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Episode 422

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Episode 421

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Episode 420

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Mortal Kombat Vita

Mortal Kombat Vita
Game Name: Mortal Kombat
Platforms: PlayStation Vita
Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer(s): NetherRealm Studios
Genre(s): Fighting
Release Date: May 1, 2012
ESRB Rating: M
Big Ups: Great Kombat, practically on par with console versions, tons of Kontent
Big Downs: Questionably entertaining motion and touch features, occasional input problems, weak visuals

Mortal Kombat stands as a historical monument for video games. Unlike Sonic or Mario, the series has heavily influenced games in ways unimaginable. Thanks to Mortal Kombat, we not only have the ESRB but we also have discovered several anti-video game activists we can add to our personal hit lists thanks to their excessive speeches against this gorefest. And like what South Park did for television, Mortal Kombat did for games making them unashamed to do what they want. Sadly while attempting to take a leap into 3D after having diminished in popularity after rehashing the same content in its first four other games and only receiving decent attention for the PlayStation 2 games, the series fell further into near obscurity. So following suit of the Street Fighter series, developers NetherRealm Studios have reverted back to Mortal Kombat’s two dimensional roots. Originally being released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 about a year ago, Mortal Kombat for the PlayStation Vita maintains a majority of what made its predecessor so great. Considering we do not have a MK9 console review on the site, you could definitely use this review as an idea of what to expect from it as well.

The Kombat in MK9 is superb. This strikes me as odd since the PlayStation 2 games relied heavily on this newly created system that involved each character possessing three different fighting styles that could be switched between for various combos. Instead, MK9 keeps it simple and focuses more on the skillfully timed button presses of the player to ensure that the fighting never feels too overly complicated for new players but allows for more hardcore players to actually develop their characters as they see fit. Each character has a various unique set of moves, none feeling undeveloped or insignificant. I find myself more intrigued by characters such as Kabal and Jax rather than Scorpion and Raiden which is an achievement in my book. Though you will have newer players immediately steering towards the series’ staples, they eventually will see what awesome abilities lay in the rest of the cast and ditch them for less popular ones. A feature implemented to the Kombat system that seems to again take from Street Fighter’s pot is the three-bar super meter. As you fight, the bar fills up. You can either expend a bar to enhance a move, use two to stop a combo in its tracks with a breaker, or execute a devastating X-Ray move *cough* Ultra Move *cough* when the bar is full. Even though it is not too original, the bone crunching noises and visuals make the X-Ray move so satisfying that it is hard for me to not enjoy sitting through each animation. One issue I noticed with the Vita, when fighting, was that my inputs did not always register. I can be slamming the R-trigger to enhance a move but my character will endlessly do the basic attack instead. This could be accredited to user error, but considering I never have encountered the issue on the PS3, it is highly unlikely.

Visually, for obvious reasons, the Vita does not live up to its bigger brother’s capabilities. However, NetherRealm Studios have guaranteed to do their best with what they have. The animations still flow smoothly and make the Kombat all the more pleasing. When the camera gets up close to the characters that is when the player can see the drastic differences from its console counterpart. What’s interesting is up close some of the characters have strange textures that make some characters look old while others look stricken with some foreign disease but as the camera zooms out they make the character pretty good with all things considering. Maybe I am captivated by the development shortcuts and processes of a game, but this strikes me more intriguing than appalling. Outside of this factor, the menu screens and cutscenes all have the same HD look they do on consoles. Honestly, MK9 for the Vita really isn’t different from the console version other than these visuals and the touch screen minigames offered in the Bonus Challenge Tower.  I am very thankful since it is nice to have such an entertaining fighter on the go.

The minigames in the Bonus Challenge Tower add on top of those offered in the original Challenge Tower. Still maintaining that goofy yet twisted style, you will find yourself beating Mileena up so you can execute her teddy bear or slicing apart limbs and heads in a sick version of Fruit Ninja. I did not buy the Vita for its touch and motion features, so for me, these minigames felt tacked on and unnecessary, but for those of you still geeking over iOS/Android games, you might find them overly pleasing. A lot of the extra content comes from the story mode. Beating the Ladder mode offers up an ending similar to most fighting games, but the actual story is full of nostalgic and new content that anyone will want to keep playing. In fact, it is set up to feel hard to put down when each fully animated cutscene is followed up with a well-transitioned fight. The major twist that I am sure answers a lot of fan-fictions’ speculations is well worth the surprise. Though the character is unlocked in the Vita version, I still don’t feel comfortable speaking outright about it. Online accessibility is another great feature of MK9. Though I do not agree with their leaderboard set up, which organizes top players solely by the amount of wins they have rather than a complicated win/loss ratio, it still seems stable enough. I have found myself sitting waiting for a game for several minutes, but thankfully now that it is a handheld I can do other things as well.

I am proud of Mortal Kombat. It has come a long way. From being forbidden to play it as an early child to experiencing fond memories playing it with friends and family, I gladly accept this new direction with open arms on the Vita as well as consoles. Though there are several issues I have with it on the Vita, I definitely will be playing this game for months and maybe even years to come.

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