Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero
Love it or hate it, Mortal Kombat and its subsequent sequels have met with outstanding success. From the moment the gruff voice first announced 'Finish him', a nation of gameplayers was hooked, computer-generated violence changed forever and now no self-respecting beat-'em-up can be seen out in public without at least one horrific fatality per character and enough blood to keep the Red Cross going for months.
However, there is only so far you can go with a beat-'em-up. After all, adding new characters and new moves is all very well, but after a while, people begin to realise that it's becoming very much money for old rope.
And so a newer, better Mortal Kombat is waiting in the wings, with new characters, new moves, and this time, a new dimension. That is to say, a third dimension. Before this wonderous game arrives though, we are offered something which is a bit of a compromise. It's not 3-D, but then it's not strictly 2-D either. Enter stage left, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.
If you've ever played a Mortal Kombat game - and unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last five years, you must have - then you'll know that the games usually have fairly involved storylines, with each character in the game nursing a deep-seated hatred of pretty much every other character in the game. You know the sort of thing: 'Johnny Cage had pursued the evil Scorpion for many years, ever since the heartless ninja had broken into Cage's house one night and cruelly decapitated his favourite gerbil. Now Cage has tracked the deadly oriental assassin to the competition in the Outworld, where he can finally avenge his beloved rodent, and perhaps save the human race from extinction if he has some time left afterwards.'
If this is the kind of thing that you're into, then you're onto a winner already. The plot to MKM: Sub-Zero reads like something you might get if you locked a hundred monkeys in a room with a hundred typewriters and asked them to re-write Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings.
Basically, if you'll remember, in Mortal Kombat 2 we met Shang Tsung, who, it turned out, was the ultimate ruler of the outworld, a position previously thought occupied by Goro, the four-armed chap. Well now it turns out that Shang Tsung isn't actually the ultimate ruler of the Outworld either, and it is in fact a bloke called Shinnok. He's a fallen Elder God who has been taking things easy off in a holiday dimension somewhere and has, come back home to I sort things out along with a sidekick sorceror named Quan Chi (I do wish they'd give these people proper names - it plays hell with my spellchecker). Shinnock, having seen what humans have done to his Outworld, and also slighly annoyed that someone's named a large two-engined helicopter after him, intends to conquer the Earth. Quite where Sub-Zero fits into all this isn't immediately clear, but that doesn't matter. All you need to know is that you've got to jump, kick and ice-blast your way through eight huge but relatively linear levels, find three magical items on each stage, and recover an ancient amulet which Shinnock's apparently quite fond of.
By now, assuming you haven't gotten fed up with all the Mortal Kombat history and wandered off to play Street Fighter, you may have realised that this isn't your usual run of the mill Mortal Kombat game. In fact, it's MK on the move. For rather than simply being a beat-'em-up, this game could best be described as a platform-cum-beat-'em-up-cum-adventure game - effectively three games in one!
The general gameplay revolves around making your way through the Netherealm, a feat you accomplish by moving from one end of a level to another whilst negotiating various platforms, traps and precipices. This is obviously the platform element. Along the way you meet various assorted unfriendly inhabitants of said Netherealm who you must defeat with your finally honed martial arts techniques - hence the beat-'em-up element. The unusual part, though, is the moves themselves, for they must be learnt.
Now, when I say 'learnt', I don't mean learnt in the usual way of beat-'em-ups, whereby you study a mass of directional instructions more complex than the programme code for the actual game itself, following which each move takes roughly ten minutes and three sets of hands to initiate. No, because you see Sub-Zero, despite being a top thief and assassin, apparently doesn't know all his old MK moves, this being a prequel or something. So he has to learn them all over again, and he does this by gaining experience points.
These are earned in combat (or even Kombat) with the enemy, with more points scored for harder enemies - that's 'hard' as in 'well' - and also for pulling off combinations. Once you've earned a certain number of points, a special move icon appears, and by referring to the status screen, you can then learn the button combinations needed to execute this new move. Add to this the Tablets of Truth, which can be picked up and read to teach you tricks and techniques to help you through each level, and you've got the adventure element.
The game itself looks more or less identical to the PlayStation version; in fact it may very well have been a direct port from that console. It actually loses out by not having the FMV sequences present in the PSX version, and the sound quality isn't quite as impressive - the PlayStation presumably taking its sound from the CD. However, the N64 sound is still pretty good, and if you're one of those people who hates sitting through hours of FMV - and in which case, good choice buying an N64 - then you'll be pleased to know it's been replaced by static shots which can be skipped through quickly.
The big question though, must be "how does it play?". And the answer is, "surprisingly well". After all, what we're dealing with here is basically a 2-D game which has been given some pseudo 3-D treatment. Although you pretty much move from left to right, or vice versa, the game engine uses tricks like undulating backgrounds and shrinking the character's size now and then, all of which serve to give the impression that he's moving backwards and forwards 'into' the screen.
To begin with, the gameplay in MKM: Sub-Zero is extremely linear, particularly the first stage where you are basically forced to run from one end of the level to the other, then drop down and run back again. This makes the first level pretty boring, which is a shame, as it doesn't give a very favourable impression of the whole thing. However, if you can stick the first level out, the game becomes rapidly more complex and far more entertaining. The route to the end of the level becomes less obvious, more convoluted. The tricks and traps, which it has to be said are more or less absent on the first level, become more and more devious as the levels progress. Collapsing platforms, massive blasts of wind, swinging chains, deadly pendulums, electric eels - all these and more will impede you in your quest for the amulet. And the enemies you meet get more dangerous too. For instance, on the first level, all the opponents look and fight the same aside from Scorpion, who you run into near the end. On later levels they come in all shapes and sizes, including huge polygon-animated robots.
Oh, did I mention the difficulty level? This game is hard. If you like your games challenging, then this is definitely worth a look. There are five difficulty levels, but even on the lowest - supposedly 'very easy' -setting, the game is damn hard! And to make things even more difficult, the last three levels of the game can't be accessed on any difficulty level below 'medium'. Believe me, this game will not be a walk-over, not by any means.
This is one of the things which gives MKM: Sub-Zero its longevity. Although the game is extremely hard, with a lot of practice, you'll be able to learn where the traps are, how best to defeat them and how to best take care of the opponents, and you will slowly be able to progress through. The difficulty has been created through cunning tricks and traps rather than -as is often the case in some games -by just throwing loads and loads of opponents at you in ever increasing numbers and making it practically impossible to finish without a cheat. In this case, persevere with MKM: Sub-Zero, and you'll actually feel like you're achieving something.
It has to be said that this game doesn't exactly stretch the boundaries of the N64's capabilities. But then neither did Mischief Makers, another predominantly 2-D platformer, and that was great fun. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero likewise, is fun, although it's not a game for the faint hearted - or come to that, for the easily queasy. If you're looking for your next MK fix though, or simply would like to try a pretty good 2-D platformer, then give this a look.
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero DownloadsMortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero download
Diabolically dumb attempt to cross Mortal Kombat with a platform adventure. Even Super Hunchback was better. Avoid!
Disturbingly bad, this cloud only be less enjoyable if it squirted sulphuric acid into your face. Hate it till you can hate no more.
If you're turned on by the idea of making jump after jump after jump over perilous ledges using a poorly thought-out control method, with some ketchup-splattering combat thrown in, you'll love MK Mythologies. People with a frustration threshold less than the Dalai Lama might not take so kindly to it, though. Still, some people prefer Mortal Kombat to Street Fighter - horse, there's a course.
Despite early rumours that this departure from the 2D fighting scene would be an RPG, it now seems Midway's other new MK title is, in fact, to be an action/adventure game not dissimilar to Capcom's once-glorious Final Fight series.
Set across eight huge levels, Mythologies places the player in the guise of the series' very favourite frostbitten psychopath, Sub Zero, who must make his way through various texture-mapped 3D backgrounds and cinematic sequences in a storyline set prior to the very first Mortal Kombat game.
Around 30 other MK characters have been given the full-render treatment as well as the opportunity to use their famed moves in 'group encounters'. These promise to deliver the sort of action that made Streets of Rage such a huge hit on the 16-bit consoles.
No pictures have been made available for MK Mythologies, and none are expected for a quite while yet. However, just the game's description sounds fascinating and is a bold step for Midway and developers Tobias. We await more with breath fully-baited.
Take ropey animation from a sub-standard beat-'em-up. Add to level design spawned in Satan's underwear. The most unfortunate stench to ever pollute the N64 office.