« Concentrated Dose of Stupid | Main | iPhone Game Review: Eliss »

The Mystery of Mortal Kombat

To celebrate my recent purchase of a shiny new Madcatz Street Fighter IV Tournament Edition Fightstick, I began scouring Xbox Live Marketplace for any demos of fighting games I might have missed. There wasn’t too much to be found, honestly, but one I did happen across was Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.

It was only five dollars!

Ah, what could be better than a bit of old-school nostalgic fun with the wacky cast of Mortal Kombat, right?

So I plugged in my stick and fired up the demo. After only a few minutes, I was left with one question.

How in Raiden’s name did anybody ever like this game?

All the characters play the same. There’s no variety in move sets, aside from a couple of lousy special attacks per character. The movement is slow and plodding.

Oh yeah, and the game has the worst, most frustrating AI in the history of everything ever created by man.

I’ve poured over 40 hours into Street Fighter IV at this point (a small number by hardcore standards, but a lot from my more casual standpoint) and I’ve put nearly 30 into BlazBlue. These are games are different from Mortal Kombat, but surely the 2D fighting game basics I learned in them would translate into at least enough basic knowledge to beat the first character on novice difficulty in arcade mode, right?


I’m not ashamed to admit, Kitana handed me my ass over and over and over again as I tried out an assortment of stupid-looking characters trying desperately to get the hang of one of them. Never mind that they all played exactly the same, I thought that surely one of those times I would be able to beat her.

And I did, eventually, through sheer dumb luck. Yay for me. Then I was promptly defeated by enemy number two.

See, the problem with the AI isn’t just its difficulty. Oh, it has plenty of that, don’t get me wrong. But good fighting game AI will make you feel like you’re fighting against another person (at least to as large an extent as possible). Mortal Kombat seems to revel in its cheap, cheating, cheesy AI.

At no point did it come even close to fooling me into thinking I was playing against something smart. I was simply playing against a series of canned responses. Had I spent more time with the game and figured out some of its patterns and learned more good patterns myself I could have gotten farther. But as that would have been the opposite of fun, I did not.

Some deep, dark part of me has a strange fondness for the Mortal Kombat characters. I can’t explain why. I hated all the MK games as kid, too. My next door neighbor used to sucker me into fighting him all the time and continually beat me to a pulp because I had no idea what I was doing and he didn’t bother to tell me. My times with every Mortal Kombat game I’ve ever played have been almost universally negative, with the sole exception of playing the surprisingly decent Shaolin Monks with a friend.

Despite all of this, I still occasionally play an MK game, hoping to find something decent and justify spending more time with these terrible characters I love for some reason, yet it rejects me every time because, well, all of the games are absolutely terrible.

Street Fighter holds up well and is still playable to this day.

Mortal Kombat is a giant pile of crap and always was.

I suppose I was hoping to fire up the Ultimate MK3 demo and find something decently fun enough to relive a couple of memories for a few bucks. Maybe I was even hoping for an experience like I’ve had with Street Fighter IV recently, where I finally discover the game’s hidden secrets and find out why it’s so much fun for so many.

But to have an experience like that, I suppose the game would have to be good.

Even the port of the terrible game was terrible. The menus were basic, amateurish, and ugly and the game had almost no options. I couldn’t even find a way to remap the controls to make them work better with my arcade stick. What arcade fighting game in its right mind, no matter how terrible, doesn’t allow players to easily use an arcade stick? Madness, I say. I know the game was an early example of an XBLA release, but man does it ever show how far we’ve come since the early days.

Well, I can definitely say this: had I bought this Xbox Live Arcade rendition of Ultimate MK3 based on some crazy notion of nostalgia that came from nowhere, it would have been the worst use of $5 I’ve had in quite some time.

Come to think of it, though, I haven’t tried Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe yet.... Maybe that one is better....


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>