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Nintendo 64 Retro Review - MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero


Registered Member
I thought I'd kill some time and make up something I like to call "Retro Review" I'll be taking some games and giving my opinion on titles that came out awhile back because, well, I think there's far too many Halo 3 reviews out there. Plus I've been wondering if I still "got it" :lol: Anyway, here's my first annual "Retro Review"

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in an arcade not so far away, a strange new machine was introduced. It bore an unusual red logo on the side and boasted that it contained the best fighting game yet. The world waited with baited breath. Very gingerly two players inserted their first coins, the "Insert Coin" sign vanished from sight and a new character select screen appeared. A small crowd of keen people gathered, and all of them holding their collective breath without even realizing that they were. The players chose their characters, palms sweating as anticipation rose almost to the point of overload. The fighters took their place and faced each other as the "Fight!" command rang in the air. The two eager players acknowledged one another and then focused their whole mind, soul and being on what was sure to be the biggest sensory stimulant available. By now the crowd had grown and people were jostling for position to see what this long-awaited, hyped and promoted masterpiece would have to offer. The players became one with the machine, felt the energy, felt the joystick and buttons, for a moment it felt as if the world stopped. Now they were focused on only one thing, the complete utter annihilation of their opposition in Mortal Kombat...

So what happened next? The two players battled it out valiantly, joysticks moved quickly and smoothly, the buttons were bashed frantically and then, after the tension, the waiting, the glory that was surely to be revealved... Nothing. The crowd quickly dispersed, eager to be seen elsewhere in the arcade, if not anywhere else in town that was far away. The players left, dejected and disheartened, and heading to the nearest "Street Fighter" game for some tried and trusted beat-'em up action. Alas, the dream was gone.

The reason for this initial massive dissappointment became clear: Mortal Kombat simply wasn't gory enough. The distributors were quick to pick up on this problem before it got out of hand. They recalled the machines, overhauled the programming, adding in more blood and guts, then added the one thing that really swung public opinion: the Fatalities. The ability not only to beat your opponent to a pulp but to kill them as wel was a surefire selling point. Mortal Kombat was then re-released in another media frenzy, only this time Midway had got it right. Once more all was well, and very, very violent in the arcadde. Since those forgetten days, the Mortal Kombat game has had many incarnations. These proved popular, as the chances to humiliate other people and prove your prowess increased with such things as Babalities, there was even an injection humor with the Friendship moves. All of these things helped to provide Mortal Kombat machines with a lasting, dedicated cult following.

Now, onto MK Mythologies Sub-Zero. People were expecting this title to be an RPG adventure that featured as much content as I described earlier. However, like most respected 2D fighting games around at its time, at best, this game was horrific.

The whole sordid affair that is MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero begins with a few words and a not unpleasant picture of a house. Not just any house though! Thsi one is built on top of a big hill, which in turn is on top of a valuable and powerful amulet, which two gods once had a bit of a scuffle over. Now Shinnok (the bad god) would really, really like to have the amulet back, so he can use its mighty powers to take over a world or two. Unsurprisingly, it's down to Sub-Zero to save the day by fighting everyone he happens to meet in the house-on-the-hill-on-the-amulet. (Surely a safety deposit box would have been a far more practical resting place?)

Now I can imagine that you might be thinking that this is all just sour grapes on my part. Because back then I was expecting this to be a really top game. You might be asking whether MK Mythologies is really that bad? Well, yes, it is. From the top, here are the things that turn what could of have been a great RPG into possibly the worst.

You start MK Mythologies with a brief explanation as to why you are about to kill everyone you meet, which is then followed by a scene showing Scorpion jumping thru a window and then running away from you in true girlie style. That's it. No animated intro, not even a deep gravelly voice reading the words to you.... nothing. Still, you now have controll of your very own Sub-Zero! But unfortunately, whoever had him before you overworked him, leaving him with a cramp in his leg (or something) which causes him to walk around in a permanently awkward position. Okay, so he's a fighter and he needs to take up a stance when he's scrappin' but did you ever see Bruce Lee go everywhere in a fighting stance? No. In spite of his perpetually "battle ready" appearance, Sub-Zero's first fight will leave you feeling more than a little concerned. Not only does Sub-Zero not yet have any special moves, he also has no Fatalities. Undetered you move on to the next room, pluck a floating lantern out of the air and move on again. Then, after fighting an exact copy of the previous fighter, you come up against the next major flaw, the evil collision damage. It would seem that when the house was built, whoever did it saw fit to include large falling hammers that smack you as soon as you get close. This could be a welcome addition, if the hammers didn't hit you no matter where you are in the room, then knock you underneath the next hammer to your imminent death. Another fundamental problem with MK Mythologies is the way the main character responds to your commands. In an attempt to win over the fighting freaks amongst us, Sub-Zero's animation is a very jerky affair and also not very accurate. It's hard to move a small distance and all too easy to suddenly jump to your instant peril, either into a trap or down a hole. Add this to the dodgy collision detection and you've got a bad game recipe already.

Moving on to the other characters, the guards all look like one another, with an occasional weapon adding any kind of variation in the fighting technique required to defeat them. Then there's the boss characters, which are no harder to defeat than any of their previous incarnations in the original MK games. But enough moaning (for now at least). What did Midway get right when they released this game? To be fair they did give it a shot, not a particulary good shot but all efforts should be commended, even if they fail miserably. Now let me see... well, there's the music, which is all very MK. Guitars and organs add to the tension of the game, and all the punching and kicking effects sound real enough. Moving on, as far as graphics go, the drawn real-time backgrounds do give MK Mythologies a sense of depth and vary enough to avoid being tedious. They range from the strereotypical "rich and powerful Chinese house" look to the vast and foreboding mountain ranges of the later levels. Sadly, the digitized Sub-Zero is less impressive. It looks like, well, a digitized sprite. This is all well and good in a fact paced, sadistic beat-'em up where the bouts are over before you have time to inspect your characters, but in an RPG people are expecting a little bit extra. There are some nice lighting effects on show throughout though, which add a dark and meaningful feel to the game and give Sub-Zero an eerie blue glow.

The initial shock of the limited moves list is relieved a litte bit by the news that you do not get to learn Sub-Zero's skills. As the game progresses you can earn experience points and maps that teach you how to do more and more powerful moves. However, for some reason Midway didn't see fit to include the signature Fatalities, although there is stil a lot of blood flying around. These extra moves can be reviewed via the in-game options screen, which also displays the selection of potions and pickups you've found throughout the levels. This does help a bit when you have smacked by a particularly lucky enemy or a large........ falling hammer. Although this options screen does attempt to add another level of skill to MK Mythologies, it doesn't achieve its intended goal of adding depth and lastability to the game. Infact, its the only thing that remotely moves the game in the direction of being an actual RPG. Which is what we were expecting, rather than just a simply, outdated, sideways-scrolling beat-'em up. Finally, the last and probably best addition is the turn button, which allows you to attack or block anyone fancying their chances at attacking you from behind.

These "good" points aside, this game wasn't what it could have been. The Mortal Kombat license used to promise so much and those in charge of development seem to have thought that the license alone would be enough to carry it. This was a worrying direction, we used to (or still) associate movie licenses to bad games, but now we have bad games associated with game licenses! Now that's a really nasty state of affairs. If you really loved the latest MK games like Deception and Armageddon then maybe, just maybe you can plug this in and find something here to hold you. If you like RPG games, it is my sad duty to tell you steer clear of MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero, or face agonishing hours of sheer frustration and irritation from a game that should have been the defining point of the MK culture's long history. I know that I've been pretty tough on this game, but at the end of the day, MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero deserves all it gets, as to any bad games. After all, when the only truly good thing to be found in this title are the backgrounds and the soundtracks, it hardly warrents it much praise. At the end of the day, MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero isn't so much Sub-Zero as below Zero.

Graphics: 51 - The games one and only saving grace.

Sound: 60 - Very atmospheric but hardly groundbreaking stuff for its time.

Playability: 21 - Can only be described as "very poor"

Lastability: 24 - And that's 'cause I'm feeling generous.