I was pretty young when Mortal Kombat came out in the 90s. I was too young to actually be playing Mortal Kombat in the first place, what with the abundance of spinal-cord-ripping and ball-punching. But hey – my friends and I didn’t know any better. We would crowd the cabinet at our local arcade and hot-seat the 1P stick, trying to stretch out those precious two credits. We’d always get a kick out of uppercuts, blood spraying everywhere like we opened a jugular. We watched the older kids play and took mental notes of combos (sorry, kombos) that they did, so that we might be able to use them for ourselves. When my friend managed to get it on SNES, we would rotate through those 7 characters for hours on end, until his mother would shoo us out of the room with a feather duster.
The 9th Mortal Kombat promised to be a throwback to those glory days. It was to be a product filled with fan service, promising to gamers that they could relive those good times in glorious 3D.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve become 8 years old all over again.
The roster is straight-forward and no-nonsense – the most familiar faces from the universe are present and accounted for. All the classic moves have been ported over: Sub Zero’s ice ball, Scorpion’s harpoon, Raiden’s Flying Tackle, Liu Kang’s bicycle kick. You can Test Your Might. There’s Toasty. Even the stages have been faithfully reconstructed in glorious 3D. And, of course, the Fatalities are present in all their gratuitously violent glory – expect to see plenty of viscera. In fact, the whole game is pretty intense. Bones break. Kneecaps shatter. Eyes are gouged. Stomachs are disembowled. Skin is ripped off and organs are shown. After a battle, there’s often a close-up of the victor, and they usually look like they’ve waded through a swimming pool of chainsaws.
The new Mortal Kombat is not without its fair share of changes, however. High / low attacks have been replaced with left / right strikes ala Tekken. The special moves have been simplified greatly. The inclusion of tag team combat adds a modern (and chaotic) touch to the whole package. The Super Meter is a new addition, and allows for the execution of enhanced special moves, guard breaks and the infamous X-Ray super moves. Oh, and a 2.5D fighter at 60fps looks great.
Mortal Kombat has always managed to retain its own unique style. This reboot has not failed to do so – granted, some of the special moves have been simplified, but I believe the increase in accessibility is more than welcome. NetherRealm lost very little by making the franchise more accessible to the wider market. As a result, this is not Street Fighter – the initial curve in shifting controller paradigms is uncomfortable at first, but carefully stringing together moves to inflict double digit combos is reward unto itself.
The Story mode is surprisingly solid, and is a great primer to the initial events of the Mortal Kombat series. The Challenge Tower is also a nice time-waster (even if some of the Challenges feel like cheap filler, and others are ridiculously hard).
Bonus Content is shown as a series of unlockable items in a separate section called the Krypt, which can be purchased with Koins earned during gameplay. This is all well and good, except that there are a lot of unlockables. Plus, there is now way of knowing what you’re unlocking – it’s all hidden, like a lucky dip. There are some useful unlocks in there (i.e. new Fatilities, Kodes and Costumes) but the rest is either music or artwork. Given that each unlock is prefixed by 5 second animation, it would’ve made more sense to just display what unlocks are available, rather than randomly selecting something hoping that it’s good.
All in all, it’s a great package that has awakened feelings of nostalgia within this aged gamer. If you were ever a cabinet joystick jockey back in the day (or just want to experience unadulterated blood and gore) then Mortal Kombat is a must.