Fatality! Do we still care about Mortal Kombat?
The question is, do we still care? Why is there a bigger 'buzz' around Street Fighter IV and Soul Calibur IV than Mortal Kombat?
The original MK was developed as a competitor to Street Fighter II, the main differences coming from the digitised graphics and high level of violence/gore. Whilst the gore took the headlines, gamers quietly got on with the business of realising this was a truly great beat-em-up.
Unlike Street Fighter and Soul Calibur, which have maintained their fan-base successfully, the series seemed to go downhill after the release of MK 3 in 1995. The replacement of many of the main characters with new ones (Raiden, for example, went AWOL) didn't go down well with the fans that had been won over with the first two incarnations.
MK IV made things worse. The first 3D version of the game, it sold well due to a massive marketing campaign but the reviews and fan reception were disastrous. Despite clocking up good sales numbers, the resulting drop in popularity meant that this would be the last MK to make it to the arcades, further damaging the status of the franchise.
Successive 3D sequels haven't done much to bring back hardcore MK fans. I personal feel MK: Armageddon was reasonably good in comparison to other the 3D incarnations, although the extent to which the game became a 'quest' product rather than a straight beat-em-up caused its own issues: 'travelling' across the various landscapes/plains became tedious. And don't get me started on just how boring the 'Krypt' unlockable zone is.
So what do we know about the new Mortal Kombat and will it succeed where it's predecessors have failed?
From a recent interview with Ed Boon, the co-creator of the MK series, we are told that "many new fighters will be introduced, and only few 'old' characters will return".
But isn't that one of the reasons MK went downhill in the first place?
We also know from Epic that the new MK will use the Unreal 3 Engine as it's main development platform.
Doesn't that mean we'll still have the sprawling landscapes that made the recent 3D outings somewhat tedious to explore?
We do know that the new MK will be 'gritty' and more realistic, with no 'flashy colours'. Suggestions that the new Mortal Kombat could owe more to Gears of War than it's own lineage aren't too far from the truth.
If MK 8 (working title) is to get our juices flowing once more, surely it needs to go back to it's roots and deliver something truly next-gen but with all the aspects of the original that made us sit up and take notice back in the early 90's. That's what Capcom are doing with Street Fighter IV, after all.
You can expect to see the next edition of the Mortal Kombat story around November this year.