mortal kombat 9 box art

A Kombatant Returns to the Arena

All right, I’m going to explode unless I get this out first. What was wrong with High Punch and Low Punch? Why did they get replaced with Front Punch and Back Punch? What was so wrong about the way you had it? You want to be technically accurate or something? In Mortal Kombat, of all things?

So I bought Mortal Kombat (2011) (a.k.a. Mortal Kombat 9, a.k.a. Mortal Kombat: The Komplete Edition, a.k.a the reboot cause our continuity makes as much sense as a plate of spaghetti). And it’s always a crapshoot whether A) the game will work on PC and B) if the game will work with my hoggled controller. As with most things I buy, it was on a severe discount (thanks to it being five years old). Even the newest edition — Mortal Kombat X — has finished releasing all of its DLC.

But I have fond memories of Mortal Kombat days, so I picked it up. I should explain that I played exclusively during the digitization era. I mean it — I even owned “MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero”. It was always blocky photographed sprites dancing around, doing impossible moves, and generally looking unpolished. Once Mortal Kombat 4 came around, I got out of it. Not BECAUSE MK4 was in 3-D, but I was just maturing away. I did own MK4, but I didn’t play it nearly as much as MK2 or MK3. Also, I should mention that I am terrible at the game. Sure, I know the moves, but I always had to play on “Very Easy” and enter the cheat code to give me more continues (and often those wouldn’t be enough). So that’s me — on my SNES, playing an old & busted concept designed to suck quarters away.

That’s right, I played this game. I owned it. I beat it. And I liked it, goddammit.

Now I boot up the new hotness. To my surprise there’s no one new, but everything has been MASSIVELY upgraded. The cubist, badly animated sprites have been replaced with fully three-dimensional entities (though it’s still a two-dimensional game — good for us old fogeys who can’t adjust to new things). These entities move smoothly, have expressions, don’t look like puppet/dolls, and take damage.

Yes, whereas the original MKs had to make players gush out more blood (or oil) than a human body can possibly hold in great splotches, this version shows how you’ve turned into Rocky at the end of all the Rocky movies — combined. Yeah, they show exposed bones and removed organs, but like I said, MK was never about realism. And the x-ray moves are proof positive — you can get stabbed with an ice sword through the chest during a fight, and you can keep going like nothing happened. It’s like a mid-fight fatality.

And here’s my question: why did they change the button combinations for the moves? Scorpion’s spear used to be Back, Back, Low Punch. Now it’s Back, Forward, Front Punch. Sub-Zero’s slide isn’t Block + Low Punch + Low Kick + Back anymore. It’s Back, Forward, Back Punch. Most of the moves are like that — two directions and a button. It’s the combos where things can get tricky. Nonetheless, why punish us veterans? Now I’ve got to learn a whole new list of moves, even though all the characters are old.

One of the new characters, a female ninja, appears to be made of blood.

There are no new arenas either (unless you count DLC), but I don’t mind so much. The upgrades make up for it. It’s like playing MK1, 2, and 3 at the same time. It’s like Mortal Kombat: Special Edition. To wit, the first time I fought Kintaro I was verifiably scared. That four-armed tiger monster was most difficult enemy I’ve ever faced in a video game. I wish I knew how many hours I spent trying to get passed him — if he didn’t punch me across the screen, he was shooting fireballs or grabbing me or jumping up and down on my bones.

So it’s kinda fun being put into cryosleep at MK3 and waking up now, seeing a reboot of some old favorites. And I didn’t have to go through all that Deadly Alliance, Armageddon nonsense that dulled my senses. It’s not too difficult and it’s plenty of fun for both the nostalgic and the newbies.

And yet, they all still have the same silhouette

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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