Back in January of 2019 B.C. (Before COVID), I made a post chronicling my history with Mortal Kombat and how its current direction left me uninterested. Now two and a half years later, with Mortal Kombat 11 released with multiple DLC packages and a new film recently released, I’ve kind of fallen back into the Mortal Kombat vibe. Not enough to play any of the newer games, but to the point where I’m willing to give these new entries the benefit of the doubt. After all, I’m been trying to rid myself of the nostalgia goggles that have been strapped to my face for several years.
The intention of this post is simply that of revision—to update the thoughts I had previously stated and basically dab on my younger, likely more cynical self. For those who were here for the first post, welcome back! To those who weren’t, please feel free to give the link to said article above a click and get familiar with the structure of the post. This will basically be mirroring that, only with a “before and after” style of rebuttal.
Typically, this would be the point where I share my history with the topic, except I did that in the first post. Basically, Mortal Kombat used to be my go-to fighting franchise and I’ve played quite a few games. Now I don’t. More information is yours to peruse in the previous article.
Prior Criticism: Mortal Kombat X Ruined the Good Vibes
So the major thing stated in the beginning sections of my prior argument targeted Mortal Kombat X, specifically. The franchise was “doing what it could to stay relevant,” by adhering to “what many major fighting games were doing at the time.” Large time-skips, overhauled character roster; these things were the crux to why X ended up being the scapegoat for my initial discomfort with the series.
Guess what? I was full of shit.
I knew so little about the game outside what trailers and random passersby online stated of it that I literally just assumed things. I could see these new characters, sure—Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Takeda, Kung Jin; all relatives of previously established veterans of the franchise. Oh no! They’re doing that dumb thing that Soulcalibur V did by replacing characters with reskinned versions of themselves, using the “family member” aspect as a crutch! It’s suddenly terrible!
While this is certainly still a suspect move to me, it means so little to the overall quality of the game that it’s easy to simply paint me as a butthurt fan who hates change. I’d likely agree with you. But outside of simple roster overhauls, there was just a “vibe” that seemed to be missing from the title. That sort of goofy, almost campy way that Mortal Kombat was to me in all its colorful ninja glory. Which brings us to the next prior criticism:
Prior Criticism: It’s Too “Dark and Gritty” Now
One could certainly argue that the franchise has become darker and grittier. What makes this previous point all the more refutable was my continued angle of assuming shit I thought I remembered.
“Even later games in the franchise, those past Mortal Kombat 4, seemed almost satirical in their presentation in some fashion.” How? How did they seem satirical, past me? What about Deadly Alliance or Deception seemed satirical in the slightest? I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt with games prior to Deadly Alliance, because those entries were absolutely goofy and over-the-top. Past that, though? They tried to be dark and gritty. Execution-wise, one can argue their success, but the intent was exactly what I criticized X for doing.
Past me, at the very least, chalked up my preference for the older titles as “an indication of my own evolving taste.” This has not changed. While I’ve played with the idea of perusing the stories of X and 11, my desire to simply play them has never cleared interest level “Eh.” How much this actually applies to how “dark and gritty” they are is debatable, even for me. I think more than anything, it’s just gotten to the point where my “evolved tastes” sees Mortal Kombat as something like an ex-lover. Fun while it lasted, so why keep trying to make it work when I know it won’t?
On top of all of this, however, is whether or not X, specifically (11 is up in the air in my mind), is even that dark and gritty. At least as “dark and gritty” as the franchise has ever been. Again, I was simply assuming in my previous post—I have no idea what the story is like. And to compare it to a period of gaming where fighting game stories came down to “Fight in tournament. Win. Beat evil guy”? Obviously it’s going to appear more dark and gritty; technology has gotten to the point where it can elaborate on these aspects!
It’s entirely possible that X has goofy moments and I’m simply unaware of them. Or, conversely, that older entries were as dark and gritty, if not more so. Before I make definitive statements on my blog, maybe I should, y’know, do research. Guess I could always hide behind the wall of “I was just feeling things out, y’know?”
Prior Criticism: It’s Too Violent
Looking back at my previous post, this was the biggest head-scratcher to me. “Netherrealm Studios seems to think that all it has left is to make itself the edgiest and most irrefutably violent video game series on the planet.” Huh? Am I really giving a franchise whose main draw is being obscenely violent shit for being obscenely violent? Once again, were fatalities somehow less extreme in the past? (Yes, but that was likely due to technology limitations.)
Although this point appears really dumb, there is one aspect to it I like and still slightly agree with. “It felt less about showcasing the extent of a character’s abilities and more to test the will of the player’s stomach.” This I still see as a valid criticism, though it’s been very long since I’ve seen any of the fatalities present in X. Wishing for fatalities to be more creative and/or specific to their character’s abilities is something that could be a factor in their, uh, “enjoyment.”
Like with the “dark and gritty” point, this is another aspect that I’m not as fond of as I once was—my “evolving tastes” at work again. Excessive violence is all well and good, but it’s just not to my taste anymore. Frankly, I think I’ve become more sensitive in my older age. This type of “Whooooa, look at how this dude gets ripped in half and explodes!” mentality is kind of lost on me nowadays. I can’t help but empathize with said person being ripped in half… and that’s not something I’d like to empathize with.
Prior Criticism: Art Is Bad 😦
This was basically a combination of every other argument I used, condensed down to “art style.” I initially wasn’t fond of Mortal Kombat X‘s art style—this can also be said of Mortal Kombat 11 when they started revealing characters for it. However, in time, I began to warm up to the designs. Now, I like more designs from both games than I dislike.
“Gone were the flashy colors of the ninja’s garbs, instead vying for a more realistic approach to what ninja would probably wear in modern times.” Look at Sub-Zero up there. Look at the large cast of characters underneath the “Ruined the Good Vibes” header. Not “flashy,” sure, but are they devoid of color? Are these characters all dressed in black and almost-black gray? I think past me should be careful what he wishes for. This isn’t the ’90s anymore. Super-saturated ninja outfits don’t look as good in 2021—accentuated by how much I don’t care for the retro outfits in MK11.
This point more than anything, I believe, was affected by my fascination for the past. Growing up and seeing those bright, colorful costumes and zany, simplistic elemental effects were so delightfully ingestible. A certain scope of sweet simplicity that appealed to the eye. It’s only logical that with a bigger audience, a bigger budget, and bigger ambitions for story/development of characters that the developers intend to innovate. Did I really want Mortal Kombat to go down the Mega Man route, where the first six games were almost literally the same game, complete with the same aesthetic style?
To put it bluntly, I just didn’t want it to change. I wanted my “Toasty!” and characters turning into shoddily-implemented real-life animals to rip off their opponents’ heads. I wanted my Wiggles-esque ninja roster with unique elemental powers. Seeing the franchise try and… appeal… to the masses… sickening. How dare they try to reach beyond the capabilities of what they once were. I wouldn’t have it.
“I would also argue [Mortal Kombat 9] looks way better than anything in Mortal Kombat X or what’s been shown in Mortal Kombat 11.” No, it doesn’t. Stop living in 2011, past me.
What Have We Learned?
I’m a dumb asshole who jumps to conclusions and hates anything “dark and gritty” and unlike what I grew up with. And that Mortal Kombat X was unfairly demonized by my past self.
Mortal Kombat can do whatever it wants. The franchise has been through a substantial amount of growth since its inception. While I’m not aboard the MK train much anymore, I still care about the characters and what the game series means to me as a game enthusiast. Easy as it could be to simply ignore going back and clearing up what I once said, I like to take it upon myself to “right” whatever “wrong” I feel I’d committed, propped by my ever-swelling ego.
Whatever the case, Mortal Kombat is cool. Play it or don’t. Just know that if I ever do, this post would be the first step on my own path to doing so.
For more articles like this, check out the associated archive.
As always, thank you for your time. Have a great day.