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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

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