Round Ten, FIGHT!

Round Ten, FIGHT!

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

The day that Raiden, guardian of Earthrealm, received a message from his future self, everything changed. In order to prevent Shao Kahn, emperor of Outworld, from ushering in Armageddon, Raiden tries to shift history in order to prevent the total annihilation of reality, to varying degrees of success. Despite the loss of most of Earthrealm’s warriors, Raiden finally solves the meaning of “He must win”, destroying Shao Kahn once and for all with the divine intervention of the Elder Gods, but at the terrible cost of losing Liu Kang, Nightwolf, Sub-Zero, and many other allies. Unfortunately, everything has gone according to plan for both Quan Chi, the series’ resident chessmaster, and Shinnok, the fallen Elder God and master of the Netherrealm, who now have some of the universe’s greatest fighters at their disposal and the demonic legions of the Netherrealm ready to invade Earthrealm. Raiden and his remaining allies must now fight off a second invasion and stop Shinnok before he corrupts the life-force of Earthrealm and destroys all life. For what comes next, anything can happen after a twenty year time skip.

Released in 2015 after the successful reboot back in 2011, Mortal Kombat X is the tenth main entry of the long running fighting game franchise. Taking place twenty years after the events of the ninth game and within the new timeline, the game retains many of the changes Mortal Kombat (2011) introduced like the power bar and X-Ray Moves, as well as polishing up the mechanics, introducing Variations, and bringing back Brutalities. Several bits of DLC were released after its release, bringing together old fighters from the series and guest fighters, and was eventually all put together in the form of Mortal Kombat XL.

The surviving heroes from the events of MK9 have aged a bit, but they are still quite capable of kicking copious amounts of posteriors. With a tenuous peace brokered between Earthrealm and Outworld, they strive to maintain this while preparing for the next potential calamity. Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Jax, and Kenshi in particular all have children, making up the team that can be considered the main heroes of the story. They consist of Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Kung Jin, and Takeda Takahashi. Many other familiar faces act as allies to the main group and go through their own stories. Raiden still is a mentor to many, but feels immense guilt over his mistakes in the previous game; Scorpion, finally reborn as Hanzo Hasashi, trains the next generation of the Shirai-Ryu; Sub-Zero acts as the Grandmaster of the Lin-Kui and tirelessly works to atone for the order’s past atrocities and has even buried the hatchet with Scorpion (and not in each other’s backs); and Jax has mostly retired, preferring the peaceful life after his brief period of enthrallment as a revenant to Quan Chi. As the story progresses, many of them come together to aid in the next big battle, but some friendships will be tested as personal agendas come up and put everything else in jeopardy.

While the Netherrealm did begin its invasion after the events of the previous game under Quan Chi and Shinnok’s machinations, it only lasts through Chapter 1 before they are repelled and Shinnok is sealed within Raiden’s amulet. With his master gone, Quan Chi has lost most of his power and goes into hiding, with the revenants of the fallen heroes from MK9 dutifully serving him. The bigger concern on everyone else’s minds is the ongoing civil war within Outworld. Kotal Kahn, the new emperor of the realm, is a ruthless, but fair and just leader that only wants to bring peace to Outworld. Those that aid him include newcomers Erron Black, an Earthrealm gunslinger, and D’Vorah, and insectoid being that is his number two, as well as veteran kombatants Reptile and Ermac. They seek to finally bring down Mileena, Shao Kahn’s psychotic “daughter”, who enlists the help of Tanya, Rain, and everyone’s favorite Australian scumbag, Kano, in order to take back her throne. Things become worse one day when Mileena personally attacks Kotal and his escort, wielding a rather familiar artifact that catches Quan Chi’s attention…

As with the last game, each character attacks with front and back punches and kicks, combining these with special attacks to chain together impressive combos. The power bar returns unchanged, with the three segments allowing players to either use an enhanced special attack, use a combo breaker to get some breathing room, or initiate a highly-damaging X-Ray move. The newest and most interesting mechanic are the Variation. Each fighter possess three Variations that slightly change their appearance and gives them different abilities, which makes the fighting even more unique and fast-paced. The game also takes a leaf out of the Injustice: Gods Among Us playbook in that players can now interact with the stage during a match, such as grabbing an opponent to slam into a pillar, running up a wall and jumping to get behind an enemy, or, perhaps most drastically, grabbing a little old lady or praying Shaolin monk and chucking them at the other player. As dark as Mortal Kombat gets, the series still does not take itself seriously at all and embraces its absurdity, running with it and just having fun.

Several bits of DLC were released after launch, which was all collected into one package with Mortal Kombat XL. Aside from extra costumes, the return of The Pit stage, and other goodies, the main attraction are the Kombat Packs, featuring two in-universe fighters and two guest fighters each. For the in-universe fighters, the packs brought back Tanya and the drunken master Bo’Rai Cho, as well as introduced Tremor, finally promoting him to playability, and Triborg, the amalgamation of all of the series’ cyber ninjas. As for the guest characters, the likes of the brutish Leatherface and infamous slasher and known machete aficionado Jason Voorhees represented the slasher horror side of pop-culture, but the last two in particular really excited fans, as players finally got the chance to pit two of the most famous sci-fi horror monsters against one another, which were none other than the Predator and Xenomorph XX121, specifically a Tarkatan-born specimen.

If Mortal Kombat (2011) helped bring the series back into the gaming public’s eye by both going back to basics and rebuilding everything from the ground up, Mortal Kombat X further improves on that formula and makes it even better while still changing some things up and introducing cool new concepts. The models and animation are more crisp and smoother than before, the violence has been cranked up to 11, the Living Towers and Faction Wars present constantly changing challenges, and the sheer number of variations mean that every character you fight is a bit different every time. Naturally, the ultra-violence is not the best for the more squeamish of people, but for those that love the series and like having kontent in their fighting games, Mortal Kombat X is one of the best in that regard.