Its rich universe and fighting engine are only thwarted by less-than-stellar visuals, a few long load times between modes, and a bare basics training area.