The announcement of Mortal Kombat 11 wasn’t much of a surprise, but the word that it would be appearing on Nintendo Switch alongside PC, PS4, and Xbox One certainly was. In part because the ultra-violent series has had a checkered history contrasted with Nintendo’s family-friendly image, and in part because the series has recently turned into a fidelity-pushing powerhouse, the Switch wasn’t an expected home for NetherRealm’s latest gore-fest. Following hands-on time at PAX East, it feels perfectly at home on Nintendo’s hybrid platform, even if the visuals are predictably downgraded.
The port isn’t being handled in-house, instead having been handed off to Miami-based Shiver Entertainment with NetherRealm overseeing production. The mission given to the studio was apparently to make sure it runs smoothly at 60 FPS. While we didn’t verify the exact frame rate, the message came through clearly: the priority was the fighting mechanics themselves.
Shiver succeeded, with some visual compromises. One close-up of Sub-Zero’s biceps looked more like painted on musculature than the curves and shadows you’d expect on other platforms. The x-ray effect of the Fatal Blows are less detailed, looking more like a bloody mess than the stomach-churning viscera of the other versions. And naturally, the backgrounds are lacking some of the cool lighting effects that give the game such a moody atmosphere. The result is something not quite as downgraded as the mobile ports of Mortal Kombat X, but the drop in visual quality is still noticeable.
That said, the gameplay itself has made the transition beautifully. Mortal Kombat’s revival is almost rhythmic in its style, with hard-hitting blows pummeling opponents into the ground with a kind of gory grace. Those elements rely on smooth animations and clockwork-tight controls.
If seeing every crunching bone and snapped tendon with perfect clarity is what matters to you, of course, the Nintendo Switch will not be your platform of choice. But NetherRealm and Shiver appear to have succeeded at their apparent mission, to make a Nintendo Switch version that is on-par with the others in the fighting fundamentals. That’s good news for those who want to take their Kombat on the go, and don’t mind a few compromises.
Mortal Kombat 11 launches April 23 for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Check out our pre-order guide for more details.