A couple of months ago, I wrote up an article on the return of the Street Fighter franchise with their brand new offering Street Fighter 6 as being a return to form and greatness for the long-storied gaming legend. Mortal Kombat decided to show the fighting game community that they haven’t lost their form by rebooting the entire franchise with Mortal Kombat 1. Rather than a hard reset, Mortal Kombat 1 sees Liu Kang become the new fire god after winning the previous tournament and reshaping the different realms in his vision. Many things remain similar, but almost everything from move-sets to character backgrounds has changed. So, how did things turn out for the original legend of fighting game gore? Read BSO’s in-depth review for all the information you can handle and then some extra to learn more.
Mortal Kombat first broke onto the scene in 1992 and pioneered the phrase “Finish him” to accompany a feature so memorable and legendary that it’s still not just present in the current title, but also heavily featured in the marketing build-up for the game before its release. The phrase announced the opportunity for characters to finish off their opponent for good at the end of their second victory in a head-to-head match. Players enjoyed a brief period during which their opponent could do nothing but sit there and wobble around, barely hanging onto life as their opponent was allowed between 10-15 seconds to input a series of moves or button-presses to pull off a feature called a fatality.
While the game doesn’t feature any new characters, it does feature a robust playlist of characters from different Mortal Kombat games, with more characters to be added down the road through DLC and seasonal releases. In total, it has 24 characters at launch with six more to be added as part of a Kombat Pack. There are also a number of kameo characters that act as aids during your fight. You’re able to tag these fighters in to have them perform various moves on their own or in tandem with your character to inflict harm on your opponent. They only have limited usage each time, though.
In addition to the traditional towers featured in nearly every Mortal Kombat game since their debut in MK3, players are also able to play a story mode and invasion mode, which is a seasonal offering that features moving around a boardgame-like mansion belonging to Johnny Cage, suffering from invasions from portals that are opening around the mansion from other multiverses. Closing these portals earns the player cosmetics and unlockables exclusive to that season alone. Players will also be able to rank up their player and earn consumables they can use in Invasion mode, similar to how World Tour works in Street Fighter 6. NetherRealm Studio promises players new updates every six weeks and that each season will have themes players from all different generations of Mortal Kombat can enjoy.
The new story mode is probably one of the best that Mortal Kombat has ever done. I won’t spoil anything pertaining to story, but I will say that it is astonishing to look back to the first Mortal Kombat — the OG MK1, if you will — with all of its clunky digitized graphics and dull colors, and compare it to the incredible technical achievement that is the story mode in this title. I in fact, it’s generally incredible to look back that first game and wonder how it somehow managed to succeed against Street Fighter with its larger roster size, larger boss count, and more colorful palette at all.
Here we are thirty years later and Mortal Kombat 1 still has all of the passion and intensity it had back then. In fact, Ed Boon and John Tobias are still just as plugged into the scene and engaged with fans now as they were trying to get the game off the ground. One could argue that they’re even more engaged now and have a strong case. The two have been the backbone of the franchise since they created it and it’s hard to ever see them stepping away from it, at least for the next long while.
Apart from the single-player offerings, MK1 has a healthy number of versus option including an online King of the Hill mode similar to the old arcade model of winner stays, loser pays. There is also an online mode and an online ranked mode, for those players looking to compete and get better. If you need a little help getting better, the game offers up tutorials for everything from the basics to advanced kombos and even a fatality tutorial mode. The group have every version of multiplayer and tutorial one could need to accompany a single-player story or tournament mode.
I’ve been playing Mortal Kombat 1 since the game came out and I’ve barely stratched the surface of what the game has to offer. I’ve beaten the game with over half the characters and spent a healthy amount of time with the tutorials and invasion, but I feel like I am still learning every single match. There’s rarely a match that goes by where I don’t find myself saying “so, that’s new” or something not too far off. The game has so much to offer, still so many characters and playstyles still to come and it hasn’t even been out a week!
With games like Final Fight 4, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, Street Fighter 6, and Mortal Kombat 1 putting out industry-topping hits in the past several years, it feels like my childhood is storming back with some of the greatest games ever seen out of franchises nearly as old as I am. Mortal Kombat 1 is without a doubt one of the best fighting games I have ever played and it’s certainly my Game of the Month. The back half of this year is putting out some of the best title’s we’ve seen on the modern systems and MK1 is no exception. If this is what the franchise is like in year 30, then sign me up for thirty more please.
BSO Rating: 9.5-of-10