This bloody fighter is a little anemic when disconnected from the internet.
On a fundamental level, Mortal Kombat 11’s Switch port is totally fine. It runs at a relatively consistent 60 frames per second, both in docked and handheld modes; (almost) every mode present in the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC versions are accounted for; and even though a ton of sacrifices were made on the visual side to make it run on Nintendo’s substantially less powerful hardware, few if any of them affect the actual fighting gameplay. That being said, there are numerous absolutely puzzling differences between the Switch version and its more powerful brethren, leading to a port that is in many ways better than expected, but at the same time, worse than it should be.
Before we dive in, make sure to read my Mortal Kombat 11 review for the console versions to get an idea of what it’s like at its best, because this review will largely focus on the technical differences between those and the Switch version.
The Switch version was co-developed by Netherrealm and Shiver Entertainment, and it definitely feels like something was lost in translation. The Krypt has wildly different pricing on its treasure chests, with just about every chest costing an absurdly large amount of koins compared to the other versions. It takes Mortal Kombat 11’s already shaky in-game economy and makes it even more out of whack.
Even at its base level, Mortal Kombat 11 is an absolutely gorgeous game.
The general graphics look expectedly worse, but even at its base level Mortal Kombat 11 is an absolutely gorgeous game and a lot of that does come through on the Switch version. It runs at a mostly steady 60FPS; character models look great, albeit a bit fuzzy; and the stellar art design stands out even on the substantially less powerful hardware. Instead of the characters, the biggest sacrifices made to the visuals were mostly in the look of the stages. Environments look low-res, with muddy textures and extremely basic lighting effects. Also, the Krypt looks like an absolute mess, with PlayStation One-era fog and a complete lack of a skybox.
Beyond pure looks, the character-specific tutorials are missing (there’s a placeholder that says “Coming Soon”), moves that can do a Krushing Blow have their requirements left out of the movelist for some reason, and the competitive variations for each character in both Tournament mode and Ranked are missing, with the variations in tournament simply replaced by a generic variation that just says “Default.”
Of all the main modes in Mortal Kombat 11, it’s the Story mode that translates over to the Switch the best, but even then, it’s not quite as nice. The transition from cutscene quality to gameplay is jarring because of the sudden switch in character model and texture quality, and then the transition back from gameplay to cutscene is almost always followed by substantial hitching in the video framerate for a few moments.
The “always-online” requirement hits the Switch version especially hard.
It’s the “always-online” requirement, though, that hits the Switch version especially hard. An appealing aspect of Mortal Kombat 11 on the Switch is the ability to play it on the go, but because several of its tentpole modes are only playable online, playing outside of wifi range feels especially hamstrung. Without a stable online connection, you are completely unable to play both Towers of Time and the Krypt, the two modes that are basically required in order to obtain the currency needed to unlock Mortal Kombat 11’s enormous vault of skins, gear pieces, fatalities, brutalities, and more. It’s the exact kind of thing I’d want to grind out on a train ride.
When you’re connected, online play through the Nintendo Online service is mostly great, though it’s notably less smooth than on the other platforms. The majority of matches I’ve played worked well, even on wifi, though a few dropped in framerate substantially, which was something that I had not experienced in the other versions.