Back in 1992, Mortal Kombat debuted in American arcades as a gory yet surprisingly fun fighting game franchise. Now, over 30 years later, the franchise has swung back around to Mortal Kombat 1, a soft reboot that reinterprets the story, characters, and gameplay of what came before it. Following a universal reset in Mortal Kombat 11, the newly ascended Fire God Liu Kang is trying to run a more orderly timeline, but that will prove easier said than done. What the driving force behind Mortal Kombat 1‘s plot is has been kept close to developer NetherRealm Studios’ chest, but that should guarantee MK‘s traditional cinematic story mode will be a delightful surprise.
In the meantime, fans will be greeted by the same solid 2D Mortal Kombat fighting they are used to, complete with plenty of bloody details and fun character banter. Even though Mortal Kombat 1 presents itself as a reinvention of the franchise, in many ways it evokes the Mortal Kombat titles preceding it. With the game being announced so close to its own release, some prospective buyers may still be confused about what exactly is new in Mortal Kombat 1. Fortunately, thanks to plenty of trailers, previews, and betas, there is enough information to firmly say what’s what.
Mortal Kombat 1 Builds a Diverse But Familiar World
First and foremost, Mortal Kombat 1 is a franchise reboot that is more keen to remix old ideas than throw them away. This is most evident in its setting and characters, which often resemble the past two Mortal Kombat timelines but have various key differences. MK1‘s world is still divided into separate realms, though their numbers appear condensed, and the Mortal Kombat tournament between them is more of a friendly tradition than a way to conquer and merge other realms.
Then, there are the characters. Series mainstays like Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Raiden, and Johnny Cage are back alongside several others, though not as they were. Raiden and Liu Kang have traded places as chosen one and patron deity, while Scorpion and Sub-Zero are now brothers instead of sworn enemies. These backstory twists are common throughout the cast, which also includes several obscure characters associated with Mortal Kombat‘s 3D era like Li Mei, Ashrah, and Havik.
The philosophy of bringing irrelevant concepts back into an even playing field is best represented by the Kameo Fighters. Kameos accompany MK1‘s playable roster as useful helpers, and also feed into several other game mechanics. Within their ranks, a mixture of playable characters like the expected Scorpion and Sub-Zero, excluded regulars like Sonya Blade and Jax, and even more obscure faces like Darrius and Sareena can be found with their classic looks. With some even possessing story roles, Kameo Fighters have proven to be a smart way of increasing the number of combatants in Mortal Kombat 1.
Plenty of Ways To Experience Mortal Kombat 1’s Gameplay Are Present
Mortal Kombat 1 does a good job of putting its many characters to work. Another cinematic Story mode, something associated with Mortal Kombat since its successful debut in Mortal Kombat 2011, is front and center. Notably, fans still aren’t sure who the antagonist is, with guesses ranging from Queen Sindel and General Shao to Liu Kang himself. Multiple story paths have been another common hypothesis, with more variance than even Mortal Kombat 11 Aftermath‘s different endings, so fans may get their own say in how Liu Kang’s universe pans out.
As ever, there are various other singleplayer attractions such as the various Arcade Towers, but where players will likely spend most of their time is in the new Invasions mode. Replacing Mortal Kombat 1‘s Krypt, Invasions is a tile-based RPG where players will unlock most of Mortal Kombat 1‘s cosmetics and extras. Complete with a variety of beautiful and ghastly locations from the game’s stage list, players can experience plenty of bonus dialogue from MK1‘s characters while sleuthing out secret treasures and fighting wacky opponents.
Completing Mortal Kombat 1 package is the online suite. This has not been extensively detailed as of the pre-release, but it will feature all the modern amenities fighting game players have come to expect. Rollback netcode will keep matches running smoothly, though only time will tell if NetherRealm Studios’ work can keep up with its competitors. Some sort of progression system should be present, and players could get bonuses like costumes by engaging with it. Also, Mortal Kombat has had a history of extra online modes like the 2011 MK trilogy’s King of the Hill, so players not interested in basic ranked, casual, or lobby play may want to try those instead.
Ferocious Fighting Remains At The Heart of Mortal Kombat 1
Of course, a fighting game wouldn’t be much without its fighting. Mortal Kombat 1 delivers, featuring a cast that, while made up of returning faces, provides the series’ greatest diversity yet. The Variation system from Mortal Kombat X and 11 has been done away with in favor of greater variety in every character’s tools, which pairs well with the return of aerial combo strings to create what may be the flashiest Mortal Kombat yet.
Emphasizing that are the Kameo Fighters, which bring their own three or four special moves into play as well as breakers, throws, joint X-Ray supers, and Fatalities. The amount of utility on offer for every character and Kameo combination is staggering, and should give competitive players plenty to sink their teeth into. Casual fans will also enjoy the large roster, as well as Mortal Kombat‘s traditionally simple special move inputs and basic combo strings. With plenty of Fatalities and other secrets teased for launch, everyone will be able to enjoy Mortal Kombat 1 in their own way.
Mortal Kombat 1 will release September 19th for PC, PS5, Switch, and Xbox Series X/S.