Posted by FlawlessVictory on June 23rd, 2004
“Mortal Kombat has always been, and always will be,” as we all have heard from Raiden in Deadly Alliance. But as veteran fans have seen, the longevity of Mortal Kombat in video games hasn’t always been so obvious. During the decline of the arcades, and with the meager performances shown by Mythologies and Special Forces, the prospects of MK 5 were once as gloomy as the feel of MK II’s story. Of course, this is only a footnote for what Midway continues to prove is the most innovative fighting game of all-time.
Innovation is, after all, the “name of the game,” and that goes for any genre of video game, be it fighting, racing, puzzle, or even educational games. Perhaps it was only a matter of time, then, before innovation naturally enlarged its scope from enhancing one genre, to enhancing two, even three, or more genres at the same time. Whether it be the capabilities made available by technological advances or the creativity of game developers, the fact is more video games are starting to combine genres in ways once before thought to be impossible.
Some developers are banking on this more open-ended play strategy to generate the same success as games like GTA 3. Critics, too, have begun to argue that combining genres may become the new standard in gaming, setting the bar for success. It was with a curious mind that I decided to see how this theory compared to the MK series, through Deception, and possibly beyond.
There is obviously little ground to cover on the topics of MK 1 through MK Gold. Mortal Kombat games long consisted solely of the fighting genre, with the subtle exception of Test Your Might as an intermission. And yet, when we come to Mythologies and Special Forces (two games listed in the action or perhaps even adventure genre), we find what is noticeably a failure in terms of sales.
One can argue that these two games were more of a crossover into a different genre, rather than a true combination of genres, but the fighting nevertheless remained present. The question, regardless, has been what was to blame. I know many people that feel Mythologies was a great game, or at least a great concept, and only wish that its production had not been rushed. But there is much less support for Special Forces, and it suffered rushed production as well.
The list of possible factors is long. Can a game with a diverse cast successfully narrow it down in order to broaden its gameplay? Is fighting so much of the gamer’s focus that problem-solving and level- exploring detract from the experience? Does the fighting genre thrive on multi-player competition more than anything else? More than just explanations why those games failed, these are all questions that can suggest Mortal Kombat may never succeed in the realm of multiple genres.
As we reach Deadly Alliance we find our first successful game with a significant new feature. The Konquest mode, although offering a slightly new form of play via training, is nonetheless still fighting and not a new genre. Even so, it has been criticized by some, and owes its success to being an addition to the typical game.
Imagine if Konquest was not offered as a mode but a stand-alone game for a moment. That item just may have sold even less than Special Forces. It seems then that MK is better at selling multiple modes of play in one game than it could ever be at selling individual, genre- specific games.
Keeping this in mind, we move on to Deception. The newest MK in the works prominently features three new modes of play, one of which inarguably combines the strategy and fighting genres. These modes, however, wouldn’t be classified in the fighting genre if they were separate games, and more likely than not, would never sell as well as the arcade mode of Deception.
Because all the modes are packaged together, Deception will mark the first time a different genre of MK will successfully sell, but technically it will be the fighter that does the majority of the selling. Yet even while pure arcade-style fighting currently holds the spotlight, there’s no denying that MK has the ability to include other modes of play under its banner, as Deception finally proves. The Puzzle mode of Deception offers nothing whatsoever in terms of story or purpose, but that hasn’t stopped it from addicting those who play. On the other hand, it shows no mixing of genres, so the question still remains as to whether MK-style fighting can get along with the other genres.
A lot of things would have to go wrong for me not to enjoy each and every mode Deception has to offer. But will the sheer presence and integration of new genres of gameplay be what makes Mortal Kombat continue to succeed? Hell no. There may be a long line of new multi- genre modes of play in each MK title to follow, and there may even be attempts at more multi-genre stand-alone games, but why should we suspect less from a franchise committed to innovation?
The heart of Mortal Kombat’s story utilizes fighting and that’s never going to change. Mortal Kombat has always been a fighting game, and in one form or another, it always will be.