Mortal Kombat 9 (2011) Review
A Mortal Kombat game that concentrates on fighting and violence instead of mini games and DC Comic characters? How could THAT be good?
When Kombat was Kool
Let me take you all back to the 1990’s for a bit, back to when Mortal Kombat was the king of the arcades and it was not only a taboo for a young 12 year old boy, but an unspoken initiation into manhood. Picture enormous crowds of older teenagers (aka “the big kids” to a grade schooler like me at the time) in the arcade, all huddled around the Mortal Kombat arcade machine, and they would be fighting one another in a king-of-the-hill kind of fashion, and the reigning champ would SLAUGHTER his challenger by eating his head, sucking him up and spitting out the bones, ripping out his spine, or throwing him into a pool of acid. Such gruesome sights were shocking, but like most horrific and desensitizing experiences, you felt a cold chill of sadistic joy that prevented you from adverting your eyes.
It was glorious.
If Street Fighter II was the Cadillac of arcade fighting games, then Mortal Kombat was the muscle car. Mortal Kombat was an arcade hit, mostly in part to its (then) extreme violence and the prevailing shit-storm it produced. Parents and politicians were foaming at the mouth, screaming for censorship, and it only fanned the flames of fame. Mortal Kombat 1 was a decent game, but aside from the gore it was nothing special, and had the gore never been brought to center stage in the media, I doubt there would have been a sequel.
Thank God for politicians and stupid parents, because Mortal Kombat II was a triumph, and I was there from Day 1.
Ever since its first appearance in my local arcade store, Mortal Kombat has been an OBSESSION of mine. How bad was my obsession? When Mortal Kombat 1 was featured in one of my first issues of Nintendo Power magazine (#53, September 1993) , my then eight year old little brother accidentally stepped on it and tore the page with Scorpion’s bio out, and now, 18 years later, I don’t think I have forgiven him for it yet… Speaking of abusing my little brother, I was also notorious for conniving my brother into pitching in his own meager allowance money towards Mortal Kombat games and merchandise. Although there was one instance where he had a choice of two video game movies to buy, Mortal Kombat: the Journey Begins and Street Fighter II: the Animated Movie, and against my wishes he selected Street Fighter II. Having later seen MK: the Journey Begins, I can now admit that he has better taste in movies at 10 years old than I did at 12 (its really fucking bad).
But despite some horrible merchandise, I’ve been a Mortal Kombat fanatic ever since I was 10 years old, although definitely not an entirely loyal fan considering everything that came after Mortal Kombat 3. The newer characters were less appealing, the fighting system became needlessly complex, the violence became less shocking, and the story became a soap opera. There were horrible theatrical sequels, cartoons on the USA Network, and a live action series on TNT that lasted about a year. Mortal Kombat went from an underground taboo to a part of pop culture that was being milked dry.
So fast forward past my “I don’t give a shit anymore” years of Mortal Kombat 4, Deadly Alliance, Deception, Armageddon and Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, to 2010 when a new Mortal Kombat was announced to the world’s… What’s the opposite of surprise? Indifference? Yeah, that’ll work. After Mortal Kombat Armageddon and DC Universe, even Mortal Kombat fans like myself were only moderately excited to hear that there was going to be a new, ’next gen’ Mortal Kombat title. However, expectations shot through the roof after the first e3 gameplay trailer was revealed and new details of Mortal Kombat returning to its roots surfaced.
Finally, I felt like a 12 or 13 year old kid again, waiting for Mortal Kombat II to come out. (Yeah, that’s right. Fuck those Parental Advisories of my youth!)
But I’m not even really joking; picking up Mortal Kombat 9 (or Mortal Kombat 2011, or Mortal Kombat Reboot, or whatever) was a joyous occasion met with an equal sense of anticipation.
So, how did Mortal Kombat fare?
Looking at the new Mortal Kombat, all of its arcade greatness… has been lost. There is no crowd around your television cheering you on as you execute your friends and foes alike, and there are no parents screaming at you for playing it. In fact, these days violence is so mainstream in video games that the idea of cutting off a head of a digital character doesn’t even raise an eyebrow anymore. No, to get the politicians pissed the two fighting characters would have to agree to stop punching each other, smoke a joint and then have sex on screen because nothing gets Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman’s panties in a knot faster than video game characters getting down and dirty.
The aura of ’taboo’ is now (sadly) missing, but in its wake is still a solid game and a great nostalgic trip for anybody with $60, and I’m here to tell you WHY.
The Kronicle ReKreated
For those of you who haven’t kept tabs on Mortal Kombat’s inane story, let’s keep this brief:
Originally Mortal Kombat was essentially a video game version of Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” but with a lot more sorcery and four-armed monsters. However, Mortal Kombat II set a mythos in motion:
The Mortal Kombat tournament is a deadly contest between the best martial artists and warriors of Earth and the hordes of demonic forces of another dimension (often referred to as a ’realm’) known as Outworld, which is ruled by an evil emperor, Shao Kahn. Thousands of years ago Shao Kahn set his eyes upon taking Earth by force, however the Elder Gods required that Shao Kahn and the forces of Outworld had to win 10 consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments in a row in order to conquer the world. Shang Tsung, a shape shifting sorcerer, oversaw Outworld’s 9 previous wins against Earth warriors until a Shaolin warrior, Liu Kang, won the 10th tournament, destroying Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn’s plans.
However, Shang Tsung schemed up a new plan, and Shao Kahn offered earth warriors a new tournament to win in Outworld in an all or nothing ditch effort to take over Earth (Mortal Kombat II).
They lost to Earth again.
So Shao Kahn (who somehow survives after the events of Mortal Kombat II) FINALLY decides to cheat, and he resurrects his dead wife, Sindel, on Earth, merging the two realms. However, Shao Kahn is defeated in means that are only best described in the dozen-or-so character endings in Mortal Kombat 3, but he’s dead none-the-less and Earth is finally safe once and for all.
Until an evil, power-craving Elder God, named Shinnok, escapes from the Netherrealm (Hell?) with the aid of the evil sorcerer Quan Chi (Mortal Kombat 4). So Raiden, the God of Thunder and protector of Earth throughout the entire series, needs the earth warriors to aid him in banishing Shinnok back to the Netherrealm.
But if you ever played Mortal Kombat 4, it turns out that Shinnok is a pussy and a cardboard villain, so Earth wins for a fourth time.
In Mortal Kombat 5: Deadly Alliance, Shao Kahn is alive and well (for reasons we’ll never know) only to be killed by Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, who have joined forces and killed Shao Kahn and Liu Kang in order to take over all of reality (Earth, Outworld, Netherrealm, etc). However, according to the beginning of Mortal Kombat 6: Deception, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi team up against Raiden, however after the deadly alliance beats the God of Thunder, the two become power hungry and turn on each other.
However, in Deadly Alliance, Reptile (the green demon dinosaur ninja) found a magic egg and got turned into the Dragon King, Onaga, the true ruler of Outworld and supreme evil. Onaga emerges before Shang Tsung and Quan Chi can finish each other off. Raiden, Quan Chi, and Shang Tsung team up against Onaga, but Onaga is too powerful for two sorcerers and a God, so naturally it’s up to martial artists to beat him.
But luckily before things get TOO RIDICULOUS…
A giant Mayan pyramid pops out of the ground, with a giant ancient fire demon, named “Blaze”, on top of it like a plastic bride on the top of a wedding cake, promising anyone who bests him infinite power (Mortal Kombat Armageddon (7)). The reason for this is because the balance of power has gotten too chaotic with the several dozen super powered Kombatants roaming free. However, the whole Blaze side-story is thrown the the wayside in favor of watching all of the past and present Kombatants battle each other to the death in one great final battle that will determine the fate of all of existence.
And so now we finally come to Mortal Kombat 9 (2011).
Wait, where’s Mortal Kombat 8?
SO! Mortal Kombat 9:
Mortal Kombat 9 begins at the end of Mortal Kombat Armageddon. All of the Kombatants are dead and rotting in the desert heat, except for Shao Kahn and Raiden who are battling for control of all of creation atop the pyramid on the eve of Armageddon. Raiden fights to save the world while Shao Kahn wants the power to enslave it, and as hard as Raiden fights, he is bested by Shao Kahn.
But right before the fateful blow is struck, Raiden sends a message to his past-self, warning him of the dire future that will await them all if history is not changed for the better. Leaping backwards to the eve of the tournament in Mortal Kombat 1, Raiden is overwhelmed with the visions he received but cannot make heads or tails of what he has seen in the flashes of his future memory. As the tournament starts, Raiden ponders what he is supposed to do to set history right.
Mortal Kombat’s kombat has been relatively simple through the years. Unlike games like Killer Instinct or even Street Fighter II, combo systems were never ridiculously hard to execute, and special attacks never required ’charging’ (holding back/down for 3-5 seconds) or performing half/full circle motions (ex: Zangief’s pile driver attack in Street Fighter II). … Except for Kano’s cannonball attack, which was drastically simplified in Mortal Kombat 3.
Like most fighting games, Mortal Kombat worked on a best-of-three round system where two combatants (Kombatants) would attack one another until a life meter was depleted. However, what set Mortal Kombat apart from its peers was the ability for the winner of 2/3 round to violently execute his or her opponent. At the end of the fight, the winner would be instructed to “Finish Him/Her”, and at that point the winner had a few seconds to enter a short series of button commands that would result in a short, animated execution. Every execution, or “Fatality” is unique between every individual character (with the exception of Mortal Kombat Armageddon, which is why it sucked donkey balls.)
But 99/100 of you reading this probably already know all of what I just got done explaining. The remaining 1% of you need to drive your kids to soccer practice or get to a bake sale.
If you look back at the Mortal Kombat games, you’ll notice that every iteration of the Mortal Kombat franchise has tried expanding the gameplay experience in different ways. Some have been for the better, while other inclusions or changes have been questionable:
- Mortal Kombat 2 introduced mock Fatalities (Babalities, Friendships), and Stage Fatalities were executed with button commands instead of a simple uppercut (The Pit from MK1).
- Mortal Kombat 3 introduced the “Run” button, Kombos, multi-level stages, and more ’finishing moves’ (Animalities, Mercy, Brutalities (MK Trilogy)).
- Mortal Kombat 4 introduced weapons and interactive objects (rocks, skulls, etc) that players could use to inflict maximum damage. Mortal Kombat also went into a 3D style, but (like Mortal Kombat 9) still played on a 2D plain.
- Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance changed the high/low combat controls, and introduced 3D strafing, the Krypt, Konquest Mode, and introduced multiple fighting styles and a new type of weapon kombat.
- Mortal Kombat: Deception introduced mini-games, Hara Kiris (committing suicide before the opponent can execute a Fatality), made Stage Fatalities (aka Death Traps) that were automatic kills despite a player’s energy bar, and they no longer required a button sequence to initiate.
- Mortal Kombat: Armageddon had most of the features of Mortal Kombat Deception, but Fatalities were now “one style fits all” where every character performed a series of blows, stabs, organ rips, or what not to create a combo that would result in your opponent’s demise.
- Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe introduced Free Fall Kombat where players would both fall from a height and battle as they hurled towards the ground. Klose Kombat resulted in two characters deadlocked and exchanging close-range blows with one another, with the character landing the most blows dealing a damaging last attack.
For the most part, the addition of certain features have been a hindrance to the entire series; whether they were too influential and could turn the tide of battle too drastically, or whether they added a level of complexity to the series that was never needed. Some changes are simply ridiculously unfair, such as the ability to continually throw rocks at your opponent in Mortal Kombat 4, which will take 20% of an opponent’s life bar with each successful strike, and upon the rock making contact with your opponent, it would then bounce back in front of you so that you could throw it again.
Now, some of the finer improvements to the series have, in MY opinion, been the following:
- The RUN button – Allowed players to shorten the distance between them and their opponents, either to avoid attacks or exploit weaknesses in enemy defenses (rushing forward and executing a combo or a throw).
- Introducing weapons – A double edged sword (hurf durf) that made kombat look cooler and also resulted in attacks being more effective. But weapons also made fights even more one-sided between newbs and kombat veterans.
- The Krypt – A fun addition that allowed a player to collect Kurrency/Kredits while fighting and accomplishing goals in other game modes, and spend it on unlockables.
- Hara Kiris – There is nothing sweeter than losing a battle and killing yourself off before the victor can as one last-ditch act of defiance.
- Multi-level Stages and Free Fall Kombat – Breaking through walls and ceilings, and fighting while falling gives the kombat a lot of pizazz.
However, as I mentioned above, I personally felt as though the remainder of the ‘updates’ were either unnecessary or a hindrance to the fighting and/or fairness of the game.
And so, Mortal Kombat 9 (2011) is now starting from scratch, starting fresh. The majority of the changes we’ve seen since the beginning have been reverted back to the classic styles of the earliest games. The result is a much more accessible game where Mortal Kombat newbs and Mortal Kombat veterans can jump in and the game will be far less one-sided than the previous 3D games. The 3D gameplay of the previous four Mortal Kombat games has been reverted to a 2D fighting plane with 3D rendered characters, similar to Mortal Kombat 4. The high/low-kick/punch system from previous games has been substituted for a front/back-punch/kick system where essentially every button controls a specific limb while fighting. Weapons make their very mild return by limiting and simplifying their use to only attacks where you hold forward or backwards and press the backward-punch button. Basic combos in Mortal Kombat 9 are very similar to the combo system in Mortal Kombat 3 where a short button combination could be executed with relative ease.
Another addition taken from other modern fighting games is the inclusion of a separate power meter that fills slowly while you successfully land attacks against opponents, but fills quickly when your opponent successfully attacks you. The power bar is measured in three increments: Powered Up Attack, Combo Breaker, and X-Ray Attack. Powered Up Attacks are essentially the same character specific special attacks paired with the use of the block button that will give the special attack a damage boost, or an extended attack (Ex: Johnny Cage = double fireball, or shadow flip kick + shadow uppercut). A Powered Up Attack will cost you 1 whole 1/3 of your accumulated power meter. A combo breaker is self explanatory, and will cost you 2/3 of your power bar. The final and most devastating attack is the X-Ray attack, and it will require that 100% of your power bar is filled in order to execute it. The result will be an attack that, if successfully landed, will become a 2-3 part combination attack that will severely damage your opponent. During these X-ray moves, the camera will zoom in and will show an X-Ray view of your opponent’s innards as you break bones, gouge out eyes, stab vital organs, and perform other horrific, crippling infractions. X-Ray moves are not for the squeamish.
The signature of the Mortal Kombat series, the Fatality, is back and is pushing boundaries, just like the arcade games of my pre-teen youth. In fact, Mortal Kombat 9 has already been BANNED in the country/continent of Australia, where purchasing even via import is punishable with up to a $110,000 fine and confiscation of the game. And there is definitely sound reason for this extreme government reaction, as the fatalities in Mortal Kombat 9 are insanely violent and delightfully sadistic. If you don’t cringe and shout “OHH!” when you watch Noob Saibot rip a character in half (from nuts to neck), or see Kabal disembowel a man, then you must have seen some shit that fucked you up at an early age.
However, there are some Fatalities that are extremely ludicrous (in a Mortal Kombat 3 kind of way). The prime example is Shang Tsung’s “Bang! Bang!” Fatality, in which he turns into a demonic “IT”-like clown and proceeds to shoot you with a “BANG!” flag toy gun, and then quickly followed by a REAL gun. Obviously, for those who actually played Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe, this is a play on, or tribute to the Fatality of “The Joker” (as in Batman’s arch-enemy). It’s amusing at first for the few who ‘get’ the joke, but what it boils down to is a ridiculous waste of a fatality for Shang Tsung.
There is one other ‘standard’ in any Mortal Kombat game, and that is the unfair boss fights, which unfortunately also make their return. You won’t hear me whine and complain, but I will rather EXPLAIN why fights in Mortal Kombat 9 are absolutely punishing. In all previous Mortal Kombat games, you’ve likely noticed that the damage you deal to normal opponents is minimized against boss characters. A combo that once took off 15% of your opponent’s life bar only takes off 7% from Goro, Kintaro, or Shao Kahn. This I can live with.
What I CAN NOT live with are the new (?) periods of near invincibility that the boss characters now posses. You’ll notice that, while fighting against a boss, you may connect a perfect uppercut against him or it, and while it will still do adequate damage, IT WILL NOT KNOCK THE BOSS BACKWARDS OR HALT THEIR ATTACKS. If the boss character is in the process of attacking you, but you connect your attack first, the BOSS CHARACTER’S ATTACK WILL STILL FOLLOW THROUGH. This is by far the most unfair advantage of any Mortal Kombat boss ever since Mortal Kombat 3 where projectile attacks would be REFLECTED off fo Motaro, and nothing else will have you screaming more obscenities at your television like a rapper with turrets syndrome.
The most recent addition to the core gameplay of Mortal Kombat is the addition of Tag Team battles. Not only are there tag team matches, both online and offline, but there are also Tag Team Ladders. Even more interesting are the three player, 1v2 matches where you can stand against two of your newby friends as they try (in vein) to mop the bloodied floors with your face. I have played this feature first hand, and I have already lost a few friends to this particular mode. In addition is a 4 player 2v2 mode where four friends can play with one another in tag team pairs. This is one of the few offline experiences that really made me nostalgic for the days of the 4 player offline games on the Nintendo 64, but because this is 4 player Mortal Kombat, it’s infinitely better than 4 player Star Fox 64 or, dare I say it, GoldenEye.
Story Mode is by far the most interesting and impressive feature of the Mortal Kombat reboot, as it tells a strangely compelling re-imagining of the Mortal Kombat mythos that spans through Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3, much in the same way that the game “Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks” did, but without the hordes of Tarkatan warriors (Baraka’s race) padding out the gameplay.
There are 16 Chapters in Story Mode, which tells the entire Mortal Kombat saga by focusing on a new hero character in each chapter (Ex: Johnny Cage, Sonya, Kung Lao, Raiden, etc.). The gameplay consists of jumping from one scripted cut scene directly into a fight between the hero of the chapter and one of a handful of villains that they continually encounter.
One thing that honestly pisses me off is that half of the time you’ll be fighting either Reptile or Baraka during the first half of the Story Mode because apparently their paper-thin personalities and motivations are so transparent that they make excellent fodder characters for you to bloody up. This is one more reason why the Mortal Kombat Rebirth trailer was such a superior piece of work in contrast to Mortal Kombat cannon, but I digress.
In addition to repeatedly beating Reptile and Baraka in the early Story Mode, another thing that bothered me was the inability to play as key villain characters such as Shang Tsung or Quan Chi to help possibly expand their own motives and backstories.
My third complaint in this review of what is largely a great gameplay mode is that some core story incongruities feel like they are explained through the existence of characters who only appeared in later Mortal Kombat games, not in the original Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 cannon. While some explanations for the more severe plot holes are filled (ex: Shao Kahn surviving Mortal Kombat II), they are filled by newer characters that shouldn’t exist in that time frame (ex: Shao Kahn survived Mortal Kombat II by being healed by Quan Chi). Furthermore, other core elements to the Mortal Kombat story line have been drastically altered by said new characters (Ex: It is now Quan Chi’s idea to resurrect Sindel, not Shang Tsung’s, which was originally outlined in the Mortal Kombat 3 story line). It may sound like a lot of nitpicking, but these are severe alterations that SHOULD NOT have occurred within this reboot, regardless of the fact that the story’s time line has been SLIGHTLY shifted by Raiden’s influx of future memories. Instead, characters introduced in later games, like Quan Chi, Baraka, Cyrax and Sektor, are all now active participants in even the Mortal Kombat 1 story line, and that throws everything off balance for long-time Mortal Kombat followers, such as myself, and only reinforces a lot of the soap opera “oh I’m still alive” or “that person was behind the scenes” bullshit that was force fed to us in later games, which eventually led to the entire series desperately needing this reboot to help weed out aforesaid bullshit.
But regardless of this large complaint, the story weaved and the characters involved (cannon to the original time line or not) still make up one of the best retellings of the Mortal Kombat saga, and although it does essentially follow the story line and character portrayals of Paul Anderson’s feature film, “Mortal Kombat”, things definitely become infinitely more interesting after the events of Mortal Kombat 1.
Well, that’s until you get to the end of Chapter 15 when a particular series of events will single-handedly piss off about 90% of all Mortal Kombat fans, as it did me. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s a lot that happens that will forever alter Mortal Kombat games from here on out. And it’s not altered for the better…
However, there was one key element within Story Mode that damn near caused me to take out my real-life aggressions and frustrations out on various articles of furniture in my house: Being double-teamed. There are several points during Story Mode where you will have to fight not one, but two tag-teaming enemies in order to advance, and they are by far the most frustrating. Whether you have to pit yourself against both Kitana and Jade, or Sektor and Cyrax, or Quan Chi and Scorpion or Noob Saibot, the end result is a lot of deaths and even more colorful uses for the old German word for “human copulation”. It often feels unfair, and it is always frustrating, especially when you must beat a deadly alliance using a character that you are forced to become familiar with, and quickly.
Challenge Tower and Test Your <Fill in the Blank>
Mortal Kombat has some much more appropriate and amusing diversions (mini games) than previous entries in the series. Gone are the Mortal Karts racing game, or the Puzzle Fighter knockoff, in favor for challenges that feel far less ridiculous.
The Challenge Tower consists of 300 unique challenges for a player to overcome, with each challenge becoming increasingly more difficult the higher you go. You will have to meet specific challenges in order to advance up the ladder, such as requiring that you hit different parts of your opponent’s body X-number of times, or that you finish your opponent off with a particular move, or even beating multiple opponents in an allowed amount of time.
Anyone who has played the first Mortal Kombat game remembers the infamous “Test Your Might” mini game that occurred roughly three times during the course of the arcade mode. Your character would stand before a stack of boards, a slab of stone, or some denser, more ridiculously impossible item to destroy, such as a steel anvil or a giant diamond. But they were fun little distractions from the fighting, blood and gore that were unfortunately absent until Mortal Kombat Deception (6). In Mortal Kombat 9, the fun little mini game is just that, a mini game that exists outside of the main arcade challenge. While the spirit of Test Your Might is still intact from its original inception from Mortal Kombat 1, it is structured in a Challenge Tower kind of format where you have a dozen or so ‘levels’ to complete, and each level comes with a pre-assigned character. Much like Test Your Might, there are two additional mini games: Test Your Sight, which is a gory take on the ball-and-cup game; and Test Your Strike, which is similar to Test Your Might, but in which you have to focus your attacks in order to break not a stack of objects, but only one center object in particular. My only disappointment is that the characters of all of the Test Your Sight/Might/Strike are all preassigned, rather than you being able to choose whomever you want to choose in order to complete the challenges.
Test Your Luck is the final mini game in which the conditions of your fight are based solely on the chance of a slot-machine. The slot machine interface will randomly determine what character you fight, environmental hazards, and character and opponent handicaps (health drain, health gain, missing limbs or heads, disabling special moves, etc). So, you might be fighting Scorpion without either of you having arms (unable to operate any punch-based attacks, including throws, specials, or X-Ray attacks), while fire erupts from the ground at random locations. If you want a challenge, this is by far the most unexpectedly amusing way to prove that you are a Mortal Kombat guru.
The Krypt is Krap
I like the IDEA of the Krypt, especially since you have to play the game to unlock secret Fatalities and *SPOILER ALERT* Babalities *END OF SPOILERS*, so that helps extend the life of the game out a bit. However, the Krypt has always suffered from one major flaw: IT’S FULL OF WORTHLESS BULLSHIT.
Concept art, background art, character art, non-downloadable music tracks (not like you’d ever listen to any of the music on an iPod anyways, but still…); the list of absolute KRAP goes on with the only things of possible worth being the Alternate Costumes and the Unlockable Fatalities.
Oh, and guess what? Here’s another SPOILER but since it’s just more KRAP, I’ll tell you about it anyways:
The Krypt has a “Screamer”.
You know what a screamer is, right? You are supposed to concentrate on an image or video on the internet, and then a scary face pops up and screams at the top of its lungs at you, and you’re supposed to have a heart attack and die all in the name of a prank. In Mortal Kombat 9’s Krypt, you’ll be greeted by this ugly bastard from time to time:
Hopefully they’ll release a patch to Mortal Kombat 9 that will disable the Screamer after it’s occurred once. I’m all for internet pranks, but not pranks that I spend $60 and hours of Kurrency Kollecting on.
Graphics aren’t everything, but damn the rendered characters and backgrounds in Mortal Kombat 9 are outstanding!
Warner Brothers Interactive, the game studio based off fo the movie studio, has officially secured exclusive rights to the Unreal Engine 3 for use in their IP-based games (Mortal Kombat and DC Comics video games; which explains a ton about how MK VS DC came to be). While the Unreal Engine 3 graphics software is becoming increasingly dated, it makes Mortal Kombat shine like never before.
I won’t even bullshit you when I say that Mortal Kombat 9 is the best looking fighting game ever made. The sheer amount of detail is insane; giant dragons fly around in the backgrounds, bugs and snakes crawl over corpses in the Living Forest, cars scream through streets on fire, and other Kombatants fight in the distance. Character models take a megaton of abuse as well, and not just from the X-Ray Attacks. Clothes get torn, flesh gets cut from the bone, skin gets ripped off, and entrails spill. Not only does the game look astonishing, but it runs extremely smooth and I’ve yet to have a problem with slowdowns, or too many “pop-in textures”. However, I did see some graphical glitches regarding Sonya’s hair, but the rest of the game look fantastic.
The sound in any given Mortal Kombat game has been less than stellar. The majority of the sound effects are slices, splats, and screams of an impending, brutal death. However, with the advancements of Story Modes in recent Mortal Kombat games, gamers have had to put up with terrible voice acting as well (Deception’s Konquest mode). Luckily, the sound effects and voices in the new Mortal Kombat are adequate and well fitting.
On the other hand, music has never EVER been a strong point in the Mortal Kombat games. Most video games, including fighting games like Street Fighter II and Killer Instinct, have extremely memorable music, as often explored in Kenny Farino’s video game music remix podcast, GAMEJAMS. However, with Mortal Kombat, the most iconic piece of music is only the Techno Syndrome theme that was made iconic through the first Mortal Kombat movie.
The majority of the music is taken from the earliest Mortal Kombat games and given an update and an expanded sound, however none of the music in the game is remotely ‘iconic’ or memorable. No offense to Dan “TOASTY!” Forden and the rest of the crew who works on the Mortal Kombat soundtracks, but there is nothing that will really cause me to pause and have gory flashbacks if I were to stumble upon a remixed track of a Mortal Kombat level’s theme on YouTube. In fact, I can bet you that there are so few remixes from any of the Mortal Kombat GAMES that you will never even be presented that opportunity.
If the Playstation Network was actually up, I could actually comment on this, but alas…
There’s very few times when something turns out BETTER than my expectations, and Mortal Kombat 9 did just that in spades. While the release of Mortal Kombat 9 will never be met with such explosive enthusiasm as I once witnessed in the arcades when Mortal Kombat II was released, Mortal Kombat 9 has all of the stomach turning, cringe worthy, sadistically exciting moments that I remember from my childhood. The graphics are just as big and bold as I remember, the gameplay is easy enough to be able to jump in and hold your ground against the best, and the music is just as unmemorable as ever. The core gameplay feels as though it is the natural next step in the evolution of the series, right after Mortal Kombat II. What this means is that you get the same glorious Mortal Kombat experience without it being hindered by added complexity or features that make the fighting too unfair. The bosses are cheaper than ever, but at least they aren’t entire immune from your attacks, just unphased by a lot of them. The additional features like Test Your Might/Strike/Sight/Luck are fun diversions, where the Krypt has become a tedious internet scream prank.
However, in the end almost everything in Mortal Kombat 9 is EXTREMELY FAITHFUL to the original games, and finally Ed Boon and the others have managed to resurrect not only the core gameplay, but the entire ‘feeling’ of a classic Mortal Kombat title, sans the unique and nostalgic arcade experience of the 1990’s. While I haven’t been ‘obsessed’ with Mortal Kombat for nearly a decade, Mortal Kombat 9 gives me enough reasons to jump back on the bandwagon.