Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe (Playstation 3, 2008)

 

After Armageddon, the devs weren't sure what to do. The story was basically over. Maybe another spinoff? Perhaps MK Mythologies: Noob?

Eventually they settled on doing this crossover game that has pretty much nothing to do with the main MK story and exists in its own kind of pocket universe.  This is indeed what people refer to as "MK8". Technically it is a mainline MK and not a spinoff.

Fun Fact: This is the first game in the series not rated M for Mature. They dropped to Teen for this game only, and it suffered a bit in the reviews as a result. The fatalities and moves / blood are all toned way down for ths one. Likely because they figured the DC fanbase coming in for this game would skew younger.

Not so Fun Fact: There are no subtitles in this game and no option for subtitles, so playing on mute at all and having any chance of following the story wasn't happening. Pretty bad accessibility for a game from 2008 too. The previous several games did have subtitles so I don't know how this kind of oversight even happened.


This is a great idea in theory. But when you think about it logically, how does anyone from the MK universe remotely stand a chance against characters like Green Lantern, Flash, or Wonder Woman, much less Superman? I guess Raiden makes sense as being able to hang with them since he's a thunder god himself, except that he gets beaten up by regular people in MK all the time.

Shang Tsung looks kind of wisened compared to previous games. He also has creepy, grabby hands.

No Johnny Cage?

Speaking of creepy, we've got the Injustice / Arkham version of Joker here. No Harley Quinn unfortunately.

This is just plain odd. Captain Marvel? That's Shazam! Thing is, once upon a time Shazam WAS Captain Marvel, and they had to change him due to Marvel's character of the same name. Plzdon'tsue.

Note: The DC character was created in 1940 while the Marvel character was created in 1967. I guess DC didn't copyright it.

...but wait, why isn't he called "Shazam" here?

There's a traditional arcade ladder, culminating with these three fights regardless of who you choose. Dark Kahn is some sort of fusion of Darkseid and Shao Kahn. More on that later.

This is the first HD MK game, but it's PS3 gen so it's super dull and brown. Remember when these guys had bright colors in their outfits? The late 2000's were a dark time for game visuals.

Course, the meat of this game is in the Story Mode. This is the first MK to have a legit and expansive Story Mode rather than just arcade ladders. The arcade ladder is more of a basic formality and has little to do with the story.

So basically, you choose a side and the story is different based on which side you take. Each mode can be finished in about two hours and they're both worth playing.

Story mode begins! They get Shao Kahn out of the way quick by having him lament his failure to ever conquer Earthrealm.

...except he finally won in the previous game! Like I said, this takes place in its own pocket universe. It's probably geared towards an audience that didn't play much past the first couple games in the series. If anything, this game takes place during the time of MK4. Even though that makes no sense to the canon. They only reference things from the first three games.

Just ignoring the last four games was an interesting choice, because in the next one they just reboot the whole thing. Pretty clear they weren't all that happy with the way the series had gone.

Raiden appears and blasts Shao Kahn into a portal, ending his threat for now. Welp, so much for Shao Kahn. They really threw him under the bus.

Unbeknownst to our heroes, this somehow lead to Kahn falling through to another dimension, switching places with Darkseid (from the DC dimension). This is back when we called these things "dimensions" instead of "multiverse" like everyone says now. In any case, Kahn somehow merges with Darkseid as they trade places Mirror Mirror style. Imagine if Kirk and Spock had become some freakish hybrid. This also weakens the barrier between the two dimensions.

Elsewhere, Liu Kang is having a meditate when Kitana tries to ambush him with a flying kick.

He easily deflects it by using her own momentum to throw her, Aikido style. She's quite enthused by this. Is this their version of foreplay?

Liu Kang goes to visit the grave of Johnny Cage, and gets ambushed by Sub-Zero.

IIRC Johnny Cage gets killed during the events between MK2 and MK3. Motaro specifically did him in, I believe.

If you run up against the side of a fight arena, it'll trigger a quicktime event where you and your foe are either falling through space or breaking through nearby walls. These QTEs get really annoying really fast. Who thought it was a good idea to put QTEs in MK? I quickly started avoiding the edges of fight screens.

Another new mechanic is Rage Mode. Fill a bar and you can activate this. Makes you temporarily invulnerable so you can wail on your foe. However, if your opponent also has Rage Mode and activates it, then you're equalized and can both damage each other.

I think Rage Mode also makes you hit for more damage, but it was hard to tell.

After Chapter 1: Liu Kang, we get Chapter 2: Sonya. This would pretty much be the format going forward for these games. One chapter for each character.

Sonya is studying mysterious portals that have been appearing, when suddenly she gets ambushed by Catwoman! Yeah, this game just throws a bunch of random fights at each character, with flimsy rationales. Usually just "they ran into each other and one of them decided they had to fight"

Next she encounters Shazam Captain Marvel (plzdon'tsue). "Fear Me!" he says.

After beating him up, she takes on Green Lantern. Ya know, Captain Marvel Shazam and Green Lantern are both god-level threats, and here they are losing fights to a random human. The whole concept for this game never made any sense, but let's just roll with it.

Shazam comes back and PUNCHES SONYA OUT. My God!

Sonya then gets infected with "rage", some sort of mental state that makes people just want to fight whoever is around them. Well, that'll make this game make more sense, just have everyone randomly come down with "rage" and thus get into fights.

Lex Luthor makes an appearance. He's decked-out in armor and one of the few interesting people in this game. He explains that there seems to have been a fusion between his dimension and ours, to the point that people are freely crossing between them more and more. As for what caused this... well, we don't know yet.

Wonder Woman is the next DC hero to drop in. Again, makes zero sense that any MK character can fight her toe to toe except maybe Raiden. But also, the MK series itself has been inconsistent with Raiden's power level, and he loses fights to humans regularly in that series, so who even knows.

Still, if you've always wanted to see Sub-Zero versus Batman, this is your game.

Scorpion versus The Joker! "Put 'em up put 'em up!" says Joker while doing his pugilist stance.

Joker: "AIYEEEEE!"

We find one of the portals between worlds. Alright, this is pretty cool. Wonder Woman doesn't want any of these seedy MK creeps going into DC world and causing problems. This particular portal leads directly to WW's island of Greek babes. Which unfortunately we don't see any of.

Elsewhere, we get our first Superman appearance. Looks a little bit like Christopher Reeve. The dimensional fusion is causing mass chaos and they'll need to stop it.

But wait! First they must fight, as is tradition. Every conversation leads to a fight in this game. It's like a modern Thanksgiving dinner when someone mentions politics and the whole table turns into a Royal Rumble.

After the fight, Scorpion superkicks Superman right off his feet.

Alright I'm calling bullshit. No way this ninja can knock a Kryptonian off their feet with one kick.

.......Superman continues to fly backwards dozens of feet.

Alright, I'm REALLY calling bullshit now.

Shang Tsung shows up and tells our heroes that the dimensional fusion is being caused by Dark Kahn, a fusion created when Shao Kahn and Darkseid traveled between dimensions at the same time and...collided, I guess. Dark Kahn is even stronger than both of them, and he has to be defeated in order for the dimensions to reset back to normal.

But before we get to all of that, we must battle! Shang Tsung unleashes hell with his skull-fireball. This move never gets old.

Man, Superman is getting jobbed out HARD.

Next Shang Tsung must take on Kano, who as usual is out for himself. I think he's the one MK villain who has never become a "good guy" at any point. Which is nice because every other villain has. It's so weird seeing Shang Tsung alternately being a protagonist and antagonist depending on the game.

Also Kano's face-structure is oddly similar to 50 Cent. Who was pretty huge in 2008 so maybe this was intentional.

With Kano defeated, Shang Tsung goes to administer a he-bitch man-slap.

"No, you'll kill him!" says Raiden.

Our heroes gather at the portal and get ready to face down the other dimension.

Our...other heroes gather at the portal at the same time! Who are we supposed to cheer for here, anyway?

Dark Kahn makes his first appearance and he's quite freakish. Like the Dragon Lord and Blaze and other later MK bad guys there's like nothing appealing about this guy's design. Why was it so hard for them to make appealing Big Bads that weren't Shao Kahn? There's a reason they keep going back to the bad guys of the first couple games.

MK and DC battle it out in a huge brawl! This is basically the Armageddon scenario except this time it doesn't make any sense. Maybe they all caught "rage"

Raiden vs Superman is the main event, and the final non-boss fight of both story modes.

Superman retaliates with a NUT PUNCH. Probably more devastating than throwing lightning.

Final boss is Dark Kahn. This guy is booooring. MK final bosses must be the weakest aspect of the series.

At least Raiden, AKA the MK character who is an actual god, is the one to fight him.

He splits back into Darkseid (seen here) and Kahn, who go back to their respective own dimensions. This un-fuses the dimensions so everyone can go back to normal.

Also Darkseid gets imprisoned in...Hell, apparently. That's it for the MK story mode.

DC story mode starts with Superman defeating Darkseid over Metropolis, then throwing him into another dimension. Talk about burying the lede! This is like starting a Marvel universe game with the good guys having just defeated Thanos. Like, yo, aren't you skipping the whole story?

Well, MK Story did the same thing by burying Shao Kahn at the beginning.

Lex Luthor appears in dapper suit to tell Superman that throwing Darkseid into another dimension may have repercussions. So...Superman threw Darkseid so hard that he left this dimension, while Raiden blasted Shao Kahn into a portal, and that's how they collided in meta-space?

DC mode is pretty much the same as MK mode. Characters talking a lot about the situation, while also getting into tons of random senseless fights.

Raiden drops in on Batman's secret space base to talk to the DC heroes about what's going on, BUT FIRST THEY MUST BATTLE.

Lul, it looks like Wonder Woman is wrangling Shang Tsung to keep him from running into her dimension. She's protecting all of those nubile Greek waifs on her island.

Part of this story involves Superman having a headache and the other heroes trying to get him to get up and help defeat Dark Kahn.

Elsewhere...AH! JESUS!

WHAT ARE YOU

Finally, Superman is back in action, and the DC squad are pretty unified. Shazam explains to everyone about Dark Kahn, and-

Joker: "KAAAAAAAAHN!!!"

::it echoes several times::

Alright, that was the best moment of this entire game.

Joker also has a punch glove for a special attack. This guy is a hoot.

Of course, the main event for Joker had to be fisticuffs with Batman. So far Joker is the best character in this game, probably followed by...

...Lex Luthor, seen here getting crushed by Superman.

Dark Kahn appears, straddling the dimensions. It's nice that all of their problems can be solved by getting rid of this one enemy.

As before, penultimate fight is Superman V Raiden. The strongest characters in each hero squad...and the guys who kinda caused all this trouble to begin with.

Finally, Superman takes on Dark Kahn. For being a fusion of two of the strongest dudes in creation, Dark Kahn is pretty weak.

Winning DC Mode unlocks Darkseid for play in Arcade and Versus modes, which is cool. Unlocking MK Mode unlocked Shao Kahn. We've played as Shao Kahn quite a bit in this series by now, let's see how Darkseid plays.

DC's Thanos (well technically Thanos is Marvel's Darkseid) actually fights a hell of a lot like Shao Kahn, so it was an inspired choice to have them do fusion. He has charge attacks and knee lifts.

Also don't forget the Omega Beam. The fact that this guy has never had a dedicated mainstream movie, despite being DC's biggest villain, is kind of stunning. And the DC Cinematic Universe has been such a bust that I don't know if they'll ever even get there. At least Zack Snyder tried to get the movies moving in that direction and introduced him.

Darkseid's Arcade Mode ending has Shang Tsung trying to drain his soul, only to find that Darkseid was too strong for it to work. Instead he turned it around and drained Shang Tsung's power, turning him back into his old version. Then Shang Tsung groveled a bit and got Darkseid to bring him on as his newest minion. Never change, Shang Tsung.

So, thoughts on this game?

-It sets up Injustice and its sequel, from the same developers, pretty nicely actually. Those games were very good. Just for that reason I'm glad this game exists, even if I didn't get much out of it.

-This game is mid-transition from 3D back to 2D. You can actually step around in 3D space with the analog stick, but it isn't a huge part of the gameplay and most of the time fights are just transpiring in the 2D space with the D-pad. So yeah, it's like it has one foot in the last three games being 3D and one foot in the 2D realm that the series goes back to after this.

-A lot of characters have "stun" type moves now, but most of them also knock the opponent back out of range. Which means it's hard to really capitalize or launch an attack on a stunned foe.

-Waaaaaay too many quicktime events. That brought the game down a notch.



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3 comments:

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  2. The Captain Marvel/Shazam thing goes like this: Fawcett Comics published Captain Marvel, DC sued Fawcett alleging that Captain Marvel was a ripoff of Superman, Fawcett settled and agreed to abandon the character, Marvel created their own Captain Marvel and trademarked it in the late '60s, then DC licensed Fawcett's characters (eventually acquiring them outright) and revived the original Captain Marvel. Marvel's trademark meant DC could refer to the character in stories as "Captain Marvel" but couldn't market him under that name, so the new comics were given titles like Shazam! and The Power of Shazam!, which led to a lot of people assuming "Shazam" was the character's actual name. In 2012 DC bit the bullet and officially renamed him "Shazam."

    P.S. The little blue guys are the Guardians of the Universe, founders and leaders of the Green Lantern Corps. Definitely not to be confused with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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    1. Thanks for clearing that up. Shazam was probably the best thing about the new DC universe of movies, which I really wanted to succeed so I'm a bit bitter at the whole situation.

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