May 2, 2012 at 5:48 PM ET
The "Mortal Kombat" revival for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was last year's comeback story. For over a decade, the series had lost its relevance and direction, and many assumed that the franchise was beyond hope.
But a shrewd combination of back-to-basics gameplay and a massive dose of genuinely engaging extras helped to craft what many believe was the fighting game of 2011. And the brand new Vita port might make it a contender for best of 2012 as well.
Everything that made the console releases so feature-rich has returned for the handheld edition, and then some. The entertaining story mode is back, but this time, all characters are unlocked at default. Before, certain boss characters were only accessed when they were beaten in the story.
Additionally, all the downloadable characters, like guest star Freddy Krueger (yes, of "Nightmare On Elm Street"), is included at no extra cost. They were separate downloads on the home systems, and had cost extra for those. With the Vita port, all the extra skins, or alternate costumes, come pre-loaded as well.
One of the most popular parts of last year's reboot, the Challenge Tower, is also back. It's a series of tasks that tests one's mettle, while also injecting humor into the proceedings. Like trying to defeat an opponent who wants to get close enough to give you a teddy bear.
This time, there's a second tower, filled with all new challenges, and all built around the Vita's hardware -- like tiling the system to give your character the advantage of higher ground, which taps into the gyroscopes. or causing damage by swiping across the touchscreen, in a manner similar to "Fruit Ninja."
None of it is particularly mind-blowing or even original, but it's all good fun, and a great way to leverage the system's bag of gimmick-y tricks. But how does the Vita handle the most important part, the fighting itself? Extremely well.
The gameplay is just as fast and furious as before, and most importantly, accessible. It's the breath of fresh air for gamers tired of "Street Fighter" and its ilk. The best part is how the formula is even fresher than ever, thanks to Fatalities, the series' signature finishers, being much easier to pull off then back in the day.
The only real downside of the port is the visuals. The character models are not as sharp and detailed during combat as they were on the consoles, but it's hardly noticeable when you're punching, kicking, jumping and ripping someone's head off.
The reduction in fidelity was due to maintaining the 60 frames-per-second speed, and pretty much anyone will gladly accept some graphical polish in favor or fluid gameplay.
"Mortal Kombat" for Vita is the same engaging package as before, even more so, and on the go. It's one of the best games for the platform yet and comes highly recommended.
Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode, and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on him via Twitter, or his personal home-base, FORT90.com.