Review by Quack Wabbit

"The Mortal Kombat Series Delivers a Fatality....."

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Review

Before I start up my review, let's journey back in time...... to 1997. I know, you're thinking ''But why don't we go to sometime cool, like the Declaration of Independence signing, or 400 years into the future.'' Because it's my review. Just follow along, I'm going somewhere with this..... Anyways, the time is 1997, and Mortal Kombat 4 has just been released. The MK team has promised us that MK has hopped the 3D barrier, and will now be the smash hit it was when MK2 was released.

''Just look at all the new characters.....'' OK, let's see.

''This is Jarek.'' B-but..... he's just like Kano!

''Well, we wanted new characters.... this is Reiko.'' Wasn't he supposed to be Noob Saibot?

''This is Tanya.'' You mean Kitana. (Hypocrisy, since I'm about the biggest Tanya fan there ever was, but still.)

''This is Kai.'' Kung Lao, is that you?

My point is, that, as much was promised, Mortal Kombat 4 delivered on very little. It had some cool stages, I'll admit... but beyond that, there wasn't much there. Except for one character, who I call the ''star'' or Mortal Kombat 4- a pasty faced bald man named Quan Chi.

Huh?

Well, besides having the coolest fatality EVER, the ''rip off yer leg and beat you into a fine paste with it'' maneuver, he seemed to be the only original character with any staying power... indeed, ''main bad guy'' fodder. Well, he returns with a vengeance in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.

My point is: this game is everything the MK Team PROMISED that Mortal Kombat 4 would be.

But how does it stack up to the other MK games....?

First off, we've got some spiffy new characters, and of course, old characters returning in all their glory. Sub-Zero brings back his ice abilities (which, the MK Team decided, need an official name, and will from here on out be referred to as ''Kori powers''); Kano, who had been neglected in favour of Jarek in the last installment, is back with all his hairy Australian-ness; Johnny Cage is back, gimmicky storyline, and all; Kitana and Sonya return with their kisses of doom and death, respectively (and the male fans rejoice); everyone's favourite Oddjob wannabe, Kung Lao, is back, as are many others. And of course, Scorpion, the Pikachu of the Mortal Kombat world, pops in for the fun, as well. Guess they learned their lesson when they left him out of MK3. But what's *really* noticeable is who's not there.

Poor Liu Kang gets the shaft in the opening FMV sequence.

OK..... go to any MK board, and you'll find about fifty-odd topics of ''How should they bring Liu Kang back?'', ''Should they bring Liu back?'', etc. And the answer is a resounding ''NO!'' We all saw what that did to Johnny Cage, poor guy. And, besides, don't ya fed up with him and that turkey-gobbling kick after a while? But, good news: the special move in question is back under Kung Lao's supervision, and without the annoying warbling that used to go along with it! However, he was one of the great video game heroes, and he will be missed.

R.I.P. Liu Kang
''Annoying Us With His Voice Since 1991''

In any event, I say bravo to the folks at Midway for trying such a daring plot twist in the predictable ''Liu Kang kills the bad guy'' universe of Mortal Kombat. Shao Kahn, the main bad guy of Mortal Kombat 2 & 3, also gets killed in the opening sequence. No one will miss him, really, as he usually wasn't much harder than the sub-boss. He was better than Shinnok, but that's not saying much. Oh, and while we're on the subject; guess who else is dead? Goro! Why? How? Play the game, and find out!

ANYWAYS. Back on topic, there are several new characters introduced to the Mortal Kombat world, as well: Bo'Rai Cho, the drunken master who made Liu Kang into what he was; Kenshi, a blind Special Forces operative who is easily the best handicapped fighter game character in a field of no other competitors (unless you count Shinnok, who was fashionably handicapped); Frost, Sub-Zero's pompous student with a vendetta against Sonya; Nitara, a new character from a realm of vampires; Li Mei, a sai wielding, well-endowed fighter whom I like to pretend is Mileena without a mask, and plenty of others.

A minor complaint that some gamers (myself not included) seem to have is the absence of certain signature moves: Raiden can no longer do his torpedo, Scorpion can no longer teleport offscreen, and Cyrax's famous green net is missing. However, Scorpion has plenty of fiery moves to replace them, Cyrax is now chock full of the latest technologically advanced doodads, and Raiden.... well, his Staff more than makes up for his abysmal special moves. Likewise, Kitana's Square Wave Punch is replaced by her Pretty Kick, Sonya's Leg Grab is switched with her Fly Kick, etc., etc. Unfortunately, due to load times, Reptile's Invisibility, and Shang Tsung's Transform are absent.

While we're on the subject of Reptile, if you are expecting him to be the palette swap ninja of old, look out! He's more like a giant, walking iguana. Definitely a transformation. Sub-Zero looks like an older version of his MK3 self (guess they aged him to give him a grandmaster look, as he's now the leader of the Lin Kuei), and Scorpion now has a bit more of a Samurai look. Many others have had their looks revamped, as well.

No longer do the dial-a-button combos introduced in MK3 plague the series. Each fighter has a set group of combos, which I will delve further into later, and the characters are nicely balance so that while a character may have weak hits, they are quick on their feet (Kitana), and a slow character can beat your head to a pulp (Drahmin). I, myself, lean more toward the former. Also, to give you a feel of each character, there is a special game mode which introduces you to their particular movesets. Yes, MK:DA does well to get you acquainted with your favourite character.

''Who's the bad guy if Shao Kahn is dead? Please don't tell me it's Shinnok. PLEASE DON'T TELL ME IT'S SHINNOK!!'' Ha ha. Don't worry, Junior, you can put away the cyanide pill, it's not Shinnok. Quan Chi and Shang Tsung are the bad guys, and are playable characters, as well. They've formed a deadly alliance, and are using Shang Tsung's big soul collection to regenerate the Dragon King's undefeatable army. There's plenty more, and if you're a diehard MK fanatic like me, you'll thrive in the story. However, I don't wanna give away too much, so you'll have to play the game. The sub-boss is a rather nasty green ogre named Moloch, who enjoys walks on the beach, rainy days, and beating you to death with a large metal ball. He's rather easy to get by, once you get the hang of him, but the first time you fight him, he just might wipe the floor with you.....

On the subject of easiness, this game is very accommodating in that factor, too. Difficulty ranges from Very Easy to Very Hard, making it playable for beginners to veterans, alike.

Also, brace yourself: ONLY ONE FATALITY PER CHARACTER! Well, boo hoo. There's certainly worse things than that. If you want extra terrible -alities, go buy MK Trilogy. Which is also a great game. >_>

The Gameplay

Each kombatant has 3 fighting styles: 2 styles of hand to hand kombat (ranging from the well-known Tae Kwon Do and Karate to the more obscure Shuai Chiao, Lui He Be Fa, and Ba Gua Zhang), and one weapon style (old classics like the Hookswords, Kitana's Steel Fans and Raiden's Staff reappear, while we are introduced to the Kali Sticks, the Pulse Blade, and the Sun-Moon for the first time). This is consistent in ALL fighters, with the exception of the two hidden fighters, who each have three fighting styles. It should be noted that, with the exception of again the hidden fighters, every single fighter's fighting styles are unique. That is to say that you will not find Kano's Xing Yi, Aikido or Butterfly Swords in any other fighter. You can easily toggle between the three fighting styles in kombat by using the L button.

Each fighting style has it's own unique set of combos. These combos can be as short as B, B or can be complex, and branch out through multiple styles. The game's longest combo is a 12-button masterpiece used by Frost. Also, each character has anywhere between two and five special moves that can be used regardless of the fighting style your kombatant is currently in. ''But Quack,'' you ask me, ''how on Earth am I supposed to figure all of this out?'' Well, just press START to open the menu, and go to fighter moves, where everything will be complained. ''But Quaaaaaack,'' you nag me, ''How on EARTH am I supposed to recite all of these combos while Drahmin is bashing me in the face with an iron club?'' Well, there's two domains for that.

The first is the handy practice mode. If you feel like beating the stuffing out of an inanimate opponent, this is the place to do so. The second is Konquest mode. This is the game mode I was talking about before, which tells you the ins and outs of each character. It will enable you to master everyone from Hsu Hao to Bo'Rai Cho, if you so please, however, I recommend the tried and trued method of choosing one or two fighters and sticking with them. Another real reason to play Konquest mode is to earn Koins, which you can use to unlock various items. I'll get into that later. Konquest mode is also a great way to find out about the kombatants' storylines. The downside of Konquest mode is that some of missions are near impossible to beat (Cyrax's ninth mission comes to mind) and will leaving you tearing your hair out in frustration.

Now, as for the mode of transportation.... playing the GameCube version, you *will* have to use the control pad, and not the analog stick. It is difficult to master at first, but worry not: like me, you'll soon get the hang of it. The game remains mostly 2D in terms of movement, with one important difference: sidesteps. And we're not talking awkward-clunky-MK4-sidesteps, we're talking smooth, fluid sidesteps, that, when used effectively, can catch an opponent off guard and allow to do some serious damage. Heck, as a Kitana player, I've learned to rely on them.

Along with the new fighting engine, come two mini-games. First off, the return of Test Your Might. It's the same as always: pound the buttons feverishly until your thumb bleeds in order to reach a predetermined mark on a meter. Falter for a second, and your meter will drop. So you either break the material and come through as a champ, or you bash your leg, arm or head on the thing you're trying to break, or you hobble around in pain as the people from the captive audience heckle and insult you. The reason I don't specify the ''material'' is that there are many different materials: Bamboo, Redwood, Oak, Iron, Brick, Marble, and Diamond, each ranging in difficulty. It seems difficult from my description, but trust me, it's nowhere NEAR as bad as the battle with Huff N. Puff in Paper Mario.

The other new mini-game is Test Your Sight. It's basically the old ''Which cup is the ball under?'' game, with some MKesque charm (kharm?) thrown in. It has eight levels. Ranging from three cups and a fixed camera, to six cups moving VERY quickly with the camera moving wildly about. It can be a real pain, but, of course, the higher the level, the higher the payout.

The Graphics and Sound

This game's pretty. Not realistic, though it does have very good cloth movement. Not fake-looking, no, it's very convincing. It's just pretty.

The backgrounds are rendered absolutely gorgeously. Prime examples of this are the Wu Shi Academy and the Acid Bath, which are fabulous. The Lava Shrine and the Nethership give off a very dark vibe, the Dragonfly and the Portal have very convincing wind effects at play (although they don't affect the fighters), the previously mentioned Acid Bath and Shang Tsung's Palace are BEAUTIFULLY lit, and there's plenty of others to look forward to.

The character models fit this vibe. Not overly realistic, but, again, pretty. Li Mei and Scorpion are rendered very well, and I guess the MK guys had some fun when they made the ladies jiggle as they move. Just an extra for the guys, it seems. The colours are bright where they need to be, muted when necessary, and overall give a very visually pleasing effect. As for the sound, well, it's general MK fare, grunts, screams, groans, and gloomy music. Weapons do make authentic sounds, it should be noted.

You'll like most of the characters' alternate costumes more than their originals. Kung Lao, Kano, Quan Chi and others have modernized versions of old costumes as their alternates, while Sonya, Jax and Mavado take wild steps away from their primary costumes.

Replayability Value?

Allow me to introduce you to the Krypt, a large room with 676 coffins, each of which has something unlockable inside. It could be a hidden character. It could be an alternate costume, or a new level. It could be artwork, concept sketches, photos, renders. It could be more Koins. It could be nothing. This ''risk your hard-earned cash'' mentality is what keeps gamblers like myself going. You could pay 1410 coins for nothing. One hidden character can be unlocked for 208 koins. It's always a gamble, and you'll always find something to intrigue you.

Even the concept art draws you in, and is a unique look into how a game is made. See Dairou, Hachiman, Siobhan, Baphomet, and Tiamat, five characters who just couldn't make the cut, and had elements of them interspersed in other characters. What did Li Mei's original alternate costume look like? How was Scorpion intended to look? What about when this game was meant for the arcades? And, plus, there's extras. Old MK logos, story details, character bios, and some comedic renders. Shang Tsung as a shoe salesman. Moloch builds ships in bottles. Goro is an avid drummer. Sonya is a lifeguard on her days off. Quan Chi has a jazz album coming out. So much we didn't know about the kombatants...

To make sure you don't unlock everything to early, MK:DA implements a currency system: there are six types of koins. Jade, Platinum, Ruby, Sapphire, Onyx, and Gold. Each krypt costs a different amount of a certain type of coins; one krypt may cost 280 ruby koins, and the one next to it 753 onyx koins. To further throw a wrench into your plans, platinum and onyx koins can only be won in the Test Your Might and Test Your Sight mini-games.

So how do you win the other four types of koins? You have two ways. One is to complete missions in Konquest mode. This is the most effective way, although, once you've finished everyone's missions, that's gone. The only other way is to win matches, either against the computer, or you can bet against friends, who also have koins. There's a neat little glitch that lets you exploit this, which I won't go into.

On the subject, alot of this game's replay value is playing against friends. Flashback to the old arcade days of MK, trying to be the king of the hill. That's present in this game. You'll take delight in seeing friends who choose Scorpion or Sub-Zero out of habit go down, but you'll have a fair challenge on your hands when they either switch to someone else, or take the time to learn his moves. You and your friends can work together to unlock the krypt; I did something similar with a friend. I didn't work well under pressure, but had quick fingers; he was a good fighter, but lousy with combos. He took Arcade mode, I did the Konquest missions, it worked out perfectly.

Overall.....

It's one of the best games of the series. I am always reluctant to name a favourite, as I have a place in my heart for all of the games (yes, even Mortal Kombat 4, which I relentlessly shunned at the beginning of this review), but this game is one of the better fighters on the market. I'd recommend it as a definite rent for casual players of fighting games, but trust me, you'll come back to buy it. It's like Gloria Estefan said, ''The Kombat is gonna get you!''

OK, so maybe it was rhythm.

Whatever.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/19/03


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