This week the ninth Mortal Kombat game has hit stores and a whole new generation of gamers can be introduced to the gory fun that the series is known for. I’ve actually had some amusement seeing reviews from people who comment how they were either too young (or not even born yet) when the original three games hit arcades and consoles in the early 90s. It actually makes me feel a little old. I can remember well the original Mortal Kombat hitting arcades, and pouring way too much money into the machine before the console ports came out (and the “sweat” in the SNES version!).
Mortal Kombat II is by far my favorite, and would spend so much time in the arcade playing it before I could play it at home. The console versions were nice, but Midway made a 100% perfect arcade port for DOS that satisfied my urges to go to the arcade. The SNES, Genesis, and 32X versions of MK2 were good, but not completely perfect. The DOS version was an arcade perfect port, right down to the booming sound the arcade machine pumped out. With a Gravis Gamepad, it turned my PC into a MK2 machine long before MAME existed.
This new Mortal Kombat, while 3D, is easily the best in the series since the first three games and is a rightful return to form for the franchise. The DC Universe vs. MK game had the same problems the other 3D titles did, and wasn’t tuned as tightly as this one is. MK9 feels a lot more like MK2 and MK3. The “dial-a-combo” system of MK3 isn’t really here, but it’s much easier to chain combos than it was in MK2. Right now, each character has a couple of Fatalities and Pit Fatalities, but no Friendships, Anamalities, or Babalities; although they have been hinted at in the future. There is now a super combo bar that can produce stronger attacks when charged up. Most are just performed by doing the standard special move command along with block, and when the bar is completely full you can pull off a damaging X-ray attack.
In recent years, the 3D MK games have been known to be filled with unbelievable amounts of content; and that tradition continues here. You have the standard arcade mode, a challenge tower, the return of the “Test Your Might” mode (along with some variations), pre-fight codes like in MK3, the Krypt that’s again full of bonuses to unlock, and an awesome Story Mode. The Story Mode is done amazingly well and tells the story of MK, MK2, and MK3.
As you would expect, the online mode is very robust with both 1v1 and team modes as well as a “King of the Hill” mode that reproduces the arcade experience. Super Street Fighter IV did this as well, but Marvel vs. Capcom 3 didn’t; so it’s a relief to see it included with MK. One problem with the online mode right now is that the netcode is pretty shoddy, creating lag in most matches; however that can be easily fixed with a patch and I’d imagine that they’re working to address it.
With the amount of content, the fun gameplay, and the online options; this new MK looks to have a long life on the consoles as a fighter that people will want to play and kill their friends with. If you’re looking for a new fighting game to pass the summer away with, look no further. It’s out now for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.