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10 Things that Mortal Kombat X Did Right

10 Things that Mortal Kombat X Did Right

The more that I play Mortal Kombat X, the more convinced I am that it may just be the best Mortal Kombat game ever made.  Sure it looks great and plays great, but that’s par for the course – we expect improvements like these as technology moves forward.  Beyond that though, the developers have made some really interesting innovations; they don’t quite reinvent the game, they improve it, which in many ways can be a lot harder than deciding to start all over from scratch.

MKX

If I’m being 100% honest, the 2011 reboot left me a little disenfranchised.  The game itself played/plays like a dream, but I was more than a little disappointed at having to retread past events with more of the same old characters.  It wasn’t all bad, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a game made for a new generation, and not those of us who’d grown up with Mortal Kombat.  But hey, I get it, it’s got to appeal to everyone, it’s got to sell.  I guess hitting the “Reset” button did necessitate its own game to get everyone on the same page.  Now we have Mortal Kombat X, where it’s really time to do something special.

There’s a few things I would add to MKX, but there’s really not anything I would change.  The guys banged out an excellent product this time around, and here are 10 things they absolutely hit the nail on the head with!

10.  “Skip Fight” Option

This is a small point, but one that I really appreciate in light of the crushing difficulty of older games in the series.  The MK3/UMK3/MKT set was especially frustrating in that regard, and I vividly remember feeling drained, dirty, ashamed, and having my ass thoroughly handed to me….even on “Very Easy.”  Although they’ve corrected a lot of the problems that led to this since then, the franchise has mostly been a series of games that punishes players for not being good enough.

With the simple inclusion of the “Skip Fight” option, players can now make progress regardless of their skill level.  You won’t get the koins, XP, and so on, but finally the developers have come up with a simple way of rewarding the great players instead of punishing the poor players.  Not a great fighter?  No sweat, you can still at least see everything that MKX has to offer.  Fantastic fighter?  Well awesome, not only will you get to see everything, but you’ll rack up a nice load of koins and XP along the way!

For the first time ever, you can more or less experience all of a Mortal Kombat game without having to be good at a Mortal Kombat game.  Some folks are going to take offense to this feature but that doesn’t really matter; video games have been getting “easier” for several years now masking the fact with increasing complexity, length, and variation.

9.  Huge Character Models

I didn’t immediately notice this, but the characters are friggin’ huge on screen!  And not in a bad way either.  During the old 2D games the characters were quite small, and though bigger in the 3D world, they’ve never been this big.  Even the recent Injustice – also developed by Netherrealm Studios – has tiny characters by comparison, probably only 1/2 to 2/3’s the size of the guys in MKX.

MKX

The characters aren’t just taller, they’re bulkier, be it from clothes, armor, or whatever else.  They take up a significant amount of screen space, but surprisingly it never feels cramped.  Right now I’m thumbing through screenshots of not only other Mortal Kombat games but also other popular fighting games and now that I’m really paying attention, it’s astounding how much empty space is left.

Don’t let the size fool you.  These kombatants never feel sluggish or awkward and the game delivers the same fluidity we’d all expect.  The difference is that we now have an excellent view of all the detail that went into the characters.

8.  No Shang Tsung

Shang TsungI could see how this might not be a plus for every fan of the series, but I was getting a little tired of him myself.  His “comeback” for Deadly Alliance was pretty cool, but after that I think he ought to have been retired.  As I mention in my Top 10 Worst Mortal Kombat Characters article, one of the reasons that newer characters had trouble gaining ground with fans is because the developers kept old favorites around indefinitely, offering little to no incentive for players to get familiar with new contenders.

Personally, I also think that Tsung worked better as a mysterious old wizard.  He was much less interesting as a sniveling Shao Kahn lackey, and I think that Quan Chi did a more than adequate job of replacing Tsung’s function.  I guess you could compare Quan Chi’s relationship to Shinnok to that of Tsung and Shao Kahn, but Quan Chi was always much more independent, and indeed in the original continuity betrayed Shinnok.

I don’t hate Shang Tsung or anything, but he’s a prime example of just how badly the franchise could start spinning its wheels sometimes.  I guess his ability to morph into other characters was prized as a game mechanic, but I would’ve rather seen the ability “passed down” to someone else than keep Tsung around long past his usefulness.  I mean let’s be real about it; Liu and/or Raiden would’ve destroyed Tsung the first chance they got.

7.  No More “Fighting Styles”

Desperate to reinvigorate the franchise after the critical and commercial failures of MK4, MK Gold, MK Mythologies, and MK Special Forces, the boys came strong out the gate with 2002’s Deadly Alliance.  This game breathed new life into the series through a variety of means including a new game engine and several innovative new features.  One such feature was the “fighting styles” attributed to each character.  These fighting styles were given different default moves, different stances, and even different combos.  Building on the idea of wielding weapons from MK4, a third fighting style included a weapon which dealt more damage than regular blows.

Style Branch Combos

Not a great pic, but remember the terrible Style Branch Combos from Deadly Alliance?

The system of fighting styles sounds cool enough, but I don’t know that it made as much of an impact on the game as the creators would’ve liked.  Toggling through the fighting styles feels a little pointless in the middle of a fight, and it seems like the only reason all these crazy styles even existed was to make up part of those god awful “style branching combos.”  The weapons were pretty cool I suppose, but again I don’t think they were integrated all that well.  The trend continued for several games (getting progressively lazier), but now we have something brand new.

MKX - Variations

Instead of having fighting styles to cycle through during a match, the player selects a “variation” before the match.

MKX introduces “variations.”  Each character has three different variations, and as part of the character selection process, the player also decides which variation to play as.  Essentially they act as preset load outs for each character.  The character’s “regular” special moves are included in all variations, though each variation also has a twist that grants the combatant a few exclusive moves as well.  It’s a lot to take in and experiment with, but so far it seems to be a well developed system that grants a great deal of versatility to each character.

Shinnok6.  A Badass Shinnok

We’re introduced to Shinnok in MK Mythologies where he’s presented as curmudgeon-ly, aged ruler of Hell.  There’s definitely something menacing and sinister about him, but there’s also a tired and resigned quality.  At the end of the game we find out that his “true form” is a large demon which changes things a little, though he still spends most of the game as a more or less passive force, only using whatever power he may have in a last resort capacity.

When Shinnok was brought back for MK4/MKG, he had a sleeker, younger look, not unlike Shang Tsung’s transformation from MK to MK2.  He doesn’t look horrible, but he doesn’t look all that threatening.  He appears a bit both regal and cartoonish at the same time.  MKA did little to retool his appearance, merely adding back in a little of the character’s age as shown in Mythologies.

All this time, and Shinnok has been a rather inconspicuous-looking individual.  Sure, he dresses funny like the rest of the kombatants, but there’s nothing much about him that screams “former elder god” or “ruler of Hell.”  Finally, MKX has given him a makeover.  He’s still old looking, but this time they really embraced that whole “ancient evil” thing.  He reminds me a lot of Gary Oldman’s performance as Dracula back in 1994 with a healthy dose of Emperor Palpatine thrown in.  Shinnok is total malevolence, and the developers achieved much of it by giving him a more detailed face.  It helps that he also gets to turn back into a demon for the final fight.  For the first time in a long time, we have an appreciably evil boss.

Shinnok - MKX

5.  Relatable “Everyman” Characters

If you’ve read over my list of Top 10 Worst MK Charactersyou’ll notice that I went after “the normal guys” pretty hard.  But this wasn’t just because they were normal, it was because the development team didn’t bother to compensate for their generic looks by giving them a compelling backstory or place in the surrounding events.  MKX proves that “normal” humans can work, and does this by giving them an important role in the events at hand.

MKX ushers in a slew of regular humans: Takeda, Kung Jin, Jacqui Briggs, and Cassandra (Cassie) Cage.  Surprise!  They’re not awful and forgettable!  First of all, they’re all connected with our main cast.  Takeda is Kenshi’s adopted son and biological child of Scorpion, Kung Jin is a cousin of Kung Lao, Jacqui is Jax’s daughter, and Cassie is the child of Sonya and Johnny.  The four of them have a very important place in the game’s storyline, which helps tremendously to elevate them above the status of “random generic guy/girl.”

MKX

L to R: Kung Jin, Cassie, Jacqui, Takeda

Admittedly, it might be more fun to get in the ring as Ferra/Torr or Quan Chi, but these “everymen” aren’t totally lost and they are worth playing as.  Their equipment helps distinguish them as well: Takeda has whips/ropes similar to Scorpion and Mavado as well as pulse blades that hearken back to Cyrax and Sektor; Kung Jin has a bone bow (with arrows) reminiscent of Nightwolf; Jacqui has forearm attachments with various functions (bringing her father’s bionic arms to mind); and Cassie has a couple of straight up handguns that she’s not shy about using.

They may not be the coolest looking in the new batch of characters, though they develop enough of  personality throughout their connections and the game’s story that you ought to find yourself appreciative of their role in MKX.

4.  No Shao Kahn!

Shao KahnYou know, I didn’t think we’d ever really see the day come, but it finally has – Shao Kahn is fucking dead!  To be fair, we’ve heard this before, but it seems like it just may stick this time around.  Now I don’t really have anything against Shao Kahn personally, I was just getting tired of his constant presence and invulnerability.  He was the new boss in MK2 – ok great, good storyline development, we get to see Shang Tsung’s boss.  Then he reappears in pretty much the same capacity for the events of MK3/UMK3/MKT.  MK4 was going a different direction which was great, and it seemed like he was gone.  Then in Deadly Alliance, it was revealed that he had actually been killed! … No, wait, that was a decoy.  Even though Onaga was the big bad in Deception, Shao Kahn persisted as a relevant and formidable foe.  Finally in MKA, he was again vying for the prize, and again showed off his superior strength by essentially becoming MKA’s champion…until Raiden created his whole splinter universe thing.

I get that they had to bring him back for the 2011 reboot, but I liked the spin that the writers put on it – Raiden had to let Shao Kahn win, so that the Elder Gods would destroy him once and for all…and I think, I hope, that’s exactly where it stays.  Like I said, I don’t have anything against the character himself, I just don’t understand why the story, up until now at least, has been unable to move past him.  With so many other characters and places and unresolved plotlines, it’s definitely time for something new.

3.  Use of Modern Weapons and Increased Realism

Way back during MK’s beginnings, it may have seemed a little out of place to include bullets and lasers and rocket launchers in this world of sorcery.  But as the battle moves to Earthrealm and the scope of the story grows, it’s important to adopt a degree of realism.  Previous games have been slowly working up to it, but I think that MKX has done it the best so far.  We’re finally in a believable struggle between beings with magical powers and beings with advanced technology.  MKX does a fine job of blending all this together in a way that doesn’t seem forced.

MKX

We actually get to see the Special Forces as an organized institution with soldiers, vehicles, and equipment necessary for fending off an otherworldly invasion.

With the modern weapons and settings comes more realism.  We’re seeing less humans with the abilities to randomly generate fireballs, and the worlds of the mystical and mundane are better separated.  Those with the Special Forces generate their projectiles through technology such as Jacqui’s forearm attachments.  Johnny and Cassie may have their “green glow,” but it’s inexplicable to both of them instead of being represented as “this cool supernatural thing” they can do.  I can really get behind this new rationale governing developing characters.  I dig that not everyone has to be a master wizard to make a difference, and that magic isn’t portrayed as something that can unquestionably overcome modern weaponry.

The 1-player Story Mode gives us a great look at how these two worlds collide and it’s worth a look for anyone who might’ve had trouble reconciling the modern with the mystical in previous games. It all comes together quite seamlessly and although still fantastical, makes for an entertaining and interesting story better than anything that’s been done previously in the series.

2.  Constant References to the “Old” Continuity

When MK 2011 came out, I was more than a little disappointed at how everything that had come before it was tossed aside.  I mean I get it in a way; the storyline was getting really messy and running out of places to go.  But that didn’t mean that I was necessarily eager to rehash the first three games again.  However, now that we’re knee deep in this “new continuity,” I’m a bit more sold on the idea.  Still, there’s a huge amount of material that the MK team has to cast aside.

Luckily for us old fans, they’re constantly referring to the events of old in some way, shape, or form, which always gets a “thumbs up” from yours truly.  The references are vast and range from the subtle to the overt.  During Story Mode, Rain mentions being the son of Argus – this goes back to MKA, and is probably the first overt MKA reference we’ve been given in this “new continuity.”  In a single match of Erron Black versus Kano, Black remarks that he killed a member of the Black Dragon, “think his name was Kobra,” Black muses.  At some point, a character mistakes Goro for Kintaro, whereupon Goro makes a disparaging remark about the lower-class striped Shokans.  Quan Chi appears on screen carrying what looks to be Moloch’s head.  Little comments and moments like these are peppered all over the place.  In one stage that looks something like a sorcerer’s laboratory (I’m not quite familiar with the arena names yet) there’s an obvious “being” forming in a pit in the background, unmistakably similar to Meat.

Moloch's Head

Quan Chi saunters onto the screen with what can only be Moloch’s head…but why he seems proud of his minion’s death is confusing to me.

These references make more pronounced appearances during some of the characters’ endings.  If you want to see the endings for yourself, you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph.  …  In Cassie’s ending (I think), Raiden sends her to deal with a sorcerer who we (the audience) as well as Cassie believe to be Shang Tsung, however, we soon see that this sorcerer is none other than Shujinko!  During the endings of both Kenshi and Takeda, the two set off to find who was responsible for Takeda’s mother’s death.  Throughout both endings, we learn that they find out about the Red Dragon (the first mention of the clan in the new continuity), and indeed meet the captive dragon Caro (who isn’t mentioned by name).  The two also free Taven from a rock, who helps them to find Daegon, who turns out to be responsible for the murder.  Kitana’s ending even has her dreaming about being in the previous continuity – the first time anyone in the new continuity seems to be aware of the old one – right there in the great battle at the pyramid.  I mean wow, how much closer to MKA can we get!?  Another very obvious reference comes in a post-credits scene after Story Mode where Raiden has unmistakably changed into his vengeful “Dark Raiden” persona.  There’s probably even more of these moments that I haven’t yet discovered or have forgotten to mention, but it’s a treat to stumble across these, and it leaves me hopeful that perhaps these stories won’t be totally lost.  Curiously, there’s not yet been any mention of Orderrealm, Chaosrealm, or characters from each.

Meat??

Possible Meat sighting at 3 o’clock!

I’m glad that the story is going in a new direction and I fully support the change, though I’m also glad that perhaps some of the events we’re already familiar with exist in this new continuity as well.  Are they setting the stage for a meeting of the 2 universes..?  Or maybe just a retelling of MKA with the potential to open up a whole new world of stories afterwards?  I obviously can’t do more than speculate, but with so much MKA material referenced in some of the endings (with a curious lack of Deadly Alliance and Deception plot points), I can’t help but think it means something…

1.  The Story Moves Forward!

MKX’s greatest achievement is also perhaps its most obvious.  Why is this so great?  Not only does it make for a more entertaining game, but it also suggests a more promising future.  We won’t really know for a while – Boon and friends could revert back to their ways of not really killing anyone or using various plot twists to keep Mortal Kombat decidedly immortal, though I’m going to stay optimistic and reckon that we’re at the beginning of a new approach for the franchise.

I don’t mean to imply that the old storyline was bad or stagnant.  In fact, it was full of interesting developments that always made me want to know, “what happens next!?”  I love how one tournament, itself shrouded in mysticism and ancient lore, turned into an extra-dimensional invasion.  I love how all of that was itself orchestrated by none other than the ruler of Hell.  I dig how the 2 underestimated underlings decided to take control for themselves, and I even got behind the return of the enigmatic ruler of Outworld, The Dragon King.  And finally, I still maintained a great deal of respect for a battle to end all battles, between all of the realm’s most accomplished warriors.  I still love wallowing in that storyline and soaking it all in and putting the pieces together.

MKX - Johnny Cage

Cage is staring to go gray!

But even though all of this stuff was happening, it seemed like “normal time” had stopped.  Were these events happening one after the other with no respite?  Or were some characters living out years of a normal life in between?  Didn’t anyone ever sustain a crippling injury?  We had (have) a wealth of material with very little pragmatic context.  Here’s where MKX steps in and shows us something new.

In MKX, our characters have had lives and they aren’t solely devoted to “mortal kombat.”  The story acknowledges that time does pass, that people do get older, and that mortals are, well, mortal.  The most obvious change is that the events of MKX are occurring 20 years after MK 2011, with a few assorted flashbacks to help establish how our characters got to where they are now.  I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so I won’t go into too much detail, though I’ll touch on some general aspects.  I do find it refreshing that we’re now following the descendants of previous characters, and how past events have helped determine who some of these characters are today (Jax being a prime example).  For maybe the first time in the series, we have real characterization.  And this is what I mean by the story moving forward.  Time is passing, things are changing, our warriors aren’t in some perpetual state of combat readiness that supersedes all else.

MKX Fatality

Let’s make “fatality” mean something again!

I think it’s great that Boon and Tobias were able to create characters that connected so well with the audience.  It’s awesome that everyone involved got so attached to the characters that they never wanted to see them die “for good.”  But let’s get real, this is a harsh reality that’s been created.  People will die.  Warriors both great and small will be the subject of both luck and misfortune and not everyone will make it to the home stretch.  Let’s start embracing that concept.  For all the blood that’s been spilled, let’s get some actual blood on our hands.  Let’s get back to what made the series so dark, disturbing, and amazing in the first place: its 100% unapologetic celebration of death.

Is the Best Yet to Come?

So there you have it, 10 things that Mortal Kombat X unequivocally nailed.  And because of these 10 things, I’m pretty comfortable saying that MKX is the best MK yet.  And if it’s the best yet, I can only hope that the creators will stick with this line of thinking and develop something even more amazing for the next installment.  Throughout my articles over the last year or so I’ve given you plenty of reasons why should’ve already gone out and bought yourself a Wii U or a 3DS, but finally we have what might (so far) be the best reason to go out and snag a PS4 or Xbox One.  If you’ve ever been a Mortal Kombat fan, you owe it to yourself to fully immerse yourself into this latest offering.  And if, perchance, you’re the type of fan who can’t bear to see someone left of the roster forever, try looking at things with a new perspective; you won’t be disappointed.

What do you think of Mortal Kombat X?  Is it the best yet?  Have any other reasons to share why it sets itself above and beyond previous games?  Let us know in the Comments below!

Don’t forget to also take a look at my Top 10 MK Characters Who Should be Playable and Top 10 Worst Mortal Kombat Characters!

Also check out these other articles related to Mortal Kombat X:

Written by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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One Comment

  1. I haven’t even played this yet but it sounds great and this article increases my interest!

     

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