2023 is set to be one heck of a year for fighting game fans! Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Tekken will battle for fighting game superiority once again, forcing gamers to pledge their allegiances. Street Fighter 6 released on the 2nd June to wide critical acclaim. Meanwhile, Tekken 8 looks to release at the end of 2023 or early 2024. Either way, Tekken 8 has a closed network test from the 28th July.
In the middle of these is Mortal Kombat 1, which has a confirmed release date of the 19th September. As much as I anticpate Tekken‘s eighth main-series instalment, Mortal Kombat 1 is the fighting game I’m most hyped for. In just three trailers, I’m incredibly excited for MK‘s twelfth main-series installment: Let’s talk about why.
A New Tale Unfolds
At the end of Mortal Kombat 11, protagonist Lui Kang becomes Fire God and is tasked with rebuilding his timeline. This leads us to the events we’ve seen unfold so far in trailers. Deuteragonist Raiden has subverted and swapped his traditional Mortal Kombat role with Lui Kang – a change that, after 30 plus years of Mortal Kombat, can provide further depth and development for both characters.
Speaking of character development, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Mileena and Kitana were also shown in the first two trailers. Interestingly, the stereotypical relationships between these characters have been subverted. Now allies, it will be intriguing to see the updated dynamics between these characters – and if they remain allies throughout the game’s story.
Seeing the likes of Kenshi and Rain take potentially prominent roles so early into this new timeline creates further excitement for this new story, further emphasising drastic narrative changes. Kung Lao, Johnny Cage and Smoke are also confirmed for Mortal Kombat 1‘s playable roster.
Following his influence in the DLC of Mortal Kombat 11 (and an ending in which he gains Lui Kang’s godly abilities and conquers all the realms), iconic villain Shang Tsung also makes an appearance in Mortal Kombat 1’s initial trailers. A point of note is how Shang Tsung appears from what we assume to be a portal between timelines, implying an adventure across time that may place Shang Tsung as the big baddie.
Aside from Shang Tsung, we know nothing of the other key antagonists in Mortal Kombat 1. Rain appears as a foe – plus Bi-Han’s Sub-Zero and Mileena could potentially switch sides – but otherwise, the roster so far is majority heroes. Will we see Quan Chi, Shao Kahn, Shinnok or ‘The Dragon King’ Onaga? There’s yet to be an indication of who else will emerge as a foe (although I would love for Quan Chi to return, with a reforming of The Deadly Alliance alongside Shang Tsung).
Why I Love Kameo Fighters
In terms of functionality, Kameo Fighters will undeniably offer depth to gameplay. ‘Kameos dramatically enhance every fight, assisting teammates with their own Special Moves, Throws and defensive Breakers.’ Beyond being merely a gimmick, Kameos are now a core component of the MK formula. Replayability is everything to a fighting game, and the introduction of Kameos can give MK the edge.
Characters lost in the shuffle could finally return to the spotlight. Mortal Kombat rosters are often on the smaller side – especially when compared to Super Smash Bros. and Tekken – aiming for quality over quantity. After all, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, with its gargantuan roster, was heavily criticised for a lack of identity for each character. Kameos provide a glorious opportunity for characters who otherwise would have zero chance of making the Mortal Kombat 1 roster – Cyrax, Sektor and Goro are prime examples of this.
It’s unlikely we’ll see many (if any) of the newer characters appear as playable fighters. Subsequently, a place on the Kameo character roster for Kotal Kahn, Erron Black or Cassie Cage will at least keep them relevant. Meanwhile, having Kameos creates the opportunity to bench mainstays on the Mortal Kombat roster while maintaing their presence. We’ve already seen that Sonya Blade, Jax and Kano will appear in Kameo form. Conversely, it’s exciting to see Kenshi, Rain and Smoke return to the playable roster!
I’m curious to know if other Kameo Fighters will be made playable characters. So far Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Kung Lao – the first two essentially being Mortal Kombat‘s mascots – appear as both. I’ll personally be content with Kameo Fighters mentioned previously taking a backseat for one game, especially if it means the likes of Ashrah, Ermac or Havik make the cut for the base roster. However, I feel as though some players will miss having the opportunity to play as mainstays. For example, both Sonya and Kano have been prominent since back in 1992.
Which Characters Could Make the Cut?
As mentioned, it will be interesting to see just how many characters will be Kameo Fighters and playable. However, limiting this to just the trio mentioned would make Mortal Kombat 1 an incredible opportunity to popularise long-lost characters again. Havik, Reiko, Onaga and Ashrah have somehow not been playable since Mortal Kombat: Armageddon… a staggering 17 years ago! As for fan-favourites, including Reptile and Ermac, it’s time for them to return. I only wish Noob Saibot was to return as a playable character since he was my main for MK11. He will likely be a Kameo Fighter at best, with Bi-Han being solely Sub-Zero, according to trailers.
What Else Have We Seen?
From the stages we’ve seen, I’m excited! MK doesn’t often traverse urban aesthetics with its stage design, with often otherworldly locations at the forefront. So, to see the likes of a mansion and inside a traditional Chinese building could mean this game will offer stage design unlike anything previously in an MK game.
As for gameplay, it takes a significant amount from Mortal Kombat 11, but graphically, it takes leaps and bounds. Stages are more stunning than ever, and fatalities are brutal. Every new Mortal Kombat game wows me with its visceral gore, but this is better than ever!
Verdict Thus Far
With just two months until release, there are plenty of characters – Kameo or playable – yet to be revealed. Stages, narrative beats and much more are set to be announced, making the coming weeks intriguing, to say the least. With an already promising roster and sizable changes, this could be a superb game. Mortal Kombat 1 is make or break due to the releases of rival franchises. Optimistically, I believe that Mortal Kombat 1 will at least rival competitors, if not exceed them.