Mortal Kombat 11 lands on Nintendo Switch with a version that imposes on players a long series of graphic compromises dictated, as usual, by the specifications of hardware far less powerful than that of their counterparts in the living room. Nothing new under the sun, although the work done by the men of Shiver Entertainment seems rather far, in terms of quality, from that carried out by teams far more experienced, first of all that of Panic Button.
Despite all the title, it still manages to keep intact all the features that make Mortal Kombat 11 a deep and rewarding fighting game, offering the public of the hybrid console an experience very close to that of its multi-platform counterparts, with the plus – not to be underestimated – of portability. However, this aspect is weighed down by the impossibility to access some key contents without a network connection, including the Kripta mode that brings with it the most critical technical issues.
Even the absence of a classic D-pad on Switch’s Joy-Con can represent a complication of no small importance for the most demanding players, who will soon feel the need to hold a Pro Controller in their hands, even sacrificing something in terms of portability. More generally, however, we can only approve of the compromise logic adopted by the development team, which has given priority to the gameplay to ensure the audience a fighting game permanently anchored to 60 fps, without significant sacrifices in terms of playability. A key issue to fully grasp the value of a solid conversion, with all the cards on the boards to earn a place in the library of fans of the genre.
After four years of hard polygonal butchery, Ed Boon and his experts in dismemberment and forced surgical removal have given the world Mortal Kombat 11, the last chapter of one of the most iconic sagas in the history of fighting games. A return in style that, in its incarnation on PS4 (here the review of Mortal Kombat 11), won us over with a mosaic of improvements involving a majority slice of the Netherrealm formula, except for a progression system excessively based on grinding, characterized by a decidedly unbalanced effort/reward ratio.
Considerations that we can easily extend to the subject of this review, namely the Switch version of Mortal Kombat 11, which keeps unchanged all the main elements of the content package of the title, reasonably scaled down to fit the technical peculiarities of the hardware “made in Nintendo”. For this reason, in the dissertation to follow, we will limit ourselves to weigh merits and defects of this specific porting, without directly bringing into play the qualitative fiber of the game in general.
If the “hybrid transpositions” of titles like Doom and Wolfenstein 2 (here the review of the Switch version) have taught us something, during the travelling spill of blood and offal wagons, it’s that the little girl from Kyoto can prove to be surprisingly versatile when it comes to managing graphically exuberant third party titles, especially if behind the doorstep there’s a team capable of squeezing Switch’s hardware to the limit.
The key to success is to make sure that none of the cardinal aspects of the play dough is significantly altered during the adaptation process: a dogma that, as you can guess, implies some sacrifice in purely technical terms, operated in order to keep intact the merits of the gameplay. Keeping in mind these inescapable rules of engagement, we are pleased to confirm that the Nintendo Switch version of Mortal Kombat 11 proves capable of offering the public an experience that, overall, retains all its strengths, those defined by a playful sector as multifaceted as brutally rewarding. A goal that the Shiver Entertainment team has pursued by drawing up a precise scale of priorities, dominated by the desire to keep the frame rate firmly anchored to 60 fps, with all the necessary compromises. The result is a port that, in terms of fluidity, has little to envy to the other versions, although the overall performance on the screen is very far from that of the counterparts, starting from the resolution.
While adopting the same dynamic management system found on almost all gaming platforms, the Switch version offers players a bloodthirsty carousel with much blurred outlines, with a resolution that goes from 480p to 384p in portable mode, and from 720p to 540p in TV mode. These latter values generate artifacts that are decidedly evident in the rendering phase, also thanks to the use of low-impact antialiasing techniques.
Another important sacrifice is the one that strikes a lighting system (among the strengths of the game on other platforms) reduced to the bone, which takes away from the scenarios a good part of their depth without affecting, however, in practice, the readability of the action. More generally, every aspect of the graphics department is set at different spans of distance from the standard multi-platform, from textures to polygonal models, to meet the needs of pure and hard gameplay. Even some additional effects, such as the “barrier” activated by the taking of Kotal Kahn, are totally absent in this version, as well as many of the details that enrich the characterization of characters and arenas. Differences that become dramatically evident when, during the story, the gameplay leaves room for long interlude scenes that embellish the production, also afflicted by some annoying – albeit transitory – problem of audio-video stuttering, probably related to the compression of assets.
At this point it’s worth repeating how, regardless of the subjective tolerability of the compromises reported here, none of these represent a really disabling defect
Portability with reserve
On the other hand, the technical comparison with the other versions, although useful to provide a clear picture of the status of the title, does not define the value of production, since none of the considerations made so far significantly affect the playability of Mortal Kombat 11.
Having said that, however, there are in fact a couple of out of tune notes that have a much more relevant weight on the overall value of the port. In Kripta mode, for example, the graphics yield reaches unacceptable levels, which drag the game back a couple of generations and also involve a frame rate never so dancer.
Considering that portability is one of the strengths of this specific version, the “always online” requirement of Kripta and Torri del Tempo is also particularly heavy, becoming substantially inaccessible in the absence of a network connection, depriving the mobile public a majority of the resources needed to unlock skins, objects and techniques.
It should be noted, however, that the solidity of the online game has proved beyond expectations, with matches that, net of some occasional drop in frame rates, have never shown any noticeable decline. If you want you can also use the Nintendo Switch Online application to chat – or furious profanity – with opponents on the net: a plus that, as pleasant as it may be, inherits the already known criticalities of the accessory service. Turning to the control system, it must be said that the lack of the D-pad on the Joy-Con does not make them the most suitable device to accommodate the inspiration “kombattivo” of the most crafty players, who will certainly find some difficulty in scoring the most complex combinations.
A circumstance that, by force of things, limits a little ‘usability of the title in portable mode, unless you decide to use the excellent Pro Controller (which cancels the problems mentioned above) outside the home. The Joy-Con can also be used individually to create some tense local clashes, although the stick on each pad proves to be an even less precise and reliable control tool. A shared disadvantage that, while limiting, tends to turn every fight into an exercise in brutality as clumsy as it is hilarious.