Dragon’s Den; Mortal Kombat (9)
Mortal Kombat (9)
Spear-heading its way to your collection
Mortal Kombat, released back in April of 2011, still shows great promise in the fighting genre as it attempts to do more than others. While other fighting games may tack on a story as an afterthought, Mortal Kombat has always made more of an attempt to create a definitive story within its games. For the purposes of this review, I will be writing about the Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita versions of the game.
As I mentioned before, Mortal Kombat has a story mode, taking place after that of Mortal Kombat Armageddon when we meet Shao Kahn defeating Earthrealm’s protector Raiden. Before Shao Kahn deals the finishing blow, Raiden takes his amulet and casts a spell to send a message to his past self, warning him of what’s to come and to attempt to change the future. I’m always a sucker for any form of time-travel storyline implemented, and seeing an alternate timeline during the first three Mortal Kombat games definitely grabbed my attention to find out what can change, how it did, and what would come of it later on. Now while you can understand the choices made would make you question Raiden’s judgment considering his own choice words with no context, you still question his decisions after everyone else begins to wonder if he (Raiden) knows what he’s doing.
The visuals definitely grab your attention for each character and stage you go through. Every time a match starts, I can’t help but stare at the details of each person’s costume or of what’s going on in the background, such as how the trees in the Living Forest stage look alive along with the slight groaning that goes on, or the nice touches within the God of War stage where the Labyrinth begins to collapse and you see the Titan, Gaia peer into the gaping hole of the combatants beating each other. Now for the Vita version at least, the cutscenes still look just about as nice as the consoles. Once the fight actually begins, you can definitely see how the resolution plummeted and look worse than they really should. Once the camera zooms away from their faces and the fight actually begins, you barely notice it after a few hours of play. The music you’ll barely listen to, you’ll definitely hear it here and there, but it’s not memorable enough while you’re trying to win a fight.
But enough about the story and the visuals, what about the game play? If you’re a fan of the fighter genre or just a general fan of Mortal Kombat, you definitely couldn’t miss this installment. The game play runs smoothly for both PS3 and the Vita, and shows love to all of the characters you enjoyed in the past. You feel the weight of each punch, kick, and special move you give and take. You feel like you progress more with your preferred character, learning new combos and tricks before that allow you to defeat any who challenge you. With the new meter system (which seems to be in just about every fighting game now), you’re able to either boost the power of a special attack, break free of your opponents relentless attacks (allowing yourself a little breathing room to recover), or give your opponent a devastating X-Ray attack, causing more damage and some nice added gore to the fight, albeit slightly confusing the way the damage is caused and how the opponent can get back up afterwards. If one complaint I have about this however, is the lack in variety in the respective X-rays, victory poses, and the like. You can only watch Sub-Zero say “This fight will be your last” and see his X-Ray before wishing the scenes would just go by a little quicker.
There’s a variety of things you can do as well. There’s your standard Mortal Kombat arcade ladder (with an additional Tag Team Ladder Arcade) that gives an extra bit of story for each character as you beat it along with a second costume (if you hadn’t already unlocked it through the Nekropolis). There’s a Challenge Tower mode that puts you through an array of challenges that progressively get more difficult as you go along, but I wouldn’t exactly say the reward for doing them all without skipping is worth it, unless you’re a big fan of Mileena. If you have the Vita port, you’ll have an extra challenge tower with more challenges that not only implement more of the Vita’s hardware with touch controls and gyroscope, but you’ll be able to unlock exclusive costumes for the DLC characters Rain, Skarlett, and Kenshi. With Mortal Kombat 9, they’ve brought all the Test Your (Blank) modes as well. There are the respective Test Your Might, Sight, and luck mini-games. Of course with Test your Might, you’re button mashing the controller to break whatever’s in front of you. With Test your Sight, you’re trying to follow a small ball within three skulls as they shuffle around. Now with Test your Luck is where the fun really begins with the mini-games. You and the CPU (or a friend) chooses your characters, and before the match begins, you start a slot reel that will either buff you, hurt you, or just outright cause hilarity in the battle at hand. You can play as a narcoleptic Scorpion, regenerating health, and no arms whilst fighting Noob-Saibot (who is also missing his arms) who obtains more of a speed-advantage and let the carnage begin. Not only does the random-ness of the fight give entertainment, it also allows you to think around your possible handicaps (for example, When you don’t have any arms to punch with, all you’re left with are kicks, so how do you do more damage or how to avoid it when you can’t block either)?
In this installment of Mortal Kombat, we finally have an online mode where we can challenge anyone else as we wished. You can either go to a private match with a friend in his home, play a ranked match with a random stranger to test your skills with your favorite character, or even create a room of King of the Hill to challenge multiple opponents to see who can rank themselves the highest among them with the most wins. For the most part from what I could see, the online modes were fairly smooth with rare lag spikes on the Playstation 3 version. The Vita version however, I wish I could say the same of it. From what online matches I’ve played, there was such lag they were almost unplayable unless you just spam any teleport attack move to win. But even if you do find a match that plays smoother than others, the other player can just as easily press the PS button and swipe the window off to close the application to end the match and leave their stats untouched. One last thing I wished they would have added onto the online matches is the previously mentioned Test your Luck mode, which could’ve added so much extra entertainment online, especially within the King of the Hill rooms.
One last thing I’d like to mention is the trophies/achievements of Mortal Kombat. The trophies range from beating the arcade ladder with every character, use every X-ray attack, throw, fatality, babality, and the like. It allows you to go back through certain stages of the arcade and if you meet certain requirements, you can fight hidden fighters which can range in difficulty of just finding the character and hitting the button, to not losing a single round in ladder mode and getting a double flawless victory with Shang Tsung (not to mention killing him with a fatality as well) to fight one. Of course these are random trophies that give you more of an excuse to enjoy the game longer and experiment with characters you’re not used to. But then there’s a few I have some big complaints about in this aspect. The trophies “My Kung Fu is Strong” and “My Kung Fu is Stronger” not only tells you to ‘master’ a single character, which means spilling a certain amount of blood, amount of fatalities used, amount of X-Rays used, victories acquired, and amount of time with said character, but you have to do this for every character. This not only makes it a mind-numbingly time-sink, but makes acquiring the ‘mastered’ status more monotony than entertaining at that point.
But with all said and done, Mortal Kombat 9 is an incredibly entertaining game that you’ll undoubtedly not only take out more often to fight your friends, but play yourself whenever you feel like it with countless hours in the Arcade Ladder, Challenge Tower(s), online mode, and Test your Luck. If you have a console or a Vita, this is a definite must-have for your collection.
I give Mortal Kombat 9 an 8/10.
+Story Mode -Forgettable Music
+Test Your Luck -(Vita) Poor Online
+Great Visuals -Annoying Trophies