Mortal Kombat Redefines the Resurrecting of a Franchise
This review may be a little belated but after recently checking out the new Mortal Kombat for Xbox 360 I feel that I must express my gratitude to NetherRealm Studios for not screwing it up. In fact, this game absolutely puts on a clinic in modernizing and resurrecting a franchise that has been slowly dragged down to hell.
The early-nineties! The tee-ball playing, boiled-hotdog-eating, sticky-fingered, no name-freezie-sucking nineties. This was where my memories were made. As far as I was concerned the “Normal Nintendo” was a magic machine built specifically with me in mind. I had played Street Fighter II and loved it despite my lack of ever winning before the time was up. Although it was good I don’t remember when I first played it at all. When I first played Mortal Kombat I had just rented it from S & J’s convenience store on Talbot and Simcoe in Port McNicoll, Ontario. Yes, when I first played it, my cousin Josh and I were in the living room of my house on Simcoe Ave., sitting on the brown floral… The point is that I will always remember when I was introduced to this series with a floored jaw. Being completely obsessed with those sadistic, 16-bit sprites and their bloody-ass fatalities.
While playing this new, re-telling of the original trilogy it was crystal clear to me that Ed Boon and NetherRealm Studios (formerly WB Games Chicago and Midway Games Chicago) had two specific things in mind to accomplish. Most importantly it had to be as faithful as possible to the original three games. Secondly, it had to be as faithful as possible to the original three games. What ultimately blew the MK series into complete obscurity was the sad attempts, between the first game and this one, to re-tool, modernize and bring back what was once widely considered the best fighting series ever. I have to admit I haven’t played any of those games ( part 4, Deadly Alliance, Armageddon ) but I have recently checked all of them out extensively in videos, images and articles. What I saw was the equivalent of watching a 40 year-old man wear skinny jeans and a skateboard-brand hoodie while getting his hair styled like Justin Biebers.
This time around
This game, however, did most everything right in this former MK nerd’s eyes. The main story is actually pretty good. It takes place where the previous game (Armageddon) left off and is an altered re-telling of the events of the original trilogy of games. The controls are nice and familiar, though this time with a button assigned to each limb. It was nice to see that the excessive abuse of the ol’ uppercut still works perfectly for getting through the easier opponents in a hurry. Also, a lot of moves are done exactly the same way here as they were originally done. For example, Cryrax’s green net is still deployed using <- <- A. You still have to unlock special moves, Fatalities, Babalities, etc. by button-mashing them out on your own which is great. There are a lot of original finishing moves that are back by popular demand but there are also some new ones that absolutely melted my damn face off at some points. There is a newly added Special Meter that fills by landing or taking hits. You can use just a portion of it to do jacked-up versions of regular moves or you can use the full meter to pull off the brutally executed “X-Ray” move. All the characters initial Fatalities are a little trite, if not the exact same the rest, but the real gore-fest comes with the ones you figure out later. When it comes down to getting the hang of things and pulling off all these movies I think the developers really wanted to cater to MK newcomers and vets alike. I think the result has been a successful one.
Good Choices on the Graphical Front
Although on a 2-D plain, which I think everyone can agree is essential, the game has some really slick (not “sick”) looking 3-D character models (Noob looks amazing). This is especially true when viewing them in one of the games extra areas dubbed “Nekropolis” where you can view all the characters close-up and toggle to view them at their most damaged state. This is mostly nasty gashes but always includes the clothing that covers the tittie-area of every female character to be slightly torn away (Damn, Sonya Blade.) The dynamic of mixing the 2-D feel of the original games with the polished 3-D characters of today was executed admirably here. My favorite character has always been Reptile and I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the reptile form that he appears in and the cheesey hissing he does when he wins a match but I was glad to hear that there will be a DLC coming out that includes the original “Klassic Costumes” for each character. I was also a little disappointed in the fact that Raiden is almost certainly wearing lip gloss. I’m serious.. Lip gloss! Oh I get it; it’s lip BALM isn’t it? Its all those windy lightning storms. Really chaps the lips. I have the same problem, man.
Are the Extras Worthy Timewasters?
Another addition to keep the game fresh is the “Krypt”. There is an in-game currency that they have creatively called “Koins”. The Koins are earned by doing really anything in the single player modes, be it climbing the famous ladder to Shao Kahn, the Tag Ladder or the Challenge Ladder. The Krypt is where you go to spend these Koins. It is an enormous (and I mean HUGE) graveyard full of small graves, tombs, and humans on torture devices. You either smash one of the ridiculous amounts of graves, break open a tomb, or activate a torture device to buy (for various amounts of Koins) and reveal the secret goodie it unlocks. These range from concept art to alternate character costumes and the like. It does a nice job of keeping things interesting while you’re taking a break from how pissed off some of the difficulty spikes will surely get you.
Online Play? Step Right Up! Get Your Ass Caved In!
I think a big part of what they wanted to do with this game is make it a great online experience because the original games really boiled down to playing against your buddies as your favorite characters and humiliating them with the best finishing move you knew. I activated the free 2-day trial (yes you have to pay for an online pass if you didn’t buy the game new) and gave it a shot. The first thing I noticed was that It seemed to take 10 minutes just to find an opponent. I doubt that the problem is lack of users so it may be something they take a look at. When I finally found a few matches it was agonizing to fight anyone who has the slightest skill at this game. It had me just about as furious as playing Call of Duty: Black Ops gets me, which is astronomically, controller-smashingly furious. You can’t counter anything coming from anyone. If they are using a quick-evading character like Smoke then forget about it. You would have to be a pretty competitive gamer to get good enough to really get into the online experience here.
Minor Glitch Turns Out To Be Not So Minor
On the glitch and bug front there is only one thing that I came across but it turned out to be a pretty glaring and obnoxious one. There would be instances where protruding articles of clothing would stretch out towards the sky like big, thick strings on a marionette. When your fighter would jump or be kicked around the room, the articles of clothing would stay were you once were. The same went for things like Barraka’s blades or Sonya’s ponytail. This may not have been so annoying given the fact that it looked really cool when Sub-Zero would freeze you while you were protruding everywhere, but this was an issue that would rarely go away once it started. Whether they know of it and are working on fixing it I don’t know but it really hindered the visual appeal that the game otherwise did so well with.
While the sometimes major glitchiness of the characters and the obnoxious online-play took away from the whole package, this game does what it is meant to do and it does it better than any game in this series since Mortal Kombat III. All the familiar sounds (finish him) and backdrops (deadpool), the many hidden things…The smartly mixed old school style with a new school feel. While feeling fresh at the same time it brought me back to the campy, bloody mayhem of the old days and I think it should be a chief example of how to replenish a franchise that has been lost to obscurity.
+ True to the original trilogy
+ Great graphics
+ Interesting extras
– Major graphical glitch that sometimes doesn’t go away
– Long, drawn out matchmaking in online play
– Raiden’s lip gloss