Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review #443: Mortal Kombat 4

 'This isn't brutality... it's fatality!', that's a classic!
 Mortal Kombat's case is a strange one. If you ask me, the first game was shallow garbage that only made a name for itself thanks to violence. One needs only look at Mortal Kombat VS DC, probably the worst of the bunch, which took away the violence... and people hated it for it, and not for its glitchy, ugly nature. And thus, I created a mindset that thought all Mortal Kombat games before 9 had been horrible. I was wrong.

 In Mortal Kombat 4 Shao Khan lies defeated, and how long did that last!?, but a new threat comes to Earth, the fallen god Shinnok, so the forces of Earth band together to stop him. The game features 15 characters, 8 returning and 7 new ones, alongside two hidden characters(Goro and Noob Saibot). And you could argue that Quan-chi, Shinnok and Fujin debuted a few days earlier in Mythologies. This game usually gets a lot of flak on the art design, citing Reptile's beginning on his descent towards a more bestial form and how Jarek sucks. But I disagree! I adore the art-style. Every character looks as if built with similar pieces, just look at how many characters have leg protectors or fabric between their legs, but I really like it. Reiko is a pseudo-Ninja clone, but with spikes on his legs and throws Shuriken, this gave us the first 'Frozen Sub-Zero' costume(Which is really cool!), a grey skull-headed Scorpion, and Liu Kang looks badass with a tank-top. I loved the new pseudo-femme Ninja Tanya with her yellow costume, Fujin is among the best new designs, and while I'm not much of a fan of Kai, I love how he is supposed to be another version of Liu-Kang, with vertical fireballs instead of horizontal. As for Jarek, while his moveset is uninspired(It's Kano's!) I love the armored pieces on his legs and arms, as well as the color design. He ain't that bad.
 The game offers an Arcade mode, with CG endings for all 15 basic characters, 2 on 2 fights, Team Battles, Tournament and Endurance(Think Survival) and Practice modes. Arcade features a few variations, you can pick different sized ladders and change the roster of opponents of each by tapping Start up to four times. Practice mode is a bit weird, since you can only change the settings before entering the practice battle, but it's the only place in the game that has a movelist... which is actually a plus since most games of the era forwent movesets entirely.

 Mortal Kombat 4 did away with dial-up combos, and has a more uniform combo system more akin to 2... which means that every single character has the same exact moveset bar special moves. And even then, many characters have similar movesets, so you can probably find analogues to combos, for instance, you could easily replace Tanya's spiral kick with Quan-chi's sliding kick, thus having access to the same combos that required said moves. It's shallow, it's simple and for people looking for depth it's a disappointment.... but I liked it. Landing hits feels really nice, and combos are pretty easy to land, making for a relatively good entry-level fighter.
 Another new addition is weapon combat: each character has a semi unique weapon(A few might look different, but they behave the same. Kinda like a bunch o' characters in the game!) and can pull it out with different button combinations. If hit, the fighter will drop his weapon, and then any fighter can pick it up! A few stages even have a few objects, like decapitated heads or rocks, that can be picked up and thrown for big damage. Side-stepping is a thing now, but it's a bit slow and awkward, so you probably won't be using it much. The rest of Mortal Kombat staples remain, two punches and two kicks, a block button and a run button.

 The game also implements a 'Maximum Damage' mechanic meant to make infinite combos impossible. Basically, if your combo reaches 50% damage, you'll be pushed far from your opponent. This is a bit wonky, since sometimes, if you deal a ton of damage, quickly without stop(Even if it doesn't look like a combo), the game will push you back anyways. Can't say I'm a fan. As for the CD-based version of the game, there's a bit more loading than I would've liked, included micro-loading seconds before a new round begins, which is kinda ridiculous.
 Lastly, running this on a PS2 caused some problems. A few negligible minor audio glitches as well as joystick issues if I turned on vibration. These resolved themselves when playing on a PS3 though. At least, unlike Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the PS2, this won't freeze at the end!

 I liked Mortal Kombat 4, that said, you gotta take it like it is: Style over substance. It's shallow, everything, from character design to gameplay, is very samey, characters can be freely interchanged between each other and you won't have trouble adapting... but I kinda liked it. I mean, it is an oldschool Mortal Kombat game, so of course most characters feel somewhat the same. So, for what it is, it's rather fun.
 6.5 out of 10

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