Note: For The Koalition’s official review click here.
It’s been almost 20 years since Mortal Kombat first shook up the fighting genre with its digitized characters, ultra violent gameplay and a cool factor that not even Street Fighter could compete with. While Capcom was busy making slight improvements to a pre-existising game, Ed Boon and his team of four at Midway were ripping heads off, uppercut fools in to pits of spikes and performing heart surgery with bare hands.
Mortal Kombat was a cultural phenomenon, one that gave birth to a franchise which has since sold 30 million units. Although fans are currently enjoying MK9 (which is both the latest and best game in the series) it’s hard not to look back fondly on the first games in the series, particularly Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3. MK4 took the series down a dark 3D path where new, unlikable characters (such as Quan Chi and Jarek) muddied the waters.
Now that Mortal Kombat finally has its swag back, it seems like the perfect time to celebrate the origins of the series, and this downloadable compilation is the perfect way to do so. Featuring arcade ports of Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection is an essential purchase for anyone who still remembers how to perform fatalities with an arcade stick.
First released in 1992, Mortal Kombat caused uproar amongst parents which eventually lead to the birth of the ESRB rating system. In a time when Street Fighter II ruled the roost it was inevitable that a worthy opponent would one day rear its head. Featuring seven playable characters, gruesome fatalities and enough blood to make Snoop Dogg Crip Walk out of LA, Mortal Kombat quickly became the “coolest” game in town. However 20 years later this game just feels boring and antiquated. The gameplay is slow, the fatalities seem relatively tame and the complete lack of sexy ninja ladies is unacceptable! Playing alone is not recommended as the game just happens to be cursed with the cheapest. AI. ever! But versus match against another human being still contains traces of fun, even if it can only been seen while wearing rose-tinted glasses.
Mortal Kombat II
Mortal Kombat II is the definition of bigger, badder and better! First released in arcades just a year after its predecessor, MKII was a dramatic improvement in almost every way. More characters, faster gamplay, better graphics, bloodier fatalities and the inclusion of both Babalities and Friendships helped to make Mortal Kombat II one of the most cherished fighting games of all time. I won’t bore you with story details but as a child I fell in love with the games fiction which eventually lead to purchase of many MK-related comics. MKII was the ultimate refinement which transformed Mortal Kombat from a name in to a brand! New characters such as the aforementioned “sexy ninja ladies”, Tarkatan warlord ‘Baraka’ and Shaolin monk ‘Kung Lao’ were great additions which made the removal of Sonya and Kano easier to swallow. Once again playing alone is not recommended, neither is playing online unless you enjoy having to reboot your PS3 every 5 minutes but playing locally against an opponent who appreciates the game as much as you do will remind you of just how good 2D fighters can be.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
In 1995, after a handful of MK II ports, numerous comic book releases and a the production of a feature length movie it was time for Mortal Kombat to make it’s triumphant return to the arcades. Mortal Kombat 3 introduced many new gameplay elements such a run button, chain combos and Animalities. Once again the violence was turned up to 11 and the new characters were excellent additions to the series. Joining the fight was riot control officer ‘Stryker’, the disfigured, gas mask-wearing ‘Kabal’, and Cyrax & Sektor who were goddamned cyborgs! Kano and Sonya also made a return although many other key characters chose to stay at home during this third tournament. Raiden, Mileena, Kitana, Reptile and even Scorpion were all absent while Sub-Zero devolved from a cool suit-wearing ninja to a Hollywood actor with a scar across his face. These issues were resolved a few months later with the release of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. UMK3 saw the return of all the missing characters (which the exception of Raiden) and even bought back Classic Sub-Zero although it quickly became apparent that the unmasked Subby is actually superior. Up until the release of Mortal Kombat 2011, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was my personal favourite game in the series and it’s still a joy to play even 15 years later.
As much I respect Gary Swaby as both a writer and as a person I stongly disagree with several points made in his review. Yes 2011’s Mortal Kombat is vastly superior to all three titles in this collection but these games are still enjoyable in their own right. At $10/£6.29/800 Microsoft points MK:AK is also incredible value for money even if you only find yourself playing one of the included games. Graphically all three game have held up surprisingly well and the new graphical filters enhance the visuals even further. I also fell that this ‘Kollection’ was iconic in the audio department, both in terms of music and speech. How can you not smile inside after the announcement of a Fatality? Gary clearly has had a run in with Kano which resulted in his heart being removed! MK:AK also added a move list across all three games alleviating the need to search online for control inputs.
Even though I’m a huge fan of the series, not all is perfect in this Arcade Kollection. As Gary mentioned, the Gamespy powered online modes are practically broken and have a tendency of freezing your console Sub-Zero style. All three games are also incredibly difficult even with the difficulty set to Very Easy. Playing against the AI is more frustrating than fun and without a strong online structure to fall back on many will consider this game to be borderline unplayable. With that said, I still would have rated the game much higher than Gary did if I conducted the official review but maybe those rose-tinted glasses are still on me, I just don’t know it yet.