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Mortal Kombat: Dark Alliance

Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Midway
Developer: Midway
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:

Mortal Kombat.

A name that sends gamers into a killing frenzy and incites massive killing sprees.

A game that causes little kids to grab hold of their siblings heads and try to rip them off or reach in and try to perform open heart surgery barehanded.

A game that is corrupting the youth and turning them all into Charles Manson proteges and causing them to commit crimes more dastardly than anything one of the stars of Diff'rent Strokes could have ever devised.

Of course, if you're one to believe everything Joe Lieberman and his Gestapo want you to believe this is exactly what you think when you hear the name Mortal Kombat. I'm sure Joe and his boys though they had heard the last of Mortal Kombat - but guess what guys...

It's baaaacccck!

The first thing anyone is likely to notice about Mortal Kombat: Dark Alliance is the jump the game has made from 2D to 3D. One of the hallmarks of the first three MK games was the photo-realistic characters and backgrounds. While I will always be a fan of the old look, I am definitely digging the new one. So what if all of the characters look like living, plastic molded action figures, it still looks good. The character animation is top notch, especially when you compare the movements of characters in each of their different fighting styles. Even the menus look good and have a very DVD-like presentation to them.

The sound is just as good, if not typical. The deep, haunting melodies combined with screams and sadistic laughs really give the game a nice, moody feel. Just like Gauntlet wouldn't be the same without it's booming voice, the familiar 'Finish Him!' is still around, showing you that the game hasn't forgot all of its roots.


Gameplay:

One of the main things Midway set out to do with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was to reinvent the game and give players something new. This is something the game does up to a point, but in the process it forgets many of its roots. In looking to change the face of the game, Midway commits one of the cardinal sins of franchise games and kills off its greatest hero and icon, Liu Kang.

By now I'm sure we're all familiar with the basic concept behind Mortal Kombat, or really ANY fighting game. Choose from a selection of fighters (which rounds out at 23), learn their moves and fight your way to the final showdown. However, it's the special features that try to make MK: DA different from the other fighting games.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the 'Styles' option. Each fighter has two martial arts styles they can use at any time as well one weapon style. Each style will change the way the character fights, one may be faster while another will inflict more damage. Weapons also play a big part in combat by allowing you to inflict maximum damage.

Another major option comes with the arcade style profile system. When you first start the game, you are prompted to create a profile. While everything you do in the game is saved in the profile, the most important piece of information is your Kombat Koins collection. After defeating opponents and completing tasks in the Konquest mode you are rewarded with Kombat Koins. These tokens allow you to purchase Koffins in the Krypt, which contain various unlockables such as new characters, alternate costumes, or various other knick-knacks. Kombat Koins can also be used to gamble with your friends. This adds an interesting twist to the two-player games since your opponent not only has to admit to your greatness, but has to pay up as well.

Going back to the Krypt option, as neat as the system is, in the end I felt like it was the most unrewarding rewards system available. As I mentioned before, some of the Koffins contain characters and outfits, but some of the other prizes aren't worth the effort. For example, how useful is a picture of the original MK arcade cabinet or MK: DA ads? I'm sure some people will be all about unlocking anything they can, but I personally felt like I was opening the biggest, shiniest box under the Christmas tree only to find out that it was filled with nothing but socks. This was especially true when I would unlock Mortal Kombat 2, only to find it was nothing more than a picture of the game. I couldn't help but think about how cool it would have been if you could unlock the original games, but that's what I get for thinking.

Another major disappointment was the lack of fatalities. In an effort to reinvent the game, the developers have forgotten what made the game popular in the first place. I'll admit that the series began to get ridiculous with MK 3, but that's no reason to strip the game down to nothing more than five variations of stomping on someone's head.


Difficulty:

This is without question one of the hardest games in the MK series. Maybe I'm just losing my touch, but I had a hell of a time in both the Arcade and Konquest modes. Most of these problems stem from one of two things, cheap AI and inadequate controls. Instead of a nice slope in difficulty, MK: DA throws out a few pushover fights and then, without warning ramps the difficulty up to nearly unbeatable levels. At times it even seems as though the computer is anticipating every move you make and always has the correct counter move.

Game Mechanics:

Controls are the absolute worst part of the Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. However, this is in no way the fault of Midway, but rather Nintendo. In all honesty, the GC controller was built for one thing alone; playing Nintendo first-party games. As with most fighting games, MK: DA is built to use the more accurate D-pad instead of the clumsy analog stick. The problem is that the D-pad on the GC controller is miniscule and doesn't lend itself to the game. In addition, the button layout doesn't work and there were many times where I found myself fumbling around for the right button. If you have the option of getting this game for any other system, I'd advise it.

The combo system is woefully inaccurate and feels dialed in. In trying to set up a Killer Instinct style combo system, the developers seemed to have lost the simple beauty of a 'real' combo system. The timing is one of the biggest obstacles facing the system. Punches never really match up to the timing and simply don't work well within the combo. In fact, some punches cause your opponent to fall back a few steps, completely killing the combo. Another major departure from the game is the absence of the MK standards like 'Low Punch' and 'High Kick'. Instead each button is designated as 'Attack 1' or 'Attack 2'.

In the end, MK: DA is a much better game than the previous two incarnations, but fails to capture the 'spark' that made the original games something special.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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