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Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks

August 16, 2006

Also available for PlayStation 2

As we all know, the Mortal Kombat games have always been known as “those violent fighting games”, which created a cult phenemenon in the gaming world. To date, there have been alot of MK fighting games with several games that attempted to bring the series out of the fighting game genre, but generally missed the mark. The MK team went back to the drawing board after releasing MK: Deception late last year, and has created a game that has successfully blended all things MK with the action/adventure genre. This game is Shaolin Monks. A game described to be retelling the story of MK2. Now most would think: “MK has a story?” It does have a very good story if you look for it. This game has a decent one, but for diehard MK buffs like myself, the plot in this game has a few interferences with elements that have since been established in recent games.However, if you just like the action and the overall fun to be had in an MK game, these issues won’t bother you much. The story is a nice setup for the game to start on, despite the hiccups in the plot mentioned earlier on.

If you are used to the pretty high resolution characters in the recent 3D fighting installments of the MK franchise, these graphics will look a bit foreign. That is, because the camera is much farther away now, showing your character and the vast enviroment you can interact with. The character models that you play as look great and are pretty detailed, but the generic enemies it is easy to see, did not get as much detail. That’s ok though, there are so many enemies on screen fighting with you from time to time, that this can be forgiven. The environments are decent looking, it is definitely a bonus seeing all your favorite arenas expanded and brought into full 3D from the 2D fighting days. At the same time however, its easy to see which areas got a lot of attention (the arenas that were in MK2), and those that didn’t (all the branching rooms in between). Nonetheless, the combination of enemies and your character duking it out in these environments looks overall very good. The other area that needs to be mentioned are the cinematics (which there are few), which look excellent. Other than those cinematics, in game cutscenes are used otherwise to tell the story.
Graphically, this game is definitely above average, and with all the action, there is hardly ever any slowdown.

If you have played the MK games, you know and love all the signature yells and screams your favorite characters make and that is not absent here. Liu Kangs “turkey calls” as they are commonly known sound better than ever and are certainly recognizable. Aside from the playable characters speech in battle though, all the bosses you will fight have those same famous lines. I.E Scorpion’s “Get Over here!” Also not to be glossed over are the wonderful sound effects. The crushes and splats and shattering sound effects when hitting an opponent with an uppercut, and the grunts and groans that accompany them are all recognizable and sound great too. The music, while sometimes unnoticable is also a great addition to the aural experience when playing the game. Orchestral themes, and famous music that plays before executing a fatality is all well reproduced here as well. The only qualm I have about the sound is the sometimes downright laughable voice acting. But that could be considered keeping with the source material.

Now here is the meat of any game, and what truly matters to most, gameplay. Luckily, this is definitely the best feature the game has to offer, and is overall immensely fun experience while playing. So let’s explain shall we? You have the option at the start to choose either Kung Lao or Liu Kang (and other secret characters to be unlocked later) for the adventure. Both characters are balanced out and each have their own play style and strengths and weaknesses to get used to. Once you select your character, you are off on the adventure. The game basically has you going from area to area, fighting various villains and enemies, and interacting with classic MK characters along the way. But the main part of any MK game is the fighting, and while this system is not the same as others, its in some ways alot more fun at times. The game has a freeform combo system that allows any attack mapped to any button to be combined in any way, and also allows special movies to be linked within. These combos are only limited to the imagination, and can range from just on ground fighting, to juggling the enemy in the sir, to jumping on top and throwing them into spikes and other enviornmental hazards. Of course, as in any MK game, there are also multiple Fatalities that you can perform when the meter is charged, as well as Multalities (fatality that kills everyone around you), and Brutalities ( a rage mode where you fight many times faster and hit much harder).

In addition to the main combat, there are also various weapons to pick up and punish your opponents with. Any way you want to play, you can. The best part of all, is any way you choose to fight, its always an absolute blast. While you are performing all these combos, you are constantly earning experience to upgrade your character. You can purchase new combos, new special moves, and new variations of a certain special attack. For instance, for Kung lao, you start out with his normal Hat throw, but can choose to upgrade it so you can spin it around your body as a shield, or have it richochet off of walls. As you might guess, this means you have access to a huge array of moves after getting a lot of experience, and by the end of the game you will be a killing machine. As well, there are multiple boss battles to fight in, some even hidden. All of these are tons of fun, and require alot of strategy to complete. All of them are a nice challenge, and the diffciculty of them ramps up at a steady pace, which is nice.

And that’s just the single player story mode. There is also a 1 versus 1 fighting mode for 2 players which has you using characters you unlock during the story mode, and a ko-op mode. The Ko-Op mode is tons of fun, and doubles the enjoyment of the already outstanding single player game. In this mode, you can link moves together, do group fatalities and special moves, and best of all, coordinate attack strategies with one another. The only minor complaint, is that the game is a pretty short adventure, but with the loads of extra things to find and accomplish, it won’t be hard to keep busy.

Conclusion – This is one superb game, and a very unexpected surprise that an MK game that isn’t a fighting game could be so good. There are tons of things to do in this game, and the bevy of cool unlockables and attention to please hardcore fans is astounding. This is a game that should most definitely not be missed by any MK fan, but even any action game fans. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 88 / 100

Reviewed by Neil

Related Article – Mortal Kombat VS Street Fighter Poll

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