Hands-On: Mortal Kombat (PlayStation Vita)

When Mortal Kombat made its triumphant return to consoles last year, it reminded gamers that as aged as the fighting engine may be, it’s still one hell of a series.  It was a brutal reminder that the MK tournament still has a stronghold in the fighting genre.  Now, for 2012, the series continues to stay in its stride, between the release of a Komplete Edition for consoles and a debut for the series on the PlayStation Vita.  The folks at Netherrealm Studios recently invited us to stop by and take it for a test drive.

Like the console edition, Mortal Kombat on the PlayStation Vita comes packed with every fighter introduced in the original version, including downloadable favorites like Rain and Freddy Krueger.  You’ll also get access to all the character skins, including the original Mortal Kombat duds that many gamers grew up with.  You can also expect all the backgrounds and secret fighters within the game, giving you access to areas including the Pit and the Forest.

More importantly, Mortal Kombat runs sufficiently on the PlayStation Vita.  There’s hardly any sacrifice when it comes to speed, meaning you’ll be able to execute even the most devastating of moves without any lag in the controls.  The game runs at a speedy frame rate, and there was barely any animations missing during our test matches, which took place through AdHoc.  The game supports online play as well, so you can challenge others without so much as getting off your couch.  (No word yet on cross-platform play with the PS3 version, but here’s to hoping Netherrealm gets it working.)

As for what’s new in the PS Vita version, there’s plenty.  The team is throwing in an all-new Challenge Tower, consisting of 150 mini-games specifically made for the PlayStation Vita.  One has you battling as an army of zombies against a seemingly unstoppable Scorpion, while another has you protecting Sheeva’s somewhat ugly baby from a horde of undead attackers by tapping on missiles launchers in the proper area of the screen.  The more games you complete, the more Koins you get to buy stuff, and the higher you move through the Tower.

The team has also added touch-sensitive fatalities.  That doesn’t mean you chop off body parts at will (which would be awesome, by the way).  Instead, you perform fatality motions by swiping on the screen, and watching your carnage get carried out.  While not as fully interactive as, say, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s touch controls, it is rather cool and makes proper use of the Vita’s screen.

In addition, two more mini-games join the fray, alongside the likes of Test Your Might and Test Your Sight.  Test Your Balance is a neat set of trials where you have to use the system’s gyro sensors to avoid falling into a booby-trapped pit.  Stay up long enough and you’ll move on to the next round, which gets trickier, since enemies start throwing stuff at you.

Meanwhile, the second game, Test Your Slice, is a demented version of Fruit Ninja, where you have to chop away at on-screen objects by drawing slice marks.  Only this is, instead of innocent produce, you’re chopping up rounded body parts into bloody chunks.  Furthermore, instead of avoiding bombs, you’re detonating them by shaking the system.  This game is bound to be a cult hit somehow, and the fact it’s part of the Mortal Kombat package is sure to put a few deviant smiles on some faces.

Kudos to Netherrealm for continuing to impress with its Mortal Kombat series.  The PS Vita version packs on plenty more content, on top of an already overflowing package, and the online functionality is bound to make it a hit with portable players.  We’ll let you know how the final game fares when it uppercuts its way to stores next month.