Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (Playstation 2, 2006)


This is the end of the PS2 trilogy and also the end of the original series. The next game is a what-if and the one after that reboots the continuity. That's right, this is the culmination of the original MK story and it's for all the marbles.

Not to be confused with that MK Annihilation movie, but I could see people mixing them up. In short: This game is good, that movie is a turd.

The best intro movie in the series begins with a vulture scavenging in the apocalyptic wastelands.

It then cuts to a brutal war! Earthrealm versus Outworld!

Wouldn't be surprised if Avengers Endgame got a little bit of inspiration from this game.

We've got Earthrealm characters charging across a battlefield to face Outworld's assembled force, and pretty much everyone we've been introduced to over the series is here.

And I mean EVERYONE is here. Kintaro, Quan-Chi, Goro, Motaro. EVERYONE. Shao Kahn is back, and I guess he forgave Shang Tsung and Quan-Chi for their treachery. Probably because he needs all hands on deck for this final push to invade Earthrealm.

Kintaro bellows forth his legendary roar.

Even Shinnok is on board with the Outworld army!

So yeah, we're doing the MK3 over again with Shao Kahn taking the fight directly across-realms and declaring war on Earth. That's right, forget the tournament, it's now ALL OUT WAR.

Well, MK3 was more like an unanswered invasion that got Earthrealm by surprise. This looks more like the two marshalled their forces and met at a destined point to have it out.

Old rivalries are renewed as Scorpion and Sub-Zero duke it out. Whose side are they on, respectively? Not sure if it matters. They might just be seizing the opportunity to go after each other.

Shao Kahn going full Dynasty Warrior and absolutely decimating everything in his path with his giant mallet.

They're all trying to reach this pyramid, which is home to some sort of fire god called Blaze. Whoever can get to the top and defeat Blaze will get the power of armageddon. So whichever side does that first wins, basically. And a lot of these guys just want The Power for themselves.

Here's Nightwolf tapping into the spirit world power of the trees and the horses and stuff to fire an energy bow at his enemies.

Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung may be on the same side, but that doesn't mean they like each other. They actually fight it out when both of them are near the top of the pyramid, with Kahn easily getting the upper hand.

But wait! Tsung now introduces his newest experimental creation: ZOMBIE LIU KANG.

That's right, Liu Kang is now a shambling zombie.

What's with the Liu Kang character assassination? It's enough that they killed him off, now they also have to mock us for liking him.

Blaze (...what a generic name) roars and that's it for the intro movie. Awesome stuff here. So basically the game takes place around this apocalyptic battle, with the goal being to reach the top of the pyramid and claim The Power.

Shang Tsung and his fearsome pet zombie greet us on the mode select screen. Yeah I'm really not into this at all. If Shao Kahn could come back for the final apocalyptic battle, they should have brought Liu Kang back as well. He missed two games already, that was enough.

We've got a few extra modes here. You can create a fighter, as if the game having Everyone wasn't enough. Konquest Mode is now a full 3D RPG-like mode, ala Tobal No 1, instead of simply fighting endless battles.

There's also Kombat Kart. Well, that's what they should have called it. It's a racing minigame.

There are actually a whole lot of tracks, and it's pretty clear they put a lot more oomph into the minigames here compared to previous games. Some real production went into MK7 to say the least. Maybe they thought this might be their last game? Not sure.

The closest thing this can be compared to is probably F-Zero, with a bit of Mario Kart elements added in. All in all this game has a LOT to it and I kinda wish I'd spent as much time with this one as I did with some of the first few games in the series because it'd certainly be worth it.

Moving on to the actual meat of the game:

The mode select image seems to cycle between a number of duos. Here's Kitana, who was locked in the previous two games, with Mileena in the foreground.

With this huge apocalyptic battle kicking off, I expect the character select to be slightly bigger than the anemic ones we got in the last two games.



EVERYBODY is here. Like MK Trilogy it even puts a bunch of bosses at the bottom row. Shao Kahn, Goro, Kintaro, the Dragon King Onaga. Above that you've got Motaro, Moloch, and so on.

In previous games it was a question of who they'd include. In this game it's a question of who they DIDN'T include. I can't think of a single character from the other games who didn't make it into this one...

...except for Liu Kang.

That's because he's dead, and all we get is Zombie Liu Kang. He's slow, ponderous, and swings chains. I don't wanna talk about it.

Kitana is selectable! AT LAST, KITANA IS SELECTABLE!

It even adds a bunch of new characters, like Mokap...some guy wearing a motion capture outfit. It's probably Andy Serkis, like all of the other mo-cap roles.

There's also Sareena, a super-sexy knife-wielding assassin. Good to see her finally get introduced in a game proper.

Motaro...is now an ettin instead of a centaur. No idea what the story is here, but it's a bit of a letdown not being able to play as the horse-beast of olde. In a game that gets pretty much everything right, this is one thing I'd change (along with giving us normal Liu Kang).

Here's ::yawn:: Moloch, for his Fan and anyone who really wants to play as a cave troll from LOTR.

Here's ::checks notes:: Onaga.

Last but not least, Shao Kahn himself. This is the first 3D game to have him playable at the get-go. He lacks the oomph and impact of his 2D sprite (so does everyone else, really), but he does have a glorious flowing cape.

So who are the four locked characters? One is Blaze, the final boss. The other three are weird new characters like Meat. They all require a lot of effort to unlock by playing Konquest mode for hours, so I'm good. Was hoping OG Liu Kang would be one of them but nope.

Speaking of Blaze, the battle ladder is the temple and he's lurking at the top of it. "Fear me!" he squeaks.

The depth of the roster means you can put together pretty much any matchup from the series. Like having Shao Kahn squash Shinnok and declare superiority over MK4.

Nitara is finally a normal playable character. Shang Tsung is looking a bit older than the previous games (though not the first obviously), which he should considering these games launched (and transpired chronologically) across over a decade.

The visuals are the same 3D as the previous two games, with sidestep movement in the space permitted (but not full 3D movement like Ehrgeiz or Bushido Blade).

Shang Tsung is probably my favorite MK character, something I'm beginning to realize right around now.

Noob Saibot vs Sektor. Noob was cooler when he was just a shadow. Sektor on the other hand has finally become cool, as he wields red laser swords. Never was a fan of the cyborg ninjas but I'll say this is a substantial improvement.

Generalissimo El Jax battles Inflated 90's Steven Seagal Movie Sonya.

"We may be friends Sonya, but if we do not battle, they WILL kill us both" says Jax as Ritual of Ancient Battles plays.

Kitana is pretty awesome in this game, and can use the steel fans as regular weapons.

The main thing working against this game is the utter embarrassment of riches. There are so many good characters to play as that there's no way you can get to them all. As far as the PS2 trilogy goes, this one "gets it" and it's all you need.

Sareena is probably the most popular later-MK character that I wasn't familiar with. Suffice to say, I see why she's so popular.

Sonya's weapon art is a pair of Kali Sticks, and they're super-effective as fast-striking weapons.

Goro may be playable, but he's kinda developed a hunchback. Also, Dear God, Sareena doesn't skip abdominal day.

Goro is indeed bulkier than before, not sure how I feel about this design. If anyone should be buffed up, it's Goro. However it gives him an inflated look. Let's see how Kintaro fared...

Kintaro looks really good. Man is bad-ass as always, even with Goro trying to steal his heat. Everyone knows Kintaro is stronger than Goro even if Goro is higher-ranked.

I go with Kintaro for a few rounds and just steamroll the opposition. One thing jumps out immediately: Characters only have two fighting styles in this game instead of three. One hand-to-hand and one weapon. It's an acceptable trade for having ALL OF THE CHARACTERS.

Kintaro's fighting styles are his default ultra-physical brawling, and a "weapon style" where he has blades protruding from all four fists, kinda like Baraka. They missed an opportunity to give him Vega claws.

Johnny Cage may have felled Goro easily enough with the Split Punch. However against Kintaro, the joke is on Cage: Kintaro wore a steel cup.

As fun as it is to play as Kintaro, I switch gears and roll some of the game as Shao Kahn. The game is much better balanced than MK Trilogy and none of the boss characters are wildly overpowered in this. Anyone can beat anyone. However the boss characters do seem particularly big and destructive.

Kahn crushes his chief opposition, Raiden. At least, his chief enemy opposition. His own side offers up a fair amount of resistance too. With friends like Shang Tsung, who needs enemies?

Unfortunately no MK2-style mocking taunts here.

Kahn's weapon art is his fearsome hammer, which he wields to deadly effect.

Before too long, I reach the penultimate boss: Kahn himself. He's the big challenge of the game, so this gives me an opportunity to switch around and try some different characters.

Li Mei of Deadly Alliance fame is wearing way less clothes now than she was in that game. Unfortunately I find that most of the characters I try get crushed by Kahn, until...

...I finally get the win over Kahn with this Kira lady. Fast knife stabs win the day, like they did in Deadly Alliance.

Shao Kahn gets one last gasp in with a JUDAS EFFECT!

The final boss isn't Kahn though. It's Blaze, and whoever slays him gets his power. Shao Kahn is due for a win, so I switch over.

Blaze is a big ol' fire elemental and has a very "generic fighting game final boss" moveset.

He's a little more memorable than, say, Moloch and Onaga of the previous two games, but that's mainly because of the intro movie. I clobber him with the Wrath Hammer, and Shao Kahn wins armageddon by getting his power.

This is the canon ending of the game: Shao Kahn becoming indestructible.

Weird thing is that the ending plays over a generic cutscene of Kahn doing katas, as it would with any character. Some of these guys are really not the "kata-practicing" types...

Suffice to say, he merges Earthrealm with Outworld, finally, after all these attempts. Suck it, Elder Gods!

However, with his goal finally reached, he found that he had nothing left to conquer.

And that was pretty much it for the realms. Shao Kahn fell into madness and presumably everything ended up in ruins, an eternal dark age of a hellscape. Have a nice day.

But wait! Raiden managed to go back in time before it was all said and done, and warn his past self about what would happen. Not sure if this is revealed in one of the endings for this game, or if it was a retcon in Mortal Kombat 9 so that the series could continue/reboot.

Either way, MK7 here is the end of the original MK series. And man, it goes out with a bang. I'll always prefer the first two games in the series (and they're certainly more colorful and have more oomph than this one), but Armageddon is easily the best thing they've done since that heyday.

Next up, probably in November: "MK8" - which probably shouldn't be called that but everyone does anyway including the creators - which is an oddball DC comics spinoff. It's also the first MK game to go high-def, as it leaped to the PS3. Then we've got the next actual story entry with MK9, the 2011 reboot. I'd also like to take a look at Shaolin Monks, the third/final/best of the spinoff MK games. After the Halloween festivities are done I'll be looking at all of these.

Fun Fact: Noted anti-game activist and moral busybody Jack Thompson tried to get this game pulled from the shelves. Obviously it didn't work out. His reasoning? Because the game has a create-a-character feature and he'd heard that gamers were using that to make "Jack Thompson" characters ingame to beat up. You can't make this stuff up.

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  1. Motaro lost his hind legs in this because the devs couldn't make them work with their modeling tools, given how many totally unique animations would be needed for knockdowns, throws, fatalities, etc.