Yesterday, NetherRealm Studios shared a class video celebrating the 30th anniversary of Mortal Kombat! What started as an arcade game full of ninjas and blood has developed into many games, animated and live-action films, and comic books. Thirty years later, Mortal Kombat is still a game industry giant, and I'm sure many fans are (like me) anxiously waiting to see what's next for the franchise.
While NetherRealm doesn't announce Mortal Kombat 12, I'd like to take this opportunity to look back and celebrate this long history.
Although I haven't played the series since the beginning, MK is one of the few franchises that has been with me since my first video game console, the PSOne. It was a game that I played with friends and even families, and I'm proud to say I beat them all! The first film was also fun, and honestly, it's the best live-action of MK we got to date! Between the characters, the fun gameplay, and the gore, MK is the only fighting game that ever grabbed me. No, the series isn't perfect. It never was, and as a general rule, it will never be. But we can hope it will be better!
Below, I'll list some of the things that make me enjoy Mortal Kombat as well as some of the elements that I'd like to be changed or added in future games. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below!
One of the things that I like about Mortal Kombat is how simple it is to play it. Sure, more experienced players will come up with crazier kombos, and as pro players around the world have shown, there's a lot to explore in terms of attack combinations. But MK, in large part, is welcoming enough that even someone who has never played a fighting game can do some cool stuff in matches. My father is a good example. He... well, he sucks at video games, but our MK matches were fun; I didn't feel like I needed to hold back (not too much anyway) so he could do some damage. And I don't know, maybe I'm awful at fighting games (a real possibility), but I never felt this approachable nature with other fighting games I tried.
In what might seem like a counterpoint to the previous item, I wish the next MK game will allow for more kombo creativity. MK 11 is fun, sure, but it has a limitation in kombo creation that gets frustrating with time as you try to get better with your preferred character. Mileena is a perfect example. She was a beast in MK X; there were various openings she could use to start a deadly sequence, which forced the opponent to stay alert and encouraged the player to learn more. In MK 11 it's not quite the same. I grinned from ear to ear when I saw that Mileena would be a playable character, but after a few days of playing with her, I got frustrated at how limited she is. Here, she only has one move that leads into kombo opportunities, and even then you need to enhance your special attack to take advantage of it. It makes for repetitive and predictable gameplay, and while not all characters are one-dimensional like that, most of them suffer from this issue.
For all I didn't like about MK X, that game was offensive!
If I'm honest, I'm not a fan of the build system with customised moves and augments either. I'm not sure how the players at large feel about this, but I'd rather have only one set of attacks. Maybe, maybe, three selections like they had in MK X.
Magic, not Guns
As a storyteller, the narrative in MK always hooked me. Even before the cutscenes and the complex story modes, the characters appeared to me as fascinating personas to inhabit this cruel world. Sure, my favourite has suffered from NetherRealm's scorn (and if you think my favourite is Mileena, you don't quite know me!), but there were still many others that drew me into the story.
MK X kind of changed that. The Kombat Kids is up there as one of NetherRealm's worst ideas—and not because the idea itself was bad, but because its development was appalling. The comic book saga that preceded the game was fantastic, and one of the most exciting characters in there was Kenshi's son, Takeda. Jacqui and Cassie were there as well, and they were good characters. Then what happened in MK X? Why was Takeda abandoned in MK 11 while Jacqui remained, and unlike him, had so little to offer story-wise? One of the reasons was the writer/director they chose, Dominic Cianciolo. The guy wasn't good. But putting all the blame on his shoulders would be wrong.
For some reason (and this I blame Warner Bros.), NetherRealm has shifted the tone of the story. Until the MK X comic book, we had a story that was not only gory but also mysterious, exciting, and concerned with delivering a narrative that took itself seriously. And that's something that MK X, and MK 11 in parts, failed to deliver. "Taking itself seriously", by the way, doesn't mean that MK needs to be all serious and grim. But that's an entirely different discussion. I'd be happy if MK went back to its roots of ninjas, sorcerers, and just a few shooters like Sonya Blade on the side. MK 11 had six shooters, DLC included, and most of those had very similar gameplay. And I won't even go without the issue of having Cassie, Johnny, and Sonya playable on the same game.
If MK 12 is a chance for a blank page (which I hope it will be), NetherRealm should focus on the essence: give us Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Shang Tsung, Raiden, Johnny Cage, Kitana, Scarlett, Ermac, Rain. And if you want "new" characters, bring back Kai, Sareena, Reiko, Bo'Rai Cho, Ashrah, Havik how hasn't Havik appeared in any of the three post-Armageddon games?! Or give us a whole new cast, but draw inspiration from ninjas and warriors and witches and monsters that not only feel good playing but also are interesting story-wise.
Change the Story Mode
Speaking of the story, please stop rebooting the damn tournaments or trying to end the world (or worlds). Shinnok wanted to destroy all the realms; Kronika wanted to rule over all time and space. How much more will you escalate before you realise this kind of story is dull?
Mortal Kombat 9 worked well because we had seen Shao Kahn win. Everyone was dead and Raiden was desperate. And despite the grand scope, Shao Kahn was no joke. He was truly powerful, challenging and beating our heroes over and over. And he forced Raiden to make difficult choices in order to defeat the threat. MK 9 was less than perfect, but its story was the most competent of the three.
Take this blank slate opportunity to change how your story mode works. If you want to keep the chapter-by-chapter model, let us play with the antagonists too. This way, you stop making all your villains look like incompetent idiots. And it doesn't need to be so stiff. We don't need to play four fights with one character then never again. Making this stuff more dynamic!
Oooor you could return to the story mode seen in Deception and Armageddon. For those of you who didn't have the pleasure of playing it, the story mode back then was a semi-open world where you played with one character while exploring different maps and encountering different characters, sometimes to fight then, other times to talk or do something to them. They kind of tried to replicate this with the Krypt, but it's far from the same thing. This style of campaign is a great way to immerse players in the game's world and its inhabitants. The problem with those two games was that their choice of protagonist was... questionable. Shujinko was a nice guy and the idea of seeing him getting older and wiser was good, but they gave him the same powers as other characters, and he ended up being a bland character. Taven, on the other hand, was bad. It's not totally his fault. Armageddon was a mess in every aspect. A fun mess, but still a mess.
You know, if you need inspiration, Shaolin Monks still exists, and I'm sure millions of people would lose their minds if you announced a story mode similar to that game.
MK 9 also introduced the Challenge Tower, 300 steps to challenge players on their way to total completion. And it was so much fun! Reaching the last challenge was a victory; then defeating the most powerful form of Shao Kahn was a feeling of absolute triumph! MK X changed the Tower system, and it was still fun. Then MK 11 not only made a weird system in which the towers were full of boring effects like rockets and assists, but it also made the bizarre decision of going fully online. It's safe to say that the crushing majority of players hated that.
While the next game can have online components, it can't be all online. I'd honestly be happy with a tower similar to MK 9's that tests players' skills instead of throwing weird effects at us and believing that's kool.
Who's my favourite Kharacter?
In case you're wondering, I'll reveal my secret: Ashrah! Okay, if you follow me on Twitter, it's not really a secret as I've posted a couple of tweets in the past praising Ashrah's skills and potential. Also, the only fan fiction I ever wrote to completion was an MK 11 fanfic featuring Ashrah as the protagonist!
In the current state of things, I'm afraid of wishing her back. Current NetherRealm wouldn't portray her as she deserves. But well, a girl can dream! And I'm surely not alone, as this incredible MK 11 fan concept art shows:
Mileena is, of course, a close second favourite. It was a shame how they killed her off in MK X (I don't mind her being killed, but do it right, goddamn it). I'm not sure who's the third, but I really like Nightwolf and Scarlett. And Shao Kahn, when he's well-written, is a beast! Imagine how amazing it could be to have a game with Shao Kahn as the protagonist, showing how he got the title of "Konqueror".
Ashrah, as you might've guessed, is a character I'd love to see coming back (given the right conditions). Havik too; it feels such a wasted opportunity to not have him in MK 11, at least as DLC (much better than bloody RoboCop - and yes, I advocate for fewer guests in the game). Some faces of the Black Dragon - Kira, Jarek, Tasia, Tremor - and Red Dragon - Daegon, Mavado, Hsu Hao - could return with some changes as well, especially Tasia, Tremor, and Daegon. And I can't be the only one who likes Drahmin, right? I mean, he could be a really good character. And yes, they kind of replaced him with Geras in MK 11, which further proves that it can work!
Please don't bring back the Kombat Kids. Or, if you need to have kids in the next game, do it right. A child of Liu Kang and Kitana could be a great new character if done well aka don't make it an insufferable copy of their parents. Also, you cowards, give us Mileena and Tanya's child! Or, you know, at least give us more Mileena and Tanya (why haven't I written fanfic about them yet?).
All right, this turned more into a list of wishes for MK 12, but it was a fitting occasion to do this as well since a post like this had been in my plans. Perhaps Ed Boon will reveal the next game during The Game Awards? Could be. But I honestly wouldn't mind a little break from MK. If NetherRealm is developing a new IP, then I'm up for that as well. This way, they have more time to reflect upon their main franchise.