Review by bbears

"Mortal Kombat in 3D"

The Mortal Kombat franchise is one of the most recognizable and financially successful in the industries history. Because of this many many games have been pumped out with it's name on it. After the first 3 successful main Mortal Kombats we got several different versions of “trilogy”, a crappy beat em up( Mythologies), and ultimate editions. These were all rushed products merely meant to capitalize on the old formula while 3D fighting games were quickly becoming more popular than MK's old 2D style. Unfortunately this brought down the franchises esteemed name a little. Mortal Kombat 4 is their attempt to revitalize the franchise back to it's roots while at the same time moving into 3D. In this regard Mortal Kombat 4 is a success. With that said though, it probably is still the weakest game in the main series.

Back in its day MK4 was a graphics powerhouse at the arcade. The port to the Nintendo 64 although not quite as good, it still is one of the best looking 3D games of the generation. From the arcade they lowered the pixels and took some details out of the environments. If you played the arcade version you may notice this and it may bother you. But the trade off is that the game runs at an impressive 60 fps (frames per second). This is small feat for a fully 3D game with tons of animations for the generation. And if you didn't play the arcade version then you will not notice and be impressed with the all game's details. Although watered down all the characters are well modeled and there is a still a lot of detail in the backgrounds. MK4 happens to be the first MK game where the characters are all designed and not digital captures. This gives them more creative room in design but faces in particular, even with the hardware upgrade, don't look as good as in previous MK games. The music is fantastic, as you would expect of a MK game. All of the classic MK tracks make there appearance as well as new ones. I do think the sound effects were not as impressive as they were in the past. And the voice acting is absolutely atrocious. This is the first MK game with voice acting and hopefully the last. All of the voice actors went way over the top and it comes off cheesy, and not in the good way.

First off, the Nintendo 64 is not well designed for fighting games. Add in that very few fighting games came to the console, so there is little for developer to base their effort on, and it is easy to potentially see controls being a problem area for this game. They could be much worse but I am definitely not a fan of the button layout. MK4 uses A and B plus all the C buttons and then D-pad to move. Sounds okay right? Well my problem was that the run and block button is in between the punch and kick buttons. For some reason this was very awkward for me and took a lot of time to get used too. Also there is no button reconfiguration, which is very unusual for a fighting game. Besides the layout which you can get used too everything is fairly responsive and never holds you back. MK4 offers five game modes so there is a lot menus. For the most part they are easy to navigate. I have never been a fan of character select screens that have hidden characters, which MK4 has. If there are hidden characters they should get their own box not double up.

Although for most fighting games story has never been important Mortal Kombat has always been strong in this department. This is one of the reasons I have been a MK fan for quite some time. The story in MK, like the other games, is told mainly in back story content. After MK3 Shao Kahn has been defeated and Earthrealm saved. But in the process sorcerer Quan Chi was able to release the banished elder god Shinook. Now Raiden must gather his allies to stop the two before they take over Earthrealm. Besides the main villains being different this is pretty much the same story MK has telling for quite a while. But after three games it is nice to change up the scenery and involve some new characters. Like other MK games all of the selectable characters have their own endings. While not the best of the series it is enough to do fan service for loyal MK fans.

Mortal Kombat 4 offers five game modes arcade, tournament, team, endurance, and practice. Practice is just what you think its is, a free mode where you can control multiple variables and practice any given character. Arcade mode is the bread and butter of most fighting games. Pick a character and work up a ladder fighting tougher and tougher opponents until you get to a boss. Once you defeat the boss you view the ending for the that respective character. Team allows you to pick a roster of five character to go up five other characters. Theses games can be long and is the most fun mode to play with friends. Endurance mode is where you progress with a ladder just like arcade but your health bar does not refill after each bout. By far the most difficult and takes a lot of skill to be successful here. All the modes have the same gameplay, one on one fighting just like you would expect. You have four strike buttons, a run, and a block. The run button is new and is there mainly because with 3D environments it is possible to accidentally create a lot of separation. For most part even though the game is fully 3D you fight on the same plane. All you have is a sidestep button, but this has cool down. The reason for that is so you can't spam it to avoid all attacks and throw the match. Other big parts of the gameplay are they new weapons and max damage. The maximum damage that can be done on a single combo has been capped at 41%. MK4 features lots of juggles and it is easy to see how these could be abused. However, I don't like this, it feels like a cop out instead of properly balancing the game. All characters also start with their own individual weapon. These can be pulled out at any time, including combos. The move set with these is fairly limited but they are powerful. You can also throw your weapon to do damage as well, which the you can pick up or opponent can as well. Besides these parts MK4 plays out like your typical MK game. You have a unique set of special moves and preset combos. MK has always placed an emphasis on button accuracy and speed to be successful, and MK4 is no different here. Of course MK4 also has the trademark fatalities. Each character has two unique ones of their own. With secret character MK4 has about twenty characters.

Mortal Kombat 4 is probably the worst of the series but that said the MK franchise sets a pretty high bar. Now days MK4 is dirt cheap and definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the series or fighting games in general.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/23/12

Game Release: Mortal Kombat 4 (US, 06/23/98)

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