Kombat: Deadly Alliance
for Nintendo GameCube
by Donald Melanson
For all its popularity and notoriety, the Mortal Kombat series
never got much respect from fighting game enthusiasts. Most consider
it to have reached its peak with the second installment in the series.
But even it was not nearly as deep as its primary rival at the time,
whatever the latest incarnation of Street Fighter II was. In later
years, the Mortal Kombat series never really caught up with the
likes Tekken or Virtua Fighter, which offered complex gameplay and
great graphics, and real improvements from sequel to sequel.
Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance is Midway's attempt to change the
course of their flagship franchise and indeed, compared to the previous
games, they've succeeded. But compared to the top-tier fighting
games, it still falls a bit short.
The game is significant for a number of reasons. It's the first
proper Mortal Kombat game to be released exclusively to console
systems. This would have been unheard of even a few years ago, when
arcades still had the latest fighting games months before the console
version came out. Deadly Alliance is only the latest piece of evidence
of the decline of arcades as we've known them. If they lose fighting
games, arcades will become even more of an amusement park, focusing
on games like Dance Dance Revolution and simlution-type games that
can't be replicated on home consoles.
Deadly Alliance also overhauls the Mortal Kombat fighting system,
which has been criticized as overly simplistic and unbalanced. While
many elements remain from previous Mortal Kombat games, there is
now a much greater emphasis placed on combos (long chains of moves,
instead of powerful special attacks). Each character also has three
different fighting styles to choose from (one with a weapon), similar
to the Samurai Showdown or Street Fighter Alpha series, but unlike
those games, you can switch between styles during a match.
While Midway took out many of the bad things of previous Mortal
Kombat games, they also took out some of the good stuff. Each character
now only has one fatality, and there's no "pit fatalities",
where you can knock your opponent outside the arena. While the fatalities
in previous Mortal Kombat aren't really much more than a gimmick,
it seems to me that if you're going to do them at all you need to
go all out.
Another addition to Deadly Alliance is the Krypt, a section of
the game where you can unlock new characters, alternate outfits,
arenas and other bonuses. You buy items using "koins"
earned in the single player game, or wagered in two-player mode.
While this adds to the replay value, it can be tedious since you
don't know what exactly you're buying (though you can guess based
on how much it costs). Most gamers will probably end up looking
up the codes on the Net to unlock all the good stuff first.
Gameplay-wise, Deadly Alliance is a bit of a mixed bag. I can't
quite put my finger on it, but the fighting system seems a little
off to me. Maybe I'm just nostalgic for the simple and elegant fighting
system of the Street Fighter II series, or SNK's many excellent
fighters for the Neo Geo, but MK:DA is sometimes just downright
frustrating. In two-player mode, in particular, it often comes down
to who can block the other's moves fastest. This is especially annoying
against some of the faster characters, who have weaker attacks,
but you spend so much time trying to block them you're still at
Lastly, as most every review has mentioned, the GameCube's controller
is really unsuited to this, or any other fighting game. The directional
pad, as small as the GameBoy Advance's, makes blocking particularly
difficult, sometimes causing you to block down when you mean to
block back. The button placement is also a problem, especially when
it comes to producing the lengthy combos in the game that require
precise timing. There are a number of arcade-style joysticks available
for the GameCube that may be the solution, but I unfortunately wasn't
able to test any of them for this review. MK:DA is also available
for Xbox and PS2 and, while not perfect either, their controllers
should be a bit better suited to the game.
All that said, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance is still the best
fighting game for the GameCube, though almost by default since there's
so few alternatives. But it should soon face some stiff competition
from Namco's Soul Caliber II, due out this summer.
Melanson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Mindjack. He
keeps an irregularly updated weblog at: melanson.ca.
email for info