It’s been a long time coming for the Mortal Kombat series to have a big seller or even a great game. From questionable design choices, odd match-ups (MK VS. DC Universe, wha?), “friendships,” and just stupid characters, Mortal Kombathas a lot to make up for.
Does it put an end to its franchise’s drought with a Fatality or is it the one who suffers most?
Mortal Kombat’s Story Mode starts off with a sweeping shot of the aftermath of a gruesome fight with seemingly no winners. Then you’re shown Raiden, the God of Thunder, getting (for lack of a better phase) the shit beat out of him by the Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn.
But before Shao Kahn puts an end to Raiden, the God of Thunder prepares and sends a message back to his younger self with visions of what is to come and leaving his past self with the final words: “He must win.” Couldn’t specify who now, could you, Raiden? It is at this point that the Story Mode begins, putting you in control of many of the playable characters in the game, each with their own chapter. Playing through their own plots will lead up to the rematch (or would it be retcon) with Shao Kahn.
Between fights, fully rendered and voiced cutscenes play out and progress the story while the game loads in the background. This is a good replacement for the typical loading screen that takes the player out of the game for a bit. But the issue with these cutscenes is that you can’t skip them, ever, not even after you’re finished the story mode. And some of the scenes are quite long. If you keep losing a fight and decide to quit, you don’t want to have to sit there watching a cutscene for five minutes again when you come back (I’m looking at you, last fight against Shao Kahn).
It’s also worth pointing out that the while story is engaging, it is by no means brilliant and won’t be making any leaps forward for the medium. Still, it is more than the obligatory, “pick character, have four random fights, fight two characters with some connection to you, then fight the final boss” regularly found in the genre. Though, that is in here as well in the form of Ladder Mode.
Mortal Kombat takes the four face buttons on the controller and gives each one control of a separate limb: Front Punch, Back Punch, Front Kick and Back Kick. The block button is assigned to the right trigger and the left trigger is used to flip between conventional and southpaw stances. But in addition to the series’ standard gameplay, this title introduces a new fighting mechanic in the X-Ray attack. With a full super meter (located at the bottom of the screen), this attack is activated by hitting both the left and right triggers simultaneously. It deals a serious amount of damage, enough to swing the momentum of a match. It’s also accompanied by a flashy visual scene, making the X-Ray attack almost like the little brother to the game’s Fatality and no less fun to watch. Though, each character only has one X-Ray attack.
[pullquote_right]There’s so much content in Mortal Kombat that you’ll be at this game long after you manage to finish its Story Mode.[/pullquote_right]Mortal Kombat also has a lot more to it than just fighting in its Arcade Ladder and Story Modes. There’s also a set of differing minigames: Test Your Might, Test Your Sight, Test Your Luck, and Test Your Strike.
In Test Your Might, you have to rapidly press any of the four face buttons to build up a meter so you can break a board, cement, block, skull, etc.
Test Your Sight is Mortal Kombat‘s take on the classic idea of “pick the right cup that has the penny underneath.” But here, your character can die. And instead of cups, they’re skulls. Vegas, Baby!
Test Your Luck has you spinning a slot machine, resulting in many different variables that are added to or subtracted from the fight. These range from a character being poisoned, set on fire, or being headless, or the screen could be turned upside down, the super meter could be disabled, and even earthquakes can occur. There are a multitude of possible combinations and factors could either be heavily in your favor or completely against you.
Last, but not least is Test Your Strike, which is similar to Test Your Might, but with a slight variation. Instead of button mashing to build up a meter past a certain level, you have to keep the meter within a certain range, making sure to reach it without exceeding it.
Now, you’d think that that’d be enough for this game, right? Nope. There’s still the Challenge Tower. This mode is filled with 300 challenges to complete; all of them are different from one another as they take bits and pieces from the Test Your Whatever game modes and others. In one challenge, you may have to simply beat your opponent. In another, for each second that passes, you slow down a bit until you’re moving in “bullet time.” And another could require you to dodge Stryker’s bullets for 30 seconds. Luckily, if you feel that you cannot complete a certain challenge, you have the option of skipping it and moving on, but for a price which varies from one challenge to another.
All this and we haven’t even gotten to the online mode. This mode features King of the Hill, a mode where you can watch other players duke it out and even interact with them as you watch. Xbox owners are able to import their Live Avatar while PS3 owners will have to make do with the built-in characters available to them. Also available in the online mode are Respect Points, which players can earn based upon the recently played match, with spectators given the opportunity to rate the battle out of 10.
There’s so much content in Mortal Kombat that you’ll be at this game long after you manage to finish its Story Mode (cheap, overpowered Shao Kahn and all), and even if you don’t finish that, you’ll still be playing this for a while. That much is guaranteed.
The fights in Mortal Kombat are fluid, fast, and great to watch. Each character is well-designed and you can easily tell characters apart from one another as there are no palette swaps this time around. And with the exception of the Jade, Kitana, and Mileena trio, no two characters dress alike. The same can also be said about the stages you’ll fight on, ranging from the simplistic to the complex, and each with night and day versions. One stage even depicts another fight taking place in the background while you fight your own. There are rumored easter eggs as well, like spotting Santa Claus and his sleigh, if you look hard enough.
But although the character design is good, it’s hard not to take issue with the facial features of some, like Sonya Blade, and the hair of a few of the other fighters, like Smoke. To put it bluntly, Sonya looks like a dude 85% of the time compared to other characters like Kitana and Jade. Why? Why does she look like that? Kitana, Jade, Sindel, and even Mileena’s Dentist-Be-Gone Face all look more womanly than Sonya… That shouldn’t happen.
Smoke’s hair, on the other hand, seems to have a mind of its own. And the mouths in this game don’t seem to move like a regular person’s mouth would in a conversation. In addition, the character movement during cutscenes in the Story Mode looks really stiff; it’s not shockingly horrible nor will it take you out of the game much but it’s something that could have been a little (maybe even a lot) better.
Look at that face. Something’s off about it, right?
Aside from that, everything else is pretty damn great. Graphically, the game is right at home on current gen consoles and looks just fine. X-Ray attacks are fun to watch as the game zooms into the body and show bones being broken and utterly shattered. Fatalities are bloodier than ever, making Mortal Kombat one of the bloodiest games out right now (as it should be). Punches, kicks, and even special attacks like fireballs sound painful and announce to the world that they are not something that you want to be on the other end of. Johnny Cage’s Nut-Punch comes to mind when thinking of how painful this game sounds.
Characters stand out, stages feel different from each other and aside from the superficial negatives brought up before, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Mortal Kombat is the reboot/retcon this franchise needed. It takes the series back to its roots and implements new features, an engaging story that will take you at least 7-8 hours to finish (despite the final fight), and adds in new modes to spend your time in afterwards. There are plenty of extras to spend your hard-earned Koins on in the Krypt like alternate costumes, second fatalities, concept art, and music, giving completionists something to strive for. Top if off with an online component that may very well put Mortal Kombat on the path to be used in tournaments (if it hasn’t done so already).
This game is highly recommendable to any fighting game fan and even more so to a Mortal Kombat fan that has been wishing the series would pull itself back together. With a large cast of characters (with DLC to come), simple controls and mechanics, and just being an overall great game, you will not be disappointed.
In fact, Mortal Kombat is $39.99 on Amazon at the time that this was written, and that’s a good investment to make in this series’ return to form. Go pick it up.
Triumphant return to 2D gameplay | Loads of content and game modes | An actual story campaign
Can't skip the sometimes lengthy cutscenes | Some character models look a bit dated
Kyree didn't have an N64 or Dreamcast as a kid (so sad) and he doesn't remember finishing any of his PlayStation games, but skip to the PS2/GC/Xbox era and everything changed. He hasn't been outside to play tag in forever, but he can recall playing way too much Smash Bros. and even more Kingdom Hearts; seriously, he can recite lines from it. I think he may have a problem.
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It’s been a long time coming for the Mortal Kombat series to have a big seller or even a great game. From questionable design choices, odd match-ups (MK VS. DC Universe, wha?), "friendships," and just stupid characters, Mortal Kombat has a lot to make up for.