My Spoiler-Filled Love Letter to Mortal Kombat (2011)

Go buy this game now if you haven’t already. 

The new MK game, simply titled Mortal Kombat, is a masterpiece.  The controls are spot-on, the graphics and animations are crisp and fun, and the Fatalities are hilarious.  This game has polish that can only be appreciated by those who have been finishing them! for nearly two decades.  I wanted to write this sooner, but I needed the time to truly see the game, and to travel back to my younger years and see the original games through fresh eyes.  There be spoilers ahead, so you have been warned.

***SPOILER ALERT***

I deliberately avoided much of the pre-release hype just so that when I started the single player story mode, I had no idea what I was about to get into.  I wanted to experience it the way the devs had intended.

What I thought was going to be a cheesy storyline with even cheesier voice acting just leading through a series of excuses to play as the game’s different fighters, turned out to be not just that, but so much more.  It only took me a few moments to realize that I was playing through the storyline of Mortal Kombat 1.  Some of the fighters originated in subsequent MK games, but the combat zones and structure of the plot mimicked MK1 perfectly.  I found myself LOVING the cheesiness because it was explanatory now- I was finally seeing WHY the brutal fight with Goro takes place just prior to what I always thought was the much easier final fight with Shang Tsung.  The levels were drawn with such attention to detail and reverence for the original game’s art design that I actually went back and played Mortal Kombat 1.  I noticed things that I hadn’t noticed before in the game because this new game bought it all to such vivid life. 

In 1993 I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade when Mortal Kombat landed on my Super Nintendo.  Today I’m 30 years old, but when I realized I was playing Mortal Kombat 1 re-imagined I felt like I was playing alongside my twelve-year-old self.  This is why I play video games.

Once I progressed the plot past that initial Shang Tsung battle, I realized I was deep within the plotline of Mortal Kombat II and I was utterly thrilled.  MKII is to this day my favorite fighting game.  This new Mortal Kombat is the first fighting game since that fateful release date in 1994 that I have considered being maybe better than MKII.  Just like the combat zones from MK1, the MKII arenas looked fantastic and full of life in the new game.  The storyline continued its B-movie style of cheesiness and I loved it. 

Surprisingly I hadn’t thought about it until this point, but it hit me that most of the characters remaining in the game were from MK3, with the exception of Quan Chi, and I realized that once I defeated Kintaro and then Shao Khan the game wouldn’t be over- instead I would begin the MK3 plot. 

This really shook me because as huge a MK fan as I have been for 18 years, I never liked MK3.  I’d never beaten its arcade mode.  I’d never perfected any of the new combos.  Or is it kombos?  I’d laughed at the poor graphics of the Animalities.  I just never liked the game.  And I knew that I was about to enter into an area of this new game that would hold value to only those who revered MK3 as much as I did with MK1 and MKII.  With great trepidation, I continued on through the storyline and loved it.  There were subtle changes that I did recognize, like Sub Zero becoming a cyborg instead of Smoke, but most of the plot here was new to me and I found myself enjoying it. 

Since finishing the storyline, and loving the moments after the climactic final fight, I purchased the Midway Arcade Treasures game for PSP which contains MK3.  After a good bit of cursing and improving my skills, 16 years after its release, I have beaten MK3.  And I actually like the game now.  It will never replace the grandeur of MKII for me, but I get it now, and I see how well the new game reflected its influence on the series. 

At that point I felt like my life playing Mortal Kombat had come full circle.  I grew up playing the old games.  I grew disinterested in the series starting at MK3, a score that I had never settled.  I fell in love with the new game and its great respect for what had come before it.  And that led me to a new appreciation of the third game in the series, which I had previously considered the beginning of MK’s descent into worse and worse titles.

And there were so many wonderful moments through that new story line.  Johnny Cage quips about calling him “crazy with a K” since all words starting with “c” in the Mortal Kombat universe are converted to k’s.  Motaro, the penultimate boss fight of MK3, who is widely regarded as one of the cheapest and most difficult bosses in fighting game history, is relegated to a background character who is killed off-screen.  His body is shown to the player via cut-scene as a means of saying, “Here, he’s dead, you don’t have to re-live this horrible fight too!”  There are subtle character animations that are reminiscent of moments from the Mortal Kombat film.  There are lines in the cut scenes that conjure memories of some of the other MK games, such as when a reference is made to a “deadly alliance.” 

I kould go on and on, but I’ll stop here.  I kan’t say enough good things about this game.  It truly is a flawless victory.

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