Mortal Kombat goes back to its roots with Mortal Kombat 1, a fresh reboot that delivers some of the most striking visuals seen from a fighting game to date. Lighting quality, materials across its detail-rich stages and motion capture are all brilliantly realised on Unreal Engine 4 here. It’s a big revamp over Mortal Kombat 11, with developer Netherrealm Studios focusing its efforts on current-gen consoles, but in a surprise turn, a Nintendo Switch version is available, handled by Shiver Entertainment and Saber Interactive and as the social media memes have revealed, it’s not particularly impressive. In fact, Netherrealm’s Ed Boon has pledged to fix it. Based on what we’ve seen, this would be an remarkable feat.
Part of the controversy is that the Switch version costs £60 or $70 on the Nintendo eShop- just shy of the PS5 and Xbox Series X price at launch. Given the frankly huge compromises to its visuals and highly inconsistent frame-rate, it’s not an equivalent experience for the cost. In terms of install size, MK1 on Switch takes up 35.3GB, up against 114GB on PS5. This is achieved, in large part, by dropping the bitrate and resolution of its story mode’s pre-rendered cut-scenes. And therein lies at least one bit of good news for Switch: as pruned-back in quality as it is, this version is at least feature complete. In terms of modes it has parity with PS5 and Series X in bringing the entire story mode – with cutscenes intact. We get online play, we get the full roster of characters, and its gameplay is identical in its mechanics, right down to the new Kameo moves.
However, the problems are legion. To start, the Switch release has issues in lengthy load times and unresponsive menus. Kicking off at the title screen, selecting the local versus mode takes Switch 15 seconds to simply get to character selection. On PS5 or Series X we’d usually get a seamless transition here, with two combatants walking in from the screen’s edges. It’s a stylish idea that takes us right through to the battle itself. On Switch though, every character takes time to load after selection. And as Switch attempts to load your character, the menu itself becomes sluggish. The cursor hitches – making it hard for player two to also make their choice. It only gets worse from here: after you’ve finally picked your two characters and stage, the real wait begins with a circa 40 second wait until the Kombat begins. To a large extent this is expected, and it’s realistcially never going to be a match for the SSD-equipped Series X, which come in at six seconds in the same test, but it remains frustrating.