Sunday, October 8, 2023

Mortal Kombat IV (N64, 1998) + Mortal Kombat Gold (Dreamcast, 1999)


MK finally learns to count to four! This is the first one so far that I haven't previously beaten so I won't have any kind of nostalgia or bias.


Our heroes defeated Shang Tsung and Shao Khan's schemes twice over, only to have the bad guys invade Earthrealm in MK3.

For a long time I wondered how they'd top the story of the first three games. Time to find out. MK4 begins NOW.

The PS1 version has an FMV movie at the beginning, but it isn't really anything worth going out of your way to see. It's basically Raiden standing in the rain and talking about how the most evil Elder God, Shinnok, has escaped from his Phantom Zone like prison and now seeks to get revenge on Earthrealm (since Raiden's the one who put him in said prison). Our only hope is if a bunch of mortals stop him.

The Arcade version shows Shinnok and Quan-Chi preparing to invade Earthrealm. Shinnok is the Big Bad and Quan-Chi is his Shang Tsung esque underboss. Thing is, Quan-Chi looks way more like a threat than Shinnok does, and as a kid I always thought he was the boss of this game while Shinnok was the underling.

A deity escaping from deity-jail and trying to wreak havoc is an interesting premise. Would have been cool if they tied this into Shao Khan's defeat somehow. Like maybe besting Shao Khan weakened the dimensional fabric enough for Shinnok to be able to carry out his plans. Or maybe Shao Khan was the natural predator of Shinnok, and now that he's gone, various entities that he kept in check are free to roam.

Man, it's kinda crazy that Shao Khan is gone. Wonder how long that's gonna last. After this the series goes into a trilogy on the PS2, then gets fully rebooted. So technically the original MK story ends with MK7. Plenty of time left for Khan to make a return.

Kind of an anemic character selection here for series fans. It's missing a bunch of crucial characters! Also adds some new ones. From left to right, top to bottom, we've got:

Kai - Some guy who can walk on his hands
Shinnok - The final boss. Making this the first main series MK where the final boss is just another selectable character.
Liu Kang
Reptile - The worst version of him yet
Reiko - Some guy who has a bunch of Noob Saibot's moves
Johnny Cage
Jarek - The boss of the Black Dragon Organization, Kano's group. I thought he was Kano's boss, but it appears that he may have just taken over in the absence of Kano (who was presumably killed off in MK3)
Tanya - Basically Jade
Fujin - Wind God version of Raiden
Quan-Chi - Supposed to be the sub-boss of the game under Shinnok, but for some reason he doesn't show up as an enemy. More on that later.

For hidden characters we've got Goro and Noob Saibot, both unlocked with codes. They're pretty easy to unlock so that's fine. Noob looks...really weird now. He's gone from being a ninja shade to being the shade of PEPSIMAN.

Quan-Chi may be the big sub-boss of the story, but you don't seem to fight him on ANY of the ladders. Shinnok is always the final boss and Goro is always the 2nd-to-last boss. Story-wise, Goro was revived by Shinnok to do his bidding.

But wait! Goro wasn't in the Arcade version at all, and was added specifically for the home versions. There's no sub-boss in the Arcade version, it's random up to the last fight and then it's Shinnok. No Quan-Chi in sight. What the heck? I looked into this and I can't find any info on why Quan-Chi doesn't show up as a fight-able antagonist in any of the versions of this game. It's one of the weirdest things I've ever seen. I'd understand if he was just a randomly-occuring regular foe and not the penultimate boss (or in the tertiary Shang spot for the home versions). But he doesn't show up AT ALL.

Note: He shows up as a regular opponent in the ladders of MK Gold. Not sure why he didn't in this version. May just be coincidental.

Sub-Zero has his freeze, of course. And the graphics are 3D, but the gameplay is still on a 2D plane.

Quan-Chi towers over everyone else, and he has a fatality where he rips his opponent's arm off and beats them over the head with it which is probably one of the more memorable series fatalities.

Also, like I mentioned before, this is the first main series MK game to let you play as the final boss right off the bat with no code or anything. And...there's really nothing impressive about Shinnok. This might be the most forgettable bad guy in the series. Not surprised that it seems like he barely ever reappeared after this game, while Quan-Chi was around quite a bit.

The visuals look better than I expected for early-era polygonal 3D. I can clearly see who everyone is at least, and the animations are quick and punchy.

Sonya with a GERMAN SUPLEX.

A much-needed change: After all these games, they finally nerfed sweep-spam. Using sweep will cause your foe to bounce backward out of range, so you can't use it continuously.

We may have lost Kitana, Mileena, Sindel, and Jade, but we got TANYA. She's a nefarious Edenian, which means she's from the same place as the above four.

Here's Jarek getting revenge for Kano! It's kind of cool that someone from MK Special Forces is in this game, makes that one feel slightly more relevant.

Something I haven't mentioned because it barely factors in, but I should mention because it was a component of the game's hype: This is the first MK to have weapons. Characters can whip out character-specific weapons mid-fight and use them to beat up their foe. Jarek's weapon is the big jagged sword on the ground here. Why is it on the ground? Because if you get hit after drawing, your weapon falls down and your opponent can pick it up. The whole thing seems kinda pointless to me for that reason. Whip out a weapon and you're just as likely to get it used against you. Which is realistic, but it kinda kills the gimmick.

Jarek has the Kano Cannonball attack which is pretty cool. He's basically Kano, without the Terminator face. Kinda like how Tanya is basically Jade. It seems like the new characters are almost stand-ins for existing characters. Fujin is just Raiden #2. Reiko is Noob Saibot with a bit of Rain.

He can also dish out wrestling powerbombs, as we see him burying his face in Sonya.

They sure liked wrestling moves in this game. You can tell it's the end of the 90's during the wrestling boom.

Get to the end and the penultimate fight is Goro. This guy being new for the console versions makes sense, because he seems...less detailed than the other characters, like he was put together in a hurry. His 2D version was a lot more appealing.

Goro now has the Kintaro Stomp, which is a little slower and easier to avoid than MK2, but still a PITA.

He makes the mistake of stopping a lot to roar, also Kintaro's weakness, and this is a good time to attack. His offense and defense are both much better than everyone else so it takes a lot to beat this guy.

Flying attacks work pretty well, like in the first game. Except... Goro can do jump kicks! My God!



Time for Raiden to take a stab at this. He's got a nice electrical aura going on in this game.

Yeah this guy sure is odd-looking. Like he's kinda misshapen, or the polygonal sections aren't connected right, or something.


I finally bring in the big guns, Liu Kang.

Weirdest thing about that bizarre GBC version of this game was that Raiden was the 2nd-to-last fight and Quan-Chi was third. Still trying to figure that one out. At least Quan-Chi was an enemy at all.

Liu Kang's special moves are the same as other versions (unlike Raiden and Sonya) so I'm finally able to mount a better offense. Special moves are the key to taking this guy down and the only real way to outgun him.

Flying Kick spam is especially effective.

Damn, this Goro was really tough. Nowhere near the "lol I win" AI of UMK3 and the like, but certainly harder than the original game.

Liu Kang's victory pose has him strumming an air guitar while leaning to the side like Shawn Michaels.

Shinnok is no Shao Khan, and is somehow even blander than I expected!

While the bad guy and the story are bland for this installment, I gotta say, it does play pretty well. Game is fast-moving and the moves have a lot of impact.

This fight is way easier than Goro, and I wrap it up quick with range attacks.

Shinnok falls back down into, presumably, the phantom zone. Annnnd I think that's it for him in this series.

His menace didn't last very long. This kinda makes MK4 a bit of a standalone game in the series. It's between two trilogies. It dips a toe into the 3D realm while staying in the 2D realm. It's just in an odd place.

Liu Kang's ending has Kitana (RIP) appearing from the spirit world to visit him. Well, this should be an emotional reunion. not really, she basically just asks him to join her in Outworld (I guess she's alive again?), he declines because he has to protect Earth, and she's just kinda like "okay np, c-ya"

In any case, time to check out Mortal Kombat Gold. This is basically the Ultimate version of the game for the Dreamcast.

Bunch of new characters, all in the top row: Cyrax, Mileena, Kitana, Kung Lao, Baraka. IIRC the two women and Baraka were all killed in the canon during MK2. Not sure if they're officially revived or if these are more like cameo appearances.

They also added a new secret unlockable character. I addition to Goro and Noob Saibot, you can now unlock.... SEKTOR! Ehhhh.

He's got a completely broken teleport uppercut that can be spammed (which the CPU does). He can also fire homing missiles that, if they miss, will fly offscreen and then fly back on until they hit your opponent. There's no limit on how many can be out at once, so you can spam those until the game slows down. Guy is just completely OP.

In any case, good call to throw some more legacy characters into this version.

Kitana is maskless now, and a very welcome addition. So basically this is more MK4, just better. Except for how unbalanced it is, because it's REALLY unbalanced.

Kitana basically elongates when she does a flying kick. At least it looks like a real flying kick. Most of the characters have this weird forward-kick, like Raiden is doing here.

The graphics in this Dreamcast version definitely seem a little crisper than the N64 version and there's more shading on the 3D models. It's WAY above the PS1 version (which I haven't even screen-capped here, but it's visually quite mediocre). So you can see the visual fidelity reaching tenuously towards the PS2 era. We'll see that in full swing in the next one.

As for this one? Good game, better than the last few things I suffered through. Not a ton to say about it otherwise, though. It''s just kinda there.

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