maanantai 25. kesäkuuta 2012

REVIEW - Mortal Kombat 4 | N64 | 1998

GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: October 1997 (Arcade)
DEVELOPER(S): Midway Games, Eurocom Developments
PUBLISHER(S): Midway Games
DESIGNER(S): Ed Boon & John Tobias

Midway totally screwed up with their first 3D fighting game War Gods, which was first released in 1996. They took on another installment in the Mortal Kombat franchise the very next year, and this wasn’t just any spin-off, but Mortal Kombat 4. Midway managed to fix their past mistakes and take heed of the risks associated with 3D at the time, as the arcade game was well-received by the public, and the game went on to be a successful home title as well. So, why has time forgotten Mortal Kombat 4? I don’t rightly know, ‘cause we’re dealing with a fairly good game. Even if it is reviewed on a platform it doesn’t belong on.

Get over ‘ere, you pile of blocks

Some familiar faces, some new ones, and a really
weird-looking reincarnation of Reptile.
Thousands of years before the first Mortal Kombat tournament, the elder god Shinnok turned against his brethren and tried to conquer the realms with a tyrannical vision. Lord Raiden fought and eventually beat him, and banished him to the Netherrealm. In present time, the sorcerer Quan Chi aids him in his escape from the Netherrealm, after which Shinnok starts planning a full-scale attack against the elder gods. Knowing that Shinnok has grown too powerful for him to face alone, Raiden seeks the help of his friends from the Earthrealm.

If you’ve read all of the Mortal Kombat-related stuff thus far, you might’ve picked up that I never even realized Mortal Kombat 4 was out. I thought the numerical titles stopped with Mortal Kombat 3, since the next game I saw played was Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance on the GameCube. I seriously had no idea there ever was a Mortal Kombat 4 until I first heard of the current-gen reboot of the game. I dug the game up for the Nintendo 64 and I was positively surprised by the game, it’s the Nintendo 64 itself which is the problem. I would love to try the game on the PlayStation. Without further due, let’s start with the graphics and character design.

That bitch just snapped my neck!
If you ever had a favourite character in Mortal Kombat, he or she’s probably here. It’s a collection of the best of the best, and kind of a return to the roots. The plot threads introduced in Mortal Kombat 3 are pretty much retconned, since Johnny Cage is here, although he was supposed to be killed some time before Mortal Kombat 3. Sub-Zero, Reptile, Scorpion, Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, even Goro himself – they’re all here. You don’t need to see more than the fighter select screen to know that this will be a full-fledged Mortal Kombat experience. And then the fear hits you – it’s the Nintendo 64. You haven’t tried Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the N64, so you don’t know what kind of ridiculous censorship you’re safe to expect from it. Well, I’m proud to say that Mortal Kombat 4 spares no ick; it’s probably the most violent game on the Nintendo 64. As to how it looks: well, I’ve seen how the game looks on the PlayStation, and to my disappointment, the PlayStation version does not look much better, but that doesn’t mean that Mortal Kombat 4 would be an ugly game. Sure, I don’t have much love for the franchise’s transition to (pseudo-)3D, or the blocky characters, especially when we’re talking about a game that lives on the idea of simulating realistic physical pain, but compared to many other Nintendo 64 games of the time, Mortal Kombat 4 looks good enough. And, there are no better blood effects in any game or on any console of that generation. Period. Boon and Tobias really invested in making this turn real ugly.

Things get quite ugly when it comes to the gameplay, as almost every special – but simple – attack by any character looks extremely painful. Babalities, Animalities, Brutalities and Friendships were taken out altogether for the sake of unadulterated, and perhaps a bit more serious streak of violence. You could say that in many ways, Mortal Kombat 4 was a fresh start. Censorship in video games had loosened up altogether, and I’ve got to admit that when I think about it, Mortal Kombat had gotten a little too twisted for its own good, kind of like a parody of its own self. Especially after the second movie came out. Perhaps the movie was the exact reason to why Mortal Kombat 4 never took off quite like its predecessors, they were both released around the same time. Enough speculating.

Here's for all those rocks to the face!
Even though the game’s in pseudo-3D – “pseudo” meaning that you can dodge to the background and not much more – Mortal Kombat 4 plays out the same as any other Mortal Kombat game. It has a couple of new features that will surely please those who were frustrated with the previous major installment. First up, a limit to the damage those damn combos can do. If you’re a hack with the combos yourself, you can remove the limit with a cheat code, but the default setting at least helps me in the simple task of enjoying the game. Also, what annoyed a lot of people with Mortal Kombat 3 in particular, was that many of the characters could easily use weapons, and/or projectile attacks to win the match. All characters couldn’t, and that is fixed here. Each character has a special weapon exclusive to them, unlocked by a button combo. In addition, many of the levels have debris you can use against your opponents. These are some very cool additions in my books, and they make the gameplay experience very comfortable. It’s a bit more forgiving game altogether, and the controls are very fluid… BUT.

Here we get to why the Nintendo 64 version sucks. If you’ve read my previous Nintendo 64 reviews, you can pretty much guess what my problem is. It’s the controller. The N64 controller was never made for such intensive games as Mortal Kombat. First of all, I couldn’t imagine playing Mortal Kombat with an analog stick. Using the N64 digital pad is awkward, and uncomfortable. The analog stick is out of the question, not just because it doesn’t fit the current bill, but also because it’s so damn light-built I’m constantly afraid I’ll break it. Once you get over this issue, you have a lot more to worry about, like the mere arrangement of the controller, as well as the stupid-ass camera buttons, which are used as standard face buttons in the game. That’s not what the buttons were created for! …But also, you can’t make a good fighting game without at least four face buttons to use. It’s an endless cycle, but the bottom line is that the Nintendo 64 controller is not suitable for this kind of game.

Mortal Kombat 4 is not nearly as unforgiving as the previous titles, if you can cope with not showing off too much, and if you learn to use the weapons to your advantage rather quickly. Showing off is a bit hard, too, as special moves are difficult to execute – you can never decide whether to use the analog stick or the digital pad, as their effectiveness varies – and the Fatalities are more complex, and harder to perform than ever. The time window is a bit bigger, but in turn, the button sequences are way longer.

I enjoyed playing Mortal Kombat 4 for the very first time on Nintendo 64, very much… BUT, I would very much like to try another version of the game, preferably the PlayStation version, to get the truth out of it.

+ The best selection of playable characters in a standard Mortal Kombat game released up ‘til then
+ The N64 version is probably the most violent Nintendo game I’ve ever seen
+ The combo limit is king
+ The controls are surprisingly fluid…

- …But the N64 control scheme sucks balls
- The difficulty to nail Fatalities will drive you insane

< 7.9 >

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