A Look At Mortal Kombat Fighting Game's Innovative Cycle
Mortal Kombat is one franchise that's gotten mixed reception throughout the years. From overly repetitive gameplay with the use of High Punch, Low Punch, High Kick and Low Kick to innovating, the game has its shares of ups and downs. It's time to take a look at how the gameplay evolved throughout the franchise.
Mortal Kombat 1 to Mortal Kombat Trilogy
The first Mortal Kombat game (which has aged badly) started out the use of digitized graphics and the use of finishing moves. It's the very game that launched the rating system for video games showing that video games are not just for children! The game was met with some issues of balancing against unplayable boss characters. Goro was that hard to defeat as one punch took nearly a quarter of your character's health. Shang Tsung could morph into other characters making him a real pain in the ass.
Mortal Kombat II innovated from 7 to 12 characters. The hidden Reptile was made playable give his own moves while Shang Tsung was now demoted to a regular character. Shang Tsung could still morph (both CPU and the player) which had some balancing issues. A lot of characters were pretty much imbalanced like Kitana and Mileena. The game introduced alternative finishing moves such as Friendships and Babalities which required you not to use a kick in the round you won. It was a good challenge and the game was ported into Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks as an in-game content.
Mortal Kombat 3 met several upgrades. The first game was infamous for its balancing issues like Kabal was one of the cheapest characters ever. Motaro was also the boss that you'd really hate because he reflects all projectiles back at you. Shao Kahn just got tougher and I think MK3 and all its updates made this Shao Kahn the hardest! Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 made the gameplay more balanced and returned several ninja characters on the spot. Mortal Kombat Trilogy game as a console-only game for the Playstation, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64. Both Playstation and Saturn returned Goro and Kintaro making them playable with Motaro and Shao Kahn. But the game was met with balancing issues.
Mortal Kombat 4/Gold
Mortal Kombat 4 was when Mortal Kombat entered into the 3D era. It was a nice touch with more responsive controls and some new characters. But I felt a lot of the characters were not that memorable and that the whole sidestepping on foreground/background was incredibly annoying. Sidestepping can work in some fighting game franchises but Mortal Kombat is definitely not one of them. Plus, I thought Shinnok for the god of Hell wasn't even given so much of a frightening atmosphere as Shao Kahn. Instead, he ends up as the game's version of Loki. The game still used the overly repetitive fight scheme that made it too accessible.
The PS2 era (excluding Shaolin Monks since it was an adventure game)
Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance was the game's entry into the 3D world. The innovation was pretty much welcome at that time which featured you switching in between three different fighting styles: one weapon style and two hand to hand combat styles. The game tried to define innovation by killing off Liu Kang (for the mean time) but ended up returning him in the succeeding game. The game lacked familiarity with the old fans but had captured newer fans. The problem though was that this was the beginning of adding sidestepping into the game for some time.
Mortal Kombat Deception managed to smooth out a lot of rough edges from Deadly Alliance. Death Traps (ring outs) replaced Stage Fatalities which can grant an easy victory. Konquest Mode involved the main protagonist Shujinko's travels which led to the story's events. Liu Kang is back as an unlockable but appears as "Evil Liu Kang". They may have gotten the idea from Street Fighter's Evil Ryu. The game got rid of the cheesy impalement move, returned the uppercuts (but a series of variations) and the game managed to get the attention of critics. A lot. The game featured the badly needed monster boss in Onaga who I'd say is a more improved version of Tekken 3's True Ogre. He was big, bad and scary plus the final boss fight was a challenge since he can't be harmed by projectiles. One needed to rethink one's strategies as a single knock from him can end you while you can't do a death trap on Onaga.
Mortal Kombat Armageddon reduced the fighting style numbers to two per character, returned every character in the franchise and turned Motaro from a Centaur into a Minotaur. The game introduced a better version of the Konquest Mode from Deception all the while introducing the super duper annoying Kreate A Fatality. Kreate A Fatality as an innovation got rid of the well-loved passive fatalities. It was nice at first but it got super boring later. The game wasn't so well-received and I honestly don't want to play it again.
The Playstation 3/XBox One era
Mortal Kombat's first entry into the seventh generation arena was the crossover Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. It was an attempt to do their own version of Marvel vs. Capcom. Sad to say, Marvel was bought by Disney and it wasn't Mortal Kombat vs. Marvel Universe. The game got rid of the three fighting styles per character in exchange for a more accessible engine. It was the use of Tekken's one button per limb while keeping the sidestepping as part of gameplay. The game tried to d a T rated Mortal Kombat game which didn't so well for the fans. It had mixed reception and isn't that well remembered as the reboot. It's because it didn't have that "familiar spirit" with the fans.
After Midway went bankrupt and was later bought by Warner Bros., Netherream Studios was created and Mortal Kombat had a reboot. The game was still called Mortal Kombat (the same as the first title) but fans refer to it as Mortal Kombat "9" even if Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was obviously not canon like Marvel vs. Capcom. The game had a lot of going back to old and introducing the new. The game went back to a 2D fighting plane to return it back to the "old school" mechanics just as Street Fighter stayed in the 2D fighting plane while having 3D graphics. The one button per limb gameplay stayed with more accessible gameplay with the combination of some other stuff like the an enhanced special move, Combo Breaker from Deception and the X-Ray Combo which depended on the super meter. The super meter was filled either by doing special moves or getting hit by your opponent compared to Street Fighter's where every punch or kick filled it up. Stage fatalities were returned in the place of overly cheap death traps. The game also added Tag Team Mode which redefined 2 vs. 2 gameplay to up to four players.
Mortal Kombat X
Mortal Kombat X focused on modifying the Mortal Kombat fighting engine. At the same time, it was plagued with one innovation I pretty hate when it comes to gaming: MICROTRANSACTIONS. I can't deny how the microtransactions can be very painful to one's wallet. There was pre-order to play as Goro. Then you had to purchase other characters rather than unlock them. The first pack didn't have the Stage Fatalities until the arrival of Season 2 Kombat Pack. The game did add an interesting concept called Variations. It's like a redo of Street Fighter Alpha 3's choose your I-Ism which features three different ways to play as your character. It also had the newly improved brutalities which were special moves that can end the match without having to perform a fatality. It was yet another challenge as certain requirements had to be met before a Brutality could be done. It's a huge improvement from the Street Fighter engine. At the same time, the legendary Story Mode isn't as good as it was during the last game. While the game has the Endless Tower (similar to Tekken's endless mode) as well as other cool features.