Monday, October 23, 2023

Mortal Kombat: Deception (Playstation 2, 2004)

This game has a cool logo. A good sign! This is one that I really didn't pay any attention to when I was younger. I may not have played MK4 and Deadly Alliance but at least I was aware of them and what they were about. For all I knew this one was some kind of spinoff. Well, nope, this is technically "MK6" by another name and it advances the PS2 trilogy. It's also a substantial improvement over the previous game (and MK7 would improve even further).

Rayden is canonically the hero of Deadly Alliance, it seems. According to the story he led the Earthrealm crew against said Alliance after Liu Kang's death.

In any case, this game's into starts with Rayden fighting Quan-Chi and Shang Tsung at the same time. I guess this is right after the previous game, or maybe it's the canon final battle of that one.

Hey, that should have been the final boss of Deadly Alliance: Both of them. Bring back the Endurance Round, it would have actually made sense there.

This guy is so totally the lightning dude from Big Trouble in Little China

Quan-Chi raises a wall of skulls to block Rayden's lightning. Not gonna lie, that's pretty sick.

Unfortunately, Rayden is defeated, and the bad guys win. Damn, Shang Tsung and Quan-Chi are way more effective than Shao Kahn ever was. There's probably a good case to be made that Shang Tsung is the real top villain of the series rather than his boss.

Moments after defeating Rayden, the Deadly Alliance immediately fractures as Quan-Chi and Shang Tsung start fighting each other. Quan-Chi gets the upper hand, surprisingly.

But wait! The former Emperor of Outworld has returned for the first time in ages. This is the Dragon King, Onaga, who ruled for a long time until Shao Kahn took over. Now he's just sorta back. He's the Big Bad for this game and there's probably a reason I've never even heard of him before. Looks like they were trying to create a new Shao Kahn type overlord but he's kinda bland.

Rayden gets up and combines his power with the Deadly Alliance, because they don't want to share power with anybody much less relinquish overlordship to this returning Dragon King guy.

Man, this is going through a lot of stunning plot developments in a short span of time.

Even the three of them can't stop the Dragon King, and he runs them over. Now he takes aim at Earthrealm! Well, everything has certainly gone in an unexpected direction. None of them are dead or anything so they're playable in the game.

This improves on the previous game in pretty much every regard, especially visuals. It's still dark, but nowhere near as dark as it was.

They also gave us a few minigames. Much like AEW Fight Forever I wish they would have focused on more game modes/characters and less on minigames, but let's see what we've got here.

PUZZLE KOMBAT. Complete with superdeformed characters, half of which are locked. WHY ARE WE STILL DOING THAT?

This is more or less a Tetris clone. The idea is to connect color blocks to other blocks of the same color, then wait for a dragon logo block and use that to eliminate all the connected blocks of that color. Every time you clear a bunch of blocks, your character socks the opposing character. That's just for ambience though, because winning is a matter of having your opponent's screen fill up with blocks before yours does.

Most of this game is spent waiting for the dragon logo blocks. Like right here I have a ton of blue and red blocks ready to clear, and can't because it's giving me yellow and green logos.

The dragon logos are kinda like the line-block in Tetris that I always end up waiting for, only on steroids because you literally can't clear blocks any other way in this. So in short, it's a pretty mediocre game, a curiosity more than anything else.

Next is MK Chess, which is basically Battle Chess for the NES. This is an idea I would have been really into as a kid. Move pieces around, try to take opposing pieces, etc. The difference is that each piece has a life meter and when two pieces lock horns... actual battle breaks out that you can control. Life meters carry over, so if you have a particularly good piece and it sustains a lot of damage, that'll handicap it in further battles. So this is less about chess strategy and more like a war sim.

All in all I like this a lot more than the other minigame. Only downside here is that a single match can easily take like a half hour, and once you've played it once or twice there isn't much else to do with it.

Time for the actual main game:

WHAT? They did it again locking half the characters. I thought Deadly Alliance was the only one that did this. The character selection is already looking pretty anemic, especially for this point in the series.

Well, that's disappointing. At least the "two hand-to-hand styles and one weapon style" system is still around.

BO RAI CHO returns. This man is a SCAMP.

Our boy finally has his flaming fart fatality.

Take THAT, Dhalsim!

Ashrah debuts here. She's basically the paladin of Outworld, and hunts evil with a glowing paladin sword. One of the more interesting later additions to the MK pantheon.

Then we have Mileena, seen here showing Tasteful Underboob.

Well, not that tasteful. Sideboob tends to be the most tasteful. In order of tastefulness, from most to least, it goes: Sideboob, Overboob, Underboob, Spinning Nipple Tassles.

Sub-Zero finally has a new look that's actually based on his original look. They were definitely going for some kind of Shredder thing here. That's right, it's the Super Shredder version of Sub-Zero. Count me in.

The very mid-looking freeze carries over from the previous game. It looks more like a "time stop spell" than a freeze.

One thing jumps out immediately: This game is BRUTAL. I mean, they're all violent, but we take it to a new level here. The stages have individual pit fatalities and so forth that automatically get administered if you end a fight with the right move.

The "overworld" ladder is like the previous game and shows you the stage and your opponent.

I dunno, the MK2 ladder was so much more menacing and intriguing than these muddy PS2 ladders. I see why the series kind of fell off for a while.

Sub-Zero dishes out ice sword slashes. I think this might be my favorite version of Sub-Zero so far that isn't the original design.

FREEZE. At least the actual projectile looks like an ice ball. With the move to 3D, the inputs for special attacks are largely unaffected. Movement in the 3D space requires double-taps of directional buttons, and most special moves involved directional single-taps.

...except for Liu Kang. that why they killed him?

Sub-Zero freezes Darrius (who?) and prepares to dice him with the ice sword.


Alright that's pretty wrong. I'll show myself out.

A tropical beach isn't very MK-like. They're really emulating Tekken here. Good time to praise the animations, and even things like blocks are realistic-looking and well-animated.

Ermac is really OP in the later MK series, starting with this game. I liked it when he was just a red ninja with fire powers, now he's this bizarre mummy-sorceror who can fly.

I switch things up and go with Nightwolf, who I've ignored in this series so far. And...Nightwolf is awesome now??

That's right, Nightwolf's dual tomahawks are not just super bad-ass to look at, they're also extremely effective and absolutely dismantle most CPU foes.

The second to last fight is a pseudo endurance round where you have two opponents who can tag in and out. Except you just have to defeat one of them to win. It's pretty weird. It pairs up Noob and Smoke, which is such an appropriate "penultimate fight" pairing that I think it might be that way for every character across the board.

With that nerfed endurance round out of the way, it's time to face The Dragon King Onaga. He's bigger than Shao Kahn and cooler-looking and an actual dragon. The kids will love it!

...well I don't. Bring back Shao Kahn!

He's a lot cooler than Moloch at least. Or Shinnok. So an improvement over the other post-Kahn villains.

He breathes fire and is the toughest opponent in this game by far, as is tradition. He's also a Dragon King, which makes him much more affluent than the Dragon Lord of Dragon Quest fame.

Nightwolf's tomahawks again carry me to a win, though it takes a few tries. That's another one down.

As a trained Native American, Nightwolf does shaman stuff and uses the spirit power of the ancestors and the deer and probably an owl to imprison the Dragon King.

That's it for this one, and the Dragon King.

So what's next? Armageddon. The third and best of the PS2 era trilogy. It fixes most of what didn't work about this and the previous game and gets us back to something that feels more like retro MK.

The Dragon King is still around doing stuff, for the 5 people who are interested in that dude. However the Big Bad for the next one is finally Shao Kahn again. I guess they cut their losses after the last several and brought back the guy who worked.

So how does Kahn return? Well, in some of the Deception endings it's revealed that Kahn knew Shang Tsung and Quan-Chi would betray him, so he made a clone / mirror image of himself and that's the one they killed while he himself went into hiding. Which doesn't seem very Kahn-like but whatever. A nice retcon, and the explanation for why this game is called "deception" to begin with. Not sure why they didn't just bring him back for this game, unless the decision was made late in development to bring him back for the next one.

All in all this was actually a solid game, and considerably more fun than the previous one. If it didn't have the character select issues I'd rate it higher. The main issue with Deception is that nothing really happens. The storyline is a major part of the MK series, moreso than most fighting game franchises, and this is an entry with no real major plot development. It seems like this was almost intended to be trilogy-padding and set up the third game. Every other MK game had major developments (even MK4) but not this one. You could probably remove this from the series like a Jenga block and it'd have zero effect on the games around it or the overall series. The main contribution here is introducing Onaga, but he's such a minor character going forward that it doesn't matter. I think at the time they intended for him to be the new Big Bad, but he just didn't work.

Other Mortal Kombat Posts


  1. Shao Khan is actually playable in the gamecube and psp version along with Goro and some deadly alliance characters.