Why You Should Be Worried About Mortal Kombat

Self-fulfilling fatality?

Interpreting the portents, omens flashing across the sky like bolts from Raiden the Thunder God’s hands, Mortal Kombat’s imminent release could herald something of a misstep for the evergreen franchise.

Don’t get me wrong, NetherRealm Studios is definitely on the right track with the new Mortal Kombat. By recapturing the essence of the classic MK titles, the developers have made a bold statement and clearly want to be taken seriously. The problem is, their execution seems to be a bit flawed when compared to the competition. This is especially true seeing as they are targeting hardcore fighting fans.

Let’s use Street Fighter IV as an example: Capcom had the benefit of location tests and an arcade release to receive feedback from fans; Capcom held several fightclub events giving gamers hands on time with SFIV leading up to its console launch; Super Street Fighter IV received the same treatment and the developers even provided highly detailed change notes for every character in the game.

There is a well defined bond between the developers and fans and this usually results in a better game. After all, there’s only so much strict internal testing can do. Some people just know how to break games and play them in unpredictable ways.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 might be an even better example. There is no arcade release for that game, and yet, fans are still given hands on time well before the game’s release. I’ve played MvC3 at a couple of events over the last year and both experiences were quite different. The game was clearly a development in progress at the time, yet Capcom seemed confident enough to give media, fans, and pro gamers a chance to play it. You can tell that feedback directly influenced the development of MvC3 and that was only possible thanks to Capcom’s transparency.

Seeking fan feedback isn’t just a Capcom design philosophy. Namco’s Tekken series is another franchise that fans helped shape for the better. Just look at the arcade release of Tekken 6 and compare it to Tekken 6 on the PS3 or 360. Despite sharing the same name, the console version is based on an updated arcade release that was a result of direct feedback and it shows. There’s no doubt that Namco’s upcoming fighting games will be no different. If anything, community insight might be more influential than ever before.

Mortal Kombat is easily the most important game for the franchise in recent memory, and yet there doesn’t seem to be much desire for direct fan feedback. I saw a live demo at E3 and I was easily impressed. However, I only saw what the developers wanted me to see. It was flashy eye candy with the devs using simplified controls to show all the crazy combos.

The first public demo for MK9 was at PAX last year, and though the response was generally positive, it lacked substance since there’s only so much time one could play. Seeing as Mortal Kombat releases in April, it’s alarming that we still know so little about the game. Not seeing in depth discussion from hardcore Mortal Kombat players could be a problem if you’re looking for significant information.

I’ve been listening to the MKast on YouTube for months now and it’s nice to see NetherRealm Studios giving insight on gameplay mechanics and answering questions. There’s even some new footage thrown in as an added treat. While this is undoubtedly good fan service, it still doesn’t address the larger concern regarding broken gameplay. Will Mortal Kombat be balanced? We have no idea. In fact, we can’t even form opinions based on previous footage since those tweaks weren’t implemented at the time.

Should we really trust the developers just because they make claims of balance and deep fighting mechanics? Of course not. At least, not with their current reputation based on recent MK titles. Seeing as Mortal Kombat is one of the five games featured at Evo 2011, the biggest fighting game tournament in North America, NetherRealm should be embracing the fighting game community while actively seeking its input.

Interestingly enough, it was revealed that NetherRealm Studios have the power to make gameplay tweaks without the need for a patch. In theory, this could eliminate infinite combos and change attack properties for the better. However, we can’t just be expected to believe in such an easy fix without seeing it in practice. If it works as intended, this could be a revolutionary feature for the genre.

Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll just have to wait and see, and that’s really such a shame considering the amount of hype Mortal Kombat has generated. Hopefully it will be worthwhile.

27 Comments

  1. By definition of the games title, you should always be worried by any ‘Mortal Kombat’!

  2. The last MK game I really enjoyed was 3. After that I found them to be too bland and cliché.
    I don’t hold out much hope for this one to be honest

    • Same here after trilogy it kinda went downhill, although I did enjoy shoalin monks.

      • Shaolin Monks was insane…. there as to be a another like it in the MK universe

  3. It’s a Day 1 purchase for me. Love MK, especially the ps2 version of deception. i dont play fighting games for long periods, normally a quick blast or an hour max so hopefully it will have enough to keep me entertained during my bouts.

    Oh and welcome to the new guy ;)

    • ;) Hi

      • ha, I say new, you’ve been registered the same amount of time as me :P

  4. Mk have followed a lot of fan feedback with this game too. The series lost its allure when it moved to 3D. Like 3shirts said, the last good one was Mk3. Fans have been crying out for ages for a more solid fighting system and a return to the 2(.5)D plane of viewing and that is what NR are giving. Capcom doesn’t need fan feedback for SF considering every game is just a prettier version of the one that came before, and Tekken 6 was just god awful on consoles, the story mode had been done away with for that stupid campeign mode thing which is not what a fighting game is about. If anythign shouldn’t be used to describe how to do a brawler, it’s Tekken 6.

    • agree, shujinko from deception and his shitty little story annoyed the crap out of me. Still finished it though ;)

      • Wasn’t as annoying as Taven and what’s his face from Armageddon though!

    • Scenario Campaign mode aside, I think Tekken 6 had the best gameplay of the series. I just don’t understand the motivation behind having the awful story mode. Such a useless mode…

      • I didn’t like it to be honest, that bounce function was way to overused it was irritating, the load times were attrocious and Azazel was needlessly, annoyingly difficult.

  5. I LOVE MORTAL KOMBAT, call me sad I don’t care day 1. I still got MK2 in the PS3 and deception and Armageddon on PS2. Also got MK vs DC. Despite the reviews, it doesn’t stop me I find it enjoyable to play with a friend or on story for a wee quick bash ’em up.

    • ;) There’s nothing wrong with loving Mortal Kombat or even MK vs DC. As long as you find it enjoyable then that’s all that really matters in the end. I don’t imagine that you’ll be disappointed by MK9.

      • MK DC is quite cool, liked the story alot. Had some excellent fierce fights online and lots of fun in offline 2P. They say RAGE spoils the game for honest competition though, i kinda agree.

    • I LOVE MORTAL KOMBAT ;)

  6. I was hard core into Mortal Kombat on the Sega Mega and PS1, and have bought every title since, even though I haven’t spent as much time learning every combo and fatality as I did in the beginning.
    I have no doubt I will love this new one to bits, and have a vague feeling I’ll be going old school again, learning all the tricks and moves.

  7. Going by your last point about being able to tweak without patching, it sounds like they might be prepared to release a flawed version of the game and post support improve it. Which could go either way, some may love the support and others will resent the fact it was a unfishied release.

  8. really want to like this game, and for it to be a return to form. Hopefully they wont let us down.

  9. Fond memories of the first two in the arcade and Master System (I know) and Anthology(?) on the PS1, last one I played as the 3D one on XBox which was a fun game but broken, particularly by Reptile.
    I generally am not good enough at fighting games to ascertain balance but even I can tell that MK has never managed this well!

  10. i just wanted to pint that the location tests its a practice that almost all the japanese fighting game developers do for their games, not just capcom or namco, this includes, SNK, Arc System Works, Examu, etc
    hell, even Tecmo will do location tests for the new doa on 3ds

    • Yup, you bring up a good point. Originally I was going to write that but I decided not to for some reason. Looking back, I really should have since it was my original intention. Good thing we have you in the comments section though ^_^.

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