Fighting game fans have been spoiled with the brand new entry in NetherRealm Studios’ most popular gory brawler, Mortal Kombat. Set within a new era created by the Fire God Liu Kang, Mortal Kombat 1 offers a very ambiguous roster of characters, including several fighters revived from the 3D era, like Li Mei, Havik, and Nitara. As such, older fans who grew up with the earlier games will rejoice in seeing some of their old favorites make a return and be introduced to the newer generation. Despite the absence of any new characters introduced besides the odd NPC, certain new fans may be disappointed but may also find solace with the returning 3D era characters that haven’t been playable in 18 years.
Get Over Here!
Mortal Kombat 1 offers a brand new fighting system in the form of Kameos. Most of these take the form of classic characters like Jax, Sonya Blade, and Sub-Zero portrayed in their original appearances from the arcade fighters. Players can rack up some serious combos using these additional fighters, and NetherRealm even added singular fatalities to each Kameo fighter, mostly as improved versions of Klassic fatalities, like Scorpions flaming Toasty!!! fatality. Certain characters mix better than others, so players are encouraged to try every Kameo fighter with their favorite main to see what works best. Fatal Blows make a comeback and feature heavily detailed X-ray-styled attacks that would incapacitate the most fearsome of warriors. It’s always surprising to see characters walk off shattered spines and broken bones, but alas, Mortal Kombat has always been a little bit goofy. Krushing Blows fail to make an appearance this time around, but the amount of damage one can rack up on an opponent with new mid-air combos and Kameo backups leave plenty of room for massive damage numbers.
I Need Backup!
Kameos can also assist characters with their own special traits. For example, Kung Lao can pull you under the stage and behind the opponent for a sneaky combo, and Cyrax can shoot a net towards the opposing fighter, entrapping them for a short while making them vulnerable for punishment. Main fighters can rack up insane combos with no-meter burn by collaborating with different Kameos, reaching possibilities of 60% or more if the right Kameo is selected. There are even Kameo fatalities that help to just extend the pain of the opponent’s defeat a little further, consisting of mainly Klassic fatalities from the older games but also reimagined ones for returning 3D-era Kharacters like Darrius.
Enter the New Era
In 2011, Mortal Kombat was revived by introducing fantastic fatalities and an immersive story that was titular to the experience of the new generations. In Mortal Kombat 1, this story is only improved upon by reviving old characters, building new stories for continued characters, and creating a brand new universe for fans of old and new. Fire God Liu Kang has created an updated universe involving Queen Sindel as the Ruler of Outworld, Raiden as the Champion of Earthrealm, and Baraka as an unlikely ally to our heroes. Mortal Kombat comes with its own twists and turns that I won’t go into serious detail on, but fans may want to expect the upcoming revival of a new but familiar deadly alliance…
Test Your Patience!
Mortal Kombat 1 decided to remove its iconic Krypt entirely and replaced it with a brand new mode called Invasions. Players can select a main roster and a Kameo fighter to adventure through several different RPG-styled zones, beautifully designed around several Mortal Kombat locations that involve secret fights and ambushes, shops, Towers, and much more. Fighters have their own individual levels with different categories like health, attack power, and defense, all of which can be improved with points earned from leveling. Invasions is the only way to unlock certain kameo fighters like Motaro, the four-legged man-beast making his return since Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Invasions is a fun addition to Mortal Kombat 1, but the pacing can be particularly slow, from the amount of time it can take to move from one node to another to the tedious secret fights and ambushes that offer very little reward besides a few mediocre consumables.
Not Enough Red Paint…
Visually, Mortal Kombat 1 is the most colorful and appealing game in the franchise yet. Several stages that players can fight in are drop-dead gorgeous, such as Sun Do, the sprawling capital city of Outworld, and the Wu-Shi Academy, a training ground for monks and those wishing to partake in the Mortal Kombat tournament as Champions of Earthrealm. Most stages can switch between day and night cycles, with different events happening in the background. For instance, at dawn, Sun-Do’s festivities are ongoing and filled with crowds, compared to nighttime when lanterns and fireworks light up the night sky, adding much more diversity to stage selection in-game.
Without a doubt, Mortal Kombat has reigned supreme as the king of fighting games and shows no sign of slowing down. New, innovative ideas keep the 12th entry in the franchise interesting, and its fantastic cast of characters is given more backstory, sparking further interest in their lives and why they became the fighters they are now. Alas, Mortal Kombat 1 has considerably more flaws than I’d like to see. The absence of diversity in Towers is clear, and the final boss fight is quite disappointing. Invasions mode feels very tedious and grindy at times, but the story mode is as impressive as ever, with a cast of characters that more than deserved the spotlight.
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 19th September 2023