I’ve done several Fail lists, and for some of the games or companies that have appeared, most of it is done in good fun or some are things that bug me greatly. Mortal Kombat, however, has done more than a few thing that legitimately pissed me off. The series, like many others with such a long tenure, is bound to have some hiccups in the road. For the mistakes that permanently damaged the reputation(s) of other iconic characters and developers, the fact that MK is still alive despite making some massively stupid decisions is a testament to the power of not only the name, but the fans. Here are, in my humble opinion, the 10 Fails of Mortal Kombat!#10. Deadly Alliance Introduces On the Fly Style Switching
After several years of declining popularity and the departure of John Tobias and other key developers from Midway, Mortal Kombat returned in 2002 with Deadly Alliance in an attempt to add some much-needed life to the stale fighting engine. The series’ main appeal was its simplistic, arcade-style gameplay that made it easy to pick up and play, but would ultimately have a short life span. The short movelists for characters and lack of variety in terms of fighting skills made it watered down in comparison to better options like Tekken 3 or Street Fighter Alpha. In order to resolve this, Deadly Alliance gave you the ability to switch between several legit fighting styles (the third would be a weapon, retained from Mortal Kombat 4) in the middle of combat with the simple press of a button. This idea was an interesting attempt to add depth, each style having its own set of moves and combos, but something about it felt a bit half-assed. The luxury of a simple button press does not feel as cool as Lei Wulong’s ability so alternate between his various styles in mid-attack, nor did he need to have it highlighted in big yellow letters. A novel idea, but I was glad it was abandoned.
#9. The Burial and Constant Burial of Johnny Cage
Johnny Cage used to be my favorite Mortal Kombat character until his personality became an overblown parody of itself from MK4 to the 2011 reboot. It was one of the first times that I started to see yield signs with the series.
Martial Arts master Daniel Pesina played Cage in the first two MK games, but I remember reading in Video Games Magazine that he attended a martial arts event in the character’s likeness from MK2. Midway had a real problem with this and Pesina was let go, as far as I remember. Other articles that I have read implied that Pesina was fed up with Midway and wanted to get fired. I didn’t know what to think of this. Johnny Cage, played by Linden Ashby, was the greatest thing in the movie for me, leaving me puzzled as to why he did not appear in MK3, released in arcades earlier that year. Apparently, Cage was killed off-screen during the Outworld invasion of Earth (weak) and was brought back to life in the horrendous MK Trilogy, played by this ass clown
whom lacked the presence to pull of the character with any sort of charisma!!! Things didn’t get any better for my Earthrealm fighter, since every other appearance by Cage in future games is just an over-the-top portrayal of Linden Ashby’s performance. In his MK4 ending, people are pelting him with garbage, as Midway continuing taking shots at Pesina by making Cage a constant punch line, even when he’s long out the door. If you wanted to keep his arrogant personality, fine, but every game it just kept getting worse and by the 2011 game, I was long sick of it. They could have at least made him a little bit charming to curb the outright douchebaggery, but he’s become nothing but a one-liner spewing jackass who rips the seriousness from every scene he’s in!! He would be more appropriate in a fourth Hangover movie!! Thanks a lot for ruining my favorite character beyond repair!! Yeah, “I got Caged” alright. Right in the balls.
Oh, and something else that has bothered me ever since Cage came back, why does he always fight with his sunglasses on?! Am I the only person that thinks it looks stupid!?
#8. Scorpion’s Serpent Spear
Something else that could be summed up as nitpicking, I never understood the snake spear or why it was retained in any other form of media outside of the video games. I suppose it could be movie continuity, but if the movies/cartoons are willing to keep other aspects of the source material intact, what was the purpose of this? Is it supposed to make the undead ninja specter look cool? Well, you know what doesn’t look cool? When your CGI snake model doesn’t sync with the hand!!
I did a double take when I saw this in the theatre, and it looks even worse on BluRay. Gee, that effect might have looked okay if he were, oh, I don’t know, throwing a rope with a kunai attached to it, like he always has!! Given the ninjas are the characters that were butchered in the MK movies the most (Scorpion and Sub Zero weren’t even characters), the last thing I needed was another thing to drive me bonkers! So if one poorly rendered snake spear wasn’t enough, Mortal Kombat Annihilation kicked up the silliness another notch and gave poor Scorpy two even worse snake spears!! And, man, they looked horrible! Of the many things that can be said about the five seconds these hideous globs of 1’s and 0’s are on display (which is just barely longer than Sub Zero and Scorpion’s screen time in this film), the two things that nag me the most are 1.) the poor angle his hand is shot, what with the dreary set piece, you can’t even see the hand the skele-spears are protruding from. 2.) There are TWO of them, and for some reason, they’re skeleton snake/dragons this time. No reason is given, and the less you think about it, the less likely you are to kill yourself in a bathtub.
#7. Mortal Kombat Konquest’s Miss Potential
Mortal Kombat’s second venture into television came in the form of the series called Conquest (or Konquest), which followed the journey of Kung Lao’s quest to defend the Earth in the first MK tournament. Whether you liked or hated the show, it was an interesting concept and had the opportunity to shed some light on the original Kung Lao, but spotty writing and appearances by key characters who would not even be alive at that point (Sub Zero and Scorpion were in the show, mostly because the are popular, and again Scorpion is aligned with the forces of evil for no good reason) felt very contrived.
It didn’t help that Kung Lao spends a good majority of this series whining about the burden of being a Mortal Kombat champion and bitches over his girlfriend, who wouldn’t even be allowed to marry anyway, being a monk and all. His companions for this show Siro, a former bodyguard, and Taja a thief, don’t help matters much. They fail to develop as likable characters, spend most of the time bickering with each other throughout the entire series.
Some things are done pretty well. The acting isn’t all that bad, most notably the performances of Jeffery Meek as Raiden and Shao Khan and Bruce Locke as Shang Tsung. Daniel Bernhardt (who played Runaway from Future War, which was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000) plays Siro and is the only actor who could do his own fight scenes. Most of the other Conquest exclusive characters were played by actors so wooden, they could be infested with termites. The fight scenes are on par with Annihilation, meaning they serve no purpose and are shoehorned in to keep the audience awake. The series really didn’t seem to spark any new interest in casual Mortal Kombat fans and hardcores at the time didn’t care. Not surprising, given the MK name was floundering around this point in terms of popularity. It had some charming moments, granted, most of them not on purpose, but the Mortal Kombat franchise has done much worse…
#6. The Defenders of the Realm Cartoon
HOLY FACEHUMPERS, THEY DID MUCH WORSE!!!! THEY DID MUCH, MUCH, WORSE!!!!!! If you thought that Conquest was bad, you haven’t had the unpleasure of sitting down to watch this misguided, horribly animated, and unflatteringly embarrassing epoxy of raccoon feces and Kellogg’s Cinnamon Mini Buns cereal pieces disguised as a cartoon!
It’s one thing to make a PG-13 feature film about Mortal Kombat, it’s quite another to package one of the most violent video games into a 22 minute kids show, complete with Liu Kang flying a “Dragon Jet” in his karate gear. Yeah, Dragon Jets. Apparently, this cartoon is kanon with the MK movies, in some weird twisted manner, so at some point, Earthrealm’s warriors (Kang, Sonya, Styker, Jax, Sub Zero, Nightwolf, and Raiden. Thankfully, Johnny Cage was spared of having to be a part of this) developed a high-tech, state of the art base of operations hidden in mountains, complete with a GPS satellite that can lock on to the supernatural presence of Outworld forces and portals, as well as cutting edge aerial assault vehicles that martial artists can learn to pilot in a manner of days, and can get so good at it that a flight suit and helmet aren’t even necessary? Who built these things!? Did Raiden conjure them up? The military? Speaking of wasting precious resources, the Lin Kuei have mass-produced cyber ninjas like something fierce, just to rack up generic enemies for our heroes to beat up, since there can be no blood. But man, how gullible are Lin Kuei recruits if people keep signing up to be killed and turned into a foot soldier that can be thrashed with a girly swipe from Stryker’s baton?
As this is still movie continuity, they will throw references from the films into the show, like that Sub Zero/Liu Kang fight where Kitana had to cheat for him?
Oh, for a second I was reminded I could go watch Mortal Kombat instead of this. The animation is bad, even by 1996 standards. Gargoyles was still on air then and produced much better battle scenes. That show was done by Disney!! You have a cartoon based on FIGHTING game characters, and the most you will see is a punch/kick exchange, about 19 missle dropkicks per episode, and Sub Zero being the only character who successfully uses his powers correctly.
The techno music is another carryover from the films, only this time they only had one track and it plays on an endless loop!! Monster designs look lazy and lack any kind of basic detail, like this Tarkatan warrior and his flesh-toned eyes and four canines. He looks more like a Jack O Lantern with a puzzle piece for a nose. Once again, the heroes spend more time fighting amongst themselves than anything else, preferably Sonya, who is a raging beeotch in this cartoon, picking fights with anyone at the slightest provocation!! That whole “anti-trust” conflict she had in the first movie has ruined Sonya. There is a difference between not trusting someone and reacting defensively and being an instigator yourself!! Scorpion, again, is pure evil and in Defenders he has his own undead army.
An army of undead, Nordic Pharaoh mummies…okay, did the Mortal Kombat ninjas do something to piss a TV exec off? It really feels like a select group of people behind the scenes really wanted Liu Kang and the others to be awesome by comparison, because these attempts to make the ninjas, MK’s more popular characters, look like second-rate buffoons aren’t isolated incidents!! He, Sub Zero, and Reptile didn’t have speaking roles in the first movie (unless “Get Down Here!!” counts), Sub and Scorp had a sloppy fight in the second movie, two Reptiles were beaten up by Ray Park, Ermac wasn’t even mentioned by name, and Rain kidnapped TWO actual characters off-screen and was killed by his own boss!! F*ck the What is going on here!?!?
This was just a horrible idea. The U.S. Street Fighter II cartoon was bad, but that series has the campiness to pull it off (it didn’t, btw), but in any universe, a kid friendly Mortal Kombat cartoon just can’t fly on its own merits. The series is noted for the violence, not really storytelling. Even then, this cartoon has a poor story!! Stop Making MORTAL KOMBAT CARTOONS!!!
#5. Mortal Kombat The Journey Begins
What did I just tell you!? Yeah, back before the movie was set to hit theatres, MK fans were given “a taste of things to come” with this 30 minute cartoon preluding events of the film. Now I probably could cut and paste my Defenders rant into this one in terms of the crappiness of the animation, but Journey gives us the all so special treat of early 90’s computer animation!!!!
A good majority of the animation are mostly recycled walking cycles over and over. The fights are just laugh out loud funny, and the framing/perspective is almost incorrect in virtually every scene!!
I’m not sure where to start here. The fact that Sonya isn’t even looking at Raiden and nearly a head taller than Liu Kang, Liu Kang is slightly off-center and looks like he’s tilting, Raiden framed as if he were shot from a lower angle and is shaded from behind despite not casting a shadow, or Johnny Cage staring off into space while sitting on an invisible park bench.
Also in the world of The Journey Begins, characters can stand out in broad daylight and still look like their bodies were lit with an Indiglo watch!! This little special is a buffet of follies combining the efforts of people who never worked on anything more technologically advanced than an electric shaver, and unlike Defenders of the Realm, this is worth watching out of shear joy. If Clutch Cargo is kicking your ass in the animation department, get out of the business!
#4. The MK Non-Fighting Games are…Pretty Lame
In continuing efforts to expand on this universe that does have some mysticism and intrigue to it. Midway tried to broaden the horizons with action-platforming games centered around some of its popular characters.
Sub Zero was to be the first to be featured in the Mythologies series, kind of like the X Men Origins movies have to explain why Wolverine is the star of all of them. Stop me if you heard this one, it was a nice idea, BUT, they retained the mechanics and physics from the fighting game (not learning the lesson from Batman Forever) and these controls do not work in this format!!
Hit detection made an already frustratingly difficult game even harder to play, your ice powers run out way too fast, considering how often you use them just to stave off a handful of foot soldiers, and the jumping puzzles are the stuff of nightmares!! I’ve died less in every Gradius game combined than I did in a playthrough of Mythologies Sub Zero!!! Perhaps the saving grace of this game are the cheesy live action sequences, all in their grainy glory and audio that sounded like it was recorded under water and through a pillow. Look up the outtakes with Sal Divita as Quan Chi on Youtube, it’s hilarious.
Up next was Mortal Kombat Special Forces. When first announced, Sonya was supposed to be the main character, but John Tobias’ departure lead to a rush in change of plans and Jax got the staring role instead.
Now whereas Mythologies was playable to a degree, Special Forces is the video game equivalent of tripping on a stair and knocking your front teeth out!! Ugh, this game makes Fighting Force look like Turtles In Time! Ugly CGI models, terrible camera angles that do whatever the hell the want, and an uninspired combo system makes this the worst Mortal Kombat game ever. And if this takes place before the actual events in Mortal Kombat started to get going, why in the unholy hell does Jax have his metal arms!? He put those on in preparation for the Outworld invasion, get you own continuity straight!!
I really had a lot of fun with this game. There aren’t many beat’em up’s anymore, but this is one of the good ones that makes up for the craptastic efforts of the previous two. The gameplay is solid and attacks can be pulled off without a hitch, and coop mode rules. Shaolin Monks is loaded with a bunch of Easter eggs to keep you playing for a while and the story is pretty darn cool. It really goes to show what you can do when time is taken on a project instead of rushing it out just to cash in on a hot brand name.
#3. Mortal Kombat 3 Sucks!!!
I might be in the minority on this one, but MK3 blows chunks and is my least favorite game in the entire series!! And I have theory as to what happened here. Everyone love Mortal Kombat II. The home ports were amazing and it was a pretty hot arcade game. Then Killer Instinct hit the scene.
While it was initially dismissed as a Mortal Kombat clone at first, a lot of people were taken aback by the speed of the gameplay, the rapid-fire combo system, the announcer, the kick ass soundtrack, and in contrast to Mortal Kombat’s mystic, oriental sorcery and relics, Killer Instinct was sleek, futuristic, and gritty. Developers at Midway probably thought their game looked too old and slow and looked to modernize it a bit. Well, a bit turned into a whole bunch!! “Killer Instinct has Fulgore? Well we have Cyber Ninjas!! And those old pajama-wearing ninjas are all gone! We aren’t stuck in some cheesy kung-fu flick, here, (whoosh!!) now Sub Zero doesn’t have a mask!! Oh, Chief Thunder? We can do American Indians too, here’s Nightwolf!!”
It’s almost as if they snorted their body weight in cocaine and tried to revive a cadaver. Mortal Kombat, feeling slow and left out, tried to speed up the gameplay by adding what I think is the most moronic to introduce in a 2D fighting game; the Run button. I would require an intervention by my closest loved ones, years of sensory deprivation, and a comfortable padded room with only the finest of muscle relaxers and an imaginary friend named Uncle Mustard before I ever say that the “Run” button was cool. This is a game engine where 75% of the moves restrain a character for a free hit by design, you’re now telling me I have the privilege of running into them? Great!! Saves me the time! Is the hope that my opponent would be surprised that I drop my guard and sprint towards him like a LCD TV on Black Friday that he wouldn’t deck me in the schnoz?!?
Now let’s see, you’ve taken out the ninjas and there’s no Johnny Cage. So the Fatalities are still cool, right? Nope, those are going to get sillier and unlike MKII where each Fatality had its own unique animation, in this game most finishers will cause you to explode into a pile of bones. But hey, we have Animalites, which are a pain to pull off, because you have to hope your opponent doesn’t beat the snot out of you with his sliver of health, and your reward is a poorly cropped glowing animal that just knocks you over and blood shoots everywhere. I would just play Primal Rage for better, more gruesome finishers, because MK was off its rocker by this point. The game’s tap-tap combos felt unnatural and clunky, some did way too much damage (Liu Kang and Kung Lao each seven hitters that take away an irresponsible amount of damage.) and characters like Sheeva and Kabal are broken beyond belief!!
So in response to the backlash of excluding the male and female ninjas, Midway offered an apology in the form of Ultimate MK3, which saw the return of Scorpy, Reptile, Human Smoke, and introducing Ermac. Kitana and Mileena return, as well as Jade being playable for the first time and some new cool looking levels. Sounds nice, if you don’t mind paying full price for an expansion pack. But this wasn’t over yet!! With the success of X-Men vs Street Fighter in arcades and Fighters Megamix for the Sega Saturn, that old man Mortal Kombat wanted their own definitive collection game; Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
Well, if its broke, why call somebody to fix it? Same dated gameplay, same static levels, same recycled sprites. Now with even worse lag times and load times, this mess is bloated ugly, and nearly unplayable, Baraka’s “new” attack, the Spin Blade, was old animation held over from MKII that they didn’t have time to program in time for the game’s release! Just throw it in there, who cares if the game is a bloated mess!? Old sprites of Kano, Kung Lao, Baraka and Raiden are playable, and there is new dickwad Johnny Cage, which makes me all kinds of happy. They added the aggressor bar, which makes you faster and stronger as it builds up, and Brutalities, which I could never successfully pull off on purpose, but once I saw it, I figured what the point was. He exploded. That’s 88% of the Fatalities in this game!!
Mortal Kombat Trilogy is like what happens when you try to make Thanksgiving dinner out of last year’s leftovers. You can heat it up, poor some fresh gravy on it, even open a new can of cranberry sauce and top it off with fine wine. But when the actual dish tastes stale, then it’s stale.
#2. Mortal Kombat Kontinues to Duck Street Fighter
While there legit technical reasons why this would never happen (the companies being on different sides of the Pacific, language barrier, etc.), this is still the fight to end all fights that still needs to be settled. This conversation dominated playground at my school and people were divided; Mortal Kombat was better, Street Fighter rules. Gory violence is superior than polished gameplay and vice versa! It was only second to Sega Genesis vs SNES.
And while Street Fighter has gone toe to toe with some top dogs like Marvel Super Heroes, Gatchaman, King of Fighters/SNK, and even Tekken (who ducked its real competition, Virtua Fighter), Mortal Kombat, just acquired by Warner Bros., did battle with the DC Universe, answering questions that nobody asked.
“Say, who would win in a fight between Sonya Blade and Captain Marvel?”
Made even worse was the game was rated Teen, so no gory Fatalities. Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe was perfectly fine game that layed the groundwork down for the 2011 MK game and the Injustice series based off the same engine, but this matchup does nothing for me in terms of interest. On the plus side, this is a long-awaited apology from DC for their last fighting game, Justice League Task Force.
#1. Mortal Kombat Annihilation
This movie’s tag line was “Destroy All Expectations”. I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds very self-aware. When I talked about the strength of a franchise withstanding even the most punishing of blows, this is precisely what I mean. The two Tomb Raider films were so bad, people lost their jobs over them and Lara Croft, who was once a video game icon, has been floundering ever since. MKA may be a movie that we can look back and laugh at (and man, can you laugh at it!!), but this movie helped trigger the decline of the franchise in the late 90’s.
Distractingly bad cast changing, horrendous blue screen effects, fight choreography on par with a backyard wrestling federation, and a script that can barely fill both sides of a table napkin, it’s insulting how little effort was put into every single aspect! Story continuity is disregarded and contradicts itself.
Kitana (or Sindel, depending on who is talking) being keys to stopping Khan’s invasion, yet having nothing to do with the resolution. Liu Kang solved everthing by kicking people in the face. Smoke was Sub Zero’s best friend, yet had no problems freezing him and watching him detonate from his own missle.
Shinnok scolded Shao Khan about the Elder Gods getting wise to them breaking the sacred rules, yet when Raiden asked the gods later, they knew all along and stood idly by and planned to do nothing anyways.
Why would Shao Khan kidnap Kitana in efforts to lure Liu Kang and everyone into Outworld when you had a giant army in the beginning of the movie and willingly let them go? You had Raiden knocked down, killed Johnny Cage, then decided to up and leave for no good reason! For that matter, you changed your plan midway through and told Jade to lead them into an ambush attack, but gave her no troops or attack squad to ambush with. So for doing exactly as you say, you killed her? And Rain? For succeeding?
Shao Khan is just made to look completely inept in this movie! You constantly let the heroes escape, whine to Daddy, and deplete your own ranks routinely. Keep in mind, Sheeva and Jade die in less than ten minutes from each other, and it was Khan’s plan to let them free Kitana, whom he imprisoned to begin with. So, you lose ANOTHER general and Earthrealm gets one more fighter, then you kill another possible warrior for ranks of your own volition. Imagine how those odds could’ve helped you in the final battle with Rain, Sheeva, and Jade on your side. Not to also note that Kitana and Jade’s friendship is never utilized, which would make sense for her face turn. But that would’ve involved character development!!
And back up a minute! Nightwolf told Liu Kang that he would have to pass several tests to find his Animality. Jade, assaults Liu, and after being thwarted, tells him that he passed the final test. So Nightwolf either had some important errand to run and up and left him in the middle of the desert unattended, was in on Khan’s plan to have Jade trick herself into their ranks, or Jade was eavesdropping and overheard the Animality nonsense, killed Nightwolf offscreen, and posed as bait.
This is what happens. Every time I watch the film, I find something to pick apart. The two more recent ones are both during the fight between Scorpion and Sub Zero (I advise not playing a drinking game for how many times those names have popped up here when something goes wrong, unless you want your liver to) burst into flames).
J.J. Perry (Scorpion) has the cloudy eye contacts when he first appears, providing a pupil-free look the yellow ninja has always sported. But as the action gets going, you can clearly see he has no contacts, looking like a goof. If Chris Casamassa It gets even worse. At the end of the fight, when Sub Zero is nearly kicked off the ledge, Liu Kang leaps in for the save. Scorpion teleports behind the distracted party to abduct Kitana. Beforehand the camera pans out for a wide shot and to the far right of the screen, just behind Kitana’s head, you can see Scorpion standing in the set, clear as day, just hanging out!!!!
How much more Mickey Mouse can you get!? Some gaffs that happen in movies at least try to mask them in some extent, but considering how avoidable this was, I’m surprised they let that slide!
It isn’t Double Dragon, because it at least honors some of the source material while bastardizing it at the same time, but this movie is so ungodly stupid, Mortal Kombat should technically be brain-dead. Yet, with a new movie potentially in the works, the Legacy web series, and a new game in development, MK refuses to be finished, but seems to be back with a vengeance. What doesn’t kill you…pisses you off.