sunnuntai 24. kesäkuuta 2012

REVIEW - Mortal Kombat 3 | SNES | 1995

GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: April 1995 (Arcade)
DEVELOPER(S): Midway Games, Software Creations (GB, GG), Sculptured Software (GEN, PC, SNES)
PUBLISHER(S): Williams Entertainment, Acclaim Entertainment (GG), Atari (PC), Sony Computer Entertainment (PS1), Tec Toy (SMS)
DESIGNER(S): Ed Boon & John Tobias

Mortal Kombat 3 was the first Mortal Kombat game released (fresh) on the Sony PlayStation, but moving on to the next generation did not mean 16-bit owners would be forgotten. On the contrary, the console port of the 1995 game was released on the PlayStation merely on the side – we who still were very much too poor to buy a brand new console got the whole experience with our version of Mortal Kombat 3, and what an experience it was. Thematically, it was totally different from its predecessors, and it had a very different selection of characters that alienated some long-time fans and made them demand for retribution – which was to come a year later in the form of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy – and the graphics were fully digitized to make the violence look all the more realistic. Still, it was pure Mortal Kombat as we grew to love it back in the day. Mortal Kombat 3 was an excellent game through my eyes in 1995 – in 2012, it’s a bit different.

Seriously, quit it with the hat

Yeah, I know it looks weird, but believe me, it's
Mortal Kombat.
Shao Kahn determines that Mortal Kombat has outlived its purpose and can’t possibly bring him any closer to seizing control of the Earthrealm. A loophole in the ancient pact between Earthrealm and Shao Kahn allows Kahn to travel to Earthrealm and merge it with Outworld, trapping millions of human souls in the process. Only a chosen few are spared, all thanks to the protection of Lord Raiden. The few remnants, including a New York City police officer, a Native American shaman with the gift of foresight,  and several veterans of the Mortal Kombat tournament, rise against Shao Kahn and his extermination squad to restore Earthrealm to the way it was.

If Mortal Kombat 3 would’ve been released in the last few years, and I had the same enthusiasm for it as I did back in ’95, you know what I would have done? I would’ve pre-ordered the game. I would’ve pre-ordered the most exclusive, expensive collector’s edition there was. I would’ve lived and breathed the game for the last couple of months leading to the release date. Not because of Mortal Kombat II which I wasn't that familiar with yet, but because it looked like the most awesome game in the world. Following up on its megahit of a predecessor, Mortal Kombat 3 was huge. It was the first game I remember to have almost died for after seeing the early promos. Games were rarely hyped that much back in the day around these parts, and advertising didn’t really cross the boundaries of print. But that print was good enough to get me and my friend going totally apeshit. Midway was about to bring us a whole different, more realistic Mortal Kombat game than ever before, with painful, hellishly gruesome Fatalities, just about the greatest 16-bit audiovisual design ever seen, and Sub-Zero without a mask. That was the coolest thing about the game – an unmasked Sub-Zero. Whole new character design altogether, and just a few returning characters, leaving room for a truckload of new ones whose presence applied to Western tastes. I guess that’s “American tastes”.

NO! Not Predator!
Robots? Cops? An extremely stereotypical Indian warrior? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the new characters, but there’s a certain coldness to them, a coldness that has never really went away, despite their appearances in later games. Scorpion wasn’t my favourite character back then – in fact, we always thought he was more of a villain, and we wanted to play as heroic characters – but nowadays, he is, and his absence really bothers me. I couldn’t imagine a Mortal Kombat game without Scorpion – in Mortal Kombat 3’s case, I just have to cope with it. And no, a yellow robot doesn’t cut it. Once again: robots?! One of the most important essences of Mortal Kombat is pain, a sensation robots can’t feel! OK, OK, fanboys, I know, I know: they’re actually humans, part of some cyborg initiative. But there’s still more machine than man in them. And, their blood is blue. Not very human, if you ask me. After all this ranting and raving, you wanna hear something ironic? Cyrax and Sektor are perhaps the best fighters in the game, all personal favourism aside. More about how I came to this conclusion, later. Let’s talk audiovisuals.

Half of the level design’s been totally renovated to suit the game’s modern theme, from subways to highways, to roofs of modern buildings. The other half’s of the classic kind. I kinda like it, but perhaps it makes Mortal Kombat 3 seem more of a run-of-the-mill fighting game than its predecessors, which strived for the unique with their fantasy-inspired sceneries: stone bridges above spike pits, ancient dungeons with acid baths, catacombs and some God-forsaken hellholes which literally looked like hellholes. In general, there’s no denying that Mortal Kombat 3 is one of the finest looking 16-bit games that was ever conceived. All occasional and very specific glitches aside, the 100% digital characters still look realistic, motion capture and all. Depending on the level, they occasionally look a little slapped on to the rendered backgrounds, but that was seen in many games of the time, better ones too. The music’s quite OK, it’s classic Mortal Kombat with a little less oriental vibe, and the sound effects are as classic as ever; once again, I find myself missing Scorpion’s “GET OVER 'ERE!”, though. And while I’m at it, Raiden’s “ALIBABALEE!”. Well, at least Raiden’s mentioned in the game.

I've seen this proclamation one too many times.
Like in the first two games, all of the characters are indeed portrayed by real actors, but here it becomes most evident as the graphics have been polished to the point there’s no doubt about it. I have to make a special mention of Kerri Hoskins, who was many a video game nerd’s wet dream back in the day, as she took over for Elizabeth Malecki as Sonya Blade in this game. She is one gorgeous woman, and one of the few former Playboy centerfolds who actually looks human. Forget your Megan Foxes and Scarlett Johanssons and whoever, Kerri was the real deal and I have no doubt that even at the age of 42, she still looks hotter than most starlets in their 20’s. Apparently, Liz Malecki refused to do Mortal Kombat 3, along with some other actors, who were not replaced, and their characters were either killed off, like Johnny Cage, or wholly redesigned, like Shang Tsung and Sub-Zero, both of whom are portrayed by John Turk, an American actor. There, some trivia for ya. Now let’s get into the game, for a while at least, ‘cause I’m really itching to get to the updated versions.

Never noticed how weird the Animalities looked.
Mortal Kombat 3 has two new, major gameplay features: the ability to sprint, and execute combos. These new features are where the shit first starts to stain. First of all, running makes no sense. OK, you can reach your opponent on the other side of the screen faster by running. That’s about it, and usually it ends in you getting your ass kicked. Other than that, the Run button is used for a LOT of Fatalities, so you can’t completely disregard the existence of the R button if you’re planning to enjoy this. The combos… well, here are the good news. By learning one of these beasts, you’ve achieved one of the most important keys to mere survival in the higher difficulty levels of Mortal Kombat 3. Also, once you’ve landed the first hit, the opponent is unable to block the rest. Here are the bad news: SO ARE YOU! You can just guess how efficient the CPU is with the combos. Make no mistake about it: Mortal Kombat 3 is even harder than Mortal Kombat II.

This looks like the Gozer building from
But, it’s for the right reasons. Sort of. You see, there is absolutely nothing as wrong with the controls as in the previous games. The controls are actually quite alright. But… let’s take it from the top. With Scorpion out of the fray, I choose Sub-Zero, ‘cause I still love that unmasked version. What I never realized before this one time was that Sub-Zero’s ice projectiles do not do any direct damage to the opponent. If you fail to see the problem, let me elaborate: he has no other special attacks than ice projectiles! Yeah, Sub-Zero’s cool and all (no pun intended), but why in the hell would I waste time trying to beat this crazy bastard with a guy who really can’t stand up to his opponents? I swear I was able to teach myself some whole new bad language while fighting Kung Lao as Sub-Zero. I have the ice projectiles that don’t do shit, he has that stupid hat of his that he likes to use a little too much, like his talent as a fighter is wholly dependent on it, and which does a little too much damage at once for the good of my sanity. On top of it all, if you accidentally use Sub-Zero’s Ice Shower while the basic projectile has frozen an enemy (it’s quite easy to make that mistake), Sub-Zero’s the one who gets frozen! Time to change characters. Let’s take that new guy, Nightwolf. He looks cool, albeit stereotypical. I’m checking up the net for his special attacks (got to love the modern age), and aside from his shoulder tackle, there’s one that seems very simple. Those are two special attacks out of four or five, both of them’s gotta have some value. No. Nightwolf just stands around for a sec or two, with a green light surrounding him. I guess it works as a defense method or something, but how could I ever use that in the proper situation when the game is this fucking fast? Time to change characters again. Stryker was my favourite new character back when the game came out… after just watching him stand around for less than a second, I’m wondering why, and resetting the game for the fifth or sixth time. I never liked the mere idea of the robots, but I’ll try Cyrax. Cyrax turns out the character that’s the most comfortable to play as regardless of the difficulty level, he has special moves that are simple enough and he’s fast enough to take on the worst bitches in the bunch, namely Kung Lao and Kabal. Ironic. And kinda boring.

Whether you find the right character or not, Mortal Kombat 3 is not an easy game. The difficulty level is all the same. The CPU uses those annoying special combos and projectile attacks just as much, regardless whether you choose the hardest or the easiest difficulty level. It’s also all the same whether you choose the shortest or the tallest ladder. All the cheat codes really do is allow you to perform Fatalities with the press of one button. Kind of fun, actually, especially since the time window to perform a finisher is even smaller than in the previous game. The cheat codes may also give you access to 30 credits, but the quantity of the credits really doesn’t fucking matter – this is hell, with no solid tactics to go by. Not even a solid character.

Ah, Cyrax. A bad choice for a character, a decent
enough fighter.
Back to the good stuff before I go. The Fatalities have been improved by a serious lot, BUT graphical glitches and certain limitations that were acknowledged from the beginning prevent them from looking as good as the ideas sound, like Stryker strapping a time bomb to a staggered opponent’s chest, moving a few meters away and covering his ears from the blast, that ends up rendering the opponent into a pile of bone, blood and severed tendons. When he puts it on, it looks like his opponent is already cut in half, with the upper half totally missing and he’s strapping it on his groin. To be fully realistic about it, the glitches are quite predictable with these limitations, and forgivable. They surely tried. Added into the mix are Animalities, which are Fatalities performed by the “animals inside the characters”. The Babalities return, as well as Friendships… as well as the “toasty” easter eggs, along with others. This is still Mortal Kombat, no matter what anyone says.

But, is it good? Sure it is, but it’s been done better, and the original version does not count for much anymore. It was so big back then, one of the biggest new games there was, if not THE biggest, due to the film that came out just a while before and turned out quite good in comparison to all the wasted celluloid crap that emerged before it. When the dust settled, fans stood up with their opinions, and the result was the pair of updates to Mortal Kombat 3 that was released in 1996; the original game’s story ended there.

+ Definitely better controls
+ Excellent graphics and sound; different, but once again better than the last time
+ The absence of Scorpion and Raiden aside, it’s definitely Mortal Kombat
+ The Fatalities are gruesome – IF you can get them to work, and IF you’re lucky enough to see the CPU using them instead of an uppercut

- The excellent graphics do not come without awkward glitches
- Although the new combo system might please you at first, it will turn against you in no time
- A lacking selection of new characters; the word “stock” comes to mind at the most cynical moments
- It’s unnecessarily difficult to get anything useful out of any playable character; regardless of the difficulty level of the game, the CPU rubs it in your face a little too hard

< 7.5 >

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