So way back in June I had the opportunity to play the new Mortal Kombat game at OMGcon. I finally got around to renting it a few weeks ago and I think I might just have to buy it. We all know the stigma. When I was a kid the MK franchise was usually mentioned in the same breath as devil worship and Marilyn Manson. When Columbine happened and the press started blaming violent videogames this was the videogame to which they were referring. With that much press how could anyone resist trying it out?
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but as a kid I didn’t own a console. My parents thought it was a waste of time so I had to make my way in the gaming world using a PC when they broke down and bought one when I was about 12. Lucky for me my best friend Venice had nearly every console minus the Genesis et al. and the Dreamcast. He even had a Gamegear, which in my mind far surpasses the Gameboy in every way except battery life.
So his house was my haven for games like Mortal Kombat, Twisted Metal, and a game for SNES called Ballz. It was a fighting game featuring creatures made entire of interlinked balls. The internet has either forgotten this game entirely or I’m not remembering it correctly. Anyway, Friday nights at his house generally consisted of us staying up to the wee hours of the morning drinking Mountain Dew and playing games.
When it came to MK I was at a clear disadvantage. Venice had all the time in the world to learn the moves and he’d bought the book containing the move list and fatalities. After soundly defeating my clever away, away, toward attacks as Raiden [insert pseudo Japanese attack noises here] until we got bored we would move on to watching as Venice repeatedly eviscerated me with fatalities, then friendships, and finally babalities. What made it worse for me was even when I did manage to win a fight I couldn’t perform said fatalities even with the moves sitting right there on my lap. The timing was always confusing for me, that and the position of the character. Still, nothing like being taken out by a simple kick to the face. Well, actually there is.
I enjoy the series up to MK3, then sort of lost touch with the whole series for the next 10 years. That brings us to now. Apparently this is the ninth MK and it brings back the two-dimensional arena, which was really the big draw for me. I’ve seen 3D fighting games. Heck Virtua Fighter has been doing it for years. They just don’t jive with my button mashing skills. When I heard MK was returning to their roots I was intrigued. I really only have a mild interest in fighting games. I’ve never progressed beyond MK and Smash Brothers and I’ve never owned either one.
But enough nostalgia. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Does MK 2011 or MK 9 or MK IX or whatever it’s called live up to my expectations? In addition to the 2D, the game feels like its SNES forefathers. The fighting is intense, the special moves are epic and at times hilarious, plus there is the power bar system. This gives you access to ridiculously easy special moves including the much hyped X-ray moves. These are engaged by simply pulling the both triggers simultaneously. The only skill involved is various characters can only land them when their opponents are in specific positions. The X-ray gives us a sufficiently brutal move that is so painful the game goes all CSI on us and actually shows us the bones breaking. Which is all kinds of fun.
Instead of buying the move book a simple hit of the pause button will let you flip through a list of each character’s moves so even I can master some of them. Still, I have timing issues just like the good old days and there are a number of finishing moves I simply can’t do. Most of them involve jumping. The training exercises tell me to hold block to prevent my character from moving while entering the fatality commands but I just can’t master it. I’ve made some progress through the hilariously awful story mode and even made it to the boss fight in a ladder, though I never could defeat him.
The most important test is the multiplayer and after playing a few rounds with BlueShoes shortly after getting the game I’m eager to take him on again after learning a few moves. Multiplayer is where the game really shines for me. There’s nothing quite like decapitating your best friend with a Oddjob style hat. Add in the game’s “double team” feature and you get twice the health and twice the moves, plus a few team special moves for good measure.
In the end I’m still terrible at fighting games but I still enjoy them, and I certainly enjoy the latest foray in to the arena of Mortal Kombat. Though admittedly much of the enjoyment comes from the nostalgia especially after I learned how to make Raiden fly across the screen and make Scorpion say “Get over here!”. So I’m really not an objective observer.