Review – Mortal Kombat 1 (Switch)
I will be honest with you: when Mortal Kombat 1 was first announced, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I love the franchise, it’s one of my favorites of all time, but being presented with yet another reboot (what is this, the second or third already?) and a plot about multiple dimensions and universes… that just didn’t click with me at all. Nothing about it felt terrible, but nothing about it was impressing me either. I was comfortable with just skipping it altogether, but then I witnessed the Nintendo Switch port. All it took was just a handful of stills featuring some of the worst visual downgrades ever seen in a video game in general, and I was sold. This was the version I wanted to tackle. It was my Bat-signal. I had to experience that beauty with my own hands and eyes.
For as much as I love the concept of the “impossible Switch port”, be it Crysis, The Witcher 3, Portal 2, or Dying Light, they have to, at the very least, run and look well enough. They need to be an accomplishment, a showcase of a team’s efforts at porting something that, by all intents and purposes, should not be able to run on such dated hardware. Mortal Kombat 1 is a different beast. I don’t know if this was a bet, or if some incredibly oblivious executive at WB Games just demanded that a next gen-only fighting game had to, somehow, be ported to dated 2017 mobile tech as well. And this is what we got. The end result is everything I hoped it was going to be. It is the most beautiful of disasters. A historical event. The Deadly Premonition of our generation.
I’m dead serious, I had (better yet, I’m still having) a blast with this game, but not in the ways Ed Boon and WB Games had envisioned. I’m laughing constantly while playing Mortal Kombat 1 on the Nintendo Switch. Laughing AT it. I can’t even get mad at it, besides the utterly obscene price tag. If this game wasn’t being sold for seventy bucks, I’d be telling all of you to go out and buy it. If WB just decides to cut its price tag to about twenty bucks in a few months, without fixing or patching a damn thing (I really hope they don’t, and I’m sure it is impossible to), then grab it. This is going to be historical. And forever hysterical.
“How bad can it be?”, you may be asking. You will notice the sizeable downgrades upon booting the game up for the first time. The main menu features a beautiful Asian garden as its background. The level of detail, lighting effects, overall amount of assets, and textural quality, all make the Switch port of The Outer Worlds, one of the most compromised (but still fun) ports available for the system, look like a hypothetical 8K remaster of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart for the PS6. It looks horrendous, but that’s just the beginning. I then jumped straight onto a traditional arcade battle against the CPU, and oh boy, it only got better from then on.
The game started to freeze and have its framerates plummet on the Character Select screen alone! It would take nearly twenty seconds to load a character model on the menu. For instance, I would highlight, say, Sindel, wait for her character to load (that would take a while), and then decide to pick Sub-Zero. I would click on Sub-Zero’s icon right away, but the game would still trigger Sindel’s choice animation. After a few extra seconds, and framerate plunges, our favorite ice ninja would then show up, in all his ultra-low quality glory.
So, I had then decided on a character, an opponent, and their respective “kameos”. Simply put, this is the same guest ally thing that was present in Mortal Kombat 11‘s Tower Modes, which is now expanded to all modes. It was time for the fight to be loaded, and for me to witness this mess in all of its glory. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. Both characters just staring at each other, touching elbows, whilst the match wasn’t still ready to be played. Then I waited for a bit longer, and only then was I able to play a damn match.
It was everything I wanted it to be. The graphics? Horrendous. Mortal Kombat V: Deadly Alliance for the GameCube featured more detailed characters and backgrounds. Everything is stripped down to a degree I never thought would be possible. The textural quality makes Nintendo 64 games look impressive. Character models feel square, devoid of polygonal count. Their faces look weird as hell, as their facial reactions make everyone look reptilian in nature. Meanwhile, Reptile just looks like… a blob. I shouldn’t be reminded of Jabba the Hutt when choosing to play as a reptilian ninja in a fighting game, but here we are.
Performance-wise, this is a journey throughout the history of gaming as a medium. At times, it can reach a decent framerate. But that also depends on whether or not there are lots of assets onscreen, if the background is detailed, if you’re using special attacks, or if you decide to call in a kameo. Summon your partner, and the framerate can drop a good twenty frames a second in an instant, which is vastly more responsive than any of the controls. Perform the X-ray attacks, and the framerate cap is halved. Perform a Fatality, and – I’m not joking here, bear with me – the framerate drops to about 10fps. At any other time, the performance feels randomized.
It is unforgivably bad, to a degree I didn’t think was even possible. Most “failed” Switch ports look hideous, but they, at the very least, maintain a framerate. An underwhelming framerate, sure, but the damn thing is USUALLY stable. Hell, even the Switch port of Mortal Kombat 11, gimped as it was, actually ran impressively well, at 60fps for the most part. This Tunguska crater event of a port? The framerate varies so much you can pick six lottery numbers from it in about twenty seconds.
At the end of my first fight, I ended my opponent with an uppercut. This results in an automatic Brutality, removing the poor soul’s head in the process. Then as it happened, I performed a quick, painful head removal surgery… and the head just stood there, in air, motionless. I then tried another battle, went through the whole loading time ordeal AGAIN, just to make sure that this wasn’t just a one-off. Nope. Every single Brutality I’d perform would result in the opponent’s head just floating motionless. A thing of absolute beauty. One of the most incompetent glitches I have ever seen in a AAA game. The kind of thing that would make the day-one build of Cyberpunk 2077 on an Xbox One S look like a fine diamond in comparison.
So this was the quick match mode and the overall gameplay. A disaster of its own, some true avantgarde outside art, if you squint your eyes to the point of borderline blindness. It was time to check the modes accompanying such disastrous gameplay. I went straight to the Towers mode, which, unlike Mortal Kombat 11, isn’t a random assortment of challenges, but the main arcade mode, complete with endings and all that. It crashed twice when I tried to play it. We were off to a magnificent start.
The Invasion mode felt like the natural evolution of the old Towers mode, but with a few differences. First of all, seasonal. Second of all, set in a board, in a manner that heavily resembled the single-player campaign featured in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Finally, the fact that you need a connection to play the damn thing, which isn’t a problem for a PS5 or Xbox Series X game, but the confirmation that Mortal Kombat 1 on the Switch isn’t optimized for portable, “pick up and play” gaming.
In order to fully “appreciate” what this mode has to offer, you basically have to be at home, in docked mode… where you’ll be greeted with the aforementioned visuals and performance. To make matters worse, the Krypt is gone, so if you want to amass resources, you have to grab them on Invasion or Towers, then shell out a fixed amount at an altar to randomly get some gear. Hooray. Randomization on what I can acquire. Gotta love the idea of grinding for “kurrency” on this particular port. That sure ain’t gonna test my patience. I am going to skip describing online multiplayer on this port because I am damn sure I am about 25% of the entire userbase of Mortal Kombat 1 on the Switch. I couldn’t find a damn fool to play this game with me online.
Finally, the mode that’s usually the highlight of any of those modern Mortal Kombats: the story mode. This was actually what was making me not care about Mortal Kombat 1 before launch. I just didn’t care about yet another story reboot, one just a mere decade after the previous one. It’s not like Mortal Kombat is a lore-rich universe where storytelling matters, but when you’re making yet another reboot of your franchise, without making a single new kombatant in your roster, that just screams “we’re run out of ideas”.
Experiencing Mortal Kombat 1‘s story mode on the Switch was wild. I was wondering if the entire game would be rendered like a 3DO trying to run Crysis, but sadly, the cutscenes were all pre-rendered. That, however, made the jump from cutscene to fight even more hilarious, as we’d go from ultra-compressed but normal-looking CGI to something way more disgusting than every previous Fatality included in the history of Mortal Kombat combined.
The story itself was exactly as I thought it would feel like: B-tier fanfic. Turning Liu Kang into a god, changing a few backstories here and there, but never going towards a truly bold new direction for the franchise; it all just screams creative bankrupcy. It even features nods to multiverses and the like. Yet another franchise that had to resort to multiverses in order to come up with some lame excuses for retconning previous content. Can’t say the plot impressed me that much. It didn’t even feel “dumb but charming”, like Mortal Kombat X or 11. It just felt boring.
What made things more hilarious, however, was the fact that the cutscenes featured a ton of screen tearing, and the voice acting would constantly go out of sync with the video, making Megan Fox’s sublime performance feel even more embarrassing. There was also the fact that, given how atrocious the loading times are in this particular version, the transition between cutscene and fight wouldn’t always occur seemlessly. There were times I would have to look at a big fat dragon logo for a good twenty seconds before the transition would occur. There were also crashes. Many, many crashes. Mortal Kombat 1 was trying to be a good bro and tell me to stop doing this act of self-abuse.
In short, Mortal Kombat 1 on the Nintendo Switch is a magnum opus of ineptitude and incompetence. I don’t know how the hell Nintendo allowed for this game to be launched on their system (I do understand WB probably did not care about doing some quality check on their end, though). It is something that needs to be played for you to believe it even exists. Not only is this the worst Switch port of a AAA title out there, this might be the single most pathetic entry in Mortal Kombat history. Yes, even more than Advance or Special Forces. At least those games weren’t being advertised as equals to ports on more powerful machines.
As previously mentioned, if this ever falls down to about fifteen bucks, and if NetherRealm never decides to patch it to a decent state (not that I think they can, or can be bothered to), grab it. Laughed at it. Bully it. This is the Deadly Premonition, The Room, Money Plane, “so-atrocious-it’s-absolutely-amazing” event of the decade. I hope they add this specific port to EVO, I hope a cult following is created around it. I am fascinated at how horrendous this thing is.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. If you have eyes, you can witness this borderline surrealistic disaster. It’s not much better in motion, for the framerate is more inconsistent than a wooden rollercoaster ravaged by termites.
The terrible framerate hinders the responsiveness of the combat. To make matters worse, the framerate pacing is full of stutters. It’s just a mess.
Whilst the sound department isn’t a surefire disaster, the voice acting ain’t amazing, and we’re not just talking about Megan Fox showcasing all of her acting chops as Nitara. Let’s not forget about excessive sound compression and voices being played out of sync during certain cutscenes.
It is the kind of game you will laugh a lot while playing. Well, you will laugh AT IT, not WITH IT. It’s an utterly incompetent mess of a part, something so atrociously put together you can’t help but think how Nintendo had greenlit it. If it wasn’t so damn expensive, I’d absolutely recommend grabbing it for sheer novelty.
Final Verdict: 3.5
Mortal Kombat 1 is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC and, for reasons beyond our comprehension, Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.