Mortal Kombat, allegedly inspired by Capcom’s Street Fighter IV, returns to its 2D roots. Some of the more complex combination practices of the 3D Kombats, like Deadly Alliance, have been simplified or deleted entirely. Aside from deleting more sophisticated combo systems, including switching combat styles and weapons, this new Mortal Kombat rewrites the franchise’s story and restarts from the beginning.
This new Mortal Kombat reboots not just the series but also the story thread, returning to the original tournaments from the first three games, essentially reuniting the Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 line-up to recount the stories of the first three games chronologically. This version of the story fits within the game’s Story mode, which follows specific characters in various chapters to chronicle the series’ early events. As they progress through the story, players take on the roles of certain characters and their storylines in a series of matches. Battles are both plot-relevant and used to settle disagreements between characters. Fights are one-on-one and one-on-two, like in the original game, except that the dual-member opponent team’s characters will now switch in and out of the action on the fly. Some original story aspects have also been rewritten, and characters from later games in the series have storyline lines in earlier chapters. For example, a backstory for Cyrax and Sektor comes throughout the plot following the first Mortal Kombat tournament.
The character list primarily consists of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 characters, with a few exceptions. Quan Chi, for example, appears in this new version after previously appearing as a regular in the main combat series in Mortal Kombat 4. The Cyber Ninjas will appear in both human and cyborg forms.
There are numerous game modes, settings, and variations in this Mortal Kombat remake. Aside from the Story mode, which perhaps gives the most straightforward telling of the story in the franchise’s history, there are arcade-style modes similar to the basic gameplay set-up of titles Mortal Kombat II and 3 and various variations to this approach. The Test Your Might mini-games return with numerous new events in a Challenge Tower with 300 challenges for players to complete. Challenges range from only blocking attacks to fighting with only special moves, defending hordes of zombies, and several tailored to specific characters–for example, one challenge has players fighting as Johnny Cage and a film director to support a movie set from Jax and Sonya.
There is a Fight menu with numerous menus, including tag battles and several mini-games, including one slot machine-style game that tests a player’s skill rather than physical force. Test Your Strike, a variation of the Test Your Might challenges that emerge (along with the return of the original incarnation), requires players to accumulate energy with button pushes and then launch an attack at a very exact point to smash a specified object. For example, when Test Your Might requires breaking through a stack of boards or other things, the new variant and timing need breaking an interior object, such as a differently colored brick, within a pile of different bricks.
The fighting engine in this new Kombat is a cross of Mortal Kombat II and 3. Separate weapon-specific postures and talents have been deleted from later titles such as Deadly Alliance. Combos are now executed with quick-fire button presses similar to Mortal Kombat 3, excluding the run button. All fighting takes place on a 2-D side-scrolling plane, identical to the original games in the series, with minor differences. Some moves, such as Raiden’s torpedo, frequently utilize a rapidly and radically distorted camera angle. Fatalities are also perceived from several perspectives.
Each player has a power meter at the bottom of the screen, just like in other recent fighting games like Street Fighter IV. The bar has three levels: the first allows you to power up a conventional special move, the second activates a combo breaker, and the third launch a decisive new X-Ray strike. This unique, frequently lethal attack concludes in slow-motion, black-and-white animation, with color X-Ray cut-aways showing the recipient’s muscles twisting, blood pouring, and bones shattering.
Mortal Kombat includes various multiplayer gaming, ranging from bare one-on-one fights to several forms of Tag matches and numerous game modes and challenges. Offline 2-player co-op and offline 4-player Tag modes are also available. Aside from that, there’s a rich online option with two-player co-op gameplay and a massive Tournament mode called King of the Hill, which is meant to capture the atmosphere of traditional arcade rivalry. In some ways, where a player could have waited in line to be the next to challenge the winner in an arcade in the 1990s, players will do the same now, albeit online and with many fewer quarters.
The Krypt also returns, where players may spend Currency earned in previous gaming modes to unlock a range of features such as Kombat Kodes to adjust gameplay, additional fatalities, concept artwork, music, etc. The Nekropolis has a list of all unlocked items. The Nekropolis includes character portraits with gaming stats, endings (if unlocked in Tower mode), and various costumes. There are also bios for each character.
Kratos from God of War is an exclusive character in Mortal Kombat for the PlayStation 3. No official explanation for the lack of an Xbox 360-exclusive character has been offered.