Can you believe it has been around 12 years since a Mortal Kombat title graced a Nintendo platform? In the intervening years, we have seen the series go from a struggling fighting series, trying to claw its way back into the limelight it once had, to once again be the fighting game series to beat. Mortal Kombat 9 was the start of the fightback, Mortal Kombat X was better still, but Nintendo owners missed it all. However, due to the success of the Switch, NetherRealm Studios simply cannot overlook the Big N anymore. With a little tweaking, they have released one of the best fighting games to grace a Nintendo platform for a good while, but that does not mean it is perfect.
All the talk before the release of Mortal Kombat 11 on the Switch specifically, was how big of a downgrade would the graphics be. Therefore, we should start with that, as the rest of the game is largely intact and on par with the other versions of the game. So the answer is yes, there is quite a considerable downgrade and it is fairly obvious to see. One does not require any deep analysis videos to see the lower quality on offer. When the camera pans out a bit, you can see jagged edges on pretty much everything, when the camera comes in closer, you will see that textures aren’t the best and sometimes notice that characters hair (or facial hair) has these weird lines running through. The lower quality is most apparent whilst playing story mode when the rough transition from cut-scene to gameplay (and vice-versa) takes place, the difference is startling.
It can even make some fatalities or the new Fatal Blows (which replace the X-Ray moves) look slightly cartoony compared to the other versions, so they do not have quite the same level of disgust (or pleasure, I guess) on the player, which is a shame. I must note that this is whilst playing on the TV, when you are playing on the go, the visuals downgrade further and even the menus look blurry. Again, it has to be said that this is only the graphics we are talking about; it does not affect the actual gameplay in any way. It still manages to hit a constant 60fps, which is the most important thing. Therefore, if you have multiple consoles, it’s more a case of whether you’d prefer to play on a handheld with worse visuals, or be stuck to the TV with phenomenal visuals.
Mortal Kombat 11 brings the same great fighting mechanics and gameplay it has had since the reboot in 2011 and, in truth, it has not needed to change much. You have your basic punches and kicks, grabs, blocks and of course, special moves, which are a staple of all Mortal Kombat titles. Special moves are the attacks that you will naturally want to pull off more than other attacks, but it is always good to change it up and throw some Kombos in there too, which are fairly easy to pull off. Environmental attacks have returned from Mortal Kombat X. These allow for a wider range of strategies, whether you use the background to escape from being trapped in the corner or shove the opponents face into a spear, it is fun to utilize them at any given opportunity.
The new entry seems to have upped the ante when it comes to the strategic side of the game. You now have two new bars on the lower left of the screen, offence and defence. If you are playing the game casually with friends then it is nothing you will ever think about, as they are not an essential part of the game. If you choose to learn how to utilize these bars however, you will find you have many more options at your disposal. The offence bar allows you to do things such as a reinforced attack, which makes the attack more powerful, whereas with the defence bar, among other things, can allow you to break free of an enemy juggle Kombos.
To get to grips with all of this will require quite a bit of practice and I have to say, Mortal Kombat 11 might have to take the crown for the most detailed and all-encompassing tutorial modes I have ever seen in a fighting game. You have your basic training mode and a mode for practising fatalities, which is good for when you play online. Then you have the mode that takes you through everything you would ever need to know about the game. Kombo building, frame data such as how soon you can move after an attack hits, positioning, it is all here and explained in a way that is understandable. There are even individual character lessons available for all fighters, so if you really want to learn how to use one particular character well, then this mode will show you.
As with any fighting game, Mortal Kombat 11 is at its absolute best when you are playing against a friend of a similar skill level as yourself, in the same room as you. When that isn’t available for whatever reason, you can jump online. It works better than I imagined it would, although it can still be quite choppy from time to time, especially when you start getting matches with players in faraway lands than yourself. I have been playing many matches online with friends who live in the same city as me and not once did I experience any lag whatsoever.
If you do not have anybody else to play the game with and you’re not up for getting a good beating online, then going it alone is your last option. Thankfully, Mortal Kombat 11 possesses enough single player content to satisfy. The story mode was easily my personal favorite and it weaves a surprisingly decent story, something that is very rare for a fighting game. It is beyond anything that has come before. It’s compelling, to say the least, in an over the top madness kind of way, but that is how it should be and it completely fits the style of the game.
The Krypt also makes a return. This time, it is presented in a (very blurry) third-person perspective but you will find it to be familiar to the Krypts in the older titles. You will be using your koins, which you gain in other modes such as the Towers of Time, to open chests that can contain a wide range of loot. New costumes, taunts, character intros, and even different fatalities can be found here, which make it a very addictive mode to keep going back to.
As mentioned, in order to get the most out of the Krypt, you are required to play the other modes in order to gain currency. However, while the modes on offer are fun to play, one problem hurts the Switch version more and that is the always-online nature to these modes. One of the big plus points of the Switch version is that you can take the game with you anywhere you want, which is a huge selling point for some. If you are taking your Switch with you and playing on your commute to work, for example, and do not have an internet connection available, you cannot play modes such as the Towers of Time or Krypt. This is a big problem considering unlocking all of these extra goodies will take a huge amount of time regardless. Even if you’re in these modes and for whatever reason you lose internet connection or you set your console down for five minutes and it goes to sleep, it just kicks you out of the mode.
The roster, on a whole, is a bit of an odd one. The diversity here is great and I do not have a problem with any of the included fighters at all. It is great to see some of my favorite faces return once more, such as Kitana and Baraka. However, the problem I do have are realizing some of the characters that have missed out, that could have beefed up the size of the roster. Twenty-four characters are available from the start; Frost is the one character you can unlock early on during the story mode. You then have Shao Kahn who you will receive either as a pre-order bonus or by paying for. There are DLC fighters coming, but again, that costs money. Therefore, if you were to buy the base game today, you are only going to get twenty-five characters. I know that seems a lot when you consider the first Mortal Kombat only had seven available from the start, but then also consider that Mortal Kombat Trilogy, which released over twenty years ago, had thirty-two.
Reptile, Quan Chi, Kenshi, Ferra, and Torr? They are all absent and I cannot quite see the sense behind it since the groundwork for all of these characters was done in the last game. I understand that we have been spoilt by one particular fighting game that included over seventy characters at launch, but when you think about some of the fighters that were left out, it leaves you feeling a little disappointed. Luckily, the new characters we do have such as Kollector and Cerion, not only look the part but are a blast to play with too. They are welcome additions to the roster, I just hope they’re not forgotten about when the next game rolls around.
Whilst it is not the perfect game, it is great to have Mortal Kombat back on Nintendo. Sure, the visuals are not up to par with other versions of the game, but we did not expect it to be. The always-online barrier of certain modes is what hurts the Switch version more than anything else, as you lose a lot when you are on the go. Strip away all of the extras though, if you are just here to fight, then this is the game for you. Mortal Kombat 11 is the best pure fighting game on the Nintendo Switch.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment