Part of getting old is to go round saying that everything was better when you were young.
Music was better.
TV was better.
Video games were better.
Everything was better.
It’s called nostalgia. Or viewing something through rose-tinted spectacles. We all do it.
I don’t think for me and my generation it IS nostalgia for the most part.
I’m pretty sure that by all objective criteria music WAS better in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s than it is today.
I’m quite certain that television programmes WERE better quality back then, as opposed to the brain-rotting diet of reality TV and talent shows which make up TV viewing today.
So that brings us to video games – specifically Mortal Kombat games.
I used to love Mortal Kombat games. I lived and breathed them for years – playing almost nothing else.
Today…I don’t love them so much.
Some people may say that my documented experiences with the MK community have soured my love of MK but this is not true.
I just don’t find modern NRS games particularly fun – not compared to the MK games made by Midway.
When the first Mortal Kombat game came out it was a revelation. It was gory and of course it had the fatalities that would go on to make the franchise so famous.
The game was made by a small team of geeks and their passion for their project came through powerfully in the game.
MK1 wasn’t about frame data or balance or anything serious – it was about fun and humiliating your defeated opponent.
The second and third MK games improved on the first in pretty much every way although they did perhaps get a bit silly with the fatality type variations.
By the time MK3 was released, the MK franchise had created something special. To play an MK game was to play something unique. There was a special ‘something’ that kept you hooked.
MK4 was not that popular in the big scheme of things although it did have the excellent combo-limiter function and the best character endings of any MK game. Regardless of its appeal, it still felt like an MK game.
After MK4 came the 3D MK games. Some people rubbish these games and dismiss them. Personally I loved them best. They were the most fun to play for me. Some of my best gaming memories come from the 2 years I spent playing MKD online. The ‘high level’ MK community today has its roots in those days, (as well as other places).
MK vs. DC came next and this was clearly a desperate attempt to save Midway from bankruptcy but it failed. The game wasn’t horrendous, but it would set a precedent that continues to this day. MK vs. DC was the first MK game (for me anyway) which lacked that special MK ‘something’. I don’t just mean fatalities. I mean the game lacked the essence of what makes an MK game so addictive.
So after MK vs. DC, Midway went bankrupt, got bought by WB and became NRS. Sometimes I can’t help thinking it would have been better if Midway had just died instead of being resurrected.
“Thanks for the memories – enjoyed the games. All the best, now let’s move onto something else…”
MK9 was for me a sad and disappointing game, but not for the reasons you may think.
When MK9 was first revealed, the language NRS used to describe it did not thrill me. Boon talked about ‘going back to MK’s roots’ and creating a ‘reboot’. Other people may have been happy at this but not me. I knew to read between the lines.
It was clear that NRS were going down the same path as so many other video game makers. They were putting aside concepts like originality, freshness and ingenuity – core concepts of early MK games, to focus on re-releasing something safe and dull they knew would sell well.
MK used to be edgy, it used to be controversial. It was after all the franchise most responsible for bringing into existence the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
With MK9, you got a familiar pair of old socks – comfortable, practical… dull. Even the name was the epitome of blandness – ‘Mortal Kombat’.
With early MK games, everything about them smacked of anarchy, naughtiness, enthusiasm from the creators. The desire to push the boundaries was evident for all to see..
Everything about Mortal Kombat (or Mortal Kombat 9 or Mortal Kombat 2011 or whatever the hell you’re supposed to call it) smacked of one thing – money making opportunities.
From the rushed and boring fatalities to the insipid DLC to the in-game advertising, it was clear that the driving force behind MK9 was money.
Gone were the lovable group of geeks making video games they loved the way they knew how.
MK9 made it clear that MK games from then on would be dictated by the almighty juggernaut that is the WB marketing department. That would dictate how an MK game would be made, what characters would be in, what DLC would be had.
Midway sold out. Then they sold out.
Of course NRS and WB are only doing what is common throughout the video game industry nowadays.
Games makers are rebooting faster than an old PC running Windows Vista. Every day it seems we are being told about another famous franchise ‘going back to its roots’ and releasing a modern version of an old game with the same name. They’re even doing it with games like Tomb Raider.
Games makers are so gutless nowadays, so scared to not only try something new but actually be good at it, that they prefer instead to fall back on capitalising on nostalgia and raking in easy money off the fanboys.
Far less risk, far easier money. Especially for big budget games.
Batman: Arkham Asylum was a great game for example but Batman: Arkham City might just as well have been a big DLC pack. In fact that game was the only one I have played that officially finished with less than 40% of achievements completed.
Of course, if you stray too far from what made an original great then you lose that game’s essence.
But there is a difference between bringing out a new game that is similar to a previous one, yet still vibrant and fun to play and just bringing out a shinier version of the same old game.
Don’t even get me started on EA games. Every year they bring out a new version of the same old sports games with tiny variations. People just lap it up and pay full price. FIFA Soccer and Tiger Woods Golf haven’t really changed much in the last decade.
To be honest, I’m fed up of it. Fed up of the same games with small variations, fed up of games being released that are half finished and require 6 months of patches to even be playable yet there is day 1 DLC. Fed up of shitty net code and rehashed storylines.
Plenty of companies are doing this – not just NRS, but NRS are a good example of it.
It’s not even just the games industry. I’m tired of Hollywood ruining my childhood by bringing out sub-par remakes of 80s and 90s film greats. Leave my childhood alone and make some new great stuff.
Put simply, I liked Midway better. I liked it better when the games were dictated by people with a passion for Mortal Kombat, not for making money.
I liked it better when gory fun was the driving force behind an MK game not serious tournament play. If I want to play a ‘serious’ fighting game I’ll play Virtua Fighter, even Street Fighter. Or King of Fighters. Or some other boring title with ‘Fighter’ in the name.
MK was something different. Something special. Now it’s lost that special something. What have I got left?
No, wait – that’s got ‘Fighter’ in the name. Guess I’m left with nothing then. Yeah I know Killer Instinct is coming back (another reboot with an old name). Maybe it’s those rose tinted spectacles again but it doesn’t look half as fun as I remember.
I was chatting with REO the other day and he asked me if I would play him again at MKA. I said I would if it was possible. That it would be fun to try and relive the old days – get a few of us back together to enjoy MKA in all its broken, lag-infested glory. But I also added something to that.
I asked him if we really wanted to be the 3D equivalent of the UltimateMK clique – sitting on a little website somewhere playing a crappy, broken old game that hardly anyone else plays and which everyone views as a joke.
We had some good memories, yes, but those days are gone. Why can’t we have some great new memories to look forward to?
But let’s face it, it’s unlikely to happen.
The MK community today is horrible. A bunch of insufferably, whiny cry-babies bitching constantly about nerfs and which characters are top 5. It hurts my brain to visit a site like TYM. I have to go and watch kitten videos on YouTube afterwards to regain my humanity.
The awful decision by NRS to pander to the tournament crowd is partly to blame. NRS programmers don’t have a clue how to make a tournament game. Functionally they can’t even release a DLC character that doesn’t wipe your Xbox hard drive or cause your controller to stop working.
Arguments about frame data and tier lists don’t belong on a Mortal Kombat site.
The very elements which make Mortal Kombat… Mortal Kombat are all the elements that have nothing to do with tournament play – blood, gore, fatalities, story-line. These are the building blocks of any MK game. When you take all of that away, you are left with a buggy, crappy, limited fighting game.
No other tournament game has this. Street Fighter, Marvel, Tekken, King of Fighters – none of these are built around storylines and character bios and command death moves. These games are made by people who actually have a clue about the tournament scene.
Have you ever seen an Ed Boon video prior to MK9 talk about an MK game? He talks about ‘cool finishing moves’ and how deep the story mode is. Same for all the NRS guys. Have you ever seen Ed Boon play an MK game? The guy is awful – he can’t even play his own games.
NRS shouldn’t ever be making tournament games. They should stick to doing what they do best. Making fun, novelty, niche fighting games for people to play while they are having a beer or a joint or whatever.
If I want to play a serious fighting game I’ll pop Virtua Fighter into my console.
Mortal Kombat games are trash games which is why they have a trash community. Trash games, trash programmers, trash community.
But trash can be fun. Sometimes you don’t want champagne and filet mignon – you want a beer and a hamburger.
Sadly today, NRS games are more like 3 day old meatloaf…
My heart really sunk when Injustice: Gods Among Us was released. This should have been good. It could have been good. It wasn’t.
On the plus side, NRS did try some new things like Clash and focusing on interactables. But these don’t really enhance the game – in fact in many cases they make it worse.
The key comment that relates to Injustice: Gods Among Us, is my earlier comment about money being the driving force behind a game. Injustice reeks of this. From the Batman-heavy roster to the strategically released DLC – the whole game screams ‘Let’s make some $$’.
Just like with fatalities in MK9, the Injustice: Gods Among Us super moves are mostly boring and repetitive.
The Street Fighter influence in the game just further highlights NRS’ lack of originality. Street Fighter doesn’t have a block button so neither will we! Street Fighter has special button inputs so let’s put those in the game! Hey let’s make up some numbers and call it frame data – serious fighting games have that so we will too! Hey Capcom, did we do good, huh, huh did we?
But there are SOME reminders this is an NRS game – like shitty net code and DLC characters which freeze your console or don’t even show up when you buy them.
Injustice: Gods Among Us just feels like a bunch of gimmicks and half-arsed ideas thrown together in the hope it will work.
Fighting video games should be technically challenging or fun.
Injustice: Gods Among Us isn’t either.
Neither is MK9 really.
Sometimes, with a really good TV programme, you get to series 7 or 8 and realise that the writers are fresh out of ideas and they are just rehashing the same old stuff. The formula has become tired and repetitive. At this point you begin to wish they would stop making episodes as they just hurt the memory of the earlier ones.
Perhaps Ed Boon and friends have gone as far as they can with Mortal Kombat. The sad thing is there are far too many MK fan boys who would buy a box of dirt if it came with a picture of Jade on the box. NRS know this and will milk the MK franchise for as long as they can.
I won’t be taking much of an interest in the build up to MK10. It’s almost certainly going to be a safe reboot of MK4 and even if it isn’t, its development will still be dictated by the WB marketing department.
I’ll probably buy it, play it for a bit, then trade it for something else.
I must admit, in the meantime, if NRS want to make a little money off me and they insist on releasing old games, they should bring out a Mortal Kombat Kollection for MKDA, MKD and MKA with enhanced netcode.
The chance to play REO’s MKA Sareena again, see how awesome m2dave’s MKD Dairou is and find out if Tom Brady really is as good as he thinks at MKDA.
Yeah – I would like that.
Until then, I’m giving MK games a miss. To be honest, I’m having more fun playing Katamari Forever on my PS3.