Mortal Kombat Trilogy (N64) Review


Back in the mid 1990s, Mortal Kombat was all the rage. Its ridiculously violent “Fatalities” made it the subject of controversy, while its stylized combat and esoteric secrets made it the talking point of many gamers. It makes sense then, that during the height of Mortal Kombat mania, the series would see something of a “best of” installment. Released in 1996 on home consoles, Mortal Kombat Trilogy took the foundations of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and added in characters and stages from the previous installments in the series, while also hosting some new characters of its own. But just how well does Mortal Kombat Trilogy hold up?

Well, on the plus side, it’s still very much possible to have some good fun (as well as a bit of frustration) when playing with friends. On the downside, the single player options really don’t feel worth the ridiculous difficulty, and some of the game’s mechanics and characters feel largely unbalanced.

If you want to tackle the game’s single player story mode, be prepared for many controller-throwing moments, as even its “easiest” difficulty is harder than most games’ hard modes. The computer-controlled characters can often counter moves at times that aren’t possible for human players, and each subsequent fight becomes considerably harder than the last. And seeing as all of the secret characters are unlocked via cheat codes, it really makes you wonder why you would even bother going through the story mode other than bragging rights.

Thankfully, the multiplayer options are a bit more fun, with players being able to battle one-on-one, or for two players to have teams of two or three characters battle against each other.

The combat (sorry, Kombat) is still pretty simple. Most characters share the same standard moves, while their special abilities and projectiles are more unique for each character. It’s possible to chain together combos, and it allows for some frantic fighting action.

"You'll probably see this a lot."
“You’ll probably see this a lot.”

Unfortunately, some characters seem to have huge advantages over others, with some characters boasting abilities that make repetition and cheesing way too easy. Sindel, for example, can stun opponents while simultaneously bringing them closer with a screaming ability, and then follow it up with a nearly unblockable series of throws where she grabs the opponents with her prehensile hair. Characters such as Jax can do very little about it, unless you can manage to get close enough to repeatedly spam his own grab attack.

That’s the problem with the combat, despite boasting the possibilities for extravagant combos, Mortal Kombat Trilogy heavily favors spamming abilities to the point of almost rewarding them. It can still be a fun game, but it’s one that is all too easily exploited.

Visually speaking, the game still looks decent. Sure, the digitized actors may not be the most aesthetically pleasing method of video game visuals, but they certainly hold up better than the polygonal blobs of Mortal Kombat 4. And some of the character animations look surprisingly fluid, and the Fatality animations are so gratuitously over-the-top that they can be downright hilarious.

As a whole, Mortal Kombat Trilogy is not the game to go to if you want a smart, deep fighter. But it still can provide a good time with some friends, at least for short bursts of time.


Mortal Kombat 4 Review

*Review based on the Nintendo 64 version*

Mortal Kombat 4

Mortal Kombat was all the rage during the 1990s. Essentially a far more violent alternative to Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat garnered serious attention for its violent content. It fascinated gamers, upset paranoid parents, and caused quite a stir back in the day. Though amid all the attention the series received, it often went unnoticed back in the day how inconsistent the actual games were in terms of quality. While some of the Mortal Kombat titles hold up as fun fighters, others aren’t quite so enjoyable. Unfortunately for Mortal Kombat 4, it falls into the latter category.

The big addition to Mortal Kombat 4 were the 3D graphics. The first three Mortal Kombat titles were partly remembered for their pre-rendered visuals, which used digital models of live-action actors. Those visuals haven’t exactly aged well, but they do still stand out among games from the time. The same cannot be said for the graphics of Mortal Kombat 4, which not only look dated, but downright ugly. The ridiculously blocky polygonal characters certainly show that this game was made in 1997, and look more prototypical than the visuals of the first three games.

Of course, graphics can be forgiven, especially when one considers not only the game’s age, but that the particular generation it was released in was treading new territory, so things were bound to look a bit experimental. Less forgivable is the gameplay, which feels slow and stiff compared to many other entries in the series.

Though Mortal Kombat 4 still provides the combos and violent fatalities that fans of the series had grown to love – which can lead to small bursts of fun when playing with friends – the overall feeling of control just feels like it lags behind what its predecessors achieved.

Truth be told, Mortal Kombat was never as intricate and sophisticated as Street Fighter, with Kombat often taking cheap shortcuts with its characters and movesets. It’s no secret that the series’ two most beloved characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, are just palette swaps of each other, and many of the characters have always boasted similar fighting styles. That’s still prevalent here, with many of the characters’ basic attacks looking eerily familiar to one another. Though Mortal Kombat 4 does have a couple of gameplay tricks up its sleeve.

Perhaps the most obvious additions in terms of the actual gameplay are the inclusions of weapons. During battle, characters can whip out a signature weapon, which changes up their fighting style. On the downside, these weapons are incredibly easy to have knocked out of your hand, and you can’t pick them back up until the next round. So whatever newness they bring to the table is pretty short-lived.

There are also two-on-two battles introduced this time around, with can be applied to not only versus modes, but also allows two players to tackle the story mode together, which is a nice touch. A tournament mode is also featured, giving the game a decent touch of variety.

Mortal Kombat 4Of course, this all only helps so much when the aforementioned gameplay feels kind of bland. The slower movements and stiffer controls don’t exactly ensure long play sessions, so this is one of the Mortal Kombat titles that fans of the series may play more for laughs and novelty than to experience a deeper Mortal Kombat game.

There also seems to be a bit of an inconsistency with the AI, with the difficulty seemingly fluctuating between fights. You could be playing on any difficulty setting on the story mode and the fights will go from being a cakewalk to pretty darn challenging and back again. This fluctuating difficulty even applies to singular fights, as you can lose a fight and then come back from a game over and win that same fight without any trouble.

If you manage to overcome all of your opponents in story mode, players are “treated” to different endings with each character. These endings fall under the category of being so bad they’re good, and help contribute to the game’s more ironic appeal when compared to other Mortal Kombat titles.

Mortal Kombat 4 may have been a decent jump to 3D for the series back in the day, but it would be a lie to say it’s aged very gracefully. It may provide a little bit of fun with a friend, though perhaps not for the right reasons. At any rate, it is at least better than Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, which was released the same year. So that’s something.



Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero Review

*Review based on the Nintendo 64 version.*

Sub-Zero N64

Though the Mortal Kombat franchise has seen something of a resurgence in recent years, the storied fighting franchise saw its heyday during the mid-90s. It makes sense that the creators of Mortal Kombat would want to capitalize on its popularity and branch the franchise out. Along with movies and an animated series, the video games themselves sought some variety and deviated from their fighter origins in a string of spinoffs. Perhaps the most notorious of these Mortal Kombat spinoffs is 1997’s Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.

Originally planned to be the first of a series of “Mythology” titles that would have encompassed many of the different Mortal Kombat characters, the debut outing for Sub-Zero was so poorly received that the idea for future installments was scrapped entirely. Playing it today, it’s not hard to see why. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is poorly executed on just about every level.

Whereas most Mortal Kombat titles are fighting games, Sub-Zero is a side-scrolling beat-em-up with platforming elements. That’s certainly not a doomed setup from the start, but the game is plagued by so many fundamentally broken mechanics that it just can’t stand on its own feet.

You can just about sum up the game’s flaws with a single mechanic: you have to press the B button to change directions. That alone makes things feel incredibly awkward and stiff, ruining whatever potential for fluid controls the game may have had all on its own. But that’s just the beginning. There are times when Sub-Zero seems to change direction for no reason. You’ll jump towards an enemy after facing the opposite direction, then hit the B button to face the enemy, only to realize too late that Sub-Zero decided to face the enemy instantaneously upon hitting the ground, so you just switched him back to the opposite direction. There’s no consistency.

Players can use both the D-pad or joystick to make Sub-Zero move. You can either walk or run with the joystick, while the D-pad is exclusively used for walking. You may think the fact that the joystick does both means that it renders the D-pad movements pointless, but the joystick controls are way too sensitive. Chances are you’ll end up running when you just need to walk. So you’ll be swapping between the joystick and D-pad depending on the pace you want to be moving. Not to mention that jumping is performed by pressing up on either control method – which makes sense for a fighting game, but is nothing but cumbersome in a game with platforming elements – which can (and will) lead to countless accidental deaths when trying to make an overly precise jump.

Combine that with the B button being used to switch your directions, and the fact that Sub-Zero’s moves are performed with the four C buttons, and it becomes clear that these are some of the most awkward and clunky controls imaginable in a video game.

There are some RPG elements added to the mix, with Sub-Zero earning experience points and learning his iconic ice moves as he advances. It’s a nice touch in concept, but considering how fundamentally flawed the gameplay is, it hardly matters.

Perhaps worst of all is the level design. There are so many cheap, one-hit kill traps that, when combined with the aforementioned dreaded controls, make the experience agonizing. The first level alone has cheaply-placed stone pillars that can crush Sub-Zero instantly if he walks under them. In more than one instance, these pillars are placed in such a way that if you run too fast, you’ll immediately run through one pillar and get squished by the next. Simply trying to walk passed a pillar is too slow, and you’ll get squashed no matter what. So you’re basically left to test a clunky stop-and-go strategy that only works if you get lucky. And this is just the first level.

Sub-Zero N64The second stage really emphasizes the platforming mechanics, and they’re dreadful. There are a number of moments that require blind jumping to the next platform (along with the presence of the bad jumping controls, this means that Sub-Zero breaks the two most basic rules of a platformer). You often need to ride gusts of wind to reach higher or farther platforms, but these gusts of wind seem to show up at random. And many of the platforms fall after a brief second, with more than a few of them having enemies on top that are hard to avoid. The stage design is so unfair it goes from laughable to depressing all too quickly.

Mercifully, the levels are on the short side of things, and there aren’t a whole lot of them. On the downside, you start with only three lives, and have only one continue. If you get a game over and don’t have the N64 controller pak to save your progress, you have to start over from the beginning of the game!

There is a silver lining, however, through the use of a password system. I hate to admit that I was reduced to looking up some of these passwords online just because it was taking me so long to get through the game. I was looking up passwords by the time I was on the second level. The second level!

Sub-Zero N64The game was also available on the Sony Playstation, with the only real notable difference being that it featured full-motion cinematics with live actors, while the N64 version uses stills from said cinematics accompanied by on-screen text. You may think the N64 limitations on the cinematics make them inferior, but if you watch what the Playstation version had to offer on YouTube, then the claim as to which option is worse seems like a moot point.

While it’s commendable that the Mortal Kombat series sought to experiment with different genres, the end result of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is an experiment gone horribly wrong. Its broken mechanics and infuriatingly unfair level design make it more painful than a Fatality.