Friday, February 9, 2024

Mortal Kombat IX (Playstation 3, 2011)


Technically this game is just called "Mortal Kombat" but it's known by fans across the board as MK9. It reboots the series by retelling the story of the first three games, which was a great choice, and completely resets the MK timeline. The story reason for this is that Raiden was able to send some kind of telepathic message to his past self about Shao Kahn winning Armageddon, so now in a new timeline Raiden has the foresight to prevent that and put things right.

This is where I got back into the series back in the day after a many-year lapse, and I was just in time because this might be the series' best game. Whether it is or not, it being a retelling of the early parts of the saga is really what people like me had wanted to see more of for a while.

Robust character select for versus and arcade ladder modes. We've got most of the characters people liked from the first several games here. Scorpion looks particularly upgraded in terms of art design.

Sonya on the other hand...not my favorite design for her. They've done away with the athletic design of old and gone with "boobies"

The two most popular characters face off in the underworld.

This is Bi-Han, the evil Sub-Zero. Though the game also has the good Sub-Zero later on, and makes sure to explain the switch midway through.

Sindel bears a striking resemblance to Angelina Jolie. I hope she got royalties for her likeness. Also...BOOBS.

At this point the arcade ladder mode is just a formality more than anything else, as the series has really moved on from that formula with the full-fledged story mode.

Look at Kahn manspreading on the loading screens. This guy gives zero F's.

It's a marital spat.

Ya know, Sindel's ability to hover in the air would be super-useful in the bedroom.

Story mode begins with a cutscene showing the final parts of Armageddon. We're totally ignoring "MK8" here as it's basically entirely non-canon.

As everyone fights to reach the top of Blaze's Pyramid, pretty soon almost all of 'em are dead. Shao Kahn and Raiden were the final two to stand atop the pyramid and try to claim Blaze's quickening.

Kahn gets it first, and with his new power he proceeds to obliterate Raiden. It's the canon ending of Armageddon. Except...

Right before Raiden dies, he manages to send a message to himself in the past. A vision of things to come.

We snap back to the original Mortal Kombat, where Raiden experiences a rush of memories he hasn't had yet. Future Raiden is dead and the world will experience an era of darkness under Shao Kahn, but maybe Raiden in this new timeline can stop it. Unless we're going off of the "one timeline" format in which case everything is predestined unless Raiden can make better choices. Namely, make sure that Kahn actually dies in the first several games.

The fact that this game retells MK1 is such a selling point for me. Shaolin Monks was great in that regard as well. It's one of the few times where a timeline reset / reboot was really welcome in a series that I like.

Shang Tsung in all of his ancient, Big Trouble In Little China glory. He's flanked by those masked guards I always liked.

Johnny and Sonya meet for the first time and he immediately flirts with her in his hamhanded way. She basically just insults him a lot as is tradition, mainly so he'll go away.

These two are gonna have a kid later in the series

Johnny is our character for Chapter 1, which means we play as him to do tournament fights against characters from MK1. Like... Reptile?


Okay, this game takes some liberties with MK1 to say the least.

Shang Tsung calls for Cage to "finish" his opponents, and Cage balks at this. He didn't know that the Mortal Kombat Tournament actually involved mortal combat!

Raiden and Liu Kang try to recruit Johnny into their Good Guy Squad, knowing the real threat Shang Tsung poses. Cage just wonders why everyone here is so damn weird, with their ninja costumes. He thought he was gonna be participating in a regular martial arts tournament, instead it's an anime cosplay convention with murder.

The QTEs and other annoying additions from the previous game are gone. This one is back to being fully 2D, as the Lord intended, and adds a super meter. Fill that up and you can do these gruesome X-Ray Attacks (yep, this is where that began) which are basically Mini-Fatalities inside of a fight that just do a ton of damage. IF they hit, that is, because a foe can block the initial strike and totally negate them. Plus you lose the entire meter if that happens. Ouch! This means, however, that when they do land, it's particularly gratifying since it isn't at all guaranteed.

Sonya takes on her archnemesis, Kano! Being able to go over the various hatreds and rivalries between the characters is a strong point of this game. I was always a lot more into the story and character interactions than I was into the over the top violence, though that also adds something to the series. I think the media really simplified things with assumptions that the violence was the only reason people were into this series. It's a lot more than that, for sure.

Once the good guys have officially formed their alliance, Raiden decides to tell everyone about his visions.

Now Johnny is REALLY regretting going to this tournament. He has to save the world? But he was supposed to be on set at 8 AM!

One of the guards reveals himself to be...

...Kung Lao! Who, like I said in the Shaolin Monks post, really needs to be an added character if they ever do a straight HD remake of the original game.

Lot of familiar battle arenas here. Shang Tsung is sitting way back from the action compared to the original game.

Wait, what? Tsung can just randomly make fights 2-on-1? This seems like something Raiden should object to. I know they're playing off of the endurance rounds in the first game (my least-favorite parts of that game) but it's still pretty obnoxious. The 2-on-1 fights are easily the hardest part of this game.

Cyrax and Sektor aren't cyborgs yet, as the Lin Kuei hasn't started their robot program. So we get to see them in their never before seen human bodies.

Next we get a nice cutscene where Kitana and Liu Kang meet for the first time in a fight, and instantly find that they like each other's company. These two sparring is great.

Speaking of Liu Kang, he's reached the finals of the tournament and Shang Tsung is a little concerned. Well, not that concerned.

Note: I think you could break a 2x4 across Kitana's steel abs.

The reason Tsung isn't that concerned: GORO. He looks kind of...weird.

The key to victory here is spamming Flying Kick. In general the CPU seems very susceptible to special moves. Other than that, they re-created this fight very well and he has the same attacks and movement as the first game.

Time for the Gokou Vs Vegeta of this universe. Notice how they didn't give Old Shang Tsung his own face portrait so he's young up there.

Run to the sides of the arena and you see this awesome thunderstorm in the background, befitting the final fight of the tournament.

Tsung is bewildered that anyone managed to get past Goro at all, and his attempt to stop Liu Kang was a desperation play.

The rest of the Earthrealm team congratulates Liu Kang on the win. He's so happy in this game!

...TF is Nightwolf doing here?

The original game is over, time for MK2. In Outworld, Shao Kahn is quite Displeased at this turn of events, as he was THIS close to getting control of Earthrealm through the Elder Gods approved methods. Now he'll have to find another way to do it.

He challenges Raiden to a winner-take-all tournament held in Outworld where he'll have the home field advantage. Raiden taps into his memories of things to come and sees that Liu Kang will successfully defeat Kahn, so he accepts the challenge.

Raiden has basically become the John Connor of this game at this point. He's defeating Skynet because he cheats.

My question did MK2 come about in the original timeline? Because there was zero reason for Raiden to accept a winner-take-all Outworld tournament after successfully defending Earthrealm.

The Outworld tournament draws a packed Wembley Stadium sized crowd. Also Shang Tsung was bestowed with his youth again after promising to make sure Earthrealm loses this time. His old self was just a curse.

Sonya is kidnapped by Outworld forces, but almost immediately rescued by the good guys. Specifically, Jax, who leaves no one behind. They do this thing where Johnny Cage is kinda wondering what's going on with these two and quickly realizes Jax is more like her brother.

Elsewhere, we have a new Sub-Zero, as the previous one was dragged down to Hell by Scorpion during the first tournament. We also find out that Smoke is another member of the Lin Kuei...and a decent guy?

The next chapter has you play as him, which is cool, as he deals with Kahn's minions.

"Daughter of Shao Kahn, King of the Druids!"

Great, just what we needed, a Druish Princess.

Meanwhile, the Lin Kuei have started converting their ninjas into cyborgs, something Smoke and New Sub-Zero are very resistant to. At this point, the Lin Kuei aren't asking, so our heroes have to fend off several of these new robot ninjas.

Jax loses his arms in a fight with Ermac (who is a lame mummy in this game, not the cool red ninja of the early series), and Sub-Zero coldly walks off instead of helping Sonya get him to safety. New Sub-Zero may be a "good guy" now... but he isn't a great guy.

Sub-Zero only cares about three things: His freaks, his peaks, and getting revenge on Scorpion.

Sub-Zero defeats Scorpion (who just sort of slinks away), followed by the Lin Kuei showing up to grab more cyborg fodder. They wanted Smoke initially, only to have Smoke be rescued by Raiden. This messed up the original course of events, and caused them to come back here and take Sub-Zero instead. Apparently they made a deal with Shao Kahn to take Sub-Zero in return for the Lin Kuei now working for Outworld.

This is a deviation from history, as Sub-Zero was never supposed to be cyborged. Interesting. Raiden saves one guy, and they lose another guy. The timeline is merciless.

Next chapter has us playing as Kitana, probably the most statuesque character in this entire series.

Oh, forgot to mention a little plot detail: A lot of the Outworld cutscenes involving the villains have Baraka, Kano, etc transporting crates upon crates full of military weapons from Earth into Shao Kahn's coffers.

It's semi-subtle because it always happens in the background of the cutscenes, and even though it's very visible, they never explain what exactly is going on with that. Suffice to say, Kahn was planning his direct invasion of Earthrealm even during MK2. If Tsung's plan for a tournament didn't work, he already had a backup way to get it done. That involved importing lots and lots of weapons.

Anyway...most statuesque character in the entire series. Maybe the entire 2010's decade of gaming.

Raiden tries to recruit Kitana to Team Earthrealm. She's faithfully devoted to Outworld, thinking Shao Kahn is her father.

While Sindel IS her mother, her actual father is long gone and Kahn actually killed him.

She doesn't believe anything Raiden says, but decides to listen when Raiden tells her to check out Shang Tsung's laboratories and see what horrors are being cooked up by Outworld.

Her bodyguard, Jade, has a responsibility to keep her from going there. However, after Kitana wins the fight, Jade seems okay with Kitana finding out "the truth" if she can handle it. More on Jade in a bit, since she gets her own chapter in this game.

Kitana reaches the labs and finds out the truth: They're creating clones of her in these tubes, namely Mileena.

THIS JUST IN: It has been widely reported by mainstream media that the news of clones is Russian Disinformation and that there are no clone labs. I repeat, no clone labs. Mileena is actually just the result of a guy mating with a bat.

This would explain why she looks so grotesque. That or she's incomplete. I think they were also splicing Tarkatan DNA in, as well. This was back when Tarkatan was still a race, unlike the latest game when they changed it to be a disease. Not sure why they did that because it's a pretty huge retcon and kinda makes Baraka and his murder-army a lot less interesting. They're basically just a leper colony that mean well now.

After defeating Mileena (and her bandages for an outfit), Shang Tsung appears and Kitana has to beat him up too. Now she knows the truth about how bad Outworld is, at least.

...except she assumes all of this is just Shang Tsung operating on his own. "Wait until my father finds out about this!" think he isn't in on it? He's probably just gonna go "well done, sorcerer" when he gets the news.

Well, Kitana's gonna have to figure it out on her own, since she won't listen to Raiden. Unfortunately no one can be told what the Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself. that.

Kitana is heartbroken! She can't believe how evil these clearly-evil people are.

If she isn't on board, Kahn has no use for her, and banishes her from the castle. Besides, he now has a "superior" version of her with Mileena, who he intends to be the heir to Outworld. More on that in the next several games.

That's it for the first half of MK9, because the game is so big and expansive that I had to split it midway through the MK2 arc. This really is the best the series has to offer, even now, so stay tuned.

Other Mortal Kombat Posts

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