maanantai 25. kesäkuuta 2012

REVIEW - Mortal Kombat | PS3 | 2011


GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: April 2011
AVAILABLE ON: PS3, Xbox 360
DEVELOPER(S): NetherRealm Studios, Agora Games
PUBLISHER(S): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
DESIGNER(S): Ed Boon

In nearly 20 years, the mythos of the Mortal Kombat franchise had grown huge, and each game released had taken the franchise further from its unadulterated arcade fighting roots. The original 16-bit Mortal Kombat trilogy was still the most successful series of games in the franchise, and a common complaint that had been associated with Mortal Kombat since the release of 1993’s Mortal Kombat II, was its insane difficulty. Mortal Kombat mastermind Ed Boon addressed all these issues and announced a new game in the summer of 2010. What was originally thought to be a sequel to Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, fans were more than delighted to hear that this new game was to be simply called “Mortal Kombat”. Although fans gave the game many informative titles such as Mortal Kombat 9, this game was supposed to serve as a clean slate – a remake, reboot, and sequel, all in one neat package. The controls were a main focus point, as the franchise had always been criticized for having slow and delayed control physics. Not only did they butter up the controls, but made the game more accessible to casual (and new) players of Mortal Kombat. Several characters were completely redesigned, several plot elements were reworked in order to create the most immersive and epic Mortal Kombat storyline imaginable, and they simply went crazy when it came to the game’s level of violence. After struggling my way through 17 arcade ladders, conquering 75+ challenges in the Challenge Tower, having finished Story Mode, and STILL having a deadly blast with the game, my opinion on Mortal Kombat is very clear: it’s likely to be the greatest fighting game ever made.

The fanboy cometh, again

STARRING
Richard Epcar : Raiden
Bob Carter : Shao Kahn / Baraka
Tom Choi : Liu Kang
Jin Hyong : Kung Lao / Fighter #1
Jeff Pilson : Johnny Cage
Jim Miller : Sub-Zero
Patrick Seitz : Scorpion / Soldier #2
Karen Strassman : Kitana / Mileena
Gerald C. Rivers : Jax
Dana Lyn Baron : Sonya Blade / Skarlet

Armageddon has come and Earthrealm has lost the fight. In his dying moment at the hands of Shao Kahn, Lord Raiden sends a message to his past self, to the moment when he first led the Earthrealm’s finest to Mortal Kombat. Guided by his visions of the future, Raiden does everything in his power to alter the chain of events that leads to Armageddon, even if it means turning against some of his former allies.

NOTE: This review is based on Mortal Kombat – Komplete Edition, which was released in early 2012. This European version of the re-release includes all four downloadable characters (Skarlet, Kenshi, Freddy Krueger and Rain), as well as 16 alternate costumes for several characters. Kratos is playable in all PlayStation 3 releases of the game. However, whatever flaws the Komplete Edition has (explained later), do not reflect on the conclusive rating of the game, since this is my first experience with a full-length release.

Let’s take another trip back in time – that’s the whole point of the game, ain’t it? Back in the 16-bit era, I loved fighting games. I even loved the first Mortal Kombat game, up ‘til Mortal Kombat II came out and shed some serious light on everything that was wrong with the first one. Mortal Kombat 3 was one of my favourite games on the SNES, up until I realized that it was way too hard to be enjoyable, and that it was its awesome look that impressed me so, rather than the gameplay itself. Of course, it lacked a lot of the true Mortal Kombat spirit, too, which was an issue that Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was made to fix. I loved the movie which came out around that time, but since I was years away from even buying a PlayStation, I completely missed Mortal Kombat 4; I wasn’t even aware of its release. Then, came the second movie, which was a total bomb. My bond to Mortal Kombat loosened up after the movie, and was severed altogether when I got tired with the whole genre. I considered every new Mortal Kombat game that came out a complete joke. I liked how Deadly Alliance looked on the Nintendo GameCube, but it was weird watching one of the most awesomely brainless games of all time having turned into a dramatic mess of supposedly epic storytelling and a whole bunch of new, soulless characters, with some fancy-ass reincarnations of classic Mortal Kombat characters desperately trying to carry the torch on the behalf of us old-school Mortal Kombat fans, who stopped caring after Mortal Kombat 3. There were a lot of us, and although Ed Boon might’ve not been that thrilled about how this specific target group had received each major Mortal Kombat installment made after Mortal Kombat 3, I think he was downright soiling himself when he figured out that he could do the classic trilogy all over, and make it better, restoring people’s respect and confidence towards Mortal Kombat. He ended up making the best Mortal Kombat game in history - by far, that is.

Any game that starts with vultures fighting over
Sonya Blade's guts can't be half bad.
Mortal Kombat has a whole variety of game modes, of which the most important and lucrative one is the Story Mode. The story is very simple: Raiden plants a vision of the future to his past self, and this vision and the small glimpses that follow, are supposed to make everything better and prevent  Armageddon from ever taking place. Raiden leads his troops through the first two Mortal Kombat tournaments, as well as Outworld’s invasion of Earthrealm, constantly picking on small details and minor events, calculating their possible effects on the future, and sometimes acting on pure instinct to shuffle things up. Needless to say, this results in a lot of bad blood between him and his Earthrealm allies, who do not understand the purpose of his deeds, even if he explains his actions to them in every single turn. Liu Kang, in particular, is constantly on Raiden’s ass. What a whiner. Since the events of this game span the storyline of a total of three classic games, you’re bound to be offered a lot of interesting and plausible explanations to stuff you’ve always wondered about, like the origins of the cyborg ninjas, and Shang Tsung’s sudden transformation into a younger version of himself in Mortal Kombat II. Also, the Story Mode subtly tries to explain why people who are supposed to be allies or even friends, fight against each other in Mortal Kombat. Very few battles in the story mode are actually part of the tournament; in the world of Mortal Kombat, every single conflict results in a fist fight. For example, when Johnny Cage asks Sonya Blade out for a date and doesn’t bugger off quick enough, Sonya decides it’s best that she teaches that asshole a lesson. By breaking his neck and skull. Ouch. Total ignorance would’ve sufficed… seriously, though, it’s the utterly ridiculous nature of the game, that makes it so great. That, and a lot of other things I’m sure to cover later.

I have to admit I had doubts about this game’s atmosphere: how the character and level design would turn out and all that, even the music. The franchise has gone through so many twists in the past decade, it’s been mangled beyond recognition. I’m glad to be able to say that all my doubts were in vain: this is a dead-on, full tank, monster of a Mortal Kombat experience. You might say this is the first real Mortal Kombat game since Mortal Kombat II. Even the events of Mortal Kombat 3 are finally retconned into a way more essential part of the Mortal Kombat mythos than they originally were. It all just melts together perfectly, making the first three games feel even more of a real and classic trilogy, which is paid magnificent tribute to with this awesome game. The character, level and storyboard design are all excellent. Influences are picked up from across the board of Mortal Kombat games, even both of the movies and all the other media directly bred or spun off from the original franchise. This is the real Ultimate Mortal Kombat. The graphics aren’t exactly stunning, but good enough to fulfill a purpose, and I think I’m just personally peeved, because I would’ve went for more realistic graphical style in traditional Mortal Kombat fashion. I’m guessing that if the characters would’ve been rendered more realistically, this game would never have seen daylight in any country – oh, believe me, there’s blood. Lots of it. This game was made to make you sick. If it doesn’t, then you really are sick. The music is classic Mortal Kombat, the only thing missing is a kick-ass remix of “Techno Syndrome”.

The tutorials make sure you know the basic
patterns for every special move in the game. The
list in the pause menu furthers the cause.
The voice acting’s surprisingly good. Most of the cast consists of unknowns or supporting voiceover staples. The Story Mode is where all of the actual dialogue takes place, the rest of it’s repetitive battle quotes, some of which are taken straight from the old games (like Scorpion’s “come over ‘ere!” or Shao Kahn’s “it’s official, you suck!”). The most interesting voice cast member is by far Jeff Pilson, the bassist of Foreigner, as well as the former bassist for Dokken and the late Ronnie James Dio’s solo act, who plays Johnny Cage. I don’t know how he ended up with this stint, but it’s cool, since I’m a fan of both Dokken and Dio. Of course one could always assume that Freddy Krueger’s later addition as a downloadable character relates to Pilson’s presence, since Dokken made the title track for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Can’t help but squeeze out a little metal trivia here and there…

Like I said, there’s a bunch of game modes, so I really have to get started at some time. I already spilled a great deal of beans on the Story Mode, but there are a few more things I need to point out about it. First of all, if you’re looking to slice and dice your opponents with the number of Fatalities this reboot’s famous for, you’re in the wrong place. You cannot kill any of your opponents in Story Mode. Also, since the story follows one straight track, you cannot choose your character. The Story Mode, which indeed spans the events of the first three games in the series and provides them with an alternate flow, has 16 chapters, each of which stars a different character. Some of them are merely used to reintroduce some old favourites, while most are linked to the mystery of who’s supposed to win Mortal Kombat and which past event is the key to preventing Armageddon. The Story Mode is a delicious treat to anyone who grew up with the arcade and 16-bit classics. The classic plot is greatly reworked and it naturally has way more depth (and meaning!), and the new plot twists that come with the alternation of the timeline are insanely awesome. I love Story Mode. It’s good practice for the real thing(s), it provides you insight on a whole bunch of good characters and it provides you with the most kurrency, as your reward for winning just one fight can be as much as 10,000 Koins on the first round. Can’t help but complain about the completely bloodless nature of this epic marathon, though.

The Arcade Ladder is the shite, and probably the reason why most of us fans of retro Kombat went out and bought this game. When I say it’s the shite – I mean it, it’s THE SHITE. There are no minigames, no other tomfoolery, just seven random opponents for you to beat and kill absolutely dead if you wish, and three bosses. There are a few hidden characters for you to find, but only if you have the standard edition of the game; the Komplete Edition has all the characters unlocked from the beginning. So, being able to find them all during an Arcade Ladder, or every other useful unlockable item in the game at that, is worth nothing but Trophies in my case. Owning the Komplete Edition is not such a bad deal otherwise, since it includes all the DLC for no additional cost and it’s sold at a budget price. Money over matter? You be the judge. If you do have the standard copy, these characters all make an appearance in the Story Mode, so even if you’re not able to find them, you’ll surely be able to enjoy them in some shape or form. Anyway, the rounds gradually get tougher, and Shao Kahn’s one bitch of a boss. There’s one simple (read: cheap) strategy that works on him with ALMOST any character, but one thing you need more than strategy to beat this bastard son of Satan is a stroke of good luck, and a LOT of patience. That motherfucker would be nothing without his weapons. God, I hate that dude.

In addition to each character having two or three awesomely sick and twisted Fatality finishers in their arsenals, they also have a number of Stage Fatalities, which can be performed in six different levels, the classic tongue-in-cheek Babality, and a special X-Ray move, which can turn the tides on a winning opponent by draining up to 50% of their health. That’s what the Super Meter’s for. The Super Meter can be boosted heavily in the very beginning of the bout by nailing the first hit, and from there on out, normally by executing special moves or simply kicking ass, or getting your ass kicked; it's very similar to the Aggressor meter in Mortal Kombat Trilogy. The first milestone of the Super Meter is Enhanced, which grants you the ability to boost any of your character’s special moves into an enhanced version; for example, Johnny Cage hits a double force ball, or Scorpion hits a flaming double harpoon. The second milestone is Breaker, which grants you the ability to break and powerfully counter a lesser combo – which, again, brings us to Shao Kahn, whose most powerful attacks apparently cannot even be blocked. X-Ray’s the third milestone, and if it misses or gets blocked, it’s back to square one with the meter. If it hits, be prepared for some wicked animation, and be sure to have a barf bag handy.

A wicked way to break one's neck.
The controls are good; what might alienate some players of a younger generation is the strict fact that Mortal Kombat was never meant to be played by using the analog stick for movement. It’s the digital pad or nothing for me. The digital pad, of course, does have its weaknesses. There hasn’t been a fully ergonomic digital pad since the days of the 16-bit. I couldn’t even imagine playing this on Xbox. My friend did, and he had some harsh words to say about the digital pad; he shares my preference of the digital pad in the case of this one game. The digital pad on the Xbox controller wasn’t made for constant movement. The PS3 wins a flawless victory over the Xbox 360 with this game, but the gaps between the buttons of the digital pad might start hurting your thumbs after a while of spamming your opponents with the game’s hundreds of Down + Right or Down + Left moves. It’s a good thing they made special moves simple to execute. They could’ve made us a specific controller to play this game too, though. After a while, your thumbs might get so numb that you just cannot nail those moves anymore. Secondly, I seriously don’t know what the deal is with some specific Fatalities. They just don’t seem to work; attempting them over and over, and knowing you got them absolutely right every time, to absolutely no avail, will frustrate you even more than hearing Shao Kahn’s pompous laughter.

In addition to the epic Tag Ladder which you can go at alone or with a human partner, the multiplayer scheme consists  of simple versus matches, which can be hellishly fun if both/all players have at least some experience with any of the single-player modes – the Story Mode is a very educational experience, and should be done first. It’s really not fun to test your luck and patience against a player who has already mastered all of a single character’s special moves, breakers, enhanced moves, blocking, throwing and perhaps the game’s most annoying common feature between most characters, teleportation, while you’re still stuck doing basic combos. Those basic combos won’t take you far in this game, so if you’re feeling proud ‘cause you beat your brother in Tekken by just rapidly breaking the shit out of each face button, Mortal Kombat will teach you humility (cheers to my girlfriend, I still love you even though you’re one cheap-ass hoe in Tekken). There are many cheap strategies that work lots of times, like a constant – deliciously annoying and old-school – dropkick/uppercut combo, but the A.I. quickly takes note of these and starts countering shit like that; both Goro and Kintaro tend to shield themselves from the dropkick and lift you up for some heavy damage once you land, and Baraka is able to do a quick slashing combo which not only shields him, but deals a lot of damage to your character.

Then we have the Challenge Tower, and all the minigames that are directly tied to it. Test Your Might is back, along with Test Your Strike, which is the same except that you have to break a specific item in a stack. In addition we have Test Your Luck, which uses a slot machine to determine your opponent and specific handicaps you need to swallow up and beat him/her, and Test Your Sight, a humorous “blink ‘n’ you’ll miss it” game. The Challenge Tower is a story of its own, an utterly ridiculous but very interesting one, in which you need to conquer miscellaneous types of challenges, 300 in total, probably conjured up by Ed Boon after some crazy night on the town. These challenges have Johnny Cage and Stryker pitted against a zombie menace, Scorpion doing his best to avoid Mileena who has a crush on him, and the duo of Jax and Sonya taking on a whole bunch of Outworld weirdos while on the hunt for Kano. The Challenge Tower consists of very few standard fights, they’re more like tongue-in-cheek tests of your reflexes and the consistency of your skills with special moves. It’s another educational experience for those aiming to master the game.

Freddy's second video game appearance is
way better than his last.
Last, we have the Nekropolis and the Krypt, and unfortunately, these platforms for unlockable content do not come without complaints. Let’s start with the Nekropolis. It’s a fun gallery of all your unlocked stuff and characters; you can read their bios, review their endings in case you’ve beaten the Arcade Ladder with ‘em, and bring them their special items to unlock an alternate costume of theirs. These alternate costumes are also found from many places inside the Krypt, but they don’t unlock immediately, you always have to take that dumb trip to the Nekropolis to actually unlock them. Besides, how to use the alternate costumes could be a little less cryptic. Rendered utterly useless in the Komplete Edition of the game, since everything truly useful is unlocked from the beginning of the game, The Krypt is a freeroam plain; I don’t get it. Every player with self-respect would want to unlock everything in the game, so why make it an open-world interface rather than some variation of a simple list? Besides, it’s filled with kind of cool, but totally useless stuff you never REALLY care about, like concept art and music tracks for you to view and listen in the Nekropolis gallery, and cheat codes for the multiplayer games only. Every once in a while, you might find those alternate costumes I talked about and new Fatalities – in short, stuff you have some use for – but they pop up at the rarest of occasions. In the beginning, it looks like there’s tons of stuff – there is, but well over a half of it is completely useless. If I had a say in the Krypt’s development, I would’ve at least put conversions of the original arcade games up for grabs – instead, Boon went with this shitheap and permitted the re-release of the first three games as a separate collection. Good business, perhaps, but good business is rarely good for expecting fans.

This is not nearly the most difficult game in the franchise, but a very challenging game on the modern scale, and most entertaining to attempt to master. Differences in character dynamics, finishing moves and ladder endings make you want to conquer the Arcade Ladder with every single character, nail all 300 challenges of the Tower, and conquer the Story Mode at least that once it’s more or less mandatory. Collecting all the Trophies from the game, however, is one of the most grueling processes in PlayStation 3 history. Not only does it demand a lot of online activity and serious skills in that particular form of game, one of the high-value Trophies requires you to master all of the game’s characters in multiple categories, and even beating Arcade Ladder on the highest difficulty level without using one single continue is enough for me. Platting this game is an impossibility as far as I’m concerned – I know it has been done, but I know I’ll never be that good.

Even though it’s a little splintered around the far edges, Mortal Kombat is one excellent revival of perhaps the biggest, most classic fighting game franchise there ever was, and just grabs the torch from Tekken and finishes up with a gruesome Fatality when it comes to the current champion of fighting games. The Mortal Kombat fanboy from my past life is resurrected, and his will is stronger than ever. ALIBABALEE!!!

UPS
+ Mortal Kombat, as pure and definitive as can be
+ A perfect mix of ultra-violence and dark humour
+ All of the three single-player game modes rule in their own wicked ways
+ One would initially think that having to play with all of the characters to unlock everything in the game and get Trophies would be tedious, but actually it isn’t; it’s just what made Tekken so great back in the day, and it’s an effective way to find new favourites (from a variety of old characters)
+ The controls are better than ever
+ They put the button combos for every special move and finisher right in the pause menu! Marvellous!
+ The ridiculous proportions of the X-Ray moves and Fatalies never cease to amaze me

DOWNS
- The Komplete Edition has the exclusive flaw of having every useful piece of unlockable content unlocked from the beginning, which basically means the Krypt is an utterly useless feature; however, this does not reflect on the conclusive rating since this is a review of the game, not this particular re-release
- The Story Mode’s level of gameplay violence is almost like playing the original Mortal Kombat on the SNES; there’s no visible damage which is one of the greatest visual joys of the Arcade Ladder, and you can’t execute any of your opponents with a finisher
- The Krypt is a bitch to navigate, it’s filled with completely useless crap, and the prices for the items are completely random, meaning you don’t have the slightest clue of what you’re buying
- Although the controls are good, and the special moves very easy to learn, response to horizontal movement is still a bit random, which makes some simple special moves extremely hard to execute on time

< 9.0 >

REVIEW - Mortal Kombat 4 | N64 | 1998

GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: October 1997 (Arcade)
AVAILABLE ON: ARC, N64, PC, PS1
DEVELOPER(S): Midway Games, Eurocom Developments
PUBLISHER(S): Midway Games
DESIGNER(S): Ed Boon & John Tobias

Midway totally screwed up with their first 3D fighting game War Gods, which was first released in 1996. They took on another installment in the Mortal Kombat franchise the very next year, and this wasn’t just any spin-off, but Mortal Kombat 4. Midway managed to fix their past mistakes and take heed of the risks associated with 3D at the time, as the arcade game was well-received by the public, and the game went on to be a successful home title as well. So, why has time forgotten Mortal Kombat 4? I don’t rightly know, ‘cause we’re dealing with a fairly good game. Even if it is reviewed on a platform it doesn’t belong on.

Get over ‘ere, you pile of blocks

Some familiar faces, some new ones, and a really
weird-looking reincarnation of Reptile.
Thousands of years before the first Mortal Kombat tournament, the elder god Shinnok turned against his brethren and tried to conquer the realms with a tyrannical vision. Lord Raiden fought and eventually beat him, and banished him to the Netherrealm. In present time, the sorcerer Quan Chi aids him in his escape from the Netherrealm, after which Shinnok starts planning a full-scale attack against the elder gods. Knowing that Shinnok has grown too powerful for him to face alone, Raiden seeks the help of his friends from the Earthrealm.

If you’ve read all of the Mortal Kombat-related stuff thus far, you might’ve picked up that I never even realized Mortal Kombat 4 was out. I thought the numerical titles stopped with Mortal Kombat 3, since the next game I saw played was Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance on the GameCube. I seriously had no idea there ever was a Mortal Kombat 4 until I first heard of the current-gen reboot of the game. I dug the game up for the Nintendo 64 and I was positively surprised by the game, it’s the Nintendo 64 itself which is the problem. I would love to try the game on the PlayStation. Without further due, let’s start with the graphics and character design.

That bitch just snapped my neck!
If you ever had a favourite character in Mortal Kombat, he or she’s probably here. It’s a collection of the best of the best, and kind of a return to the roots. The plot threads introduced in Mortal Kombat 3 are pretty much retconned, since Johnny Cage is here, although he was supposed to be killed some time before Mortal Kombat 3. Sub-Zero, Reptile, Scorpion, Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, even Goro himself – they’re all here. You don’t need to see more than the fighter select screen to know that this will be a full-fledged Mortal Kombat experience. And then the fear hits you – it’s the Nintendo 64. You haven’t tried Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the N64, so you don’t know what kind of ridiculous censorship you’re safe to expect from it. Well, I’m proud to say that Mortal Kombat 4 spares no ick; it’s probably the most violent game on the Nintendo 64. As to how it looks: well, I’ve seen how the game looks on the PlayStation, and to my disappointment, the PlayStation version does not look much better, but that doesn’t mean that Mortal Kombat 4 would be an ugly game. Sure, I don’t have much love for the franchise’s transition to (pseudo-)3D, or the blocky characters, especially when we’re talking about a game that lives on the idea of simulating realistic physical pain, but compared to many other Nintendo 64 games of the time, Mortal Kombat 4 looks good enough. And, there are no better blood effects in any game or on any console of that generation. Period. Boon and Tobias really invested in making this turn real ugly.

Things get quite ugly when it comes to the gameplay, as almost every special – but simple – attack by any character looks extremely painful. Babalities, Animalities, Brutalities and Friendships were taken out altogether for the sake of unadulterated, and perhaps a bit more serious streak of violence. You could say that in many ways, Mortal Kombat 4 was a fresh start. Censorship in video games had loosened up altogether, and I’ve got to admit that when I think about it, Mortal Kombat had gotten a little too twisted for its own good, kind of like a parody of its own self. Especially after the second movie came out. Perhaps the movie was the exact reason to why Mortal Kombat 4 never took off quite like its predecessors, they were both released around the same time. Enough speculating.

Here's for all those rocks to the face!
Even though the game’s in pseudo-3D – “pseudo” meaning that you can dodge to the background and not much more – Mortal Kombat 4 plays out the same as any other Mortal Kombat game. It has a couple of new features that will surely please those who were frustrated with the previous major installment. First up, a limit to the damage those damn combos can do. If you’re a hack with the combos yourself, you can remove the limit with a cheat code, but the default setting at least helps me in the simple task of enjoying the game. Also, what annoyed a lot of people with Mortal Kombat 3 in particular, was that many of the characters could easily use weapons, and/or projectile attacks to win the match. All characters couldn’t, and that is fixed here. Each character has a special weapon exclusive to them, unlocked by a button combo. In addition, many of the levels have debris you can use against your opponents. These are some very cool additions in my books, and they make the gameplay experience very comfortable. It’s a bit more forgiving game altogether, and the controls are very fluid… BUT.

FA-TA-LI-TY!
Here we get to why the Nintendo 64 version sucks. If you’ve read my previous Nintendo 64 reviews, you can pretty much guess what my problem is. It’s the controller. The N64 controller was never made for such intensive games as Mortal Kombat. First of all, I couldn’t imagine playing Mortal Kombat with an analog stick. Using the N64 digital pad is awkward, and uncomfortable. The analog stick is out of the question, not just because it doesn’t fit the current bill, but also because it’s so damn light-built I’m constantly afraid I’ll break it. Once you get over this issue, you have a lot more to worry about, like the mere arrangement of the controller, as well as the stupid-ass camera buttons, which are used as standard face buttons in the game. That’s not what the buttons were created for! …But also, you can’t make a good fighting game without at least four face buttons to use. It’s an endless cycle, but the bottom line is that the Nintendo 64 controller is not suitable for this kind of game.

Mortal Kombat 4 is not nearly as unforgiving as the previous titles, if you can cope with not showing off too much, and if you learn to use the weapons to your advantage rather quickly. Showing off is a bit hard, too, as special moves are difficult to execute – you can never decide whether to use the analog stick or the digital pad, as their effectiveness varies – and the Fatalities are more complex, and harder to perform than ever. The time window is a bit bigger, but in turn, the button sequences are way longer.

I enjoyed playing Mortal Kombat 4 for the very first time on Nintendo 64, very much… BUT, I would very much like to try another version of the game, preferably the PlayStation version, to get the truth out of it.

UPS
+ The best selection of playable characters in a standard Mortal Kombat game released up ‘til then
+ The N64 version is probably the most violent Nintendo game I’ve ever seen
+ The combo limit is king
+ The controls are surprisingly fluid…

DOWNS
- …But the N64 control scheme sucks balls
- The difficulty to nail Fatalities will drive you insane

< 7.9 >

DOUBLE REVIEW - Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 & Mortal Kombat Trilogy


ULTIMATE MORTAL KOMBAT 3
GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: October 1995 (Arcade)
AVAILABLE ON: ARC, GEN, SAT, SNES
DEVELOPER(S): Midway Games, Avalanche Software (GEN, SNES), Eurocom Developments (SAT)
PUBLISHER(S): Williams Entertainment
DESIGNER(S): Ed Boon & John Tobias

MORTAL KOMBAT TRILOGY
GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: October 1996 (PS1)
AVAILABLE ON: N64, PC, PS1, SAT
DEVELOPER(S): Midway Games (N64), Point of View (PC, SAT) Avalanche Software (PS1)
PUBLISHER(S): GT Interactive, Midway Games (PS1)
DESIGNER(S): Ed Boon & John Tobias

In October 1995, an arcade game named Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was released. It was an update to the original Mortal Kombat 3 – a successful but risky game, which had fans raging and frowning over the loss of many of the franchise’s classic characters and traits. This new version included most of the characters, as well as a couple of new multiplayer modes and a new type of finishing move for each character. Ever since home versions of this game were released on the 16-bit consoles and the Sega Saturn in 1996, it has become known as the official version of Mortal Kombat 3, and it has subsequently been re-released in Mortal Kombat 3’s place on several occasions. Just a few months later, this update was further updated with Mortal Kombat Trilogy, that saw release on the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64, and later, Sega Saturn and the PC, which already had their versions of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 available. Confusing? I guess it is. I don’t mean to confuse you any further, but seeing how both games are apples from the same tree and their purpose is almost exactly the same, here are reviews of both Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for the SNES and Mortal Kombat Trilogy for the PC.

MOOOOOHTL KMBAAAAAAAT!!!

The Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 line-up...
Fresh off the Mortal Kombat movie train, I was jumping ahead to Mortal Kombat 4 on the Nintendo 64 until I remembered that I had the two updates to Mortal Kombat 3 to take care of. The average of this marathon would’ve suffered if I didn’t, ‘cause at the very least Mortal Kombat Trilogy is an often overlooked and underrated game. Since I owned the original Mortal Kombat 3 on the SNES, I never got around to buying the Ultimate version. It’s a good thing I didn’t spend my money on it on top of the original game, but I would’ve gladly replaced my copy of the standard Mortal Kombat 3 with it – especially since the cartridge was all fucked up and worked about 10% of the time.

The most important asset of both these games is the huge variety of playable characters. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is very much solely based on Mortal Kombat 3, so all the characters from that game return, except for the kind of strange exclusion of Sheeva – who does appear in the arcade, Saturn and PC versions, though. New designs of Kitana, Mileena, Jade, Reptile, Noob Saibot, the masked version of Sub-Zero, and my all-time favourite (no shit?) Scorpion join the fold. The game also introduces the new ninjas Ermac and Rain, who both went on to appear in the awful Mortal Kombat: Annihilation movie as members of Shao Kahn’s extermination squad, and features the return of Human Smoke from Mortal Kombat II as a hidden character. Overall, there are 25 playable characters – even Motaro and Shao Kahn are playable via a cheat code – so I think everyone’s as happy as they can be with Mortal Kombat 3 now. The franchise’s age-old tradition of hidden stuff all across the arcade ladder was a bit lost in their decision to make all characters playable from the start, but hey, 25 playable characters, most of their features and moves digitized from actual human beings, in a 16-bit fighting game? You have to understand that takes up a lot of capacity, be the cartridge 32-bit or not. You wanted this, now bear with it.

...versus the Mortal Kombat Trilogy line-up. Not
a bad performance from either one.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy has even more redesigned characters, actually everyone who was ever anyone, hence the name “Trilogy”. Since all of the secret characters of the past are made playable from the start, including every boss from Goro to Shao Kahn, there’s a new character – once again a ninja (sort of) – a female one, by the name of Chameleon. Seriously, they’re ALL here, and there’s simply no place for anyone to start flapping their gums about how Boon and Tobias allegedly destroyed the Mortal Kombat legacy by taking their favourites out. Now that we have this debated subject out of the way, let’s see how the gameplay fares.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Scorpion tells
everyone that Smoke farted.
Two words combined sum up both games perfectly: BRUTAL DIFFICULTY. Mortal Kombat was easy, if you were cheap enough. Mortal Kombat II was very hard, Mortal Kombat 3 was almost impossible, and these two games are one step closer to being impossible to beat. It doesn’t matter which size of ladder you choose, it doesn’t really even matter which difficulty level you choose – Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy will both fuck you up the ass. You want practice? You get practice in the form of one single opponent, and that’s your first opponent. Everyone that comes after, it doesn’t matter who, is a brutal bag of those combos you grew to hate in Mortal Kombat 3, an endless reserve of the skill to block everything that comes their way, and annoying ranged attacks. Both of these games are fucking insane, but the positive side to this is that the “new” characters have basic attacks that make progress a little bit easier. Take Scorpion, for example – his close-range, knife-assisted combo does a fair deal of damage, and it’s difficult to block. If you’re enough of an enthusiast, you might not beat the games, but you’ll surely have fun with them.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 doesn’t really have much more to offer in terms of gameplay in comparison to the original article except for the Brutality finisher, which is EXTREMELY difficult to pull off, but Mortal Kombat Trilogy has the Aggressor meter, which sticks out like a sore thumb as soon as you start the game. It’s supposed to make things a bit easier. It’s simple: fill out the Aggressor meter by kicking ass or getting your ass kicked, or by executing special moves, and you become stronger and faster for a short spell. It might help a bit. I’m not sure, because I have a serious problem with the PC version.

Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Smoke pays back in
spades.
You see, the PC version has severe compatibility issues with any joypad, particularly the Xbox 360 controller. Now I know the PC version was released in 1997, when joypads weren’t that common and even the creation of the first Xbox never crossed Bill Gates’ mind, but it doesn’t even work right with an early model of the Microsoft Sidewinder. For some odd reason, the game automatically assigns any joypad as “Controller 2”. To my knowledge, it can’t be reconfigured. Secondly, no matter how much you tinker with the button configurations, you can only assign the buttons for basic movement, the punches and kicks. Thirdly, configuring the buttons yourself is a guessing game. The button options are just numbers, from one to ten. For example, if you’re using an Xbox controller, you have to assign each move to one button at a time, test it, and if it doesn’t work, you move on to the next one, and the next one, until you find the right one. The weirdest thing about this is that the Xbox controller has ten buttons, and the game lets you assign moves to ten buttons, BUT does not register Back, Start, or the triggers as buttons. If you’re a wizard with the keyboard, congratulations – stick with it. I certainly couldn’t.

Both games are good. What makes Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 stand out is the wide selection of characters in a mere 16-bit game, and it’s a huge improvement over the last one. Mortal Kombat Trilogy, on the other hand, has all the Mortal Kombat characters you could possibly want, and extremely fluid controls, IF you can get them to work on the PC. I decided to review these two games in one, ‘cause there really wasn’t much to say about them as individual games, but plenty as two updated versions of a game that was originally good, but now obviously lacking.

UPS
+ Lots of characters to choose from
+ Both games have mutual and individual minor qualities that shape the Mortal Kombat 3 gameplay experience for the better
+ Mortal Kombat Trilogy has the best controls out of all 2D Mortal Kombat games…

DOWNS
- …However, the PC version suffers from severe controller compatibility issues
- Both games are insanely difficult; once again, combos that are extremely difficult to land once, are used as basic attacks by the CPU

< 7.9 (UMK3) >
< 8.1 (MKT) >

sunnuntai 24. kesäkuuta 2012

MOVIE REVIEW - Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

STARRING
Robin Shou : Liu Kang
Talisa Soto : Kitana
James Remar : Raiden
Sandra Hess : Sonya Blade
Lynn "Red" Williams : Jax
Brian Thompson : Shao Kahn
Reiner Schöne : Shinnok
Musetta Vander : Sindel
Irina Pantaeva : Jade
Deron McBee : Motaro


Written by Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler & John Tobias
Directed by John R. Leonetti



THE PLOT 

Emperor Shao Kahn invades Earthrealm and merges it with Outworld, which results in the obliteration of billions of souls. Only the survivors of the Mortal Kombat tournament are left with their souls intact under Raiden’s protection. What follows is an incoherent mess which is hard enough to understand, but even harder to watch.

THE BREAKDOWN
 
At 2:35, it's official. This sucks.
The breakdown? You want the breakdown, seriously? Here's your breakdown. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation sucks ass.

I don’t even know where to begin. The plot’s “inspired” by the one used in Mortal Kombat 3, but it takes some liberties. For example, Kabal and Stryker are mentioned, but they are never seen – perhaps because a change of scenery would’ve meant they’d had to build another set, and I don’t think they had enough money to do that. That’s probably the reason why 90% of the movie looks exactly the same. The filming techniques are less than unprofessional, the editing and continuity errors are endless, the backgrounds are obvious bluescreens, the effects suck, the CGI is nauseatingly bad and it’s used all the time to shove the vomit back up your throat, the “acting” is just downright horrible, the plot’s initial backdrop is decent but the utterly useless cameos and people dying like bitches piss all over everything remotely good about it, and the music doesn’t make the movie any easier to watch. There’s some classic Mortal Kombat thump in there for sure, but I pretty much closed my personal nanoreceivers after hearing Scooter’s “Fire” in a fighting scene. Oh yeah, and the fighting scenes suck, too. Why was this piece of shit made?! And how in the hell can the creators of this horrible abomination live with themselves? You know, I think this movie alienated me from the Mortal Kombat franchise for all those years. I never realized Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias himself co-wrote the flick; it's no wonder he resigned from the franchise some time after the movie came out.

Jade, huh? Even Sheeva was prettier.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is seriously one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. When I think of really bad movies that I’ve actually watched to the end – due to some fascination with the franchise rather than the hope of the movie taking a turn for the better – Mortal Kombat: Annihilation might very well share the #1 spot on my shitlist with Exorcist II: The Heretic. The movies have much more in common than one could just catch out of the blue: they’re both sequels to stellar movies of their kind, they both pick up from where the first ones left off, they both include a lot of flashbacks and explanations, as well as utterly ridiculous plot twists, and ultimately, they exist only to piss, shit, sneeze and throw up on the legacy of their predecessors.

Let’s take it from the beginning. There’s a flashback sequence that recaps the previous movie’s events, leading up right to the end – this sequence is probably the best part of this movie. You’re sure the narrator is Raiden, but he doesn’t sound like Christopher Lambert. Well, there’s a reason for that: Robin Shou (Liu Kang) and Talisa Soto (Kitana) are the ONLY actors reprising their roles in this piece of shit. I guess the other actors still had some respect for their careers, so they backed off at an early stage. Well, Raiden is played by James Remar. I have always wondered one thing about James Remar: how can a guy look so much like an asshole?! You can look up “looking like an asshole”  in the dictionary, and find Remar’s mug next to the entry. God! It’s a good thing Lambert ain’t in this one. I miss him, but in the end, it’s for the best. Well… Shao Kahn is hiding behind a ridiculous Halloween mask, but I know that voice, and I know that jaw. It’s Brian Thompson. You might remember him from The X-Files and a very minor role in The Terminator (one of the thugs pestering Arnold in the beginning). He’s one bad actor, just seeing him on the screen for a second annoys the hell out of me. Seeing that he’s in a central role does not hold any promises of how this session is going to turn out. It’s good to point out at this time, that I bought the VHS when it was brand new – direct-to-video – and the movie was very hard for me to watch back then. I watched it once, but never again. This was my first time in nearly 15 years. It might’ve been hard to watch way back when, now it’s simply impossible without a six-pack of beer in my hands’ immediate reach.

Liu Kang: "This is horrible."
Raiden: "I know, right? The emperor's
evil knows no boundaries."
Liu Kang: "I meant this movie, asshole!"

So, Johnny Cage dies – like a bitch – less than five minutes into the film. Good riddance, by far the only line he had made me hate the guy that replaced Linden Ashby. Sonya – now played by Sandra Hess – blames herself for his death about 80% of the time she’s on the screen – read: WHINES AT EVERY OPPOR-FUCKIN’-TUNE MOMENT TO FURTHER ANNOY THE ALREADY ANNOYED VIEWER OF THIS HORSESHIT TURNED INTO A FILM – until she completely forgets about whatshisname. Seriously, this subplot just hits a quiet self-Fatality against a brick wall, just like every other mildly sensical thread about the plot. Anyway, I know Shao Kahn’s supposed to be the ultimate bad-ass and all, but I’m kind of amazed that the guy who beat Goro and Scorpion in the previous flick isn’t even given the chance to so much as touch him before getting his neck twisted down his spine and up his ass. Raiden and his remaining cohorts – Liu Kang, Kitana and Sonya – escape to some underground tunnel and it’s explained that they have six days to save Earth. Then they find some orb-shaped “cabs” that can drop them off at any chosen spot in the realm. Kitana and Liu’s romance subplot is further exploited, which is the only comprehensible thing about what happens in the next five minutes. Raiden goes on a little self-searching trip and gets a new haircut to portray his newly granted mortality (???!!!) and Sonya goes to find Jax, who’s suddenly in some laboratory and had his arms enhanced with some cybernetic implants for no apparent reason besides some “problems with confidence”. It’s unclear how Sonya knows he’s there, and it’s even more unclear why the lab is suddenly invaded by a plastic Cyrax. It’s most unclear why I’m still watching this crap.

"...but DAAAADDDYYYYY!!!"
Cyrax’s appearance is actually a reminder of the fact that Shao Kahn’s extermination squad is on the move, looking for the survivors of Mortal Kombat. This squad features familiar characters such as Baraka, Sheeva and Motaro (the make-up effects… good lord almighty…), Sindel, Rain, Ermac and… Scorpion?! Scorpion’s always resurrected in the games, sure, but there’s simply no explanation to why he’s alive in this flick, and apparently completely unharmed! Even Sub-Zero’s appearance is questioned by Liu Kang, since he killed Sub-Zero in the previous tournament. This “Sub-Zero 2” says that Liu Kang actually killed his brother. Well, Sub-Zero and Scorpion’s appearance does not mean SHIT! Enter the first useless cameos. We’re going to see a lot more. First up’s Mileena, Kitana’s demonic twin sister from the games. When Sonya first sees her, she thinks she’s Kitana, which would make sense… if this was the game, ‘cause that chick doesn’t look ANYTHING like Talisa Soto! Then there’s Nightwolf, who exists in this movie for absolutely no reason at all. When he talks to Liu Kang about how he should find his “Animality”, you know this movie can’t end well. I’ll tell you about it later. Then Jade attacks Liu Kang, just to “test him”, she says, and later turns out a spy. Revealing her failure to Shao Kahn, she gets eaten by an unnamed, utterly ridiculous CGI monster. Poor girl. Not exactly a pretty one, though. She makes the weirdest faces in the whole movie.

While Liu’s out “searching for his Animality” – oh, God – Kitana’s in Shao Kahn and his father Shinnok’s captivity. Now it seems that this Shinnok is running the whole operation. I didn’t know anything about this character when I was a kid, since he was the final boss in both Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, which I never played, and Mortal Kombat 4, which I didn’t even notice being released at that time – I was a SNES owner. Well, Liu eventually saves Kitana, crushes Sheeva with a falling cage – another very punky death – reunites with Raiden, Sonya and Jax, and then it’s showtime. There’s a lot of mess in between, which I dare not dive into.

That's it, I'm all out of insults.
The final battle against the remains of the extermination squad and Liu’s one-on-one match with Shao Kahn is sad to watch, and not because of Raiden’s death right in the beginning of it, and right after he has made the grand revelation that Shinnok is an elder god and his father, which makes Shao Kahn his brother. OOOOOOH!!! Everyone picks an opponent, during which they realize something about themselves, most notably Jax, who fights Motaro until wearing himself out and figuring out he would do better without his implants – which Raiden told him right off the bat. What a surprise, Jax wins right after getting rid of those ridiculous pieces of plastic. It should be noted that Jax used these cybernetic implants in Mortal Kombat 3, but they were actually installed to replace his arms which Shao Kahn or some of his cohorts (Ermac in the 2011 "reboot") had ripped off from his torso in Mortal Kombat II.

Well, in the turning point of Liu vs. Shao Kahn, it seems that Liu’s going to lose, but just take a wild guess what happens next. Come on, just make that guess. Liu finds his Animality and turns into a CGI dragon. That’s it, I’m going for a smoke.

"Whoa, what was I on last night?"
From what I can see on the screen, Shao Kahn also turns into some sort of unholy beast, the two CGI blobs fight to a draw, the other elder gods capture Shinnok and force him to watch his only surviving son fight Liu Kang as a mortal. The Mortal Kombat theme hits and for one second, the movie looks and sounds at least something like the first one. Then Shao Kahn just falls down on a set of stone steps from a single punch, a huge fucking dragon bursts out of him like the alien from John Hurt’s stomach in Alien, Shinnok turns into a pile of blocks and disappears,  the world is restored to the way it was, Sindel and Raiden both suddenly “get better”, Raiden takes Shinnok’s place as an elder god, gives some parental advice to his “family”, Kitana reunites with Sindel, kisses Liu Kang and everyone’s happy. The credits roll, and I’m left wondering was what I just saw real, some cruel fantasy, or just a big, brown skidmark, a waste of perfectly fine video tape.

THE SOUNDTRACK

Like I already mentioned a few times, the soundtrack's a very mixed bag of shit, piss and Scooter, with the exception of "Techno Syndrome", that plays during the opening credits and the final battle. A horrid remix of Megadeth's "Almost Honest" plays during the end credits; what makes it even more unlistenable is the fact that even the original song really ain't one of my favourites by 'Deth.

THE CONCLUSION

The end, at long last.
Alongside Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is a textbook example of a horrible game-to-movie adaptation, one of the reasons wise production companies think twice before giving a green light to one. You’d think a sequel to such a good movie as the first Mortal Kombat was, would be at least half decent as they already had a good flow going on, but it seems that the only flow the film makers cared about was the cash flow. Stay clear of this movie at all costs.

< RATING : 1.0 >

MOVIE REVIEW - Mortal Kombat (1995)

STARRING
Christopher Lambert : Lord Raiden
Robin Shou : Liu Kang
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa : Shang Tsung

Linden Ashby : Johnny Cage
Bridgette Wilson : Sonya Blade
Talisa Soto : Princess Kitana
Trevor Goddard : Kano
Chris Casamassa : Scorpion
Francois Petit : Sub-Zero

Keith H. Cooke : Reptile

Written by Kevin Droney
Directed by Paul Anderson


THE PLOT

Liu Kang.
Three of the best martial artists in the world – Liu Kang, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade – are lured into a one-on-one fighting tournament to determine the fate of their realm by a mysterious sorcerer named Shang Tsung, who Liu Kang holds responsible for the untimely death of his younger brother. Although the fight seems impossible for them to win, they’ve got Raiden, the God of Thunder and Lightning on their side.

THE BREAKDOWN

You want to hear something really ironic? I heard about the movie beforehand, just a while after Street Fighter had come out, but the first trailer I saw was included on the Batman Forever VHS my mom bought for me. Batman Forever (God bless the soul that movie never had) spawned a video game. That video game sucked some humongous balls, but what makes this important is that the video game actually ran on the Mortal Kombat engine!

Sonya Blade.
Anyway, back in 1995, the trailer did a good job in totally driving me and my best friend insane out of pure joy. You see, back here the movie went straight to video, as far as we know – we were living in the backwoods where only the biggest blockbuster movies made it to the local cinema. Even as kids, we acknowledged that the Street Fighter movie, that came out a year prior, was horseshit, but the gamers in us always hoped for the best when a new game-to-movie came along, especially if it concerned our favourite franchises. Street Fighter failed, big time. The movie remains an utter failure to this day. Mortal Kombat, on the other hand, was unbelievably very entertaining, to say the least. What’s even more unbelievable is that almost two decades later, the movie still hits all the right spots, and very few wrong ones!

Johnny Cage.
The plot, loosely based on the plot of the first Mortal Kombat game, is quite good. The movie starts with Liu Kang (Robin Shou) having a nightmare about Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) killing his brother Chan and then claiming Liu’s soul would be next. Then we find out that Chan has actually been killed, and Liu has to return home to the Shaolin temples. Then we meet Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) – accompanied by Jax who’s merely a cameo – in a nightclub on the hunt for Kano (Trevor Goddard), who killed her partner. Shang Tsung is there as well, talking to Kano about how Sonya “needs to be at the tournament”. Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) is up next – in a scene that strangely reminds me of Beverly Hills Cop for some reason – beating up a group of thugs like a boss until we realize that he’s actually filming a movie. One of the crew guys says that someone’s waiting for Johnny backstage. That someone turns out to be Master Boyd, who I’m guessing is Johnny’s mentor. Johnny’s career is going downhill as the press has deemed him fake, so Boyd encourages him to take part in a fighting tournament in an undisclosed location. As Boyd leaves the set, he morphs into his true self, Shang Tsung. We see a pattern forming here.

"HEH-HEH-HEH! ...Sorry."
As the three fighters come together, all for their own reasons, Lord Raiden (Christopher Lambert) appears and tells them what Mortal Kombat is all about: the preservation of life on Earth. In order for the emperor of the Outworld – that’s Shang Tsung’s boss – to seize Earthrealm, he needs to defeat Earthrealm in ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments. They’ve won nine. This will be the tenth tournament. “The fate of billions depends on you. Heh-heh-heh-h… sorry.” Gotta love Lambert – where is that dude?

Mortal Kombat has a very linear plot, and the dialogue takes good care that we understand what’s going on, all the time; actually, the script tends to be a little too explanatory from time to time. There are scenes wholly dedicated to explanation, disguised as something else – they’re awkward, even stupid, but they are the only scenes that prevent this movie’s perfect flow. There are absolutely no other filler scenes in this flick. It’s Mortal Kombat to the core. It’s a great video game movie, made with just the right attitude. The main focus is on a handful of characters, and the few cameos actually support the movie instead of turning against it. The fighting scenes are good, I’ll let a few embarrassing moments pass, and most of the cast deserves kudos for taking their portrayals seriously, with reception from Mortal Kombat fans firmly in mind. I love this movie – but amidst all the cheesy punchlines, gratuitous amounts of flashy ass-kicking and a stunningly faithful atmosphere, lies a turd or two.

Almost toasty!
I LOVE how they brought the groin punch from the original arcade game to the movie and made it such a crucial part of such a crucial scene that it became legend. I’m quite all right with Shang Tsung shouting out “Finish Him!” and congratulating winners with “Flawless Victory”. I can even live with the fireball Liu Kang unleashes in the climax of the movie, but I think the line between what’s necessary to bring in from the games and what isn’t fades at times, especially towards the end of the movie, but the scene I’m thinking is the fight between Johnny Cage and Scorpion. Scorpion gets the upper hand and is about to finish Johnny with his famous Fatality of removing his mask to reveal a skull (what “fabulous” special effects there…) and scorching him with his fiery breath. Well, resourceful as he is, Johnny grabs a jagged metal shield – they’re fighting in some ancient armory – and covers himself with it before sticking a spear in Scorpion, running up to him and cutting him to pieces with the shield. What remains of Scorpion, explodes. Like “KA-BOOM”. That’s awkward, but what’s most awkward is that Johnny leaves behind a signed photograph, which reflects on his Friendship finisher in Mortal Kombat II. These few seconds are way too cheesy, even for this movie – I was expecting to see something like this transpire in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. They went a bit too far with this one – you can laugh it all off pretty easily, though.

Way less laughable than Arnold in
Batman & Robin.
The character design is good, but not perfect. I was prepared to criticize how the writers suddenly made the age-old arch rivals Sub-Zero and Scorpion best buddies, but for the first time, I interpreted Shang Tsung’s words correctly, and figured it was not the case at all. “Scorpion and Sub-Zero – the deadliest of enemies.” I always thought he meant “deadliest of enemies” as in opponents to the three main characters, but he meant that they were deadliest of enemies to each other, but sworn to Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung’s cause. Well… Sub-Zero is a kick-ass character in the flick, while Scorpion gets the shorter straw. Once again, the line between necessary and unnecessary is stretched a bit too far with his detached cries of “Come over ‘ere!”, “Com’ere!” and “Come down ‘ere!”. He sounds like a fucking retard, I wish they’d just shut him up entirely like they did with Sub-Zero. Also, I understand that Scorpion’s trademark harpoon must’ve been difficult to implement to the flick, but I don’t understand why they had to replace it with an ugly CGI snake.

Speaking of CGI, why is Reptile in the movie? Does he have any actual purpose? His inclusion grants the movie one more good fighting scene, but at least they could’ve previewed the CGI bits before letting this one off the belt. You see, Reptile is originally a huge CGI lizard. The first time he comes into full view, be sure not to eat or drink anything while you’re watching; it looks fucking horrendous, abysmal, to be frank. This CGI bastard attacks the gang a couple of times, and every time, the CGI looks more and more detached from the movie. Near the end of the movie, Liu Kang accidentally allows Reptile to take a human form – which is kinda based on how he was introduced in the game franchise – and fights him in one of the best fighting scenes of the movie, which gives Reptile purpose. Why the CGI scenes, why not just this one? This one time, I don’t care about character development. I fucking hate CGI. Look at Goro – he doesn’t need CGI to look awesome and just like his video game counterpart.

Five-hundred dollar sunglasses...
The underlying romantic subplots between Sonya and Johnny, and Liu and Kitana (played by the always gorgeous, but always pretentious Talisa Soto), never grow into anything bigger, and I think that’s good. A force-fed romance would’ve just ruined the movie. I’m already a bit disturbed by the flirty dialogue, the movie didn’t need an epic kiss to prove a point, and I’m glad the film makers realized that.
 
Robin Shou, Mr. Kung-Fu Stock, does a good job as Liu Kang, and is one of those Chinese-American actors whose speech you can actually understand immediately. Linden Ashby is kind of a funny choice as Johnny Cage; he does have the look, but you know what this guy’s most famous for? Soap operas and teen drama. Surprisingly, this guy prevents Christopher Lambert from stealing the show; Johnny has all the best punchlines. Bridgette Wilson… is Bridgette Wilson. Oh, sorry: an ANGRY Bridgette Wilson. I loved this chick when I was a kid, she looked awesome in Last Action Hero, and she looked awesome in Mortal Kombat as well – it was only later I realized how much she sucks tennis balls (HA!) as an actress, good looks or not. She just can’t hit the right notes. Actually, as long as she remains passive in this movie, has that “look at me, I’m Sonya Blade and I’m fucking angry” face on, and just speaks, she’s watchable. Put her in a scene that requires just some emotion, or hell, a fighting scene, and you’ve got yourself an embarrassing bomb. She does deliver one of the movie’s best lines, though, and does it good. You’ll know it when it comes.

Liu Kang wins. Fatality.
Christopher Lambert, who I will always remember as Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, owns as Raiden… all the glorious 15 minutes he spends on the screen. Oh, wait… not all 15. The movie takes a turn for the worse only to get better again later, right after Goro’s death. It’s not any of the actors’ fault – I guess the writers just had a bad day when they were coming up with the events that take place during the five to ten minutes into this obvious breakpoint in the movie. Anyway, it’s kind of ridiculous that Lambert’s billed first, ‘cause he’s rarely seen on the screen more than a minute at a time, and he appears only in a handful of essential scenes. But, they’ve got to have a name – and Lambert’s the only semi-high-profile actor in the movie. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa was also a semi-high-profile actor in the category of “Asian dudes” back at the time. Seriously, this guy had a small part in almost every movie and TV show that needed an “Asian dude”. If I’m not mistaken, the role of Shang Tsung was his first major one, and although he overacts a lot, he does a fair job, and I consider his overacting pure, honest enthusiasm for his character. It has that sort of enthusiastic vibe. Last, we have Talisa Soto as Kitana. Not only does a good, interesting character go to complete waste in this movie as some sort of an Outworld expert and mentor/lover/whatever to Liu Kang, but Talisa Soto just isn’t a good actress. I don’t have anything against women in this movie, I swear. The guys just do better jobs.

THE SOUNDTRACK

Liu Kang: "What is that?"
Raiden: "A bad sequel."
The music’s just awesome. There’s some metal there, industrial music and techno, all in the good spirits of Mortal Kombat. The recurring lead track is called “Techno Syndrome”, and it was actually composed back in 1993 by The Immortals (Maurice Engelen and Oliver Adams) for Mortal Kombat – The Album; this movie made the song popular and it has since been associated with the franchise. It’s one of the hardest-hitting movie themes ever made.

THE CONCLUSION

Overall, Mortal Kombat is very possibly the greatest live-action movie ever to be bred from a video game franchise, and I think it set an example… but you know what? It had a sequel, which set an even finer example. An example of how horrendously bad a video game movie can be, that is. Up next, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.

< RATING : 8.5 >

REVIEW - Mortal Kombat 3 | SNES | 1995


GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: April 1995 (Arcade)
AVAILABLE ON: GB, GEN, GG, PC, PS1, SMS, SNES
DEVELOPER(S): Midway Games, Software Creations (GB, GG), Sculptured Software (GEN, PC, SNES)
PUBLISHER(S): Williams Entertainment, Acclaim Entertainment (GG), Atari (PC), Sony Computer Entertainment (PS1), Tec Toy (SMS)
DESIGNER(S): Ed Boon & John Tobias

Mortal Kombat 3 was the first Mortal Kombat game released (fresh) on the Sony PlayStation, but moving on to the next generation did not mean 16-bit owners would be forgotten. On the contrary, the console port of the 1995 game was released on the PlayStation merely on the side – we who still were very much too poor to buy a brand new console got the whole experience with our version of Mortal Kombat 3, and what an experience it was. Thematically, it was totally different from its predecessors, and it had a very different selection of characters that alienated some long-time fans and made them demand for retribution – which was to come a year later in the form of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy – and the graphics were fully digitized to make the violence look all the more realistic. Still, it was pure Mortal Kombat as we grew to love it back in the day. Mortal Kombat 3 was an excellent game through my eyes in 1995 – in 2012, it’s a bit different.

Seriously, quit it with the hat

Yeah, I know it looks weird, but believe me, it's
Mortal Kombat.
Shao Kahn determines that Mortal Kombat has outlived its purpose and can’t possibly bring him any closer to seizing control of the Earthrealm. A loophole in the ancient pact between Earthrealm and Shao Kahn allows Kahn to travel to Earthrealm and merge it with Outworld, trapping millions of human souls in the process. Only a chosen few are spared, all thanks to the protection of Lord Raiden. The few remnants, including a New York City police officer, a Native American shaman with the gift of foresight,  and several veterans of the Mortal Kombat tournament, rise against Shao Kahn and his extermination squad to restore Earthrealm to the way it was.

If Mortal Kombat 3 would’ve been released in the last few years, and I had the same enthusiasm for it as I did back in ’95, you know what I would have done? I would’ve pre-ordered the game. I would’ve pre-ordered the most exclusive, expensive collector’s edition there was. I would’ve lived and breathed the game for the last couple of months leading to the release date. Not because of Mortal Kombat II which I wasn't that familiar with yet, but because it looked like the most awesome game in the world. Following up on its megahit of a predecessor, Mortal Kombat 3 was huge. It was the first game I remember to have almost died for after seeing the early promos. Games were rarely hyped that much back in the day around these parts, and advertising didn’t really cross the boundaries of print. But that print was good enough to get me and my friend going totally apeshit. Midway was about to bring us a whole different, more realistic Mortal Kombat game than ever before, with painful, hellishly gruesome Fatalities, just about the greatest 16-bit audiovisual design ever seen, and Sub-Zero without a mask. That was the coolest thing about the game – an unmasked Sub-Zero. Whole new character design altogether, and just a few returning characters, leaving room for a truckload of new ones whose presence applied to Western tastes. I guess that’s “American tastes”.

NO! Not Predator!
Robots? Cops? An extremely stereotypical Indian warrior? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the new characters, but there’s a certain coldness to them, a coldness that has never really went away, despite their appearances in later games. Scorpion wasn’t my favourite character back then – in fact, we always thought he was more of a villain, and we wanted to play as heroic characters – but nowadays, he is, and his absence really bothers me. I couldn’t imagine a Mortal Kombat game without Scorpion – in Mortal Kombat 3’s case, I just have to cope with it. And no, a yellow robot doesn’t cut it. Once again: robots?! One of the most important essences of Mortal Kombat is pain, a sensation robots can’t feel! OK, OK, fanboys, I know, I know: they’re actually humans, part of some cyborg initiative. But there’s still more machine than man in them. And, their blood is blue. Not very human, if you ask me. After all this ranting and raving, you wanna hear something ironic? Cyrax and Sektor are perhaps the best fighters in the game, all personal favourism aside. More about how I came to this conclusion, later. Let’s talk audiovisuals.

Half of the level design’s been totally renovated to suit the game’s modern theme, from subways to highways, to roofs of modern buildings. The other half’s of the classic kind. I kinda like it, but perhaps it makes Mortal Kombat 3 seem more of a run-of-the-mill fighting game than its predecessors, which strived for the unique with their fantasy-inspired sceneries: stone bridges above spike pits, ancient dungeons with acid baths, catacombs and some God-forsaken hellholes which literally looked like hellholes. In general, there’s no denying that Mortal Kombat 3 is one of the finest looking 16-bit games that was ever conceived. All occasional and very specific glitches aside, the 100% digital characters still look realistic, motion capture and all. Depending on the level, they occasionally look a little slapped on to the rendered backgrounds, but that was seen in many games of the time, better ones too. The music’s quite OK, it’s classic Mortal Kombat with a little less oriental vibe, and the sound effects are as classic as ever; once again, I find myself missing Scorpion’s “GET OVER 'ERE!”, though. And while I’m at it, Raiden’s “ALIBABALEE!”. Well, at least Raiden’s mentioned in the game.

I've seen this proclamation one too many times.
Like in the first two games, all of the characters are indeed portrayed by real actors, but here it becomes most evident as the graphics have been polished to the point there’s no doubt about it. I have to make a special mention of Kerri Hoskins, who was many a video game nerd’s wet dream back in the day, as she took over for Elizabeth Malecki as Sonya Blade in this game. She is one gorgeous woman, and one of the few former Playboy centerfolds who actually looks human. Forget your Megan Foxes and Scarlett Johanssons and whoever, Kerri was the real deal and I have no doubt that even at the age of 42, she still looks hotter than most starlets in their 20’s. Apparently, Liz Malecki refused to do Mortal Kombat 3, along with some other actors, who were not replaced, and their characters were either killed off, like Johnny Cage, or wholly redesigned, like Shang Tsung and Sub-Zero, both of whom are portrayed by John Turk, an American actor. There, some trivia for ya. Now let’s get into the game, for a while at least, ‘cause I’m really itching to get to the updated versions.

Never noticed how weird the Animalities looked.
Mortal Kombat 3 has two new, major gameplay features: the ability to sprint, and execute combos. These new features are where the shit first starts to stain. First of all, running makes no sense. OK, you can reach your opponent on the other side of the screen faster by running. That’s about it, and usually it ends in you getting your ass kicked. Other than that, the Run button is used for a LOT of Fatalities, so you can’t completely disregard the existence of the R button if you’re planning to enjoy this. The combos… well, here are the good news. By learning one of these beasts, you’ve achieved one of the most important keys to mere survival in the higher difficulty levels of Mortal Kombat 3. Also, once you’ve landed the first hit, the opponent is unable to block the rest. Here are the bad news: SO ARE YOU! You can just guess how efficient the CPU is with the combos. Make no mistake about it: Mortal Kombat 3 is even harder than Mortal Kombat II.

This looks like the Gozer building from
Ghostbusters.
But, it’s for the right reasons. Sort of. You see, there is absolutely nothing as wrong with the controls as in the previous games. The controls are actually quite alright. But… let’s take it from the top. With Scorpion out of the fray, I choose Sub-Zero, ‘cause I still love that unmasked version. What I never realized before this one time was that Sub-Zero’s ice projectiles do not do any direct damage to the opponent. If you fail to see the problem, let me elaborate: he has no other special attacks than ice projectiles! Yeah, Sub-Zero’s cool and all (no pun intended), but why in the hell would I waste time trying to beat this crazy bastard with a guy who really can’t stand up to his opponents? I swear I was able to teach myself some whole new bad language while fighting Kung Lao as Sub-Zero. I have the ice projectiles that don’t do shit, he has that stupid hat of his that he likes to use a little too much, like his talent as a fighter is wholly dependent on it, and which does a little too much damage at once for the good of my sanity. On top of it all, if you accidentally use Sub-Zero’s Ice Shower while the basic projectile has frozen an enemy (it’s quite easy to make that mistake), Sub-Zero’s the one who gets frozen! Time to change characters. Let’s take that new guy, Nightwolf. He looks cool, albeit stereotypical. I’m checking up the net for his special attacks (got to love the modern age), and aside from his shoulder tackle, there’s one that seems very simple. Those are two special attacks out of four or five, both of them’s gotta have some value. No. Nightwolf just stands around for a sec or two, with a green light surrounding him. I guess it works as a defense method or something, but how could I ever use that in the proper situation when the game is this fucking fast? Time to change characters again. Stryker was my favourite new character back when the game came out… after just watching him stand around for less than a second, I’m wondering why, and resetting the game for the fifth or sixth time. I never liked the mere idea of the robots, but I’ll try Cyrax. Cyrax turns out the character that’s the most comfortable to play as regardless of the difficulty level, he has special moves that are simple enough and he’s fast enough to take on the worst bitches in the bunch, namely Kung Lao and Kabal. Ironic. And kinda boring.

Whether you find the right character or not, Mortal Kombat 3 is not an easy game. The difficulty level is all the same. The CPU uses those annoying special combos and projectile attacks just as much, regardless whether you choose the hardest or the easiest difficulty level. It’s also all the same whether you choose the shortest or the tallest ladder. All the cheat codes really do is allow you to perform Fatalities with the press of one button. Kind of fun, actually, especially since the time window to perform a finisher is even smaller than in the previous game. The cheat codes may also give you access to 30 credits, but the quantity of the credits really doesn’t fucking matter – this is hell, with no solid tactics to go by. Not even a solid character.

Ah, Cyrax. A bad choice for a character, a decent
enough fighter.
Back to the good stuff before I go. The Fatalities have been improved by a serious lot, BUT graphical glitches and certain limitations that were acknowledged from the beginning prevent them from looking as good as the ideas sound, like Stryker strapping a time bomb to a staggered opponent’s chest, moving a few meters away and covering his ears from the blast, that ends up rendering the opponent into a pile of bone, blood and severed tendons. When he puts it on, it looks like his opponent is already cut in half, with the upper half totally missing and he’s strapping it on his groin. To be fully realistic about it, the glitches are quite predictable with these limitations, and forgivable. They surely tried. Added into the mix are Animalities, which are Fatalities performed by the “animals inside the characters”. The Babalities return, as well as Friendships… as well as the “toasty” easter eggs, along with others. This is still Mortal Kombat, no matter what anyone says.

But, is it good? Sure it is, but it’s been done better, and the original version does not count for much anymore. It was so big back then, one of the biggest new games there was, if not THE biggest, due to the film that came out just a while before and turned out quite good in comparison to all the wasted celluloid crap that emerged before it. When the dust settled, fans stood up with their opinions, and the result was the pair of updates to Mortal Kombat 3 that was released in 1996; the original game’s story ended there.

UPS
+ Definitely better controls
+ Excellent graphics and sound; different, but once again better than the last time
+ The absence of Scorpion and Raiden aside, it’s definitely Mortal Kombat
+ The Fatalities are gruesome – IF you can get them to work, and IF you’re lucky enough to see the CPU using them instead of an uppercut

DOWNS
- The excellent graphics do not come without awkward glitches
- Although the new combo system might please you at first, it will turn against you in no time
- A lacking selection of new characters; the word “stock” comes to mind at the most cynical moments
- It’s unnecessarily difficult to get anything useful out of any playable character; regardless of the difficulty level of the game, the CPU rubs it in your face a little too hard

< 7.5 >