Saturday, April 5, 2014

GOT 'IM - Mortal Kombat

This is by far my fastest got 'im of the year (other than Frog Fractions, which was like 45 minutes).  Upcoming is a ramble-review of my week of playing 2011's Mortal Kombat. 


I've always liked fighting games, but I was a Street Fighter kid.  Without regular arcade access, my gaming was strictly tied to my PC, NES, and Game Boy in the early 90s (when I was aged 5 to 9), but several of my friends had SNESes or Geneses.  Wow.  Weird plurals.  So anyway, I played a fair amount of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat on my friends' machines, and I overwhelmingly preferred Street Fighter.  Sure, I thought that the EXTREME nature of Mortal Kombat's violence and characters was rad, but I was better at Street Fighter and my close friends (mostly David) were all about Street Fighter.

So I had played the older Mortal Kombat games, and I remember at least one or two sleepovers where we basically played Mortal Kombat Trilogy all night.  But I never owned any of them, and I was bad at them.  Totally missed every single MK game made after Trilogy; I didn't play any of them, and couldn't tell you about any new characters in the series.  Fast-forward to 2011: I'm doing one of my occasional weekends hanging out in Charlottesville, and one of my college buddies, Paul-Derek, had bought Mortal Kombat.  The new one, that is; it doesn't have a subtitle, so it's usually called MK 2011 or MK9.  We played it for a number of hours, and I quite enjoyed it, to my surprise.

So eventually WB Games releases a "Komplete" edition of MK9 (which is a short, convenient moniker that I'll be using from now on) and I buy it on a whim in early 2013.  The Komplete edition has four additional DLC characters included, and every costume in the game already unlocked, some of which were vendor-exclusive pre-orders or DLC.  Pretty glad not to be tempted by any DLC or micro-transactions when playing this, and I have to say it's impressive when I can select, say, Kitana, and choose between her MK2 costume, her MK3 costume, her new costume, or an alternate costume.  That's neat.  Every character has at least three costume choices, and including DLC there are 32 playable characters.  Very impressive.

Story and Characters

Now of those 32 characters, four of them are DLC and one is exclusive to the PS3 version of the game.  If you play on PS3 (as I did), Kratos from the God of War games is available.  It... actually kind of fits.  Not a bad choice. Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street films is another playable character that fits in better than I would have originally expected.  Both of those characters are fun to use, but Freddy seems stronger than Kratos.  Go figure. 

Outside of Freddy and Kratos, MK9 is full of nearly all the Mortal Kombat mainstays.  I'm not 100% certain about this, but I believe that MK9 has every character from Mortal Kombat Trilogy except for Khameleon (who was a palette-swapped secret character anyway) and Motaro (who appears in cutscenes in MK9, but not in any fights).  You have all seven of the "colorful ninja" characters (I think?), who have thankfully become more distinct over the years, all three female ninjas (plus a new fourth one), and at least five Outworld demons of various limb counts and fang sizes.  Then you have the human characters like Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Kung Lao, Jax, Stryker, Nightwolf, and Kabal.  Oh, and Raiden.  He's kind of a big deal. 

(Some spoilers in the next three paragraphs, if you care about that sort of thing)

The only new characters I know of (a few spoilers here) are a cyborg version of Sub-Zero, a blood-soaked red-clad ninja girl named Skarlet, and the aforementioned Freddy and Kratos.  With the first Sub-Zero turned into Noob Saibot (a black ninja with shadow powers) and the second one a cyborg, I think that Netherrealm Studios has officially run out of Sub-Zeroes.  Quan Chi from the PS2 Mortal Kombat games is a major character now (I had to explore the MK Wikia a little bit to research him), and two of the DLC characters are Kenshi and Rain, also from later games in the series. 

The story mode presented by MK9 is quite interesting.  It covers the events of the first three Mortal Kombat games - the tournament in Earth(realm) run by Shang Tsung and Goro, the second tournament in Outworld run by Shao Khan and Kintaro, and the third game where Shao Khan decides to take a "Fuck Tournaments" policy and straight up invades Earth(realm), giving the souls of the fallen to the necromancer Quan Chi.  Throughout this story you'll fight a few battles with each of the "hero" characters that generally fight on the side of good, which is led by Raiden.  You start out fighting a few matches as Johnny Cage in the first tournament, and end up using a the MK3 human characters (plus a grand finale playing as Raiden) in the invasion. By the end of the game, my favorite character to use was Kung Lao; two projectiles, good anti-air, a dive kick, and a teleport with multiple finishes.  Everything I wanted. 

I was surprised at how self-seriously Mortal Kombat took its storyline, but it was sort of neat to see in action.  This is a surprisingly detailed, colorful universe that they've created, and in a pretty short single-player mode (maybe 5 to 10 hours depending on skill level) the player experiences almost a decade of Mortal Kombat history.  That's neat.  The game (I think) takes a slightly different direction from the original games, because while there is setup for a sequel (likely with Quan Chi and an evil god named Shinnok as the antagonists), almost everyone is dead.  The only good-guy characters that survive the final battle are Raiden, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade.  Eesh.  We'll see what happens on that front in the next year or two. 

(End of the story spoilers)

Playing the Game

So there are a bunch of characters and a single-player mode chock full of Mortal Kombat lore, but how does the game actually play? Pretty solid, again defying my expectations.  It's a five-button system, with two punches, two kicks, and a block button.  a couple skills are button combinations mappable to the shoulder buttons, like throws and combo breakers.  There's a super meter (of course there is), which can be used for enhanced specials, a combo breaker / free cancel / burst, and an "X-Ray" move that's basically a super move with gruesome effects shown on the recipient's skeleton.  Word.  

I never got really good at the combat (had to resort to teleporting bullshit for the final boss of Story Mode), but it's definitely good.  It's more dial-a-combo than Street Fighter, but there's also a little bit more freedom to juggle and perform wall bounce and off-the-ground moves.  There is huge potential here, but I never got good enough at the fighting to really pull off some cool shit or make it far in the game's Challenge mode (which is robust and impressive), but I can see how deep it is from outside the pool.  Metaphors.  Hell, I struggled near the end of the single-player, which is probably below the game's Normal difficulty setting for the most basic arcade mode (which is present, because why not?).

The Final Word 

So MK9 has 30+ characters, a ton of unlockables (art pieces, etc.), impressive single-player content, really solid basic gameplay, and some multiplayer that I'm not interested in trying.  I see the effort and care that went into this game and I'm impressed.  I officially give a shit about Mortal Kombat, which was not the case three or four years ago.  Good on you, Ed Boon. 

Games Beaten: 2014 Edition
1. Ys Seven
2. Rayman Origins
3. Assassin's Creed II
4. Dust: An Elysian Tail
5. The Walking Dead (season one)
6. Frog Fractions
7. Mortal Kombat (2011)

Targets: 5/14


I'm between games at the moment.  Messing around in Persona 2, messing around in Digital Devil Saga, and playing two games of Persona 3 at the same time (!?).  Not sure what's going to be next.  I have several incubating blog posts at the moment, with some more Persona stuff, some card game stuff, and some big ol' lists of video games. 

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