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Greetings. I am the Illusive One. For many years now I have been a huge video game player, movie viewer, and book reader. For almost as long, I have been a critic of these things and many people respect my opinions of these things and have often said I belong on G4 doing reviews on X-Play or a similar show. Sadly that is not likely to happen. So instead I shall do reviews for you, uninfluenced by other reviewers, of video games books, movies, and, occasionally, music and political actions. I hope you find this informative and helpful. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Look at Mortal Kombat

            I'm fond of saying that you either love Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.  You can love both, but inevitably you like one more than the other and this saying can be applied to many different competing franchises.  Such as is with Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter.  You can love both of them, but you'll always love one more than the other.  And today, I'll be getting into the franchise I love more; Mortal Kombat.  The franchise has spawned seven main games, three spin off adventure games, and a crossover with the D.C. Universe.  With the release date of the new Mortal Kombat approaching, I decided that I would do a small take on each of the games, similar to my Look at Bioware.  In it, I'll be giving a small look at each if the main games and the D.C. crossover but I won't get into the adventure games, as I have little experience with them.  So, without further delay, this is the Illusive One's Look at the Mortal Kombat Games.

           The original Mortal Kombat was released to arcades in 1992 and was later ported to various video game consuls.  In it, you take control of one of seven different characters as they battle each other for different reasons in the tournament of Mortal Kombat.  The actual plot of the game, however, wasn't revealed until later for unknown reasons.  The background story states that the Elder Gods created various realms and decided that the natives of one realm could conquer another only by defeating the defending realm’s greatest warriors in the Mortal Kombat tournaments.  To prevent an evil emperor from taking over Earthrelm, the warriors of Earth must win this tournament, or all will be lost.
            This was the game that started it all for the franchise, introducing the series' trademark characters, environments, and, of course, fatalities.  It introduced the characters of Liu Kang, Raiden, Sonya Blade, Kano, Johnny Cage, Goro, Shang Tsung, Reptile, (although he was a hidden characters in this game), and of course, the best known characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero.  Unlike earlier tournament fighter games, digitized sprites based on actors were used rather than cartoon graphics, and had blood, gore, and over the top deaths and some speculate that it was the reason the ESRB came into existence.  While incredibly outdated by today's standards, it was truly a master piece for its time and a milestone in gaming.

           In Mortal Kombat II, (released in 1993), after Shang Tsung fails to win the Mortal Kombat Tournament, the emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn, holds a new tournament in Outworld, that for some reason the warriors Earthrealm couldn't turn down, (I honestly don't know why; not much effort was put into plot those days).  And so Shao Kahn restores Shang Tsung's youth and the tournament begins in Outworld.  This game introduced new characters, got rid of a few old ones, improved the graphics, added new environments and more complicated moves but it was still just more of the same stuff you got in the first game.  Fatalities also changed to where Animalities, (the character turns into an animal to kill the opponent,) and Babalites, (where the defeated character is turned into a baby instead of dying) could be triggered making the game more comedic and less serious.  3 would even go further with this by adding in a fatality where the entire planet would blow up as a result of the fights.  Despite this, it was a good sequel.

           In 1995, Mortal Kombat 3 was released. This time around Shao Kahn, tiered of getting his ass handed to him in the tournaments, has his dark priests resurrect his dead wife in Earthrelm, enabling him to ignore the rules of the Elder Gods and merges Earthrelm with Outworld, instantly killing billions.  Before this happens, however, Raiden is able to protect the souls of Earthrelm's champions, enabling them to fight against Shao Kahn's invasion.    
            Once again, it was mostly the same with a few new moves added, improved graphics, introduced new characters, and added new environments.  Many people didn't like it, however, because several key characters such as Scorpion, Raiden, Reptile and Johnny Cage were missing.  While some did return with the two title updates, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, it still remained an issue. 

           In 1997 a radical shift came for the Mortal Kombat series.  By this point, consul games were becoming more and more popular and the world had entered the 3D era of gaming and Mortal Kombat did likewise.  This new game for this new era was Mortal Kombat 4.  In its plot, a fallen Elder God and an old nemesis of Raiden, named Shinnok breaks free of his prison with the help of the sorcerer Quan Chi and now seeks revenge on the Elder Gods.  To stop Shinnok, Raiden recruits the champions of Eathrelm to defeat Shinnok and his minions. 
            Once again, new characters are introduced but this time gameplay had radically changed.  The game is gorier, the characters were three dimensional, and this time was fully animated.  In addition, it allowed for the use of limited weapons, more use of the environment for fatalities, and allowed insane combos that would automatically break off at a certain point. 
            By this point, the number of characters that appeared in the Mortal Kombat games was getting ridiculous so this one stuck to the essential characters, like Liu Kang, Jax, Johnny Cage, Raiden, Reptile, Scorpion, Sonya, Sub-Zero and Goro, (in his first appearance since the original game).  It once again introduced new characters like Quan Chi and Shinnok, (although both appeared in the Mortal Kombat Adventure Games, Sub-Zero and Defenders of the Realm).
            This one also happened to be the last Mortal Kombat game to come out for the Arcade, as the Arcade's time had passed.  The series would remain inactive for five year but returned in what would be one of the greatest sequels in gaming history.

           This sequel was the 2002 game, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.  It's considered by most fans to be the greatest Mortal Kombat game ever made as it completely redid the old combat system, added new fatalities, fresh looks for the characters, added gallons of blood that can spill from the characters and greater environment traps.  In its plot, Quan Chi and Shang Tsung form an alliance to revive the invincible army of the Dragon King, the former ruler of Outworld.  Together, they manage to kill the only two people who will be able to stop them; Shao Kahn and Liu Kang.  Realizing that this deadly alliance must be stopped, Raiden gathers champions from each of the realms to stop the two.
            As mentioned, the combat was completely remasterd, allowing you to change to three different fighting styles that allowed for a huge number of devastating combos.  It is also the first game not to feature Liu Kang as a playable character but introduces several new characters as well as keeping many of the old.  The old characters include Raiden, Quan Chi, Shang Tsung, Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, Kitana, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Reptile, Jax, Sonya, Cyrax, and Kano.  New characters included Kenshi, Bo' Rai' Cho, Li Mei, Nitari, Frost, Mavado, Hsu Hao, Onis Drahmin and Mulch. 
            Truly a milestone in the Mortal Kombat games.  But don't take my word for it.  Find it, buy it and play it.

           Two years later, the follow-up to Deadly Alliance, Deception was released in 2004.  Its opening reveals that Raiden's champions were unable to stop the Deadly Alliance, and most of them were killed in the attempt.  As a result, Raiden was forced to face the two alone in combat.  Unfortunately the Deadly Alliance proves too much for him and he is defeated.  Very quickly, however, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi turn on each other only to be faced with Onaga, The Dragon King.  In an act of desperation, the three enemies form an alliance of desperation to fight Onaga but all are killed in the effort leaving, Onaga free to do as he wishes with the Realms.
            For the most part, it was just a rehashing of Deadly Alliance but lacked nearly all the characters from the original two games, (with the exception of Scorpion and Sub-Zero).  While it did introduced new characters it just didn't have the feel of Deadly Alliance and was the most forgettable of the three of the PS2/XBOX/GameCube era. 

          Then in 2006 came the last true Mortal Kombat game yet released; Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.  In it, the warriors of the Mortal Kombat Universe were growing too strong and numerous for the realms to handle and their power threatens to destroy the fabric of the Realms.  In an enormous crater the warriors clash in a single battle royal between the Forces of Light and Darkness; a battle that threatens to rip apart reality and bring about the Apocalypse. Without warning, a mysterious pyramid rises from the ground, and the tip bursts into flames, attracting the warriors' curiosity to see what it was. The kombatants fight one another to get to the top, while Blaze, the firespawn reveales  himself to them and the one who can defeat this creature will be rewarded with the powers of a god.
            The game contains 63 different characters; all of the characters from previous games with four new ones.  Upon beating the game's tournament mode, alternate endings are shown where what would happen if different characters defeated Blaze; some like Sub-Zero and Liu Kang become gods while others like Quan Chi and Kobra are punished.  The game had two main differences from the last two.
 The first was that fatalities changed to where you make them up with a button sequence rather than doing it automatically.  The second was that the number of fighting styles changed from three to two and this disappointed fans.
            All around, it was better the Deception but still not as good as Deadly Alliance.

           And then came Mortal Kombat V.S. D.C. Universe, the only next-gen Mortal Kombat game to be released so far.  In its plot, Raiden kills Shao Kahn after his failed invasion of Earthrealm as he tries to go through a portal.  At the exact same time, Superman kills Darkseid as he enters a boom tube and the two fuse into the creature known as Dark Kahn and causes the Mortal Kombat and D.C. universes to merge and both sides fight each other thinking that the other side serves Dark Kahn. 
            It had all the moves, the classical characters, an interesting rage mode, allowed you to ram your opponents though walls, and allowed for fighting while flying through the air and while it was a good tournament fighter, it wasn't really a Mortal Kombat game.   Fans of the series were hoping to see the Mortal Kombat characters perform bloody, over the top fatalities on the D.C. characters but were extremely disappointed when it was released with a T rating and the gore was either nonexistent or happened off screen.  It was still better then a lot of other tournament fighters that came out for next gen systems, (Street Fighter IV, I'm looking at you), but it wasn't the game fans were looking for.

           So what's next for the franchise?  Well, as I stated above, a new game is coming out and is scheduled for release in April.  Unlike previous Mortal Kombat games, however, this one will not be made by Midway Games as the company had been fighting bankruptcy for years but finally filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2009 and the rights for the Mortal Kombat games were purchased by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment.  Luckily, however, the Midway Chicago Studio, (the studio responsible for the Mortal Kombat Games), went with them and now works under the name NetherRealm Studios.

           From what I gather, the new game is both a sequel to Armageddon and a remake of the first three.  How is that possible?  Well, Raiden is about to be killed by Shao Kahn, but sends a message to his past self just before this happens, and thus resets the clock.  While the characters are three dimensional the environments have switched back to the two dimensional platforms of the original 3 and this gives me pause.  But all we can do for now is just wait and hope this game proves to be the reboot fans have been waiting for.  Until next time, this is the Illusive One saying,


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