Reviewed: March 8, 1999
Released: June 24, 1998
Mortal Kombat has been around almost as long as I can remember. The original coin-op hit my neighborhood while I was still in school, and I used to watch hundreds of kids pour thousands of quarters into this game. I always enjoyed watching others play, but I never could learn the moves or master the fatality combinations to make me even remotely competitive.
Mortal Kombat is without a doubt one of the most recognized game franchises ever created. It has spawned 4 sequels and a pair of movies, which were surprisingly good considering they were based on a video game. We all remember the controversy when the Senate teamed up with angry parents who didn't approve of their kiddies ripping the spinal column from their victims, and I'm sure there are at least a few hundred students who no longer know when to use a "C" versus. a "K" when writing their school papers.
I really didn't know what to expect when Mortal Kombat 4, from Midway, arrived for my home consoles. I hadn't played or even seen any of the Mortal Kombat games since the first one many years ago. I enjoy fighting games and have played most all of them at one time. Battle Arena Toshinden and Tekken were two of the first games I every bought for my PlayStation. Soul Blade, Bushido Blade, Masters of Teras Kasi, and even a beta copy of Thrill Kill have all offered great challenges and hours of entertainment over the past several years. So I was quite anxious to see what a 4th generation release of the most popular fighting game of all time was going to offer.
MK4 has many new innovations such as Real Weapon Combat. Weapons add a whole new twist to what was previously a kicking and punching game. Interactive backgrounds provide interesting alternatives. You can now pick up items in the background and use them as weapons.
3D graphics also translates into 3D gameplay with horrifying new 3D FATALITIES and 3D character movement that allows you to dodge in and out of the background. And just so you never have to play the coin-op again, they have packed the home version with all new Secrets and Hidden Characters that you won't even find at the arcade.
All of your favorite fighters are back and ready for action. As always, there are some new faces in the crowd and new moves and fatalities to learn. Five skill levels offer a gradual increase in difficulty, so frustration should never be a factor. Simply choose a comfortable fighting level and learn the moves. As you complete each skill "ladder" you are rewarded with a CGI movie, and when you are ready to advance you will fight more opponents with better skills.
The analog stick gives you instant control over your character and allows you to easily perform even their hardest combos with a little practice.
One of the things that has kept Mortal Kombat alive is the ongoing story and character development. All of the fighters in MK have detailed backgrounds and histories, which probably explains the success of the two films. Given a good story and interesting characters, gamers will remain true to a sequel; even one as uninspired as this.
This is the first Mortal Kombat game in the series to be rendered entirely in 3D. The characters and backgrounds are nicely rendered and the camera is very intelligent and always seems to be in the right place to capture the action.
The first thing that assaults you when you load up the PSX version of Mortak Kombat 4 is a killer opening movie. While it doesn't add to the overall value of the gaming experience it will get your blood pumping. There are plenty of CGI movies within the game and cool Character Data Sheet screens for each of the characters.
As with all N64 cartridge based games, certain sacrifices have to be made. In this case however, the small sacrifice of losing the opening movie is more than made up for by all the 128-bit enhancements the designers were able to put into this cart.
Eurocom has used every ounce of power inside the N64 to bring you the closest thing to the arcade without leaving home. The combo system, fatalities and even the blood is all here. The power of the N64 smoothes out the animation problems and offers almost twice the resolution of the PSX version. The colors and lighting are rich and vibrant and the motion is smooth and fluid. Control is superb, probably even better than the coin-op.
When the fighting moves inside things get really tough. Opponents are hard to find in the darkness and judging distances for some of the combo moves can get really tricky. If there is any natural light source such as a fire or window then I recommend staying nearby so you can see what's going on.
Once again I am surprised at the quality of the sound and music that they are packing on these digital cartridges. You would be hard pressed to tell you weren't listening to audio from a CD when playing this game. The deep booming voice that orders you to "FINISH HIM" or declares a "FLAWLESS VICTORY" is perfect. The music remains true to the theme of the game and even the menus make nice oriental chime noises when you scroll through them.
Mortal Kombat 4 is a 100% accurate reproduction of the arcade version, although you will now be able to save your quarters for something else. There is Arcade, Team, Endurance, and Practice Modes, which will offer you countless hours of fighting fun.
Rating this game is a tough call. While Mortal Kombat 4 is technically a 3D game it doesn't quite pull off the 3D environment or character moves as well as other 3D fighting games such as Soul Blade or Toshinden. It is obvious to see that the Mortal Kombat series is trying to keep up with the times and this 4th reincarnation of a cult classic remains just as fun today as the original was many years ago.
If you enjoy fighting games, are a MK fanatic, or you are going broke spending all you quarters at the arcade, then this is certainly a title you will want to buy. Which version you get would only be determined by which system you own, but if you have both then I have to recommend the Nintendo version. It is almost a "flawless victory."