Review: Mortal Kombat Kollection (PS2)

Mortal Kombat Kollection
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Midway
Publisher: Midway Games
Release Date: 10/07/08

Are you one of the few people left who haven’t had the chance to play through the most recent Mortal Kombat games? Now that Mortal Kombat Vs. DCU is about to be released, are you wondering what you’ve missed out on? Well then have I got a collection for you. Or should I say Kollection? Midway has recently released the last three Mortal Kombat games in a set, and those games are Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.

Is this new Kollection a flawless victory? Or a perfect example of how poorly the series has been managed over the years? Read on.

I’m going to go over the games individually because this is my review and you all are just along for the ride.

The oldest of the three games is Mortal Kombat: Deception. Mortal Kombat: Deception was the first Mortal Kombat game to feature an online mode, but that wasn’t the only new thing the game added to the series. Deception is filled with additional content, new fighters, and continues the storyline from the previous game, Deadly Alliance. Deadly Alliance was notable for killing off one of the main characters throughout the series (and inspiring the wrath of fans) in Liu Kang. In Deadly Alliance two sorcerers, Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, combined their strength to overtake the realms. Deception sees the two fully resurrect the undefeatable Dragon King’s army, but get challenged to Mortal Kombat by Raiden. Raiden can’t overcome the combined power of the two and falls, except the greed of each of the sorcerers immediatly turn the Deadly Alliance against each other. Which is why this Mortal Kombat game is called Deception. Before the Sorcerers can rip each other apart, the Dragon King Onaga is reborn and they are forced to join with their enemy Raiden to try and take him down.

If any of the above paragraph made absolutely no sense to you, don’t worry as it’s not necessary to understand the plot in order to enjoy the game. Though it does certainly help if you’ve been a fan of the story. Mortal Kombat has actually had a pretty interesting story throughout the series and Deception is able to expand on not just the story but also the idea of the realms itself with a mode completely new to Mortal Kombat. The Konquest mode features an open world environment. One part adventure game and one part tutorial the game put you into the shoes of an aspiring martial artist traveling through the different realms. While this idea wasn’t implemented in the game in the best way, (For example most of the quest were of the fetch variety and the world was sort of bland and boring), I still thought that this was a fantastic idea and a way to bridge fighting games with other third person games that were out on the market.

Outside of the Konquest mode, there was the usual arcade mode, and of course the versus modes of play. Where Deception really took the series in a different direction was the addition of multiple mini-games, including my personal favorite, Puzzle Kombat. Essentially Puzzle Kombat is a rip-off of the similar Puzzle Fighter, only with MK characters and the usual amount of gore expected of the series. Still this may have been one of the modes I played the most in the game, in no part due to the fact that this was a favorite mode of my wife’s who could kick my ass in it.

Another interesting addition was Chess Kombat. This boiled down to a fighting game version of chess where some of the characters of the game took place of the usual chess pieces. This added a cool element of strategy to the fighting mechanics, except if you were bad at fighting then you would still get killed in this game.

Deception continued the three different fighting styles per character mechanic that was in Deadly Alliance. This was a pretty cool idea because the game displays a wide variety of martial arts, although all the style boils down to specific combo button presses. The best thing about this system was the ability to seamlessly switch between fighting styles while in a combo, like how Sub Zero can change between Shotokan, Dragon, and the Kori Blade styles. Also in the game are environmental hazards, multi-level environments, and some environmental fatalities. All of this is presented in the over the top gore the series is known for.

While the graphics may not compare as well now to the current generation of games the graphics are still pretty decent and many of the moves are as painful looking as ever. The biggest issue with the game would be how poorly the game is balanced. Some fighters are just more powerful or have better combos than others. There are also some extremely unbalanced juggle attacks within the game. As if they attempted to compensate for this the game includes the ability to break an opponents combo, except this is a limited ability that is only good for a couple uses and then you’re left open to the brutal combo your opponent was just waiting to use.

Still, even with the balance issues Mortal Kombat: Deception is an all around fun MK game. There are more modes in Deception than most fighting games out there, a ton of unlockable content, and the usual gore fest that we expect from this type of game.

Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks

If I ever had to list a series of games that were underappreciated for it’s time, than Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks would certainly be up there on the list. Of course that’s all personal opinion, and as a fan of both side scrolling brawler games and Mortal Kombat games, well this game was like a fan’s dream come true for me. Shaolin Monks is pretty much the definition of a fan service game – a game where the sole intention is to send it’s target audience into a frenzy of drooling fools over the content presented.

Shaolin Monks strays from the more recent storyline advancements of the MK series and starts off right around the time the first game in the series ends and the second game begins. The only two characters unlocked from the begining are Liu Kand and Kung Lao (the guy with the razor hat). The game takes the over the top violence of the previous titles and merges it with a 3D brawling adventure. What this means is that with the push of a couple of buttons either character will unleash a series of devastating looking attacks, and throughout the game you can not only upgrade these attacks and unlock new ones, but the game utilized a series of quick time events for finishing moves, at a time when quick time events weren’t over-used in every game out there.

The idea behind Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks seems to not only be a way to find some continuity to the story of the first couple of games, but also to provide a fun experience for anyone who is a fan of the Mortal Kombat series. While those who have never played a Mortal Kombat game before could probably enjoy the game, that’s not the target audience for this game. This game is meant for those who stayed awake as kids attempting to memorize all of the characters fatalities. All of the important characters of the series make a cameo appearance, and the game even plays on the rumors of past games, like being able to uppercut opponents into hooks. The game even has a full co-op mode that you can play through with a friend. In fact in order to unlock the majority of the secrets in the game you will need to play with a friend!

The worst complaint about this game is something that can be said for any brawling style game, it can be repetitive. You essentially just walk from one side of the screen to the other beating up enemies, solving simple puzzles, and occasionally backtracking through levels while beating up guys you beat up just a few minutes ago. Oh, and the final boss fight is pathetically cheap.

Other than that Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is a Mortal Kombat fan’s dream come true. It packs in a lot of the story, characters, and over the top gore that have made the franchise so successful. Of course if you aren’t an MK fan or a fan of brawling games you will probably not enjoy the game, but overall it’s a fantastic addition to the MK franchise.

Best of all, it has Mortal Kombat 2 as an unlockable!

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon

Speaking of fan service….here comes the most recent Mortal Kombat game, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Armageddon features every fighter from the series, and I mean every single fighter. These include fighters that were essentially palate swapped fighters on an earlier generation of consoles, all of the previous bosses, and a few new characters.

In all honestly, it’s the sheer amount of fighters that both sets this game apart and also doomed it.

Part of the problem with having so many different fighters is that it’s hard for all of them to feel unique. While each have their own abilities and combos, most use the same input (down right X, left right square, etc) to use these moves. So often you’ll change fighters, yet your strategy will stay the same since you input the special abilities in a similar way. In fact, due to the amount of fighters in the game, the three different fighting styles in the previous games have been reduced to only two. The only real additions to the fighting portion of the game were the new air kombat and parry system. The air kombat just looked really odd if you ever found yourself in a situation where you used it. The one hit environmental fatalities return, and now some of the stages feature special weapons that you can use.

Where Armageddon really shines is in the creation system in the game. Finally you can create your own Mortal Kombat fighter. There are a surprising amount of options to choose from visually, it’s only when you assign moves does it fall apart. The only real moves you can assign are moves that other characters have in the game. The final outcome of any created character is just a blend of several other characters abilities. That’s great if you wanted to make a character that can throw a spear and freeze the opponent, however making a character feel like an individual was impossible.

Then there was the Create-A-Finisher mode. Here’s a mode that MK fans disagree on. Personally I didn’t mind this mode, it made sure that I was able to use a fatalities pretty much any time I fought and didn’t need to try and memorize 60+ button combinations. The only problem is the fact that finishing moves are all part of a character’s personality in MK. Take away unique finishers and you’ve just got a bunch of weird looking guys.

The best part of the whole game was the Konquest mode. Revamped since Deception, in Armageddon‘s single player story mode plays a lot like Shaolin Monks, albeit simpler. The game still lets you run around some 3D corridors while fighting bad guys and throwing in a ton of cameos from the MK universe, and throws in some tough boss battles. Seriously, this is perhaps the best single player mode of any fighting game. Maybe that’s more of a reflection of how many fighting games have poor single player modes then the greatness of the mode in Armageddon. Still, it’s a fun mode that’s certainly worth playing through if you are a fan of the series.

Then there’s the addition of Motor Kombat. Motor Kombat is a racing game in the vein of the Mario Kart games, only with Mortal Kombat characters. This mode is fun the first time you play it, and then its just sort of there. It doesn’t have the replay value of either Puzzle Kombat or Chess Kombat.

Another thing that’s more noticeable now about MK: Armageddon is the fact that the graphics aren’t much better than in Deception. In fact some of the character models seem to be less detailed. Since the graphics were starting to get stale and the fighting system was wearing out it’s welcome, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is a great swan song to that chapter in the series, much like MK3: Gold.

So there you have it, a brief summary of the Mortal Kombat Kollection for the PS2. All three of these games are worthy additions to the Mortal Kombat series, and bundled together for a budget price makes it an insane deal to pass up if you are even remotely interested in playing the next Mortal Kombat game. While Mortal Kombat will never be the insanely balanced fighting game that the Virtua Fighter or Street Fighter games are, the series remains one of those fighting games that are just fun to have some friends over and play against each other.

The Scores: (in order: Deception / Shaolin Monks / Armageddon)
Game Modes/Story: Great / Above Average / Good
Graphics: Good / Good / Good
Sound: Good / Good / Good
Control/Gameplay: Good / Great / Above Average
Replayability: Great / Decent / Good
Balance: Below Average / Above Average / Decent
Originality: Great / Incredible / Above Average
Addictiveness: Good / Great / Decent
Appeal: Above Average / Decent / Great
Miscellaneous: Great / Great / Above Average

Final Scores:
Deception: Good Game
Shaolin Monks: Good Game
Armageddon: Enjoyable Game

Short Attention Span Sumary:

The Mortal Kombat Kollection is a great way to reintroduce yourself to the series if you’ve had a long absence, and the games are obviously created by developers who love the series themselves. For the $30 you’ll spend buying the Kollection you will get a brawling game, a kart racer, a puzzle game, a chess game, two fighting games, and a lot more. This is a great package to kill time with while you wait for the upcoming Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe.



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