A History of Violence: A Look Back At The 'Mortal Kombat' Series (Part 3)

Mortal Kombat Logo

On Monday we kicked off Mortal Kombat week here at Game Rant with our choices for the 10 Most Awesome Mortal Kombat Characters as well as published the first installment of our Mortal Kombat retrospective.

Yesterday we published our review of the latest Mortal Kombat title as well as continued with part 2 of our feature A History of Violence: A Look Back At The 'Mortal Kombat' Series for a look at Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.

Next up: Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat: Special Forces.

We'll keep updating the stories with links to subsequent installments but, for now, here's a guide to help you navigate to the other articles in the series.

Mortal Kombat 4 Opening

The jump to the next generation began with Mortal Kombat 4, proudly showing off its 3D graphics, yet still sticking to a traditional 2D format in terms of gameplay. The fighting system wasn't much different from previous titles in the franchise, except that each character could now bring out a weapon to mix things up. It was also the first game in the series to have the character movements based on motion capture - a revolutionary method at the time.

The game also decided to trim down a number of aspects that were in the last game. All of the other "-alities" were removed - leaving just two Fatalities each. The stage Fatalities were fairly rare, giving the game a bit of a barebones feel. But, that was to be expected, as the title was experimenting with new technology.

After Shao Kahn's second defeat, Earth and Outworld were restored to normal, and the realms were at peace. However, Quan Chi and Shinnok return to take over all of the realms, and make their mark by invading Heaven and killing many of the gods.

Raiden manages to escape, and along with the wind god Fujin, gathers a group of heroes to defeat Shinnok, who has invaded the realm of Edenia.

Mortal Kombat 4 Select

Raiden leads the charge against Shinnok - as a result of a long-standing rivalry between them. Liu Kang, now a two-time Mortal Kombat champion, gladly assists - especially since Kitana's home in Edenia was in danger. Reptile chooses to aid Shinnok in his conquest of the realms, hoping that Shinnok will revive his now-extinct race - and help prevent him from de-evolving into a mindless lizard. Scorpion returns from the NetherRealm at the behest of Quan Chi, who tells him that the current Sub-Zero is responsible for the extermination of his family and clan. Sub-Zero chooses to help the heroes defeat Shinnok (following-up on the story elements established in MK Mythologies Sub-Zero). Jax and Sonya also help Raiden, while also looking to capture the last of Kano's Black Dragon clan. Naturally, Johnny Cage is permanently brought back from the dead to help the heroes.

Both Quan Chi and Shinnok seek complete domination of the realms, though Quan Chi has ulterior motives -  eventually overthrowing the former god. Kai is another member of the same group of Shaolin as Liu Kang, seeking enlightenment by travelling the world. Reiko is a former general of Outworld and now serves as the leader of Shinnok's forces. Jarek is the last member of the Black Dragon, as Kano is still in Outworld and Kabal has disappeared. Rather than work for Shinnok, however, he's forced to work alongside Jax and Sonya to ensure the realms' safety. Tanya is helping the heroes free her realm of Edenia - though she is actually working as a spy for Shinnok. Finally, the wind god Fujin seeks revenge against Shinnok for the murder of his fellow gods.

Mortal Kombat 4 Gameplay

A few secret characters were included as well. Goro made a long awaited return to the game, serving as the sub-boss for the home console versions. He didn't play much of a role in the main plot, instead worrying more about the well-being of his own race, the Shokan. Noob Saibot also returned, revealing that the Brotherhood of Shadow's purpose was the revival of Shinnok. Finally, a new and especially odd character was introduced - Meat. The kombatant, who was just a skinless body model used for the Fatalities, was only accessible after completing Group Mode, and could only carry-on the moveset of the previously selected character.

Though Mortal Kombat 4 sold well in the arcade, as well as on the home consoles, there were a few complaints directed at the game. While it had 3D graphics, fans weren't happy that it was pretty much the same 2D fighting game as before. 3D fighting had already been used in titles such as Virtua Fighter, and fans expected Mortal Kombat to truly follow suit. Another common complaint: far too many of the characters were new and unfamiliar - a similar complaint directed at the original version of Mortal Kombat 3. Like with Mortal Kombat 3, Midway decided to make improvements to their newest title to satisfy their fans.

Mortal Kombat Gold Opening

The improvements came in the form of Mortal Kombat Gold. Released exclusively on the Sega Dreamcast, the game boasted somewhat better graphics than 4 - as well as adding a few more characters that were absent from the previous edition.

Beyond that, it was pretty much the same as 4 with Dreamcast owners essentially getting extras as a mea culpa for the game arriving late to their console.

Cyrax was considered dead after the events of Mortal Kombat 3, but resurfaced with his humanity slowly returning. Kitana managed to escape Edenia before Shinnok took over - and now seeks to regain control of the throne. Mileena now openly serves Shinnok, while hoping to kill Kitana and take her place as ruler of Edenia.

Mortal Kombat Gold Select

Kung Lao was thought to have been killed by Shao Kahn, but had actually gone into hiding. He then learned of Goro's return, who had killed Kung Lao's ancestor in a previous Mortal Kombat tournament, and seeks to avenge his bloodline. Baraka was killed by Kung Lao but was revived by Quan Chi to serve in Shinnok's army. Finally, Sektor returned to take over the Lin Kuei clan - and was unlocked via a secret code.

Despite improved graphics, more characters, and full FMV video for the characters' endings, the game wasn't well-received. Even with the graphics improved, it was still considered inferior on the Dreamcast - falling short of what the system was capable of.

The 2D-based fighting was considered a low point still, especially with Soul Calibur making a splash on the same system. Things were not looking good for the Mortal Kombat series. Unfortunately, things were set to get worse.

Mortal Kombat Special Forces Opening

Mortal Kombat: Special Forces was another attempt to branch the series out. Released exclusively on the Sony PlayStation, the game played more like a typical run-and-gun adventure, instead of a Mythologies-esque side-scroller. Beyond that, it wasn't a very unique title - and was a flop almost immediately after release.

The story focuses on Jax before the first tournament, hunting down Kano and the rest of the Black Dragon. Kano had managed to recover an artifact known as the Eye of Chitan and Jax is forced to retrieve it, and subsequently defeat the mercenary and the Black Dragon clan. It's here that we discover Jax was responsible for Kano's eye injury - resulting in the metal plate replacement.

The game was rushed out soon after development in a panic, and was generally considered the worst of all the Mortal Kombat games. This was mainly due to John Tobias, one of the original creators of the series, leaving Midway during production of the title. It didn't help the series' standing with fans and is considered lowest point in franchise history. Ed Boon decided to give the series a break for a couple of years, and when the time was right, they would start anew.

Two years passed and arcades were dying-off. At the same time, the next generation of gaming consoles were unleashed. The time was ripe for Mortal Kombat to return, so the developers shifted tactics and started working on a new console-focused MK experience.

Check back tomorrow for the fourth installment in our Mortal Kombat retrospective for a look at Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception, and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.

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