Review by discoinferno84

"I play for keeps, 'cause I might not make it back..."

So close. Shang Tsung was so close to achieving victory. He had lured several of the Earth Realm's greatest warriors into a tournament, hoping to brutally slaughter all of them. Had he succeeded, mankind would have faded into nothing. Outworld, Shang Tsung's dimension, would have risen to prominence. But before the world could fall into darkness, a lone monk named Liu Kang managed to kick Shang Tsung's shape-shifting ass. With his body and pride broken, the evil sorcerer retreated back to Outworld and begged his boss to give him another shot. Armed with a younger form and some new tricks up his sleeves, the villain invited all of his nemeses (aside from a couple he kidnapped and imprisoned) back for yet another tournament…but with a catch. This time, the fight for the world's salvation would have to take place Outworld, giving Shang Tsung a distinct advantage. With a slew of bloodthirsty warriors and dangerous lands to fight through, the Earth Realm's heroes now have to fight evil on its home turf.

Confused yet? Don't bother with Mortal Kombat II's multidimensional mumbo jumbo. The only thing that you should be worried about is the small army of mystical kombatants (notice how several of the words that should start with “C” now start with a “K” in this series to make it more appealing to its target audience) that are ready to rip each other apart. You'll get to choose among fighters like Liu Kang, the Shaolin Monk and hero of the series, Raiden, the Thunder God who apparently thinks cone-shaped hats are fashionable, and Johnny Cage, the spandex-clad movie star who really has no business being in the tournament at all. While fans of the original Mortal Kombat will appreciate the reappearance of these and other classic characters, this game boasts some brand new faces, like the blade-wielding creature Baraka, some twin ninja femme fatales, and even a guy that can fling his bladed sombrero into his unwitting prey (just like OddJob from Goldfinger, but less badass). With twelve selectable characters and a few extras hiding somewhere in Mortal Kombat II's assorted fighting grounds, there will be plenty of fighters to tear apart.

That doesn't make them any different from each other, though. Despite the expanded roster, the fighters play nearly identical to each other. Their punches and kicks all have similar ranges attack power, adding little depth to the game. How can all these people, with different shapes and sizes, manage to do identical blood-spattering uppercuts and leg-shattering low kicks? Why can they only throw wimpy punches at the chest and aim flurry of stronger fists only at their opponents' heads? This is the fight for the salvation of the mankind, not a boxing lesson with a living punching bag. As far as using a character's standard moveset goes, the lack of variation and depth are a joke compared to the likes of the things seen in the Street Fighter and the King of Fighters series. The game tries to make up for such shortcomings by placing a greater emphasis on a character's special moves. Aside from truly nasty finishing moves like cleaving someone's head in two or inflating his body till it explodes, you'll be granted a wide variety of projectiles to annihilate your opponent. You'll be able to fling magical blades, fans, fireballs, and several other items at your unwitting foe, with each successful impact ripping another hunk off of their life bar and sending blood spattering everywhere. Sub Zero retains his classic ability to turn his foes into ice sculptures, Liu Kang can still bicycle-kick someone's face into pulp, and Scorpion's “GET OVER HERE” battlecry can send even the bravest warriors running for their mommies. At least, until his bladed rope impales their chests and drags them back into his clutches.

Now, this could have been fun. Really. There are few things more entertaining (if not morbidly enjoyable) than smacking around a bunch of warriors and tossing their bloody entrails asunder with every attack. Unfortunately, any potential fun that could have been had with Mortal Kombat II is smothered by the game's frustrating AI. As you attempt to fight through Shang Tsung's forces, you'll find that your adversaries are far more adept at fighting than any human player. Thanks to the game's ability to read your button inputs, you'll frequently find yourself outmaneuvered. There are few things more irritating than performing an uppercut, only to have your enemy reach beyond the normal grappling range, grab you in the middle of the attack animation, and throw you into submission. Their reaction times are incredible; you can knock an opponent down on the ground, and then jump forward to finish him off with a kick, only to have your prey suddenly spring into the air and swat you down. No human player the dexterity to pull off some of the projectile and attack combinations that your foes use; since the AI doesn't have to worry about inputting button commands, it can string several attacks together outpace you fairly easily.

It's not like the game goes out of its way to entertain you, either. Sure, sending fountains of gore flying everywhere may be entertaining the first few times, but you'll start to get weary of the repetitive attack animations and scratchy voice acting. There are few things more cringe-inducing than hearing Liu Kang do his horrid Bruce Lee impersonation with every single move. While Mortal Kombat II features some fairly detailed (if not slightly grainy) digitized character models for their fighters, you'll find that several of them are essentially the same character with different colored costumes and special attacks. Having Sub-Zero and Scorpion as palette swapped ninjas is already enough. Having Reptile, Smoke, and Noob Saibot as slightly modified clones is beyond overkill. The same could be said for Mileena and Kitana; being twins doesn't necessarily mean that they have to sport nearly identical costumes and appearances. Despite the lack of variations, the fighters are detailed well enough to portray the effects of light and shadow, bulging muscles, and sinister sneers. However, it's the small assortment of levels that steal the show; you'll get to uppercut your opponent off walkways suspended hundreds of feet in the air, wander through a living forest, knock someone into a sewer flowing with acid, and even show off your best skills in front of the jeering crowds in an Outworld stadium. Such things may not make up for the game's other issues, but they're still sights worth seeing.

What happened to Mortal Kombat II? Something was lost in the translation from the arcade game into this pathetic Genesis version. The game lacks the kind of depth that some fans of console fighting games have come to expect; the identical animations, simplistic combat tactics, and overemphasis on special attacks aren't endearing in the least. The overactive AI and its humanly impossible combos and reaction speed ensures that you'll be frequently outdone. The overuse of character palette swaps doesn't help, either. As your character gets thrashed and ripped open by such bland adversaries, you can take comfort in the fact that you're looking at fairly detailed presentation of gruesome disembowelment and unhindered bloodlust. In the end, that's what Mortal Kombat II and its respective series have always been about: shallow gameplay that makes for wanton bloodshed.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 05/11/07

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