We've taken a closer look at the Switch version of NetherRealm's grizzly brawler.
One of the games we played the most for the now-forsaken PS Vita was Mortal Kombat. It felt somewhat unreal to be able to play such a well-made fighting game that ran smoothly on the go. That being the case, our anticipation for the Switch version of Mortal Kombat 11 doesn't come as a surprise, even now, some seven years later - at least not to us.
We were excited ahead of launch and now it's here, once again we're able to play a complete fighting game anywhere we go, be it on a park bench on a sunny day, on the train to work, or at home while someone hogs the big screen. We'd say that fighting games aren't optimal to play on a portable device usually (fighting against AI-controlled opponents tends to get boring quickly and mind games simply don't work), but Mortal Kombat, just like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate before it, has a wonderfully crafted single-player mode.
The somewhat overexaggerated grind that it takes to proceed through the story works better when on the go since battling against AI is the only way to get through it at all, and we found that running around in the Krypt and unlocking various items therein was rather fun. We even felt more motivated with the various challenges in Towers of Time when on the train to work and thus lacking the option to go up against a human opponent. It's also a good time to learn all the combos.
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We were positively surprised by the technical aspects of Mortal Kombat 11 on Switch. Sure, the colours are noticeably duller, the graphical quality isn't as high, and some visual details have been removed, but in portable mode especially, Mortal Kombat 11 still shines. Shiver Entertainment (the studio that ported this specific version of the game to Switch) has done an incredible job with offering just the right amount of graphical polish while also maintaining the flow of the game.
Mortal Kombat 11 runs at 60 frames per second and only when witnessing Fatal Blows, Krushing Blows, and Fatalities does the framerate drops down to 30. These aren't played instances, however, so the drops don't ruin the gameplay in any way. It's clear that this priority was a conscious one from Shiver Entertainment and it looks incredible for a Switch game.
The "weight" in the game is also well-preserved and it feels fantastic to dish out teeth-shattering uppercuts, pull a spear from the back of the arena and then impale an opponent with it, and then end it all with a grotesque Fatality. The classic Mortal Kombat feel really is perfectly transferred to Switch, at least in theory. You see, there is something Switch-exclusive that ruins the fun in a major way - the Joy-Cons.
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These small, lovely gadgets add so much to so many games, but when using them in a two-dimensional fighting game they're just not good enough. The reason for this is mainly their lack of a directional pad. The four buttons on the controller try to simulate one but it doesn't really work and playing with these controllers make some special combos really hard to pull off. The solution then becomes analogue stick play, which isn't much better, considering how fast and precise you have to be when playing.
With a Pro Controller, the issue can be amended somewhat, but honestly, the Pro Controller isn't great either, at least not when compared to its counterparts on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One (or even the PS Vita's button layout). To be able to play Mortal Kombat 11 on the go is great, but the fact that you have to bring a Pro Controller to enjoy it fully is a pain.
It really is a shame, because the campaign in Mortal Kombat 11 is incredibly well-made and worthy of your time. We're talking hours of entertainment here. Some players have solved the issue by purchasing a Hori Nintendo Joy-Con D-pad, an officially licenced Joy-Con with a regular directional pad, but it would have been nice to have a viable option with the Switch out of the box.
Mortal Kombat 11 for the Switch is a great version that has everything the other formats offer in terms of both content and the flow of the game. Sure, the resolution is lower and the graphics have definitely been scaled down, but it's still a fine version of the game. Sadly, the controller options the Switch provides aren't great, and while the portability of the game is a real boon, controls in a fighting game are something you simply can't compromise on.
7 / 10
Great story mode, good flow, visually stunning even on the Switch, plenty of content, lovely game mechanics
Limited controller options, the new fighters are anonymous, the loot boxes in the Krypt seem greedy.