On May 18, 2023, NetherRealm Studios graced us with the first trailer for “Mortal Kombat 1,” which was released earlier this month on Sept. 14. The original announcement had fans gushing about the new character designs and Liu Kang’s fatality, the Double Dragon. With the full release of the game on PS5, XBox Series X and S, Microsoft Windows and the surprising Nintendo Switch, gamers have already mastered the art of kombat.
In terms of gameplay, players already find themselves both loving and hating how some characters are more difficult to battle against in online matches. Some of these characters include Smoke due to his invisibility, Kenshi because of his ghost and Johnny Cage because of his hilarious fatal blow. In the world of fighting games however, I feel that each character in “MK1” has the capacity to be mastered in a way that would give any player a chance of victory.
Online matches should always be viewed with a grain of salt by casual players. It’s not uncommon to find matches with players capable of combos that destroy over half your health bar. What separates “MK1” from previous incarnations however are the “Kameo” characters, a gameplay feature that allows players to utilize a secondary character. However, these Kameos have a cooldown time so they must be used wisely. The Kameos change the game entirely, Sareena is particularly known for being the easiest to use and extending your combos.
If there’s one thing I love about video games and animations, it’s the voice acting. There are plenty of talented voice actors in “MK1,” such as Kaiji Tang, Steve Blum and Yuri Lowenthal. For those interested in anime, Tang is the English voice actor for Gojo in “Jujutsu Kaisen,” Blum voices Spike in “Cowboy Bebop” and Lowenthal voices Sasuke from “Naruto.”
Tang brings out the aggressive coldness of Sub-Zero, Blum showcases the monstrous voice of Baraka and Lowenthal brings out a kinder, lovable side to Smoke. All of the voice acting is impeccable, with the exception of Nitara who is played by Megan Fox. Fortunately, Nitara is not so critical to the story that it would bother players; instead, it has left them laughing and highlighting the fact that not all actors can voice act.
While “MK1” was made specifically for powerful consoles like the PS5 and XBox Series X and S, it is also available for the Nintendo Switch. Gameplay on the Switch is hilarious to see, as the graphics look abysmal and it’s full of bugs and glitches. Personally, I don’t find these to be too big of a deal since I won’t be buying it on the Switch; the only games I trust to run on it are “Stardew Valley,” “Cult of the Lamb” and every Nintendo published game ever. It is quite funny to see the fatalities with bulging eyeballs and low-resolution hair though.
The graphics on any other console looks amazing, not to mention how NRS knew exactly what they were doing when making every single character look attractive; and yes, even Reptile (in his human form, I assure you I’m not the only one who thinks this).
NRS introduces “Invasion Mode” in “MK1” in order to both further the story after “Story Mode” is completed, and open the door for seasonal content. Invasion Mode virtually replaces the “Krypt” in previous games, which allows players to unlock cosmetics using in-game currency. Without possessing the terrifying jump-scares of the “Krypt,” “Invasion Mode” allows players to traverse the world similar to a board game, coming across ambushes and fan-favorite mini-games such as “Test Your Might.”
Spoilers for “MK1” story beyond this point!
The story of “MK1” is what fans were most concerned about, as NRS consistently released trailers and teasers leading up to the release. While they revealed gameplay footage, the trailers also hinted at the story. The previous game, “Mortal Kombat 11,” ended with Liu Kang restarting history in his own design after defeating the titan and Keeper of Time, Kronika.
This isn’t the first time NRS has restarted the franchise. Besides “MK1,” the most recent reboot was in 2011 with “Mortal Kombat,” which was many people’s first introduction to the franchise. I have a soft spot for “Mortal Kombat” and fondly remember playing it with my dad, despite the amount of blood, gore and skimpy clothing. The story of “MK1” is closer to a reimagining than a reboot because, as players find out in the story mode, everything prior to “MK1” is still considered canon due to the existence of multiple timelines.
While many players may complain about the story being lazy or uninteresting, I actually find it refreshing, yet nostalgic. There are moments in the story where characters repeat their actions from previous timelines, one of the biggest ones being Bi-Han’s (Sub-Zero) betrayal. One of the defining traits of the franchise has been the Scorpion and Sub-Zero rivalry. I am not going to go into detail about what started the rivalry in the original timelines, but it seems like no matter what any Keeper of Time does, it’s bad news for these two.
What makes this version of the rivalry so unique is that NRS has changed who Scorpion is; he is now Kuai Liang, Bi-Han’s brother. Now their rivalry has become much closer to home, and this leads fans to theorize about whether or not Hanzo Hasashi (the original Scorpion) will take Kuai Liang’s place and if Bi-Han will become Noob Saibot, a recurring character known for being the most murdered guy ever.
Some are unhappy about the changes that were made by both NRS and Liu Kang in this timeline, but it should be noted that all the things that fans loved about the previous games aren’t gone; canonically, they still happened. Just because the franchise is going in a new direction does not mean NRS has abandoned its roots. Any issues of bugs or broken characters will likely be fixed given time. For now, all we can do is enjoy the game as much as we can and wait for more features to come out, such as Kombat Packs, “Invasion Mode” and DLCs adding to the story.