As some of you may or may not know, Warner Bros. has a new Mortal Kombat game coming out this April for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The new game, simply titled Mortal Kombat, is an attempt to bring the series back to its roots while still maintaining some of the modern touches of the more recent titles.
The demo was released a week ago for those who subscribe (and pay extra money) for Sony’s Playstation Plus program. For the rest of us, it was unlocked this past weekend for a free download.
First, some background. When the first Mortal Kombat game dropped in the early 90’s I begged my parents for a Sega Genesis for Christmas so that I could experience it in it’s uncensored glory. One of the neighborhood kids got the Super Nintendo version that fall when the game was released and my friends and I spent many afternoons playing it, but always dreaming about getting our hands on the much hyped Genesis version. It was rumored that the Genesis version of the game contained a code to unlock the censors put in place by Midway. Nintendo, wanting to keep its family friendly image, had the developers replace the blood with gray, misty, sweat. Many of the signature fatalities were removed, including Sub-Zero’s head rip and Kano’s heart pull, and even certain simple moves were removed because of the violence factor. It was lame, and to a group of 10 year olds it was extremely lame. We wanted blood!
The problem was, nobody had a Sega Genesis. Before Mortal Kombat, the Genesis was the system kids received when the stores were sold out of Super Nintendo. Sure it had some cool games, like Sonic the Hedgehog and Outrun, but it was kind of clunky and the controller only had three buttons. Plus, the SNES had better graphics and all of the big Nintendo franchises everyone grew up with. I had just received a Super Nintendo the previous Christmas, so getting my parents to give me a Genesis seemed like a long shot at best.
In the end, my parents proved themselves awesome that Christmas and got me the Genesis II and grandma took care of the rest with a copy of Mortal Kombat. I remember calling my best friend at the time, Saad, that morning to see if he knew the blood code. He didn’t, but he called around for me and eventually was able to produce the code and directions on where to enter it. That code, ABACABB – Get over here! – proved a success and I was soon reveling in bloody goodness. It was probably the next day I had my buds over, none of them were fortunate enough to get the Genesis+MK combo for Xmas, and we began a ritual that would last months. We just played that game constantly and over time we figured out the various fatalities (I wrote them all down in the game’s instruction booklet, these are the kinds of things kids today don’t have to do thanks to the internet). To this day, my favorite is still Sub-Zero’s.
Now, almost 20 years later, I find myself getting excited over a new Mortal Kombat game. I actually wasn’t even all that excited until I played the demo and found it to be a very satisfying experience. The demo includes four characters: Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Mileena, and Johnny Cage. You select a character, difficulty setting, and then the game pits you against each one. After the fourth character is felled, the demo teases a Goro fight before going into a trailer hyping the full version of the game.
First off, the game looks pretty nice. That’s kind of a given in this day and age but I like the character designs. They stick close to the original designs of each character while adding a modern touch. Sub-Zero’s costume is given some armor and nice textures, while Scorpion’s takes the skeleton imagery from his Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 appearance and builds on it. Mileena is absurdly sexy and curvaceous while her costume is sort of a hybrid of her original MK2 look and her MK3 costume. Johnny Cage’s costume differs very little from his MK2 appearance. The graphics are fully rendered in 3D, but the game is strictly a 2D fighter. For anyone that played the 3D fighters in the series’ past, this is a welcome move.
The classic special moves are all here from Scorpion’s spear to Sub-Zero’s freeze blast. Though while the early games were methodical and special move oriented, this one is pretty fast and if you can’t string combos together you won’t last. I first tried out my old standby, Sub-Zero, but found his special moves kind of slow and switched to Scorpion, my consistent backup. I liked him so much that I haven’t even tried the other two, though I plan to. Scorpion moves quickly, like all of the characters, but his moves work well with my style. His teleport punch is still present and can be done while airborne. I found it the perfect counter anytime my opponent tried a projectile attack. Most of his combos leave the opponent momentarily stunned and wide open for his lack grab move or demon fire. And his fatality, where he slashes his opponent up with his sword, was pretty damn cool.
I was able to breeze through the four opponents on the Medium difficulty setting, but received a healthy challenge when I bumped it up to hard though I still managed to get through all four without using a continue. I am not at all concerned about the game being too easy though, because the next Mortal Kombat game that is too easy will be the first.
The game, despite my overall good impressions, is not perfect. Scorpion’s teleport punch is very effective, perhaps too effective. The game also has a special attack called an X-Ray that is initiated after a meter is filled. This meter is not hard to fill within a round, and the move is executed just by pressing two shoulder buttons simultaneously and does massive damage if it connects. Scorpion’s is a teleport attack and really easy to pull off. I think the move is intended to give a player who’s getting beat a last resort option, but I found myself using it to finish my opponent off when it got down to about a third of its health. I felt a little guilty using it, as I’d wager I was successful with the attack 4 out of every 5 attempts. It might not be a bad idea to tone it down for the final release.
Aside from that though, I came away very encouraged. I suppose this is what a successful demo strives to accomplish as I went into it not planning on making the purchase when the game gets released to seriously considering it. I’d be even more likely to get it if I hadn’t just spent 60 bucks on Marvel Vs Capcom 3 a few weeks ago. The game doesn’t come out until April 19th so I’ll have plenty of time to experiment further with the demo and come to an ultimate conclusion.