Monday, September 05, 2011

Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection (Xbox 360) Review

Dominating much of my late childhood to mid teenage years, the original Mortal Kombat trilogy was the franchise to play. Featuring digitized actors instead of sprites, a dark storyline, and a gruesome fighting style with memorable characters, each game in the trilogy sucked up a lot of my quarters and, when they finally came to home consoles, ate up a sizable amount of my abundant spare time.

With the success of Mortal Kombat, an alternate retelling of the franchise's original trilogy, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment has released the Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection on Xbox LIVE Arcade so gamers can relive or experience for the first time the classic games that started it all.

Aside from the fact that I love these games by default, the great appeal for me is that I no longer own copies of Mortal Kombat or Mortal Kombat II. While I do own the now discontinued Xbox LIVE Arcade version of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, that's all I've got of these classic titles and the opportunity to not only own them all in one package but to also have arcade perfect versions of them for only 800 Microsoft Points is fantastic!

Developed by Other Ocean Interactive with the assistance of NetherRealm Studios, the Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection is truly a trip down memory lane. The collection allows you to choose which of the three games to play from the main menu, and you can also jump into Multiplayer games over Xbox LIVE, Player or Ranked matches.

Now, I'm going to come right out and say it: This collection of arcade classics is filled with annoying bugs that should not be present, and that's a damned shame as the original games that led to the creation of the ESRB deserves far better in my opinion.

One of the additions to the Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection is the option to set the game's difficulty. The downer is for both Mortal Kombat II and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, this difficulty adjustment seems to make no difference what-so-ever. The AI is still horrendously cheap, just as you remember in the arcades, and while this is rather authentic, it's also not very fun. Though a humbling experience in AI cheapness that will stop me from complaining about Mortal Kombat's Shao Khan forever more, you're only going to want to play through each game's Arcade Ladder once to earn their respective completion Achievements, except that you'll likely need to play them multiple times as the Achievements are glitched.

Completing each game should earn you an Achievement for doing so, but said Achievements will not always unlock, forcing the player to give it another go. While not the end of the world, it is frustrating and tedious to be deprived that "Achievement Unlocked" pop up when you've legitimately earned it, and the internet rumours you may see of having to complete each Arcade Ladder with one character, or no continues, or winning all the Test Your Might Challenges (in Mortal Kombat) to guarantee an Achievement are false. They are glitched and there's nothing special you need to do to unlock them but simply keep playing until you do so. I only had to play Mortal Kombat once, thankfully, and I had great fun as Scorpion, but Mortal Kombat II and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 I needed to play twice each to get their respective Achievements. While not the end of the world this was tedious and is the kind of bug that simply shouldn't be present in a retail release.

With the ridiculously cheap AI, the real fun for any classic Mortal Kombat game is versus matchs either with your buddies on the same console or over Xbox LIVE. Offline play works very well with no major hiccups, though occasionally you'll encounter some input lag and the Controller won't register what you're pressing, but online suffers from pretty horrible network lag.

When you select Online Kombat from the main menu, you'll have three options: Quick Match, Player Match, and Ranked Match. Quick Match is exclusive to Xbox LIVE and it will immediately drop you into the next available non-Ranked game. At least it's supposed to. Playing on a Sunday afternoon of a long weekend, Quick Match was unable to find me a single match to play in. Seeing how useless this exclusive feature is, I decided to give Player Match a whirl, but sadly, no games were listed what-so-ever. The only option left for me to try and get some Multiplayer goodness going was Ranked Matches, and thankfully there do seem to be players here.

Unlike unranked matches you need to select which of the three games you want to search for, and I played five games of each title with no major difficulty getting a match here. The only frustrating thing with Ranked Matches over Xbox LIVE is the lag is pretty bad. Not as bad as Mortal Kombat when it launched, each match was still playable, but bad enough where it feels like we're still beta testing the game at retail, and that's rather a sad insult towards Warner Brother Interactive Entertainment's customer base. Still, I went 3-2 as Scorpion in Mortal Kombat, 3-2 as Mileena in Mortal Kombat II, and 4-1 as Sub-Zero in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Online play for Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 also sees Mileena, Ermac, and Classic Sub-Zero unlocked by default, whereas you need to unlock them via their Ultimate Kombat Codes for offline play. Thankfully you _do_ need to do this offline as Kombat Codes entered at versus screens do _not_ work at all online; you can not enter them period. Again, how such an essential element of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3's Multiplayer could have escaped testing is beyond me.

Visually, these classic games look like they did back in the arcades, and there's several filter options available if you want. You can view the games in their "Klassic" digitized actor pixilated glory, use two kinds of "Painted" filters to pretty things up, use a "Smooth" filter to help with the jaggies (my preferred filter), or use a "Scan lines" filter to imitate that classic CRT look. You can also adjust the display to look like a curved CRT screen in an arcade cabinet to heighten this retro sense. There is no option to stretch the screen to fit widescreen, but the pre-done pillar boarders are beautiful and look very nice, so no complaints there. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 does seem overly bright and looks a bit washed out as a result, but again, that's not the end of the world.

Audio wise, this arcade perfect version sounds more or less like the classics of old. The music is still midi-based, Liu Kang still sounds like a girl on speed, and Scorpion still shouts "Get Over Here!" all angry like because he's grumpy. Death seems to do that. I've heard it said that some people are experiencing issues with music in-game that will randomly stop playing, though thankfully this hasn't happened to me yet, however in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 some sounds are very muted and other sounds will cancel out current audio being played. Audio bugs like this are a shame but at least they're not game breaking.

The controls are fully re-customizable, which is a plus, and the game handles well aside from the occasional input lag offline and the network lag online. A Moves List is available in the main in-game menu (accessed by "Back" for some reason), however you can't seem to view it unless you're in a versus match, and I mean actually in the match and not at the menus or Ladder screen, and in Single Player I could only view it in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and not the previous two titles. If you also return back to game from this menu, it will take one second to allow you to start using the controls again, leaving you vulnerable mid-match or wasting one second of your Fatality time if you're trying for one of those. Why such a delay happens when switching back from a menu offline is beyond me and once again leaves me wondering how thoroughly this collection was tested.

Aside from the Moves Lists, visual filters, somewhat functional difficulty settings, customizable controls, glitched Achievements and laggy online play with Leaderboards, each game is true to its arcade roots in terms of content and will provide you with a solid trip to yesteryear. Once that nostalgia wears off, however, you're left with a great collection of arcade classics that was sloppily ported, sporting bugs and issues that simply should not be present. It's been officially announced that a patch is being worked on, but until it's released it's very hard for me to recommend a defective product that may be at retail but is, for all intents and purposes, still in beta.

If you're a die hard Mortal Kombat fan, you will likely be able to look past the neglect done to this collection from the get-go as the bugs and issues are more annoying than game breaking, but otherwise wait for the patch to be released and then, assuming all the sloppiness is fixed, the Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection will indeed be worth the 800 Microsoft Points Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment is asking for. These really are a great collection of games that have had a strong influence on the gaming industry we know and love, and there is a significant amount of entertainment value to be had here, it's just a damn shame that it had to launch in such an obviously rushed state.

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