Fighting games have to be the most bad ass video games to ever exist. There’s nothing more refreshing after a day of grimy work/school than picking up some sticks and tossing fireballs all day long (Don’t sit there with your arms crossed, you all know who you are).  Fighting games fulfill the desires of everybody who isn’t physically fit to kick someone’s ass in real life. Not to mention the eye candy of the female fighters.

I’m so glad Tecmo added a sistah to DOA before proceeding to bleach her skin.

Fighting games are great for a load of reasons, but the main reason is that they just satisfy a primal craving. Using wacky characters to beat the living hell out of anything that breathes.

….But fuck Mortal Kombat.

I, for the life of me, cannot see why people love this franchise after the 90s. I could see the appeal of Tekken, Street Fighter, and maybe Soul Calibur (to this day, I still believe it is popular because of Link’s addition to the gamecube version of SC2), but Mortal Kombat? I can’t see it.

I mean yeah, back in the 90s, it was probably one of the most influential fighting games ever. It caused so much controversy and even established the ESRB. I was literally forbidden to play fighting games by my own mother back then because of Mortal Kombat (and being pissed off because all of the kids at school were always talking about the fatalities, and passing notes on how to do them in class). Now I’m in my 20’s and I just don’t see the appeal anymore to see why people get so angry when someone criticizes the franchise. People literally have an embolism over saying the games aren’t even good.

But moving on, just what is wrong with the Mortal Kombat series?

1. The move sets.

Back then, I get that a lot of game companies made overly complex commands for special attacks (Geese’s Deadly Storm Super from the Fatal Fury games for example), but in MK some command inputs aren’t practical or even silly. For example, in Street Fighter, you have basic punches and kicks which have varying strengths of special moves mapped for the buttons. You could do a Fireball, Shin Fireball, and a Dragon Punch all on the same button if you wanted. In MK? You have special moves mapped separately for every button. You could have Scorpion’s spear mapped to a High punch, but a teleport mapped to a Medium Punch, or a kick. There were no varying strengths for special attack, so each button was used for individual special attacks. What made them worse were how most of the move inputs felt strange and unnatural.

Needing to do a Down, Forward motion for 1 move and then a weird motion like Down, Back, Forward for another move on a separate button became tiresome and difficult to remember. Infact, because of the weird inputs, none of the character’s moves were easy to remember. For example, Sub-Zero’s slide requires you to press 4 buttons at once. A simple slide. You’d think pressing 4 buttons simultaneously would do something really cool (like a fatality) but it’s for a simple slide move. It felt illogical. While in more recent games, this kind of complexity was lowered, the moves still had weird motions and were mapped on separate buttons. There’s nothing worse in a fighting game with over 63 characters than having to pause the game and constantly refer to a moves list because they’re so hard to remember. As well having strange button inputs, performing the inputs also feel off. In practically every other fighting game, if you wanted to do a fireball, you would usually roll your thumb from Down to Forward in one smooth motion. In MK, you literally just tap Down and then Forward. You have to take your thumb off of the D-Pad after tapping down once. It doesn’t feel like your performing a special move. It feels like your entering a cheat code during the match.

The Right Way

Doing it  wrong

Actual images from strategy wiki.
2. Rigid, awkward, and stiff movement/animation.

Since I’ve been spoiled by Bloody Roar and Guilty Gear, Mortal Kombat just feels like you’re playing through syrup. The characters move so incredibly slow and haphazardly, it’s like you’re playing a beta of Tekken. There’s something wrong with a series if you needed to include a run button when other fighters at the time were using double taps on the D-Pad to run or dash about the arena. This isn’t present in the recent games, of course, but it came off as silly. Even in the 3D games, the characters feel less mobile than ever. Infact, the recovery times for every… single… attack are insanely long. You have to make sure your moves connect or are not blocked or else you are completely vulnerable to attack. I’ve noticed that the characters, when they finished the animation for their attack (doesn’t matter what attack it is), they do a completely new animation that returns them back to their original fighting stance. Why!? It can’t be for the sake of strategy unless the development team intended to punish players for not perfectly connecting every attack you do. And Amma help you if you challenge the CPU on hard mode. You will be eaten alive as the CPU can miss an attack and then immediately block without finishing their attack animations. This probably has something to do with the motion capture techniques that they abused. The animations come off as stiff and awkward looking. It doesn’t even look realistic, even compared to Tekken. It’s like Boon and gang looked at a couple of videos on Youtube, told the motion capture actors to mimic the moves seen in said videos, and then called it a day.

3. Lack of uniqueness with characters.

And I don’t mean palette swaps of every single ninja prior to the 3D games. In the original games, all of the characters had the same (or similar) animations for their attacks. The rapid punches, the sweeps, the roundhouses, the uppercuts, everything. The fighting styles lacked variation, even with the 3D fighters that presented different “styles” for the characters, right down to reusing certain attacks for different styles. This probably has something to do with the fact that many characters have fighting styles that are derived from Shaolin kung fu (Reptile practices Pao Chui and has similar kicks to Kai who uses Moi Fah, both derived from Shaolin Kung fu), but that just seems like an excuse to be lazy with programming. How did Reptile come to learn Shaolin Martial Arts? Since when did Jax Briggs learn Muay Thai!?

Tony Jaa ain’t shit! Look at my massive arms!!!

The only things that made them stand out were of course the special moves…. which were reused. Almost every character can teleport. I do not know what it is with Ed Boon and teleporting, but I can probably name at least 20 characters that can zip around the room with no trouble at all. It’s a little disheartening to hear so much about the new MK and see previews of characters once again teleporting around the stages. From Scorpion to Sektor or Quan-Chi to Noob Saibot. The “Shoto-clones” of Street Fighter pale in comparison to what MK does. Both Johnny Cage and Jade possess a Shadow Kick. Reptile, Kano, and Blaze can curl into a ball and strike their opponents easily. Jarek now has Scorpion’s trademark Spear. It’s laziness at best.

4. Certain mechanics seem to be “Birdmen fallacies” at work.

In the newest MK, they decided to take a page out of Tekken and map all of the buttons to every character’s limb. Why? Simply put, Ed Boon likes Tekken. I can’t say how well that was done as I haven’t played the game, but having played the previous 3D games, I can assume that it’s haphazard and pointless to the overall fighting. Watching videos, you see people jabbing with the same limb almost 90% of the time. The weapons in the 3D titles were probably thrown in due to Soul Calibur and other weapon-based fighters, and they felt sluggish. In Armageddon, I never use the weapons due to their lack of practicality in a match. I keep asking myself why they were added to the series as they’ve done little to add to the gameplay. The rush down combos from MK3-4 were borrowed from other dial-a-combo systems at the time (probably Killer Instinct as it was released a year earlier than MK3), and were criticized by the fans themselves for adding more of a learning curve than already needed. The air-combos and combo breakers seem either pointless or even abusive. It seems like they add in just about anything that seems “cool” at the time, but they never try to understand how they work in the context of fighting games. And oh Amma, those breakers! Firstly, you don’t have those trite rush down combos from MK3-4, so this system is pathetically pointless. The combos in the latest games are shit, having a combo breaker literally breaks the game and turns it into a “punch, punch, counter, kick” match like in DOA. Except it’s more choppy and a helluva lot more abusive than ever before.

The series has so many flaws at this point, I can’t say I’m willing to give the ninth game in the series a chance. The fighting is stiff, rigid and slow, the mechanics don’t work as they should, and the characters lack any real variety aside from being more or less powerful versions of other characters. I feel like the hardcore gaming crowd in saying “THIS GAEM R CASUEL TRASH!”. You play a lot of fighting games after a while, Mortal Kombat just feels tacky and shallow with no real passion put into the development process. A lot of corners are cut just to put out whatever sells best. Lets “Mokap” the fuck out of everything! It’s cheaper than to animate our own models by hand! And people lap that shit up because of fatalities.
And no, I’m not a Street Fighter fanboy. I can’t stand that piece of shit either. Who’s the genius that thought players should be rewarded for getting their asses kicked in SF4!? Give me Bloody Roar and Guilty Gear over that whoredouken fest any day. And I swear, Omar Dogan needs to stop jacking off to Ibuki.