Fiery carcasses, frozen foes, electrocuted opponents, and pits of death can only mean one thing: a new "Mortal Kombat" game. Almost 20 years after its original release, Warner Bros. Interactive and NetherRealm Studios have resurrected one of the few Western fighting games that has barely survived the test of time, and helped solidify its place in fighting game history.
The latest release is a reboot of series, and the first "original" appearance on the current generation of consoles. Retelling the tale of the first three "Mortal Kombat" games, this iteration packs a well-developed story in alongside the classic one-on-one (and two-on-two) battles. Many of the series' most recognizable characters have returned, and they've brought with them some of the most brutal combat that consoles have seen in years.
"Mortal Kombat" packs a variety of modes, from the standard arcade ladder to tests of might, sight, and luck. Both online and off the battles have returned to their early 90s greatness, mixing brutality and gore with fun and accessible arcade-style fighting.
The "Mortal Kombat" games that hit the market after the original all attempted to evolve the combat in one way or another. Whether it was by adding weapons, fighting styles or multi-tiered arenas, just about every game tried something new. That's not exactly the case with this release. The team at NetherRealm, lead by Ed Boon, one of the minds behind the original, have dialed back a lot of the fluff that was added over the years, and kept the fights as similar to the original as possible, only with more gore.
Reconstructing The Mythos
Combining the plots of the first three games was the right approach for this reboot. Longtime fans whose knowledge of "Mortal Kombat" lore may have lapsed will appreciate the nostalgic touches, and new fans will be able to enjoy a well-developed story that paints Raiden as a misguided god, Lui Kang as a benevolent servant, and Shao Khan as a power-hungry emperor. While it may gloss over some of the finer points of the series, it encapsulates many of the major turning points in the early history of the franchise.
Unlocking The Krypt
The Krypt has been present (and misspelled) for the last few "MK" games, but it's still one of the best-executed venues for unlocking content in video games. The formula is pretty standard: you earn Koins as you play that can be used to purchase locked content. However, the blind assortment of the Krypt keeps you guessing as to whether or not you're spending your Koins on concept art, or an alternate costume.
In recent years the "Mortal Kombat" franchise has been known to overdo their character select screen ("Armageddon" had 63), but with the scaling back of the reboot, the character count was the hardest hit. While there is a strong sampling of each type of fighter (ninja, cyborg, and "other") there's still only a total of 25 playable characters at the start, with only two additional unlockables. If you're a fan of variety, then the PS3 version should be your SKU of choice, as it comes with an exclusive (and worthy) additional character, Kratos.
The Easter Bunny Never Comes
While the game caters to longtime fans, there aren't a host of secrets to be found throughout the game. You may run across one or two surprises climbing the arcade ladder, but don't expect a "Toasty!" or hidden "Pac-Man" characters in any of the levels. It's not a huge loss, and supports the more serious tone of the franchise over the last few releases, but it does feel like a little something missing, especially for a reboot.
Correction: "Toasty!" does make an appearance in this "Mortal Kombat."
There's virtually no other franchise on the market that has had as many chances as "Mortal Kombat." The series has gone through so many different incarnations over the years, but this most recent ones seems to be the one that does it the most justice. Pulling from the vast history of the series, this "Mortal Kombat" trims a lot of the fat that has been added in the last few releases and finally sets the series on the right course. If Warner Brothers and NetherRealm are able to keep the series going in this direction, both old and new fans should be pleased with the results, and gamers will be able to revel in bloody excess for years to come.