Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mortal Kombat X Story Mode Review

 So at this very moment (March 3rd), the trailer for Johnny Cage and his now ex-wife Sonya Blade has just been released. I figured I should start writing my thoughts on this game before it's released so I don't have to try and remember the time when the game wasn't released. I have never been more excited for a game in my life! And this includes wrestling games. "Mortal Kombat" for me was a coming of age almost, not just for the graphic violence but for the middle school watercooler talk of having beaten it. I have been madly in love with "Mortal Kombat" since 1992's Home Console release (via Sega Genesis), I loved the characters, the violence and more importantly, the storyline!

Never has a fighting game immersed me in their world as much as "Mortal Kombat" did. Sure, I can appreciate the bright colors and grandiose moveset of "Street Fighter", the old world backdrop, cuteness of Talim and the insane Harley Quinn-like beauty of Tira in "Soul Calibur", but NOTHING, NOTHING comes close to "Mortal Kombat". Sadly, "Mortal Kombat" has been on life support somewhat since "Mortal Kombat 4" and it's introduction of 3D. While the titles after "Mortal Kombat 4" did alright, they failed to capture the magic of the 1st "Mortal Kombat".

That is until 2011, NetherRealm Studios went back to basics and released "Mortal Kombat", not "Mortal Kombat 9" but "Mortal Kombat" going back to square one with a MAJOR TWIST! "Mortal Kombat" managed to cram the storylines of "Mortal Kombats I, II & III" in ONE GAME and change significant parts of the story to make it appeal to fans again not only rebooting the franchise in a spectacular way but giving it life again. At the end of 2011's "Mortal Kombat", damn near every major character was killed leaving a whole slew of villains alive.

I was wondering how all of this was going to come together, were they going to rehash "Mortal Kombat 4", were they going to take everything in a different direction? What characters were we going to get? As the years progressed, suddenly a comic book series was announced and a trailer was released and my jaw hit the floor. "Mortal Kombat" had introduced new characters before but those new characters failed to capture the interest of fans (after all, do people really care about Hotaru or Mavado or Darrius or Kobra, that lame ass Ken wanna-be? I sure as hell didn't.). But these new characters, D'Vorah, Ferra & Torr, Kotal Kahn (my personal favorite) and Fan Favorite Erron Black, seem to capture the interest and attention of fans everywhere.

Not only those characters, but the son of the only break out character from the latter MK Games, Kenshi, Takeda Takahashi, the daughter of Johnny Cage & Sonya Blade, Cassie Cage, the daughter of Jax, Jaqui Briggs and descendant of Kung Lao, Kung Jin have managed to capture fan's attention as well. With the way "Mortal Kombat" ended back in 2011, with a dead Shoa Kahn, an accidentally murdered Liu Kang and 80% of the good guys dead, enslaved in The Netherrealm and serving Quan Chi and the only remaining good guys being Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade & Raiden, I was now more excited than ever to see where the story went from here...

And now the moment we've all (or at least me and the great people at THE BEST MKX PAGE) been waiting for, "MORTAL KOMBAT X" is upon us *in Brian Thompson as Shao Kahn voice* and that's not to say that there aren't so good things about this story. So before we cover the bad stuff, let's address the good things. For starters, the new characters, Takeda, Cassie, Jaqui & Kung Jin are very well developed.

One of the big problems in the later MK Titles is a lack of characters we actually care about, as I've mentioned before. "Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance" introduced quite a few new characters along with "Deception", by the time we got to "Armageddon", we've gotten so many characters we only cared about the originals. This isn't to say new characters can't be interesting but if you're going to introduce new characters they need to have some connection to old characters or be unique enough to stand on their own. As an example, Frost was a liked enough character due to her connection to Sub-Zero, Kenshi broke out because he was a blind swordsman...with telekinesis...and that's cool. Cassie, Takeda, Jaqui & Kung Jin all have past connections to other familiar characters to make us care about them and they all have unique and interesting movesets to distinguish who from who.

My favorite scene was the scene when Cassie and her team were in the brig of the ship and they were discussing their respective families, not something you really see a lot of in fighting games, not to mention the flashbacks (which Cassie & Jaqui didn't have) really helped solidify these characters as their own people and make us care about seeing them advance to the next level. Also the story did a good job of introducing them as the next generation and despite the many gripes I have about the story so far, I have to say that I am interested in these characters and where they'll end up. However, despite their heroics, I don't feel that any of these characters are quite the hero character we've been looking for. We can all point to Liu Kang as the hero of the early "Mortal Kombat" series, but in these later games, despite the many breakout characters, Liu Kang's shoes have yet to be filled...and despite everything a glowing green Cassie Cage doesn't quite do it.

Another really good aspect of this game is the fact that it builds the world of Mortal Kombat, not just Outworld, but a world post Shao Kahn's invasion. Something that the other games lacked was an acknowledgement that the world is now a VERY different place after the Outworld Invasion. In the opening of the Mortal Kombat 3 section of "Mortal Kombat", Stryker & Kabal are facing off against Reptile and we actually see a city under siege by Outworld forces. Now that we're in the aftermath of that, it's awesome to see Earthrealm & Outworld no longer in an antagonistic relationship. And it's also great to see the political implications of being aware of other realms and things of the sort. Knowing that there are Senators and Government officials involved. This is something comicbooks lack, and that's a general acknowledgment of just how weird their universe is. "Mortal Kombat X" managed to not only make that apparent, but address it and adapt to those facts with things like the Reiko Accord, diplomatic missions, and Outworld Refugee camps, all of that was very interesting.

Now on to the bad stuff. For as much interest as I've had for the character of Kotal Kahn...I hate to say this but...he's kind of a bitch. I understand he's assuming power as Outworld's new Emperor but aside from his impressive frame, he's not the most apt fighter, and aside from being solar powered, he hasn't shown himself to be that proficient in magic. Shao Kahn was a practitioner of Black Magic, Martial Arts and other forms of arcane arts, not to mention he created Ermac and was strong enough to take on the Elder Gods one on one. Shao Kahn's power largely comes from souls, but Kotal Kahn is Solar Powered and doesn't seem to rely on this strength very much.

Shao Kahn also managed to kill the unkillable Dragon King Onaga to assume the throne of Outworld, granted Shao Kahn poisoned him and would have most likely lost in hand to hand combat, but why split hairs? Kotal Kahn's coup of Outworld was merely contingent on the fact that no one really wanted Mileena to rule and saw her as an illegitimate heir. Kotal Kahn has never shown himself to be capable of rule, he's not savvy, he's not forceful and is kind of a coward. Upon realizing that D'Vorah betrayed him, instead of joining Earthrealm in their war against Shinnok, Kotal Kahn decides to appease Shinnok by killing the Earthrealm warriors himself in hope that Shinnok would spare Outworld. This is something of a contradiction to his behavior in the comic book when Kotal Kahn admonishes his father for giving up to Shao Kahn.

For as much as they could have done with Kotal Kahn being a somewhat civil Emperor of Outworld, I think they dropped the ball on really developing his character and his exact relationship with Earthrealm. Going back to what I said earlier about Earth being a VERY different place, perhaps if we've had flashbacks of Kotal Kahn and his Outworld delegates meeting with Senators and signing treaties, it'd have gone a long way to establishing him as a man in charge. And yes, I understand that with a video game, especially a fighting a game, there's only so much you can do, but in the opening of "The Last Of Us" we managed to get several years of events within the opening credits, "Mortal Kombat X" could've benefited from something like that. But with that being said, I like that Outworld wasn't at war with Earthrealm, granted that changed but it was interesting while it lasted. Also, what's up with the color change of Kotal Kahn? In the comic book Kotal Kahn has been blue all his life, but in the game, we see Kotal Kahn as a grown man and he's White. Before I realized who he was, I thought it was Torr from the Ferra/Torr duo.

Explain this.

Another issue I have is that there is no mention of The Kamidogu AT ALL. For an object that is heavily featured in the comic book, it's completely absent from the game. I understand that The Kamidogu was introduced in later games, but with it's reintroduction in the comic books as a series of daggers with extremely dangerous properties would have certainly connected the two works (which Ed Boon has stated are in fact canon). I understand the focus was on Shinnok's amulet, but in previous Mortal Kombat continuity, that amulet is linked to The Kamidogus, in a sense that Onaga needed it to use their power. And considering several characters have used the Kamidogu and have went insane (including Kotal Kahn) and that they have some mysterious connection to Quan Chi, wouldn't have this been a much better thing to explore than a reimagining of "Mortal Kombat 4"?

And that's another issue I have with this story, it's basically a reimagining of "Mortal Kombat 4" minus a few characters (which I'll get into later) and a few twists here and there. Ed Boon constantly teased that the main villain of the series would be a surprise returning character...and with the ending of "Mortal Kombat", with Shinnok & Quan Chi declaring their war on Earthrealm, we knew Shinnok would be addressed...but that's not a surprise, it was basically announced that Shinnok would be apart of this game. Many people suspected Onaga would come back, Reiko would take center stage and although I'd have loved that completely, I was going in the opposite direction hoping that the main villain would be a now Netherrealmed up Liu Kang, finally fed up with Raiden's B.S. and planning to take his position to protect Earthrealm his own way. That's entirely far fetched considering his ending in the previous game.


But no, the surprise returning character was just Shinnok...which we already knew. Credit where credit is due, this game did managed to solidify Shinnok as a legitimate threat, other than an Shang Tsung on steroids. Also his careless handling of Johnny Cage (before his powers kicked in) was pretty awesome and showcased just how powerful Shinnok is. However, that being said, I'm confused about the power differentiation in "Mortal Kombat". Raiden is merely a God and can be injured in combat but I'm assuming he heals quickly. Raiden has a soul which means he's able to die and does in fact bleed, but what about Elder Gods? Bo Rai Cho makes a comment saying "if only he (Shinnok) were mortal." which leads me to believe that the differentiation between Gods & Elder Gods is that Elder Gods are immortal. This is made a bit more evident when later on in the Mortal Kombat series Raiden becomes an Elder God and later sacrifices himself by self-destruction to destroy Onaga and is eventually restored.

Finally, and this is more of a personal complaint but it's related to the comment of a "surprising returning character". The game's lack of Reiko & Rain. Reiko and Rain are both HEAVILY ambitious characters who are masters of manipulation and are seeking to claim their "rightful" places. Had these characters been revealed to be the grand architects behind the Outworld civil war and been playing both sides of the war in order to amass power, that'd have been an interesting place to go for this game instead of rehashing "Mortal Kombat 4". And I'm not just saying that because I really like Reiko and Rain. I'm saying that because since their introductions, Rain has been seeking to claim his place as a god and ruler, with Shao Kahn gone, now might've been the best time for him realize that goal, and Reiko has always been a character seeking to amass power. I understand Reiko was probably handled in the comic books...but still it leaves a sour taste in my mouth that he was wasted.

Your time will come someday, Rain.

In conclusion, this game wasn't so much as the next step, but a bridge game. It's establishing new relationships, new characters and new dynamics. I'm disappointed with this game, but I am interested to see where they go from here, however a corrupted Raiden doesn't exactly sit well with me. Either way, "Mortal Kombat X" expanded it's universe more so than any other fighting game has and more than likely ever will, but they could be doing SO much more than doing what they did before. I'm very worried that this rehashing will cause them to make the same mistakes they've made in the past which nearly killed the franchised. Continue with the story modes, continue doing them like chapters, but shake things up a bit, push other characters and don't overload us on new ones. That's all I have to say. I'm curious where they're gonna go, but I'm disappointed in this game and the fact that we were pretty much lied to about the mysteries surrounding the exact nature of the story. Let me know what you think and I'll catch you guys later.

1 comment:

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