‘Mortal Kombat’ konquers its age

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

Time to get the kiddies out of the room, it is time for kombat.

Yes, that typo is intentional because “Mortal Kombat” has been misspelling words with a hard C pronunciation for more than 20 years. “Mortal Kombat X” marks the tenth installment of the popular fighting franchise. The games have had one of the best theme songs in gaming and satiated a bloodlust among gamers for two decades.

This game nails quite a few things because of its age and experience, but lets others suffer.

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The fighting in “MKX” is the best of any fighting game. Punching and kicking animations have improved, so characters do not look like they are flailing around. The controls feel fluid, but the use of a standard controller does not do them justice. Analog sticks do not grant the same motion because they cover a 360 degree space.

I recommend using the D pad because the stick will often go higher in the space when trying to go left or right, making the character hop around like a Mexican jumping bean.

Learning combinations will do more damage than just using basic one-button attacks. Memorizing combos is a bit of a chore, but most combos use similar buttons, so players can try to repeat. Because of the improved animations, more moves actually land. This is a good thing when someone is playing by themselves, but will reward button mashing when playing against a friend or online.

Fatalities, the gory, bone-breaking finishing moves have always been a highlight for players and gripe of their mothers. Just saying the word requires an Oscar performance, like Jonah Hill in “This is the End.”

One of my favorite fatalities comes from one of my favorite characters, Sub-Zero, who freezes part of his enemy’s stomach and breaks the ice with a punch. Then he reaches in, grabs the exposed spine, lifts them over his head and rips the person in two. Yeah, it is gory, but it is so over the top that you cannot take it seriously. Calm down, mom!

Even though the fatalities are gross, a micro-transaction system is even grosser. Players can buy “easy fatalities” for a few bucks, as well as paying to skip fights in the story mode. Instead of learning the long combination to properly finish your opponent, players can get simple, two button commands.

This is not a game breaking issue, but is just a gross technique becoming standard in gaming. It makes my skin crawl that developers would make content and restrict it, so $60 is not enough for the full game.

Those single player modes are the biggest letdown for this game. There is a traditional story mode, but it is bland and boring. I enjoyed that the story strayed from the usual tournament that pitted the champions of different realms against each other. However, the story just devolved into people being angry at other people.

It became some kind of high school drama where people beat each other into a bloody pulp. The cycle continues of “you killed my friend, so I’m going to rip your spine out.” Pretty standard stuff for high school.

This is disheartening because 2013’s superhero fighting game “Injustice” had a riveting story where Superman went berserk after the death of Lois Lane. Banding together heroes and villains to take down the big, blue Boy Scout was great and it shows a cool story can be molded to fit a game about people just hitting each other.

Tower modes, where players go through a lineup of characters with stipulations such as being timed or arenas loaded with missiles, create the best single-player experience. They provide a great way for newcomers to learn the game, and also enough of a challenge for lifelong players.

My favorite part of “MKX” are all of the new characters. Favorites like Scorpion, Johnny Cage and Raiden all return to fight. But newcomers like Cassie Cage, Johnny’s daughter and Kotal Kahn give a breath of fresh air to a franchise older than myself.

One new character, Takeda, became my favorite for this game. He is some kind of technology-based ninja, who uses small missiles and sword-whip hybrid weapon. It can crack around like Indiana Jones’, but can grab opponents, similar to Scorpions chain, minus his trademark yell of “Get over here!”

“Mortal Kombat X” may not be the best game of the year. It definitely is not my favorite because I have never really gravitated toward the series. I have no problem admitting I am not good at them. But the “Mortal Kombat” franchise holds a special place in my heart. I spent many quarters as a kid on the classic games in my local arcade, when I was too young to be playing them.

Then there are the films, which the first one being the only good movie based on a video game. It warms my heart that this franchise is still around and thriving. I just hope my heart is not ripped from my body and stepped on.

4 stars out of 5

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