Tag Archives: Fighting

Mortal Kombat: Arcade Kollection – Review

Considering the fact that Capcom has been able to make a killing just by restoring and reselling its back-catalog of 2D arcade fighters (Street Fighter, Marvel Vs Capcom, Darkstalkers) on current-gen online marketplaces, it really was only a matter of time until Netherrealm Studios did the same for its own notorious fighting series. The 90’s arcade games that catalyzed the formation of the ESRB rating system due to its “realistic” display of violence and gore, return in the form of the Arcade Kollection. The digital download title includes Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Ultimate MK3, and all are given a decent enough paint job and a handful of different viewing options to make it as much of an authentic experience as possible. However, it’s a lot of that very same authenticity that highlights exactly why Mortal Kombat had for so long been considered  entertainment first, as opposed to a more balanced, competitive fighter. In the end, the Arcade Kollection comes up short, proving itself to be a neat retrospective novelty whose remaining interest lies only with the small audience willing to look past its flaws. The Arcade Kollection can be boiled down to 3 modes. Each of the arcade cabinets can be selected from the main menu, and each allows for solo ladders, offline versus, as well as online competition. And coming from a Mortal Kombat fan, it’s unfortunate to say that all three modes of play suffer from issues caused either from questionable game design or technical issues. The one mode that still has the potential to be fun, offline competitive play, is marred by issues related to out-dated control schemes and finishing moves made needlessly difficult to pull off. Sure, it’s technically not a problem to adhere as much as possible to the original game, but why are strange new criteria added? For instance, the Animality finishing move now requires an act of Mercy to be given by the winner. Seriously, these games aren’t exactly packing as much depth as the newer fighting games, so why make fatalities nigh-impossible to perform? I mean, who would be playing this game for any other reason beside, “I want to do the old school fatalities”? The fact that the original release of UMK3 had the option for one button fatalities and this game doesn’t have that is absolutely bewildering. Instead, you and your friends can have fun doing things like: struggling with asinine button combinations, struggling to know where the game needs you to be, not having enough time to move into the required position, and inexplicably not having it work regardless. Despite playing with various groups on separate occasions, we would always eventually give up on trying to do any of them. The time limit is ridiculous, and the crushing frustration of failing them for unknown reasons is just dispiriting. It was a stroke of luck if it ever worked. So the question becomes: if you’re going to try and sell games that haven’t aged gracefully, and have fundamentally much less to offer than modern titles, why not simplify, or at least give the possibility to simplify fatalities? Instead of  over-complicating your one cool gimmick, maybe let the players enjoy the pixelated bloodshed by implementing advances from the new MK. Thankfully, on a positive note, the game has all your special moves in the pause screen; something the originals did not. But considering how meh each round ended, there never was a need to get any good at really learning a character since we’d moved on to different games anyway. There is another mode of play in which the game does require you to do more than button mash. The single-player offering remains just as painfully, stupidly, annoyingly brutal as the originals. Mortal Kombat 9’s ladder modes can be tough, but they are easy mode compared to the cheap, quarter-stealing AI of the arcade originals. The game difficulty spikes at such an exponential rate, that once you reach the bosses, it will take either a miracle or resorting to a cheap exploit to win. Never have I felt victory quite like dethroning Shao Kahn in UMK3. The original MK proved to be only slightly less nightmarish to complete, if solely because you could count all the moves in the game on your fingers. The developers had no problem making the bosses capable of killing you in less than 5 hits. I understand that this sort of design was intentional, so as to rob 90s kids of their money. I decided to run a little experiment for the hardest of the three games, MK II. I was going to count up how much money it would cost for me to win. Results of my scientific inquiry: this game is a mother f*cker! It was so difficult, that once I’d realized it was impossible to beat on normal, that even on Easy difficulty, it was still harder than an Expert level MK9 ladder. The game is not only cheap, but it legitimately cheats too. The game’s programming works so that in harder fights, the computer can read your button input, and decide more often than not, that instead of letting you make contact with certain moves, it will instead hit you with a grab, at a speed faster than a human could. The nano second timing can best be used with this analogy. Imagine a fan and a lamp in the same room. Also imagine a switch for the fan you can turn on. Now imagine every time you switched on the fan, the lamp turned on first… and then a heap of dung was thrown into the fan. The average gamer would’ve lost 25-30 dollars trying to overcome this, pardon my French, utter bullshit. It also didn’t help that MK II’s bosses required me to switch from my preferred fighter to other ones, based on the fact that mine did not have something I could spam to win, unlike Mileena, whom I’m convinced will be the only person I’ll ever beat that ladder with. Especially since these ladders left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don’t plan on ever returning to them to try other characters. Such a shame considering the endings I did get were rather humorous. Finally, we need to talk about the online play, which is nearly extinct at this point. The online might’ve been a serviceable alternative from other, newer games at one point, but is a barren wasteland now. Of the handful of people I could connect with, nearly half of the games were crippled with varying degrees of lag, both input-wise and visibly. Some games would just crash after a minute or so, while others chugged on like a laptop trying to run Crysis at max settings. I decided I’d tough it out though, even if just to get the trophies and walk away. It became a chore, and the aforementioned problems made it a challenge to enjoy myself. It’s really sad. But then again, Mortal Kombat really should be played with someone holding Controller 2, anyway.The big takeaway from this review should be that this game is only for those who are true Kombatophiles. And even then, someone with that kind of love for the game would probably already own the original Genesis versions. What may have been revolutionary for the time is now just hokey, dated fun at best (and agonizing at worst). The games don’t provide enough content to keep interest and is too punishing for so little reward. It’s hard to even say the cost is justified for this game. Honestly, you could just go onto youtube and watch all the fatalities and character endings without wasting your short life on trying to do them all yourself here. Personally, the only reason I’m still keeping it is because of my adoration of the MK brand and for arcade games AND I never got to own the originals. It’s so niche that I couldn’t even bet on anybody reading this also fitting that criteria because all the bookies would have taken that one off the board. It’s a strange critique to call a game “too hard,” but in this case it’s true. Fighting the bosses is like pulling teeth; not exactly an experience that will have you crawling back for more. (unless you’re Likes also include ballgags, chains, and dressing like an extra from the Matrix sequels) The 1v1 could be fun if the online were any good, but sadly it isn’t. And even more depressingly, the iPhone version of the game had more sensible fatality requirements than this console version! There are ways to spruce up games that have passed their expiration date, but the Arcade Kollection does it Weekend at Bernie’s style. Don’t get this game unless it’s at least half off and you’re a big retro/fighting game/MK nerd.

Obligatory Number at the End: 5.75/10

Darkstalkers Resurrection Review ~ The Halloween Fighting Game

Quick update on the site: I’ve been working on a review compilation of a complete series of videogames, so that’s the explanation as to why no review has been up for a while. (Playing through 5 games takes longer than 1, it turns out) That review will be up by next week and the reviews will return to a more steady stream of output. (1 article per week) That is all.

Halloween, much like the creepy men behind the bushes waiting for that one kid without their parents, is just around the corner. Literally, tomorrow. Which means it’s the time to visit haunted houses, carve up pumpkins, decorate your place in chintzy plastic gubbins, and of course, do exactly what parents have always told you not to do and accept candy from strangers! And if there were ever a game that captured that cheesy-yet-alluring seasonal flair, it’d be Darkstalkers. The HD revamp of the old, arcade classics comes in the form of Resurrection, which features the original Night Warriors title, as well as Darkstalkers 3 bundled in one place. These Capcom fighters were the sister series of the more popular, Street Fighter games, and contained similar ideals and controls, but had a vastly sillier tone. Focusing less on martial artists, Darkstalkers holds nothing back with its cast of characters. From the nunchaku-wielding Wolfman, John Talbain, to the Frankenstein’s monster, Victor, who can grab opponents with his butt cheeks and slam them around with his gluteous grip, the roster and setting oozes creative personality from every seam. Chances are good that you may have seen the more recognizable characters, Morrigan or Felicia, in Marvel vs Capcom or just on Deviantart…(so much deviantart)

but it should be noted that the lesser known characters are very well realized in terms of animation and creativity. This leads to the first problem with Darkstalkers – balance. Some fighters are just, plain-and-simple, leagues better than others at fighting. The mummy Anakaris, for example, is just way too slow and unwieldy and doesn’t have enough other qualities to stand a good chance amongst the relatively fast assortment like Lord Raptor (the rock-and-roll zombie) or even medium speed ones like Pyron (the living flame demon, who may be one of the coolest characters ever designed). On the plus side though, is the fact that if you’re playing this, you’re kind of limited in terms of mode of play. The online aspect of the game is actually really smooth if you can find an opponent. But that’s the key word, “if”. The fact that the game is a digital-only release, means that the audience for such a niche fighter is already small, made worse by the fact that the game’s been out for a while now. The best way to play it though, regardless, is going to be with another person actually in the room. It is immensely fun to dig into this game with a friend. You’ll be getting constantly surprised by  what the insane move set has to offer and will have more “that was so cool!” moments than most fighting games can offer newbie players. This is a fighting game that is instantly fun to play, regardless of skill level.

The single player offering is roughly what you would expect from older titles. Both games have their own ladder modes, complete with unique, often hilariously bad, endings for each character. The story is so hard to understand due to the lack of context provided to the player that one can’t help but burst out laughing at the fact that Felicia is a nun in one of her endings. But, i digress, the ladders are a good way of getting a feel for your character, and to test your ability against some of the most frustrating AI in existence. Blocking protects from almost all damage, and the computer opponents will be able to execute nano-second timing, before unleashing a combo on you in return. The cheapness can be dulled fortunately, by going to the difficulty setting and dropping it. Even on the lowest settings, though, opponents in Night Warriors can still give you a run for your money, if you’re trying to get the trophy/achievement for no-deaths in each game’s ladder modes. It’s not the worst example of super-cheap AI from an arcade fighter, but it’s definitely up there.

Speaking of uber-difficult trophies, the game has some of the worst, most obtuse achievements ever. Trophies are almost entirely comprised of Night Warriors’ Challenges mode. Which is basically where the fun of Darkstalkers gets turned into soul-crushing tedium before sapping your interest in trying to collect the trophies at all. Why? Because the challenges require the player to do a series of complex combos for each character. The frame-by-frame specificity that the game asks of you is laughably ridiculous, as most of the challenges will leave you feeling angry and confused as you attempt to perform inhuman inputs that the computer manages to make look easy. I personally enjoy when games provide challenges for the player, but these literally ruin the game. The fact that their only worth Bronzes (or 10g, for Xbox) makes them completely unrewarding torture. Stay away from these. If you’re a trophy hunter, give it a shot. But you’ll soon find yourself with the feeling that you’re really just wasting your time trying to complete the game’s asinine requests. 

Darkstalkers Resurrection is a refreshing facelift for the older games. It’s a genuinely fun couple of  fighters that don’t take themselves too seriously and doesn’t mind being full of colorful oddities. It’s got its flaws, but the couch competition is where the player-versus-player shines. The online is relatively dormant, sadly, and the ladder mode isn’t the most engrossing thing ever, but that doesn’t make it a game not worth experiencing. Playing what is essentially the Monster Mash videogame, complete with the swamp monster, abominable snowman, and vampires galore, makes this one of the most creative, as well as stylish, fighting series Capcom has ever released. The gameplay is approachable, the animation is amazing, and the Vault is full of character art to ogle at. Handicapped by inactivity online and a truly awful bunch of trophies, Darkstalkers Resurrection’s pros still manage to outweigh its cons. The one other point of contention however, is the pricing. I actually snagged this title while it was on sale on PSN for half-off, but the game is normally priced at $15, which can be enough to make some of the more frugal among us lose interest immediately. However, if you can look past that somewhat high cost of entry, or if you just have 15 bucks burning a hole in your PS store wallet, then this title will not disappoint. Darkstalkers Resurrection is an imaginative take on those classic horror-movie staples, and a perfect game for Halloween (or whenever you and some friends want some goofy entertainment).

Obligatory Number at the End: 7/10