Ah, one of the most amusingly conceived, yet poorly executed fighters still refuses to die. Tacking copious amounts of blood and viscera to one of the lamest fighting engines around, Mortal Kombat Gold is by far the weakest of Midway’s Dreamcast launch titles.
While Hydro Thunder, Ready 2 Rumble, and NFL Blitz 2000 at least have some redeeming qualities, it looks like this one was simply rushed out the door to snag some easy launch sales. Gee, aren’t we all surprised…
Visuals:: Well, this is definitely MK Gold’s strongest suit, and it’s easily the best-looking Mortal Kombat game ever. Running on the MK4 engine, this baby is full 3-D, with high-poly character models and a pretty high resolution. All of the stages are surprisingly detailed, featuring all manner of animated elements and crisp textures. The players themselves are pretty detailed, as well, but they still animate with that herky-jerky motion that the MK characters have always had. In this day and age, animation of this low quality simply looks silly, making the characters look like robots (of course, a couple of them are robots, but that’s beside the point).
The game does move pretty fast, with all kinds of panning and zooming going on during battles, and there is a noticeable lack of load times, as well. Of course, all this takes a backseat to the gore factor, and it’s definitely in full effect here. Even simple punches and kicks will result in a geyser of blood erupting from a foe, and special moves will have the red stuff shooting everywhere. Sure, it’s not even remotely realistic, but it is somewhat amusing, at least in the short term. The fatalities are back, as well, this time rendered in full 3-D. There’s no denying that it was cool to take a new look at old favorites, but with only a couple of fatalities per character, they tend to get old pretty quick.
Also of note are the pre-rendered endings for each character. These are definitely a step up from the still-shot endings of the past, and the quality is pretty decent. Throw in the above-average character designs, which have updated “classic” fighters with some new looks, and you’ve got a pretty nice visual package.
Audio:: Again, not bad. The music is almost nothing but bass, and sounds pretty cool through a surround setup. It’s all pretty pumpin’, and definitely fits the subject matter. The creepy, deep-voiced announcer makes a return, and even the character voices are good. Get over here!
Gameplay/Control:: Well, here’s where the other shoe drops. Staying true to the Mortal Kombat name, MK Gold features the same combo-deficient, tap-tap-style gameplay of its forefathers. Sure, the couple of dial-a-combos from MK3 are in there, but for the most part, you’re stuck with single attacks using the low and high punches and kicks, the couple of specials that each characters possesses, and the good ol’ uppercut. The gameplay is sooo limiting it’s maddening, and this lack of depth pretty much reduces the game to a button-mashing nightmare. Also, even though the game is presented in 3-D, the gameplay is firmly stuck in 2-D land (kinda like Tekken). Sure, there’s a sidestep, but it’s not nearly as useful as it should be.
There is also an obvious lack of balance on display here. Some characters are simply much more powerful than others, and there are some hyper-cheese moves (Kitana’s fan lift, Cyrax’s explosion teleport) that can be used over and over and over again to cheat your way to victory. To add insult to injury, the stupid-hard bosses are here again, making the use of these cheese moves mandatory in order to defeat them. This kind of crap might have been fine back in the early ‘90’s, but we’ve moved on since then, and Midway really should too.
Aside from the attack buttons, the block is here, as is the amazingly useless run button introduced in MK3. Why the hell they kept that one is anybody’s guess, as is the whole point of the weapon system in the game. Each character can now pull out a signature weapon, but it takes so long to whip it out that you’ll likely be toast before you get a chance to use it. Add in the fact that most of the weapons are practically useless to begin with, and you’ve got another pointless gameplay feature.
And, in keeping with the MK legacy, the fatalities are still pulled off via a nonsensical button combination at the end of a fight. As mentioned before, some of them are pretty cool, but I really don’t have the spare brain cells to waste memorizing those damn things over again (Baraka’s decapitation and Scorpion’s Toasty were the only two I could remember). Simplicity and functionality are integral to the success of fighting games today, and MK Gold eschews both of those concepts.
Extras:: Well, there are a few different modes to be found here. The classic tower-based tournament modes are here, with five different difficulty levels. There are also endurance (defeat as many opponents as possible with a single life bar) and team battle (pick a team of fighters and battle an opposing team, a la King of fighters) modes, but you probably won’t spend much time with those – I sure didn’t. There is also a movie theater mode, where you can replay any endings you may have unlocked (if you bothered to take the time).
As far as raw numbers go, MK Gold comes out pretty good. There are 20 characters immediately selectable, all of which have alternate costumes/colors, and MK mainstays Goro, Sektor, and Noob Saibot can be unlocked. There is a pretty wide variety of stages on hand, and several have stage-specific fatalities. Each character also has two fatalities of their own, and the good old Kombat Kodes make a return, allowing you to open up all sorts of funky stuff. Basically, MK Gold is simply a grab bag of characters and stages from Mortal Kombat’s past, and little more.
Overall:: Well, MK Gold was fun – for about ten minutes. After that, the nostalgia wore off and I was left with a decent-looking, ancient-playing fighting game. There’s really no reason to buy this game – if you want to relive the MK glory days, break out your copy of Mortal Kombat 2 for the SNES and give it a play. With revolutionary fighters like Soul Calibur and Power Stone available, this is the last fighting game you should be looking at. There’s a reason Midway is losing money left and right, and this reliance on tired game design is definitely part of the problem. Get with the new millennium, guys, or get left behind.Score:: 4.0/10