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Mortal Kombat

Ed Boon, thank you.

Thank you for giving Mortal Kombat the shot in the arm it needed. Thank you for finally ironing out a true story for the first three installments without completely compromising the history. Thank you for changing what didn’t work the first time around. Thank you for enlisting the wonderful people at Netherrealm Studios to create a game that can take back its place as the “King of Fighters”.

But more importantly, thank you for bringing back my childhood.

I’ve detailed before how much Mortal Kombat has meant to me over the years, and unfortunately Kevin Tancheroen beat me to the punch on creating a new live-action series for it (was always something of a dream project.) With this latest installment, my relationship with Mortal Kombat can be summed up like this; it’s as if an ex-girlfriend left you, realized she was wrong, and now you’re back and better than ever.

Yes folks, this is far and away the best Mortal Kombat to date.

Sure, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 may still win in some player’s minds for nostalgia purposes, but it lacks the depth and (in some ways) the care that went into this new game.

The gameplay is the first thing that’s been altered, very much for the better.  It has a balance that was lacking in previous installments and even current favorite Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Lesser-known characters like Stryker and Kabal can now hold a candle to the heavy-hitters like Sub-Zero, Smoke or Liu Kang. In fact if there’s any fault it’s that Scorpion is way too overpowered (more on this later,) but on the whole you can essentially win with every character. Best of all, there’s no more need to enter sixty buttons for one move (at worst, I’ve had to enter four buttons, but never beyond that.) It makes the game accessible, and also allows hardcore gamers to string combos together in a simpler fashion.

Aside from outclassing every fighter not named BlazBlue, this Kombat features a meaty story mode that puts most of the competition to shame (again, here’s lookin’ at you Capcom and Namco.) While you still have the traditional “ladder” (or arcade) style and receiving a character’s ending, NetherRealm gives us a robust story mode that does indeed cover all three Mortal Kombat’s. It’s an engaging and entertaining way of re-telling the klassic to story to long-time fans like myself, and also a great way of giving the game longevity. As for the story itself, the dialogue is a mess, but like any fun film, it doesn’t matter as long as the story is there. Thankfully, it makes its mark, and might be the best Boon and company has given us.

Next to story mode, is a grueling Challenge Tower that will remind fans of yesteryear why they slammed their controllers down in the first place.  It’s borderline ridiculous at times with the difficulty, but then again Mortal Kombat was never known for being particularly easy. Personally, I’m split; on the one hand I love how grueling it can be, as I hate my games to last mere hours. However, I do believe some of the 300 challenges are so difficult just to be so ridiculous (for example: three Goro’s with one lifebar.*) You DO have the option to buy past them with Koins, but then what’s the fun in that.

In the end though, I feel all my minor complaints at the game are nitpicky. This is the game NetherRealm Studios promised us one year ago at E3, and the final product more than exceeded those lofty expectations. For new gamers, get ready to experience why this series is a landmark in gaming and how the sins of the last couple of installments are forgiven. For people like me who have been with the series since the beginning, this is a throwback. The game harkens back to how it felt to approach that arcade machine for the first time and start up your first fight.  This is the game Boon and Tobias always wanted to make, and more importantly, this is Mortal Kombat how it should be.

Now, please don’t ever leave us again.

* – There are tougher challenges, but this is the first one that came to mind.

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