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Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Review By:  Nick Arvites
Developer:  Midway
Publisher:  Midway
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Fighting
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  4-10-03

Mortal Kombat. Those two words revolutionized the fighting genre. Those two words inspired Congressional committees, the forerunner to the ESRB, and the issue of censorship on the SNES version. Yes. I practically watched and played the Mortal Kombat series since its inception. I was one of the millions of people who would flock to arcades to play the original. I remember the issues with the SNES’ edited fatalities and the Genesis’ "Blood Kode." The second installment gave the Kombat fans more characters, more fatalities, and more secrets. Many will agree the series started to slip with the various versions of the third game (3, Gold and Trilogy). Many fans moved away from the series by the 4th installment. The jump to 3D could not even begin to compete with the other fighting games of the time and the series had a very stale feeling to it. Many assumed the series would simply die off after that installment. Thankfully, Midway brought Ed Boon, co-creator of the series, back as the Team Leader for a new Mortal Kombat game. This automatically sparked interest in the series. Up until now, I always considered Mortal Kombat II the high point of the series. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance takes that crown away and sets the stage for a new competitor in the world of 3D fighting games.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance throws in a major plot device in the opening cinema. While many fans of the Mortal Kombat series can argue that the plot is relative (since it seemingly changes game to game), Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance throws in a major twist. Liu Kang is dead and Shao Kahn is severely weakened. Yes, you read right. The two major characters from the series are gone. While Liu Kang was my favorite character throughout the series, I am sort of glad he’s gone. The character had minimal change in the previous games, and it was at the point where you could pick him in any given game and annihilate people. Taking out Liu Kang may have deprived the game of a true Bruce Lee imitator, but it improved balance and allows the designers to elevate other characters. I will be honest and say that I was completely angry at first, but this anger died after I played the game extensively. I do not really shed any tears towards the fall of Shao Kahn. He was a terrible character. Hopefully, he stays dead or becomes a playable character in the next installment (that may be cool).

One of the ways this game pushes the background story is through the Konquest mode. One may think the Konquest mode would be similar to the Quest Mode from Soul Caliber. That is incorrect. Konquest mode is more of a training mode than anything. I strongly encourage players to go through it with every character simply because of the new style of gameplay used in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. This mode will allow players to learn the combo systems and most of the basic moves for each character. Between goals, you get a background story about your character. This helps to further establish the plot in the game. My, how far we’ve come where even our fighting games require plots.

There are twenty characters in this game. Roughly half of these are returning characters from past games. However, when you first turn on the game, you only have access to roughly half of the available characters. You must earn "Koins" to unlock the other characters in the "Krypt" (more on this later). Many of the characters made the jump (or continued the jump) to 3D well. The one exception is Reptile. Basically, he looks exactly like Lizard Man from Soul Caliber (without the shield). I just find it strange that he de-evolved into some sort of B-movie monster. Granted, his ending adds a new twist and the background story (from the Konquest mode) explain this change, but it takes some getting used to. The rest of the classical characters look great. One interesting feature is battle damage. Character faces become bruised and cut throughout the matches. Granted, this system is nowhere near the one present in Mortal Kombat cofounder John Tobias’ Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus, but it still adds to the violence. Like every other Mortal Kombat game, characters spill ungodly amounts of blood throughout fights. Unlike many other bloody fighters, the blood actually stays on the floor of the arenas. At the end of a long and bloody match, you can expect a carpet of blood on the floor. You can adjust the amount of blood in the game or even turn it off, but does anyone actually want to play a bloodless Mortal Kombat? It just feels wrong. Ask anyone who played the SNES version of the original. It had better sound and graphics than the Genesis version, but featured a censored game that took away the edge.

The stages seem to be typical for a 3D fighter as well as typical for a Mortal Kombat game. Some have breakable pillars, some shoot acid, and some are just normal. I have two major complaints on the stages. First, no ring outs. I find it annoying that some of the stages do not have ring outs. If you’re fighting on a floating platform, you should be able to be knocked in the drink. This also goes hand in hand with my second and largest complaint: no stage fatalities. Yes, you read that correctly. This is the first Mortal Kombat game to NOT have a stage fatality. There are stages that SCREAM for stage fatalities, yet for some reason they are not there.

The fighting in the Mortal Kombat series has finally been brought to the modern age of fighting games. Each character boasts two martial art forms and one weapon. This allows characters to perform combos that link the various attack forms. The controls are set up differently also. Instead of having a high/low kick and high/low punch, the buttons are labeled as attack 1, 2, 3, and 4. This allows flexibility with multiple fighting styles. Some styles focus on kicks while some focus on punches. However, it makes the fighting much more complex and almost requires players to fool around in the Training Mode or Konquest Mode. The fighting seems very balanced. Certain forms are quicker, some have more power, and the weapons leave you unguarded. This forces people to switch from each style constantly. Is it worth it to trade off defense for a strong weapon? Do you want to risk using your slower, but more powerful form against a quick opponent? This system creates really good matches because it forces players to make trade-offs. One would think this would lead to three separate fatalities for each character, but it does not. You must switch to a fatality stance and perform the finishing move for your character.

Yes. This is the first Mortal Kombat game since the original that features only one fatality per character. Is this a bad thing? It really depends who you ask. I personally like this approach to it since the fatalities became ridiculous by the third game. The fatalities in this game are gruesome, but in line of something you’d see in a violent-yet-cheesy martial arts movie or some mind-numbing action movie. Some classics are still around. Kano still yanks hearts out (though he also pulls out every other organ), Sub-Zero does the headpiece (although he takes the entire skeleton with it), and Raiden still electrocutes people. Many others seem sort of familiar, but the fatalities are not only pushing the boundaries of taste (like the original) but also pushing the shock factor. Mortal Kombat was built on shock factor, and it is refreshing to see it return to the games.

The combo system needs some work. Personally, I would love a game that gives me the freedom to string together my own combos. Mortal Kombat does not. The combos seem set in stone and the moves do not really allow you to string custom combos together. The game has many combos per character, but this makes fights become fairly stale after a while. This also reflects on the overall control scheme of the game since many of the moves have a sluggish feel. For example, if a combo has you pressing attack 1-1-1-4, it may not register all of the 1’s if you do not hit them at precisely the correct time. It takes a long time to get used to the timing. I still have problems performing some of the longer combos because it does not register some of the hits. For the most part, the fighting engine is good, but there’s always room for improvement.

Throughout the game and in the various modes, you can earn "Koins." What good are these? Koins are used to unlock "Kontent" from the "Krypt." The Krypt contains 676 "Koffins." Each Koffin has a different secret in it, ranging from characters to alternate costumes to concept art to comic books to other Koins. Yeah, there’s a lot of junk to unlock and one may want to search on the Internet to figure out which ones are the characters. Many of the classic characters have to be unlocked (like Raiden, Jax, Cyrax, and Reptile) and the starting set of characters grows very old very quickly. I actually enjoy this form of unlocking things because you constantly earn coins in arcade mode.

Also worth noting is the return of the long absent "Test Your Might" contests. After so many fights pass, you have the opportunity to break something. You do this by jamming on the buttons and pulling the trigger when a meter rises high enough. If you really want to know what I’m talking about, search around and find an original copy of Mortal Kombat, play a few matches and then you get the same thing. New to the mix is "Test Your Sight." This is basically "find the coins under a cup after it's moved." Pretty fun and easy to get Koins. Koins are also earned in Konquest mode (yet another incentive to play the Konquest mode).

HIGHS:

  • Mortal Kombat is once again a groundbreaking fighter
  • Pushes shock factor
  • Multiple fighting stances
  • Konquest Mode is a great training mode
  • Some of the most popular Mortal Kombat characters return
  • One of the better unlock systems in a while, and the extra Kontent rules.

LOWS:

  • Combo system doesn’t really allow innovation
  • No Stage Fatalities
  • Only one finishing move per character
  • Liu Kang is dead (good or bad depending on your perspective) and Reptile looks like a B-movie monster
  • Overuse of subbing the letter "K" for the letter "C"

FINAL VERDICT:

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance is one of the best fighting games on the market today. The series has finally returned to greatness and forced gamers to forget about the Krap Mortal Kombat has put out since the third game. For the first time since the original Mortal Kombat, I am actually anticipating the next installment of the series. This is a breath of life into the ever-dying genre of fighting games. A must-buy for any fighting game fan.

Overall Score: 8.7

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