With Mortal Kombat X slowly looming over the horizon, it seems just to look back at the 23 years over which the franchise has existed. While being highly innovative with the introduction of the ‘five button’ scheme, it was bound to be a subject of an out of industry critique. With its grotesque and graphic brutality, creation of NetherRelam Studios (Previously Midway Games) has been a subject of numerous controversies since the release of its very first iteration in 1992. Mortal Kombat allowed gamers around the world to mutilate their opponents in an inexplicable fashion, and had to be harnessed in order to stop the international ”spread of interpersonal violence”.
‘Five Button scheme was soon replaced by the more convenient six button scheme, which featured additional button responsible for running’
In 1994 the moment all the mothers patiently waited for has finally arrived. ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) has swooped in like a knight in a shining armour, on a mission to defend the offspring of the downtrodden. And since, has been heroically stamping video games with appropriate age ratings in order to stop the ”degradation” of youth in the United States.
Understandably, Mortal Kombat became ESRB’s first target. In spite of critique, Ed Boon and John Tobias have pushed forward. Relentlessly releasing new iterations of the franchise in order to keep the fruit of their hard labor afloat. However, ever degrading sales led to departure of John Tobias from Midway Games. And now alone on board of the sinking ship, Ed Boon has taken the other rein and continued the endeavor alone.
‘Noob Saibot, is a representation of both original creators of Mortal Kombat. It’s a simple play on developers names, Boon and Tobias read back to front spell the name of the character’
Entering the 21st century, the franchise has gained a cult following that was constantly being served with games, and a multitude of other entertainment products. Endless movies and comic books while being extraordinarily successful, have enriched everyone but Midway Games. And by the time 2009 has come, Midway Games declared bankruptcy subsequently ceasing to exist. All the frantic attempts of rejuvenation of the franchise by Ed Boon have accounted to nothing. All the titles released past the golden days, became a subject of constant scrutiny. Stiff animations, and poor three dimensional execution have taken away from games appeal leading to its hiatus.
Many left with distaste of Midway’s final heretic creation, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, have ultimately abandoned all hope. Once purchase of Midway has been finalized by Time Warner (Parent company of DC Comics), fans have prepared themselves for further blasphemous releases. However, Ed Boon has underwent on a personal crusade to ensure the fans that his new Studio, NetherRelam is working on a title which will overshadow all his previous creations.
Mortal Kombat 9, was officially unveiled in 2010 during Sony’s E3 press conference. And as Ed Boon has promised, it has taken the franchise back to its roots. In fact it made the franchise more violent than ever before. Introduction of X-ray moves made the game even more engaging, as it has turned the structure of the title on its head. Previously all the encounters have only unveiled their true brutality during the finale, whereas now the grotesque violence was present at all times. Exposed flesh, rivers of blood, and sound of shattering bones have become a customary device of the contemporary Mortal Kombat, a device that turned senseless battles into well-paced encounters. Encounters that left players in awe every time the flow of the game was interrupted by a macabre, and out of control animations.
Mortal Kombat 9 has not only satisfied the existing fans of the series, but also attracted masses through the new and improved combat system. While some die-hard fans have disagreed with such approach, they’ve still played along. And by the end of 2011 Ed Boon has not only managed to rebuild his credibility, but also entice the fans for what is yet to come.
History of Mortal Kombat while at times saddening and turbulent, shows that the core experience is all that fans expect, and unnecessary alterations can only damage the image of a well established franchise. Now we can only hope that NetherRelam Studios has learned from its past mistakes and can only further improve on their core design, leading to the release of Mortal Kombat X.
Mortal Kombat X is expected to be released worldwide on the 14th of April on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Personal Computers with last generation consoles to follow on the 2nd of June. Ed Boon promises that his newest creation will be a concrete, and stable experience both online and offline, as newly introduced net-code is greatly improved and the development team had plenty of time to iron out the flaws that featured in Mortal Kombat IX. If you want to know how this statement translates into truth, make sure to read our review which will follow the release.