Review: Mortal Kombat for PlayStation Vita

Patrick McCarron - May 1, 2012

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One thing that many games have done when making the move to the Vita is that developers made it a point to change their game play to take advantage of each and every Vita hardware feature. This is often due to pressure from Sony to show off the many features of the new hardware. NetherRealm seems to have resisted that, and instead created unique new content for the Vita version of the game instead of re-working all their existing content.

Actually the only part of the consoles’ game mechanics that was changed for the Vita was giving players an alternative method of execution. Now you can tap the pulsating "X-Ray" button once your meter is full instead of engaging it by pressing the shoulder buttons together. You can also execute all the Fatalities by just swiping across on the screen instead of inputting them manually. But if you are stuck in your old ways, nothing is forcing you do doing it the new way either. I found this approach was great because I was not forced into using them. Instead as I grew accustomed to the new methods I gradually started to use them.

The most exciting new Vita exclusive content that NetherRealm added is a completely new "Bonus Challenge Tower" with 150 completely new Vita specific missions. Included in this tower are two new "Test Your" mini games.

The first is Test Your Slice which is a re-worked version of Half Brick Studio's popular touch screen mobile game Fruit Ninja, only now instead of fruit you slice at severed body parts with your finger while avoiding bombs. Test Your Slice adds unique power-ups and game rules that are not only fun, but ends up being quite challenging. Nothing is more rewarding than hitting a Toasty Mode power-up and having a quick 25 items fill the screen for you to swipe at as fast as possible while still avoiding incoming bombs.

There are a total of 15 different challenging levels of Test Your Slice, 10 of which you'll encounter in the Bonus Challenge Tower. The later five missions are more challenging and will test your wits if you want the Trophy for clearing them all. The only thing I wish they added was one more Test Your Slice mission with no score cap that has a leaderboard to compete against your friends on.

The other new Vita exclusive mode is Test Your Balance. In this mode you are put on a small platform out over a pit of death. You have then then tilt your PlayStation Vita to maintain balance as body parts are thrown at you. Later stages have you having to maintain balance in a certain part of the meter.

While I started out liking this mode, it got incredibly hard to the level that I found it more frustrating than fun. There are just ten different levels of difficulty for you to complete in order to snag the PSN Trophy, but be careful it will not be easy!

Other missions in the Bonus Challenge Tower have you doing things like tapping on your opponent to remove its armor, juggling characters with touch screen rockets, wiping blood off of the screen, to throwing parts of your body across the screen with your finger. They really went hog wild in mixing up the Vita's hardware features into new difficult challenges for the players.

As you continue up the tower you learn more and more ways to use the Vita hardware during fights until you reach the End Game II mission where you have to put these learned skills to use to win.

Like the previous Challenge Tower, the development team added a bunch of humorous pre-fight dialogue and even some inside jokes and references just for fans of the series. Like the mission "Isn't It Marvelous!" where Johnny Cage mocks just having to tap the screen to win, just like the game feature from Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 for the Vita.

You'll even get the chance to play as the boss characters Shao Kahn and Kintaro for the first time in the Bonus Challenge Tower. They both have their own performable special moves, combos and maybe even Fatalities.

One change from last time, is that in this tower you will unlock Vita exclusive content as you progress the tower. There are sixteen new characters skins awaiting for you to discover. Also, who knows what other earth shattering secrets may lie in the bonus tower. For help unlocking and finding this secret content check out our Mortal Kombat Vita Forums where we will have guides up later this week detailing everything for you.

There is one Vita exclusive however that is getting a lot of attention that really shouldn't be. That feature is the "Augmented Reality Training Mode." This is really just an easter egg, not a line item feature at all despite many blogs saying otherwise. While it can be fun for a bit is pretty pointless because it's only available in training mode and the PS Vita camera quality leaves something to be desired. Lets not mention it's not even really Augmented Reality either.

Because the camera quality is so poor I wish you could instead select a still image or movie from the Vita's memory card. You'd be giving the users a way to basically create their own stages. That could result in more interesting and better looking results. Then just add a way to share it on Facebook or Twitter, and you got a new viral sensation for the community. Like below I added a Street Fighter background to the arena using the camera.


With all the changes and additions it plays just like the game we love already, and that's important. It's not often that the mobile port maintains a symmetry with it's bigger brother. On the Vita the same combos I can pull off on the console work just fine here.

During interviews at PAX East there was a bit of talk of minor changes on the Vita "fix busted combos that abused scaling holes". We have no official word on what changes were exactly made, but so far in limited testing the game physics appear to behave exactly as you expect. This includes some existing combo resets that we confirmed still work. It is likely that some of the major exploits that exist today on the consoles are patched out of the Vita version, but what was changed is not currently known.

Some of the interviews during PAX made mention that the game uses the same hotfix system as the console side. So it's possible NetherRealm will continue to keep all three versions of the game working similarly going forward.

One possible issue though was just brought up just yesterday. It has been reported that Sindel combos have been nerfed on the Vita. This is not the first time this nerf has occurred. So because of that no one is sure if it is simply an overlooked bug or a sign of an upcoming hotfix change for the consoles. Only time will tell.

One issue that some people will have gameplay wise with the Vita is that its buttons and d-pad/analog stick are your only options. Adding a different controller is not possible and pretty much defeats the purpose of the portable console. So if you are not a fan of the Vita's control style and prefer to play with an arcade style joystick, then this game may not be for you.

To ease the pain of the Vita hardware itself, it may be helpful for some people to use accessory grips for the device. I just ordered a set of PDP's Trigger Grips to test out with the system and the game. Look for feedback on that at a later date.

Despite all above, the important thing is that you can pick up the Vita version and once you adjust to the controls you can pull off the same combos from the consoles.

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