Alright, video games are not what I usually write about on here, but I had to jump on this one, as it is a reboot of a childhood favorite of mine. Thinking back, I remember going to Blockbuster (pre-era when they were only frequented by child molesters and, subsequently, bankrupt) with my mother, aunt and cousin and making the life-or-death case for them to rent us the original Mortal Kombat. Being a subscriber of Nintendo Power magazine (yep, that’s right) I had read all about this blood-fest and had to get my mitts on it. A visiting cousin was the perfect opportunity; who better to fight with to the death than my best buddy and partner in crime?
Our pleas worked and soon we were on our way to my house to fire up Mortal Kombat I on the Super Nintendo!! Hours of excited cheering and reveling later, we had been brought into the light of violent fighting video games. Flawless Victory.
Fast forward to today and what we have here is a reboot, meaning an issuance of Kombat that is meant to wipe away all the weak and diluted version of the game that have shown their ugly faces up to now while glorifying and (hopefully) embellishing what made people love MK I & II (maybe even III). Violence. Fatalities. “GET OVER HERE!”. Flying kicks. Uppercuts off a bridge onto a bed of corpse-covered spikes. All the while, trash talking with your friends (who are preferably in the same room as you whilst this blood is spilled) as you electrocute their character to death until his head explodes.
This violence is what got MK in a lot of heat when it first came out and if I could, allow me to show you why a fighting video game can never be blamed as the inspiration for kids/people committing violent acts in real life…when was the last time you turned on the TV and heard a story on the news about two people fighting each other for control of Earthrealm but throwing chained spears and ice blasts from their hands and who, upon defeating their opponent, proceeded to take off their mask (which, by the way, revealed that their head was only a skull) and incinerate them in a torrent of fire that spouted from their mouth? Wheeww…that was a doozie of a rant.
Which brings me to the first part of the actual review and the feature (as well as a recurring theme in this review) that would have been a make-or-break with me…violence. When it comes to fighting games, I’m not interested unless it’s chock-full of over-the-top ways to beat, crush, smash or burn your opponent’s character until he is reduced to a pool of blood or chunks of meat. That’s the point; I say over-the-top because no one finds realistic violence funny or entertaining except psychos, serial killers and general evil-doers. On the contrary, something so ridiculous that it’s not believable or realistic is intrinsically and infinitely more humorous. To paraphrase Paul Baloff (RIP), it hits the same funny bone that makes kids break windows or stomp on their sister’s dolls and this game has brutality to spare.
Characters show cumulative damage as the fights progress, with each punch and kick landed bruising and tearing off another piece of your opponent. The Fatalitites executed at the end of the match are back to “uuuugggghhh” and “ohhhhhhhh, yeah” status; a definite step up from the last few iterations of MK whose finishing moves were uninventive or re-hashed. That being said, there are a few ‘classic’ finishes (a al Sub-Zero’s freeze, tear off, present like a badge of honor) that have been re-vamped and actually made better that will make old fans proud.
Another flaw of recent games that has been fixed is the roster. MK went from 7-8 fighters to upwards of 32 in the course of a decade +, which meant that the vast majority of characters in the game were ones that had no loyal fan base and no one cared about (Bo Rai Cho, Rain, Kenshi??). This version borders on being too prodigious with 25+ characters, but there aren’t any total flops or filler characters. It’s really the MK II line-up (best of the series in my opinion) plus a few adds from III and beyond. All the classics are here and have their classic moves: Raiden’s flying slam, Liu Kang’s fireball and Kung Lao’s hat throw are all hear and, as far as I can remember, use the same button combinations as 15 years ago.
Of course, you can plunk down and start tearing-ass through the tower of challengers that awaits you in the Single Player mode or pair up with a friend and tear into a 2P head-to-head or team up in a feature new to MK, a Tag Team mode. For me, this is how a game like MK is best enjoyed; sit down, get a few drinks, turn on the system and let the fists (and smack talking) fly. Reducing your opponent to dust (both their in-game character and their real-life pride) is an itch that this game definitely scratches. There’s also a Practice Mode, Online Mode (for taking the brutal bloodshed to the rest of the world) and Extras where you can use points earned in the game by winning fights to buy new costumes, game art, soundtrack audio and character bios…in other words, all the minutia, bonuses and detail that hardcore gamers dig. Sound and graphics are top notch, easily the best seen/heard in any MK to date. The punches land with some ‘oomph’ and are best enjoyed with a loud, bass-heavy sound system. The pre-fight character intros and in-fight dialog are good without being too cheesy or repetitive.
Bottom line, this is the game that old Mortal Kombat fans like myself have been waiting for, and that longing has made the heart grow fonder. And then get torn out of my chest by Kano…