31 August 2011
Forgotten Worlds - Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection
I may be a bit late on this tidbit, but I recently found a website from Namco Bandai that allows you to play the world's biggest game of Pac-Man. Basically, it's a version of Pac-Man that is swelling with user created levels and continues to grow. You can even create your own personalized levels and add to the collection. I created a level based on another Namco classic celebrating its 30th anniversary (as if you need to guess). Start out with my custom level here, then create and explore this enormous Pac-Man game to your heart's content.
Fans of Ms. Splosion Man who have Pinball FX2, exclusively for XBOX 360, should check out the new pinball table based on Twisted Pixel's explosive valley girl. Download the trial version for free (Pinball FX2 is also free to download, if you don't have it, yet) and play it for yourself.
Also available, this week, is a collection of one of the most controversial arcade franchises in history. Mortal Kombat has been showering gamers with blood and gore since 1992 (which means it's one year short of its 20th anniversary). Since then, the series has had its ups and downs. Sure, there have been some decent games after the first three, but they couldn't recapture the awesomeness of the original games. They tried adding weapons, multiple fighting styles, crossovers with comic book superheroes (which was a stupid idea), and even offshoot games (which was even worse). Nothing could completely win over gamers quite like the original trilogy.
When Midway went out of business, Mortal Kombat seemed to die with it, until Warner Bros. picked up the intellectual property and Ed Boon worked on resuscitating the franchise with a more back-to-basics approach that returned, somewhat, to the original style of gameplay, but pushed the envelope on the characteristic gore and brutality that made the series extremely popular back in the day.
This week, NetherRealm studios (the team that was reborn from the ashes of Midway Games) released a downloadable collection of the first three Mortal Kombat games: Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection. Sure, all three of these games have been available in previous arcade classic collections, but this one adds loads more extras, such as new visual modes (including one that makes it look like you're playing the game on a curved CRT monitor, giving you the feeling of being back in the old arcades. On top of the cosmetic extras, you can play against people online, which seems to be a must for fighting games, these days.
I played the demo of this collection and it brought back memories, for me. Back in those days, Mortal Kombat introduced a different style of fighting game. Most fighting games used to be clones of Street Fighter II, which dominated arcades the year before. Mortal Kombat was different in many ways. Aside from the obvious, the game used a different control scheme; there were high and low attacks for both kicks and punches, plus a block button. You had to enter a button combination to pull off the famous Fatalities. There were secrets and Easter eggs to uncover during gameplay. It was an entirely new philosophy on how to create a fighting game.
I remember seeing Mortal Kombat for the first time at the local bowling alley and it blew my mind. I watched my brother and my friends play it (I actually sucked at Mortal Kombat, since I was more accustomed to Street Fighter II). The game had this irresistible combination of digitized sprites of real actors, uncensored violence and brutality, and a story and atmosphere that reminded me of Enter the Dragon.
Of course, when the game was announced for home systems, my brother and I had to have it. Unfortunately, there was a reason why arcades were still doing pretty well during the early '90s: ports of arcade games remained inferior to the originals. Mortal Kombat was no exception. We got the Super Nintendo version of the game and were extremely disappointed in the result. All of the awesome crap was watered down. They changed the blood to look like sweat (though it looked like the characters were bleeding sand) and the Fatalities were heavily doctored. Nintendo's censorship in their games ruined what could have been a great port. Even though Sega had no problem with the blood and gore, the godawful graphics and sound screwed up the Genesis port. It was best just to stick with the arcade version.
1993 saw the rise of Mortal Kombat II, which improved upon every aspect of the original. Better graphics and sound, new characters, new moves and Fatalities (including Babalities and Friendships, which made fun of the controversy surrounding the first game). Gone was the storyline of a Shaolin tournament taken over by a shapeshifting mastermind, which was replaced by a fight against an inter-dimensional warlord and his cadre of fighters, sorcerers, and assassins. By this point, the story wasn't so convoluted and ridiculous yet, so I actually enjoyed it. The otherworldly aspects of the setting were kind of cool. Of course, my brother and I got this on the Super Nintendo, but only because they recanted their stance on censorship. This port of MK II left all the blood and violence in, much to the delight of many gamers.
Then came Mortal Kombat 3 and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (which became the definitive version), which felt like a step down, in some ways. A lot of things changed in the two years since MK II. The game became extremely dependent on doing combos, which kind of distanced me further from the fighting engine. Even more characters were added to the roster, which tangled the storyline with a bunch of subplots. The graphics were better than the first two, but the stages and new characters felt uninspired. I'll admit, it was still enjoyable to watch, but it wasn't as fun as the first two games.
After Mortal Kombat 4, a lot of gamers abandoned the series. By this point, the story was too involved with too many characters that it was not worth following. It also didn't help that things were getting stale, gameplay-wise. I've played some of the console sequels, like Armageddon, but it just wasn't the same.
That's why it's refreshing to have this collection of the first three games available. While I still suck at them, it does remind me of a young gamer who used to ride his bike down the street to play all the new arcade games. The hell with Quan Chi and Shinnok, screw the DC crossover, and Bo' Rai Cho can suck it. Give me the classic MK trilogy any day.