Real Talk By: Cmack The Don
With the recent release of Mortal Kombat X, we here at Play Legit decided to take a look back at the past of the series, focusing on the arcade hit, Mortal Kombat 3. Several versions of the game came out, including the original, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and then the console exclusive Mortal Kombat Trilogy, which included revamped editions of not only 3 but also 1 and 2 as well. We’ll be talking mostly about MK3 and UMK3, as Trilogy has enough content to be its own review.
Seeing light in 1995, the original edition of Mortal Kombat 3 was developed by Midway Games and series creators John Tobias and Ed Boon, and picked up a bit after where Mortal Kombat 2 had left off. I remember the massive ad campaign and marketing for this title, the commercials being shown in prime time television even, which wasn’t common for a video game at the time.
Not that Mortal Kombat was ever a soft, sensitive, touchy feely experience, but the darkness of the series was increased even more with 3’s release. Just from first glance you can see that the color palette and settings are more gritty and less fantasy based. The game took place mostly in New York City, with a plot involving Shao Kahn trying to convert NYC into Outworld.
The game was pretty popular back in the day, and I remember seeing the cabinet everywhere. Even now, Play Legit founder KJ has noted that of all Mortal Kombat machines a place may have, MK3 or Ultimate MK3 is the most likely to be there.
I mentioned earlier that MK3 had a new, more dark and gothic setting. For the gory franchise, I felt this setting always fit really well, and some of the stages and music for the time was very memorable and helped to craft the mixture of terror and martial arts that Mortal Kombat is famous for.
Speaking of stages, this is the first Mortal Kombat to feature multi-leveled stages, where you can uppercut someone into a new area (that doesn’t end the fight, knocking someone into The Pit to kill them doesn’t count). The amount of stage fatalities increased with this edition, and if you look at later Mortal Kombat games, this only increased from what this game set in motion.
Mortal Kombat 3 added some great new characters to the mix, including a great boss in Motaro, a centaur beast, and the creepy yet cool looking Kabal, with his immobilizing speed dash and twin hook swords. The famous ninjas of the MK cast got a new look, with new editions Cyrax and Sektor being similar to the Scorpion and Sub-Zero of the past games. MK 3 took some major risks with having many of the old cast being either dead or written out of the story, to make room for new characters and changes to the series. I respect the initiative they took, especially only in the third entry of the franchise, many fighting games even after years and years refuse to update or rotate their casts.
The “run” ability was introduced in MK3 as a way to help negate the priority of projectiles and range based melee and specials, allowing the characters a limited amount of time to bum rush their opponent and get in their face to smother them with brutal combos. If you knew the commands, like Killer Instinct, you could break out a sequence that would do massive damage, which sped up the gameplay compared to past titles. I notice that even the current Mortal Kombat games use this idea, so it’s definitely a noteworthy addition here.
Not everything was perfect about Mortal Kombat 3, and I feel that for the pre-3D, digitized era of the series that MK3, particularly Ultimate marked the beginning of the end of the series popularity, from then all the way to 2011, with the version of Mortal Kombat that came out then.
“Animalities” were added in this edition, and compared to the either funny or brutal finishers of the other games before it, I always felt that they were just simply bizarre. I could accept someone like Liu Kang who has mystical Shaolin training being able to transform into a dragon if need be, but the entire cast being able to shape shift into animals? That concept was done as a fighting game, and it was called Bloody Roar. Let Mortal Kombat be Mortal Kombat, which should be about brutal, bone-crunching violence. You’ll notice that the reboot lacks the animalities and took the series back to its core concepts. I feel that MK3 is where the trend of the series becoming excessive started. The thought that more and more gimmicks needed to be added to each game to make it more exciting (like you see in the Deadly Alliance and Deception stages of the series) all started here.
I can’t say for sure what was going on at Midway at the time, but I’m willing to bet they felt pressure to add something new and outrageous each game, as opposed to refining the fighting system, creating more quality characters, and tightening up the controls. These are the things the reboot did so well, but are kind of absent here.
Aside from the dial-a-combo and Run feature, not a whole lot else aside from looks and presentation changed here. I did mention that Kabal and the cyber-ninjas were cool, which they were, but I also feel that inclusions such as cop character Stryker were a sign of the creativity being strained at this point.
In Konklusion, I feel that MK3 and Ultimate MK3 are overall good entries in the series digitized character era, but also marks the beginning of the stale period for Mortal Kombat. I feel it was this game and how the creators started a trend of straying away from the basics of making a good fighting game and focusing more on the dressings and bells and whistles that lead to the much worse Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon entries.
If you’re a true MK fan from the beginning like myself and many of the staff here at Play Legit, MK 3 is always worth another look and is great fun at the arcade, but as far as nostalgia factor goes, I would give MK2 the edge on it. 2 had the balance of fun and gimmicks with good gameplay, that this one didn’t quite get right.
Both Mortal Kombat 3 and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 get
3 out of 5
+New combo system
+New stage interactivity
+Great new stages
-Some poor character designs
-Over the top finishers that move from the series root
-Too great a focus on gimmicks (Kombat Kodes, big head mode etc)