Friday, August 23, 2019

Mortal Kombat 11 (NSW) Review

Continuing on here at SuperPhillip Central, a new review is here for your eyes to read and enjoy. It's a Nintendo Switch-specific review for Mortal Kombat 11. Check it out below!

Your port is mine!

It seems like a dream that big-time Western-developed games are hitting a Nintendo home console, and not only that, but they're day and date with the other versions. It doesn't happen too often, but the fact that they're happening at all and are mostly successful ports is something to celebrate. Mortal Kombat 11 is one of the most recent of these games that has released on the Nintendo Switch. While it's by no means a flawless victory, Switch owners who are Mortal Kombat fans have scored a victory by having this miraculous port available to them all the same.

As someone with limited experience with the Mortal Kombat series, Mortal Kombat 11 was a terrific jumping in point for me. The amount of exhaustive tutorials that guided me through everything from the basics to advanced techniques and specific character tutorials, I didn't feel like I was simply thrust out of the proverbial nest to fend for myself with no knowledge of how to play the game.

Fights in Mortal Kombat 11 are as gloriously gruesome and beautifully brutal as ever. (Though, I have to admit, some of the more intense/disturbing portrayals of violence left me a bit squeamish.) The fighting system has you performing front and back punches and kicks, throws, blocks (with a dedicated block button instead of the more traditional means of holding away from your opponent), and using a series of memorized combos to take down your opponent. Special moves can be augmented by holding the R button upon performing the required button combo and making contact with your opponent with the attack in order to deal even more damage and deliver more hits.

I do not think you have a license for this kind of surgery, Kitana.
Mortal Kombat 11 also brings with it environmental hazards that opponents can interact with. These flash in the arena when they can be used, and result in everything from picking up a chainsaw and cleaving it into your opponent's flesh to chucking an undead spectator at your foe.

When you or your opponent's health enters into critical territory, a Fatal Blow attack can be used with the tap of the ZL and ZR buttons. If it connects without your opponent blocking, this one-time-per-match attack delivers a devastating amount of deadly damage to your foe in a really grisly manner. For instance Erron Black's Fatal Blow has him shooting bone-piercing bullets into his opponent, and has a duo of shots banking off a pair of coins and into and through his opponent's eyes. Yee-ouch. If a Fatal Blow fails to connect, it can't be attempted again until a little time has passed. However, these Fatal Blow moves are a bit of a match-pace killer for me. At first they're... interesting enough, but after seeing them a seemingly endless of time, they grow tiring to see, as there's no way of skipping through them. They just take too long to unfold.

Fatal Blows are provocative enough the first dozen times seeing them,
but after the fact, they're quite bothersome as they interrupt the flow and pace of matches.
Brutalities and fatalities return from past Mortal Kombat games, and the latter allows even beginning players to mercilessly murder their opponent in a macabre fashion without the need to memorize a unique button combo based on the character and fatality used. You can earn and purchase Fatality Tokens that when you're ordered to "Finish Him/Her", you can just hold the ZR button and press the A button to use. You can have all the disturbing realistic violence without any of the work!

For each of the 20+ characters in Mortal Kombat 11, they all feel markedly dissimilar to one another in how they play. There are characters for beginners like series mainstays Scorpion and Johnny Cage, and then there are more technical characters that take some practice getting used to. Fortunately, as mentioned early on in this review, learning a new character isn't too terribly daunting thanks to the in-depth character tutorials that explain how to use and the time to use each special attack in a character's repertoire.

Kombatant Skarlet uses her own blood as a weapon.
The characters in Mortal Kombat 11 all have their own unlockable gear and various cosmetics to unlock, though this is a bit of pain in the butt process. More on that in just a little bit. Each character can have different introductions and post-match victory cutscenes, unique moves equipped to them, as well as specific fatalities to select from. Additionally each has three gear slots they can equip gear to, and these can earn experience points through battle to earn augment slots. Unfortunately, augments slots come in various varieties, and require a lot of grinding and a lot of luck to get the ones you want for the particular character you desire. It's rather random, but once you do, augments serve as a way to boost up different stats and abilities of characters. Some make their defense towards specific elements stronger, while others make specific attacks stronger by a certain percentage.

You can unlock different cosmetics for each character, such as Sub-Zero's classic line of outfits.
If you want to unlock gear and cosmetics like new costumes for characters, you're going to spend most of your time grinding in Mortal Kombat 11, which is an unfortunate part of the game. The Krypt from past modern Mortal Kombat games returns, and it has you controlling a character in an over-the-shoulder perspective through Shang Tsung's island, gathering keys and special items to progress further into the depths of the island. You use Koins and other currency to open the plethora of treasure chests strewn about the island. (Ha-ha, get it? KOINS?! Mortal Kombat 11 has a penchant for replacing the first letter of words that begin with C with the letter K instead because it's klever like that. Dammit! I just did it now, too!)

While this is all fine and dandy, the loot that you get from opening treasures is completely random. Most of the time instead of getting the desired costumes you want for your favorite character or characters, you'll be unlocking concept art, Konsumables for the Towers of Time, and other items that you might not be too interested in.

As for the aforementioned Towers of Time, this mode introduces an ever-rotating assortment of challenging towers of varying difficulty. Each is themed, generally having each combatant you face off against in a given tower have a helpful Konsumable that they use against you in a fight. Thankfully, you can also use Konsumables either to counteract the effects of your opponent's Konsumable or to give yourself some other benefit. Such Konsumables can be used multiple times in a single battle, but depending on how powerful and useful they are, there is a cool down time for each. Some Konsumables fire a series of bloody shurikens at a foe or otherwise interrupt an enemy with an attack, while others have defensive benefits like healing your health bar by a certain percentage or giving you temporary armor.

Complete all of the objectives of a tower to earn beneficial rewards.
The towers in the Towers of Time award different bonuses for completing them--from Koins and Konsumables to new gear, costumes, and more. Technically, there's a seemingly endless amount of longevity for solo players to tackle each tower--as they rotate out regularly (every few hours or so) and there are hundreds upon hundreds of different towers in total--but the repetitive grind is real and it doesn't take too terribly long for tedium to set in.

Thankfully, tedium is not something that sets in with Mortal Kombat 11's 6-8 hour story mode, told through cinematics that seamlessly flow into actual battles. (Well, not so seamlessly in the Switch version where the actual cinematics are pre-rendered and then have an abrupt change into the Switch's downgraded visuals when the battles begin. Regardless, the pacing is done well, and while there are significant sections of the story mode where you're simply watching the narrative progress, when it is actually your time to play, you get to do so for a good while. The story mode is set up between chapters, and each chapter has you controlling a different character or duo of characters. With the latter, you're given the option of who to control in a particular fight. Fights are essentially one right after the other in each chapter--it's merely given a bookend by extended cutscenes.

Generations collide in Mortal Kombat 11's entertaining story mode.
I alluded to the downgrade of the Nintendo Switch version of Mortal Kombat 11 just a little bit ago when comparing the cutscenes that are pre-rendered in the Switch version but in-engine with the PS4, Xbox, and PC versions. Let me go further into detail. It's an absolute accomplishment that Mortal Kombat 11 runs as well as it does on the Switch. Frankly, I'm more than pleased with the game's performance. However, there are problem spots. For one, the Krypt looks and runs pitifully on the Switch. There isn't even a genuine skybox in the Switch version, and it's slowdown central whenever you open up a treasure chest in the mode. Furthermore, character models in battles have a weird glow and sheen to them, notably wherever there is hair--specifically on their heads and on their eyelashes. It's a bit jarring and distracting when zoomed in. There have also been some game crashes I've experienced while playing, but these are infrequent. That said, the development team hasn't turned their back on the Switch version at all, and they continue to produce patches and upgrades to the game.

Docked mode is rather sharp, but handheld mode on the Switch can be a bit fuzzy.
Mortal Kombat 11 manages to impress on the Nintendo Switch with a version that while not anywhere as technically amazing as its bigger brothers, delivers a game that isn't dumbed down for Nintendo players. Switch owners get the full, satisfying experience of Mortal Kombat 11 and one that they can take with them on the go. The choice of having to grind for gear and not being to select which goodies and prizes you want brings down the game (and this isn't just for the Switch version, but all versions in general of MK11), but all in all, Mortal Kombat 11 dishes out a brutally satisfying eleventh entry in the long running fighting game franchise.

[SPC Says: B]

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