Those who know me, know that I am a HUGE Mortal Kombat fan! Been a fan since the beginning, and am still a fan to this day. (See here) Since I have my roots deep in the arcade versions of the game, it will come as no shock to you that I was more than just a little excited about the release of 3 of the 4 arcade titles in one package for XBox Live Arcade and PS3 Arcade (if you count both 3 and Ultimate as one release). Not only that, this would include online play for the original Mortal Kombat for the first time ever! OK, I admit, I was giddy about this game… until I played it.
To be fair, it’s not a terrible release, but disappointing is certainly a word I’d use to describe this collection of the original arcade games of Mortal Kombat (MK), Mortal Kombat II (MK2) and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (UMK3). We’ll just get this out of the way first. The online component of the game is terribly broken (at the time of writing). In playing either MK2 or UMK3 online, you are faced with such lag that playing effectively is difficult at best. The original MK fares a bit better, but let’s face reality, the real games most people want to play online are MK2 and UMK3, not the original. For the few out there like me, that would buy it just for the original MK with online play, then it might be worth it… IF you have friends that feel the same way! The online lobbies are practically dead, even playing on weekends/evenings at peak hours. I have a feeling that a big reason for this is because of how bad the online plays. If this does not get fixed QUICKLY with a patch, then I fear that playing online will come down to challenges with friends mainly with random encounters being a rare occasion. Then again, maybe everyone is still hooked on the Mortal Kombat (2011) release to bother with the classics anymore? Whatever the case, just don’t buy these games for the online portion of the games.
Now, if you want three nearly arcade perfect ports of the arcade games, then you are in luck! The offline games play almost identical to their arcade counterparts! I say almost, because there are some strange glitches in the games. For example, Goro’s Lair in MK has no music when you fight against Goro or in the Endurance Match before him. Pretty minor though, and if you are dedicated enough to get to Goro in the first place, then you know that the sound effects greatly overpower the music anyway, but it’s worth mentioning that there are a few “quirks” and this is not 100% arcade perfect by any means. Still, too close for most casual MK fans to tell for the most part.
One of the cool things about this game is the different filters you can use for the visuals. One curves the screen and makes the screen look more like an arcade monitor. Another changes the colors to a more painted on look. These add a new coat of paint to the graphics at least.
Music is still the same. There are some new remixes of some of the songs used in the menus, and they are cool, but you probably won’t be sitting there on the menu screen that much. It would have been nice to have a remixed soundtrack option to complement the video filters, but that’s just the first enhancement that was overlooked!
The big problem I think most will have with this release is also something that you NEED to understand about the original arcade games. THESE GAMES ARE HARD!!! If you grew up playing the Mortal Kombat games on home consoles only, then you’re in for a brutal shock if you try and play the arcade games, even on the easiest difficulty! These games were meant to eat your quarters and keep you playing all day as you pull your hair out in frustration! There were “tricks” to getting through the arcade ladders back then, and they still hold true today (like using Kitana and her fan lift move practically the entire game of MK2). Newcomers will likely LOATHE this level of difficulty, and outside of those who truly wanted the arcade experience at home, most will probably pass in favor of the newer, more fleshed out Mortal Kombat (2011), which is MUCH easier in comparison! I would think that coming up with an option for original arcade A.I. and new, updated, more “current-gamer-friendly” A.I. would have been a smart thing to include, but at the same time, it doesn’t bug me personally too much since I clearly remembered the difficulty as part of the charm in arcades growing up.
You know, considering that this is the first time all three of the original titles were bundled together in one package for home consoles, you’d think they would have gone a little more all-out for this release. Getting used to the bonuses in the big release Mortal Kombat games of recent years; some history, unlockables, production pictures and such would have been a nice inclusion. I won’t hold this too much against them since I’m grading the overall package as released, but just stressing again, that outside the graphical filters, there really aren’t really any “goodies” to pay some tribute to these classics.
Oh, there is an in game move list. That is somewhat handy if you are rusty on some of those fatalities you had forgotten… but a strange thing about the move list, is that it is inaccessible at any point that you are not in the middle of a match! Not while you are going up the ladder, not at the “Round 1, FIGHT” screen, not even after the fatality! That means that you don’t have any “dead time” to check the list, so you need to find a good “break point” in the middle of a fight to actually check it! And THAT becomes dangerous, because when you come out of the move list, it sometimes freezes your character momentarily, setting you up for a free hit from your opponent! *Personal suggestion, try checking it when you are in the middle of getting knocked down if possible.
So, with all that said, I can’t in good conscious recommend this game to anyone but the most diehard Mortal Kombat fans unless you are living with other people who you could game with, because offline versus is really where all three games shine anyway! For those who only have the option of online play, there is hope for a patch, but hold off for now. For those wanting a solid single player game, go in expecting the mind-numbing arcade difficulty, or else, stick to Mortal Kombat (2011) instead.
It really hurts me to not recommend this to everyone since I’m one of the games biggest fans… but because I understand that I AM that big a fan, and that my love for the game is definitely clouded, I know that the masses just wouldn’t be happy with their purchase if they bought this. If you are one of those big fans though, then you and I have a lot in common, and I hope you enjoy the greatness of these arcade classics as I have! If you want to play the original MK online against me, then look me up… and HOPEFULLY they will fix the net code for MK2 an UMK3 later as well, which would result in a MUCH higher review score at that point!
Final score: 3/7 (Mediocre)