You weak pathetic fools, I've come for your souls! Mortal Kombat is back and this time its gone back to its roots. Is this new MK the savior of the series or is it time to finally Finish MK? Find out in the Gouki.com Exclusive Review.
Mortal Kombat first hit the arcades in 1992 and was the first fighting game to offer so much violence that it helped create the ESRB. The Mortal Kombat series has gone through some upgrades, changes, iteration, and super heroes. Which most of us would agree was the ultimate downfall for the violent fighting game. The best MK games in the series according to the majority of the fans are the first 3 games. 2D fighting, with blood, lots of characters, and of course fatalities. Mortal Kombat has made 8 games before this new one, and 5 didn’t really leave us with much to be remembered. The last game in the series MK vs DC Universe suffered from a teen rating, little blood, and no fatalities. It seemed like the Mortal Kombat series was done for. Luckily Ed Boon Creative Director and his team at Nether-realms Studios (previously Midway) has come to their senses and released “Mortal Kombat” the 9th game in the series, and its gone back to its roots. 2D fighting, in a 3D setting, with blood, lots of characters, and fatalities. Is this Mortal Kombat the savior of the series, or is it time to finally Finish MK?
MK9 has what can only be described as the best story in any fighting game period. The story starts off at the end of MK7 when the world is at Armageddon, where every fighter from the series is dead. The only two remaining are Shao Khan, Emperor of Outworld, and Raiden, Thunder God and protector of Earthrealm. These two are fighting it out and Shao Khan clearly has the advantage. Let’s just say Raiden doesn’t look like much of a God at this point (although there is a reason for that). With Shao Khan only one strike from victory, Raiden sends a message back in time (what?) to himself in hopes of preventing Armageddon. At first it’s quite silly, but once you think about what is being done here, you’ll soon appreciate why. Mortal Kombat has always had crazy, all over the place, bad story telling. The most anyone even remembers is from the 2 live action films (sad but true). This time Nether-Realms Studios (NRS) and Ed boon can retell the story from a different perspective and change anything they want because this is MK9 not MK1, 2, or, 3. With that being said MK9 offers a story so engaging that you could literally get stuck playing for hours and not even reach the halfway point. The story will take you through the events of the 10th Mortal Kombat tournament, then the tournament in Outworld, and finally Khan’s invasion of earth. Retelling the events of the first 3 Mortal Kombat games with new twists, plot lines and events. The only problem I have with story mode is the fact that you can’t skip any cut-scenes, which means that if you want to save and quit you have to watch the cut-scene then quit forcing you to re-watch the cut-scene upon returning. Another issue is that once you’ve completed story mode, there is no chapter select option. Meaning that once the story is completed; those looking to play their favorites parts will have to replay the entire story again (without skipping cut-scenes). Other than that with story mode offering over 10 hours of story with fights, and cut-scenes it’s truly the greatest story in a fighting game.
With a full length story mode, MK9 also has a lot of game modes. The Arcade Ladder, which is the original arcade style gameplay where you choose a character and fight your way through 10 fights to beat it. The game offers a nice ending for each of the 27 characters (28 on the PS3) once Arcade Ladder is completed. There is also Tag Team Ladder. Tag Team is new to the MK series, and it’s a great addition to the game. Letting you swap in and out your partner and perform combos together. The basic versus mode has returned offering up to 4 players with the new Tag Team mode. Also new to MK is Test Your Luck, which is where you choose a fighter and then spin 4-7 slot machine reels to determine what type of modifiers are added to the fight. Some of these included: headless kombat, armless kombat, danger, health regeneration, dark kombat, and so much more. Each time I’ve played Test Your Luck I’ve only come across a couple repeats. Test Your Might, Test Your Strike and Test Your sight have all returned which are great additions. There is also the Krypt which is filled 300 items for you to buy; there are alternate costumes, fatalities, concept art, and more in the krypt. The Nekropolis is the gallery for the game, where all of your krypt items will be, and character endings as well. There are a few training modes too, such as Practice Mode, Tag Team Practice, Tutorial, and for the first time ever Fatality Tutorial. There is also the Challenge Tower, offering 300 challenges for you to try your skills at. The first couple challenges are really easy, but once you start making your way into the 200’s it gets really difficult. There is a special prize awaiting those who can finish the 300th challenge as well. Online play is also available, but if you didn’t buy it new, or renting it you’re going to have to pay $10 to play online.
This time MK has gone back to its roots. The game features great 3D visuals with 2D fighting with the old school 5 button layout and classic moves for all characters. Front Punch, Front Kick, Back Punch, and Back Kick take the place of High and Low attacks. The block button is a main staple in the MK series, those who play other fighting games will have to take the time to get used to the controls, but for MK veterans you’ll feel right at home. The game just feels good whether you’re using a controller or using a fight stick. MK9 for the first time has gone the way of a special meter (ala Street Fighter) where you build up meter during a fight to pull of enhanced versions of special moves (EX moves), Breakers, and the all new X-Ray Attacks. To perform an enhanced move you need 1 stock of meter, 2 stocks to do combo breakers, and all 3 stocks to do the X-Ray move. X-Rays are the most devastating attack in the game, and can truly change the tide of any fight. So never think the match is over because one well place X-Ray can either help give you the victory or seal fate. There are 27 (28 for PS3) characters to use each offering something different to the table. This is the most balances MK game to date, and no one character is too overpowered. NRS has been working hard to insure that if any infinites, glitches, or overpowered characters arise, they can easily patch the game to keep it working right.
MK9 is the best looking MK in the series. The blood and gore aren’t over the top like they have been doing recently, which is adds a nice touch to the realistic damage the fighters take during matches. Fatalities have returned, and they are some of the most gruesome ones to date. The all new X-Ray attacks look amazing. Each character has their very own skeleton, so when an X-Ray is performed on let’s say Sub-Zero it will look completely different against Reptile. The backgrounds are nice and offer great scenery to the fights. Old school stages have returned, such as the Pit, the Acid Pool, Shang Tsung’s Courtyard, and the Temple. There are over 20 stages as well. In Tag Team matches when the first person is eliminated sometimes they fall to their deaths, or just bounce off the screen. These things are really cool, and fun to see. Stage Fatalities are back, but unfortunately they are only for a few stages. Another thing to note is that pallet swaps are a thing of the past, in MK9 no, stance, uppercut (toasty!), sweep, throw, or special move look the same. No characters share any of the latter attacks. It’s great to see every character have their own defining styles. The animations looks great, but sometimes they look a little stiff. Juggling a character in any fighting game looks weird, and MK9 is no exception. The cut-scenes in story mode are absolutely stunning for a fighting game. Really great what they did with the games visuals. Even the menu screens look great.
Audio has always played a big part in the MK series, with its iconic character voices like scorpion’s “Get Over Here” or Shang Tsung’s “Your Soul Is Mine”. The voice work in MK9 is amazing; every character has their own sayings, grunts, and screams. Even when facing Shao Khan sometimes he will tell you that you suck, or that you’re pathetic. Classic Mortal Kombat style at work here. The ambience sounds are a nice touch as well. Certain stages have screams of agony in the background, and even stages where Shao Khan is sitting in the background watching you fight he’ll yell at you. Dan Forden is well known for his great music in some of the earlier MK games unfortunately doesn’t return here for the music, but there are still great tunes all around in MK9. The voice work in story mode is top notch too. It really helps bring the entire story mode together.
Online mode consists of a few options that should keep almost everyone happy. You’ve got your basic Ranked match, which puts you up against a random opponent and fight for the top spot on the leaderboards. Player matches are similar to ranked although they are not recorded for leaderboard purposes. Private matches let you invite your friends to play 1vs1 or Tag Team for fun, or bragging rights. The all new King of the Hill mode lets you build a lobby of up to 8 players, and let you fight it out in the classic quarter style matches. Winner stays, and loser goes to the back of the line. KotH also allows you to use your xbox avatar of mini versions of the fighters while watching the matches. You can offer respect points, cheer, or boo those fighting. It’s very silly, but really cool in a unique lobby experience. There are also massive lobbies as well, you can either join or create a room where anyone can join. This is really cool, as there are chat options and leaderboards just for the one room. You can challenge whoever you want or wait to be challenged. It’s a really cool way to meet new MK fans or just to see how you stack up. The only issues I’ve found so far is that sometimes the games are laggy and servers go down, but the game just came out and hopefully this will be fixed soon. Another thing is 4 player Tag Team only works from two consoles, meaning that you can only play 4 player online with a buddy sitting next to you. Other than that the online mode is pretty fun, and will offer a ton of added replay value to an already complete package.
Mortal Kombat is back and better than ever, with over 10 hours of story, 15 hours of the challenge tower, and an impressive online component. I have no doubts that MK will continue to rise now that they have realized their mistakes over the years. MK9 is a gift to the fans, and fighting game community. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on this awesome game. Take it from me a guy who has been disappointed with the series since MK3. I love Mortal Kombat 9 and I can’t wait to see what they continue to do with DLC and the rest of the series, Mortal Kombat is a Flawless Victory (ok maybe not that good, but I had to say it)
Bottom Line: Buy It!