I used to *LOVE* Mortal Kombat back in the day. I remember once being in a bar with my cousins while my father and uncle were deep in very adult like conversation. I was probably about 10, so screw CONVERSING, there was an original Mortal Kombat arcade cabinet! I was terrible at the game, but luckily my cousins were no better. The key to this whole endeavor was that somehow my cousins and I knew the inputs for one of Scorpions fatalities. Hold block, press down twice and Scorpion would rip off his mask and then SET A DUDE ON FIRE. In the current MK game I’m about to talk about this would be very pedestrian. At the time though, this blew my fragile young mind in how awesome it was. Many of my Dad’s dollars that night went into the MK machine. The latest version of Mortal Kombat, aptly titled “Mortal Kombat”, feels familiar enough to remind me of those days while packing enough new content, awesome visuals, and totally over the top brutality to make it well worth a play through.
Two other quick hits on MK in my childhood. Tophat, back in the day when we were in 5th grade (yes, I’ve known him for that long) used to come over and play video games at my house. However, when I acquired Mortal Kombat for the SNES, his mother’s orders were clear. He was NOT allowed to play, lest he become a sociopath that was apt to dismember pets and entire families alike. My mother was clear also “When (Tophat) is here, there will be NONE of that fighting game.” I agreed. So this lasted all of 6 minutes until my mom was no longer on the same floor, and Tophat and I gleefully rained grey blood (stupid Nintendo) on each other. Finally, if you doubt the power of Mortal Kombat, we get to a friend who I will leave unnamed, we’ll call him “Steve”. Steve spent the night once, A SCHOOL NIGHT, and we happily played MK until bed time. We woke up to get ready for school. By get ready I mean totally disregard preparing for our education and playing more Mortal Kombat before school. We were so wrapped up in the game that when we finally had to leave, my Mom noticed something amiss. While I had managed to get myself ready and play games at the same time, Steve had not been so lucky. She noticed as we were about to walk out the door that Steve was not exactly wearing school pants, but in fact still had his pajama bottoms on. SUCH IS THE POWER OF MORTAL KOMBAT.
So anyway, we finally arrive at the actual game. Gone is the 3D battlefield of some of the previous MK games. The 2D fighting area makes the game feel instantly familiar to anybody who played any of the old school fighting games. In fact I’d say that judging from what others have told me, Mortal Kombat is the most “basic” of the popular fighting games, comparing it to Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom. You won’t find any 150 hit combos or using three fighters at once here. Don’t take basic to mean not interesting or even not having depth though. There is still plenty to learn here. This is light years away from being a button masher. A noob could have fun and just hit random button but would get torched by someone who put the time in to really learn the system. The biggest addition to the Mortal Kombat formula are the new X-Ray attacks. When you manage to fill a characters super meter (earned by performing special moves or TAKING damage) you can perform one of those. In true MK fashion it’s usually some over the top insane thing that results in you being able to see bones breaking via X-Ray as the attacks are performed. Some of them sort of make sense, such as Scorpions X-Ray which involves him punching his opponent so hard in the jaw that it breaks, then stomping on his chest and cracking a bunch of ribs. Others would straight up kill a person and seem like they should be fatalities, such as Kitana stabbing two knives into the back of her opponents SKULL, then flipping around and planting those knives into the opponents EYE SOCKETS. This is not a fatality, it’s perfectly conceivable for a match to continue after this move. Realistic, no. Fun, absolutely!
Speaking of realistic, Mortal Kombat now comes with a story mode. Yes, apparently there is a healthy amount of lore involving this universe that I was totally unaware of. The short version if there are many realms of existence, Earth being just one of them. Shao Khan is the leader of Outworld and he hatched a nefarious plan to take over Earth as well. The elder gods (they look like the dragon from the MK logo) forbid him to do this unless he or his champion was able to win Mortal Kombat ten times in a row, a tournament pitting fighters from both worlds against each other. The game picks up at the start of the tenth tournament with Outworld having won the last nine. It kind of goes bonkers from there, I won’t even try to explain all the twists and turns. What it does do is force you to play many different characters, which is a very good thing because they all play differently and you will definitely find favorites. Each of the “good” side characters gets a chapter, which usually consists of 3-4 matches against various opponents. The best part of the story mode is the utterly insane voice acting. It is TERRIBLE. But it is so bad that it becomes amazingly hilarious. At one point Jax, the guy with bionic metal arms, doesn’t yet have them. I was wondering if maybe they just did away with him having crazy metal arms because it’s…well sort of crazy, but then I encountered part of the story mode. SPOILER ALERT (you shouldn’t care); Shao Khan introduces a new combatant, Ermac, who is a sorcerer made up of many fallen souls. Jax apparently hates sorcery because he instantly attacks. Ermac freezes him in place with some magic then RIPS HIS ARMS OFF. The blood is spectacular, the screaming is fake, and Jax’s friend Sonya cauterised the wounds with her energy wristband. To borrow a phrase from Tophat, yes, these are things that actually happen. Thus the narrative becomes enjoyable in a pulp sort of way. Plus, it’s fighting with different characters all the time, that’s what you’d be doing in the random mode anyway, this way you get a story, some kombat kurrency, and achievements!
What the hell is kombat kurrency you ask? It’s a system that’s easy for any gamer to grasp. Doing pretty much anything in the game earns you a few coins, you can spend those coins to unlock stuff like concept art, fatality inputs, alternate costumes, music, the normal “extras” of a game. The unique part is the implementation of how you acquire these bonuses. There is no menu system for unlocking stuff, there is a virtual world called “The Krypt”. In the Krypt you will find such things as random dudes screaming for help in iron maiden’s. These will have a price associated with them, say one thousand coins, and when you purchase it, the iron maiden will close, the random dude will be instantly killed in a bloody fashion, and the bonus whatever you just purchased will come out as a green circle. There are four separate areas of the Krypt, each with their own art style and unique grisly way of giving you the bonuses. It’s an absurdly fancy and gory way to have the extras unlock and it shows how much effort was put into the making of this game.
Outside of story mode more of the traditional MK variants show up, such as the classic arcade ladder. This is the same as it ever was, choose a fighter, battle through 10 matches and face Shao Khan at the end. A suitably insane ending is given to each character in the form of a motion comic with super over the top voice acting, as this game tends to do. However the other meaty part of the game aside from story is the Challenge Tower. This is a series of matches and mini games that range from straight one on one bouts to insane stuff like having to kill zombies before they reach you. There are almost an infinitely variable amount of conditions and character combinations the game will throw at you for these, as is evidenced by the fact that I’m on level ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY SIX of this tower and I have no idea how long it will continue. The story mode will take about 6 hours in and itself, and I’ve easily put another 6-7 in to this tower, so even the single player content in this game is quite lengthy.
So much time has passed since Mortal Kombat’s fatalities had the gaming world buzzing. So to compensate for the violence in many games being amped up way past the original MK, the fatalities in this game are ABSURDLY violent. Reptile pries open the mouth of his defeated opponent, spits acid down their throat, then watches as they burn up from the inside. Awesome! Johnny Cage karate chops the enemy’s skull in half, pulls out a small statue that looks like an Oscar, then slams it down where their head once was. It’s a spectacle that is worth seeing. In fact the visuals in this whole game are strong. The animations are all fluid, each character has a unique look. This truly is the fun of the old school Mortal Kombat game being updated into glorious HD.
I’m not a huge fighting game person. I’ve never sat down and mastered all the combos and moves for any character in any fighting game ever. But even I had a great time with this game and will continue to play it. The story, even for all its bad acting, was interesting enough to keep me playing. The game is definitely self-aware of how insane it is and lets the player in on the joke. With multiplayer support over Xbox Live, the replay value gets even better. I never thought I could spend more than a few hours with a fighting game, but Mortal Kombat has broken that streak. Well, not broken. It froze it’s lower torso, then ripped the upper half off and held it aloft while blood mixed with ice dripped from the entrails. Seriously, who doesn’t love Sub Zero?
Filed under: Games | Tagged: armless combat, babality, bad voice acting, challenge tower, Cyrax, Elrood, fatality, Goro, headless combat, Jax, Johnny Cage, Kung-Lao, Liu Kang, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat review, over the top violence, Raiden, Scorpion, Sektor, self aware, SET A DUDE ON FIRE, Shang Tsung, Shao Khan, Sindel, Sonya Blade, story mode, Sub-Zero, The Krypt |