Midway’s pinnacle entry in the Mortal Kombat franchise is finally found its way to Nintendo’s waggle-fied console after already serving tours of duty on both the Xbox and PS2 some ten months ago. With this iteration though there are two very distinct differences between it and the aforementioned versions. The first being the obvious addition of gesture-based controls that allows players to perform moves with a simple flick of the wrist; the other is a complete lack of any type of online mode.
MK Armageddon is by far the most ambitious and feature-filled entry in this long-running series. With a grand total of 64 fighters to choose from including one new exclusive character, Khameleon from the N64 version of MK Trilogy, Armageddon boasts one of the largest character rosters of any fighting game to date. This includes fan-favorites such as Scorpion and Raiden and of course some of the lesser known (and easily forgettable) ones such as Stryker. With so many to choose from the team at Midway had to cut back the traditional three fighting types per character from the previous two entries down to two; featuring just one combat style and one weapon style.
As for the actual combat if you played either of the previous entries Deception or Deadly Alliance you know what to expect here, the difference of course with the Wii version is the addition of motion controls, more on that in a moment. The action is fast-paced and very combo-heavy meaning button mashers need not apply. While not nearly as deep or methodical as say a Virtua Fighter, MK has slowly matured its style over time to near perfection. Combos take time to master and each character has access to different special moves that can be used in conjunction with your standard hand-to-hand combat for punishing results. Throwing in a weapon for each character also switches up the pace and being able to switch between the classic controller/Gamecube pad and the Wii remote and nunchuk combo will appease fans of the traditional style of combat.
Speaking of motion controls I have to admit I was worried when Midway allowed for the use of classic controls as it is almost always a good indicator that the motion part of the mix just doesn’t work right; thankfully with Armageddon this is not the case. To perform any type of special move all you have to do is hold down the B button and motion the controller left to right, up to down, or perform a half-circle motion and release. This will activate just about any special move and actually makes the combat more fun for casual fans of the series. The response time actually feels good and works well for this game. Performing special moves has never been easier or more fun and will likely appeal to gamers who perhaps did not play previous versions of the game and don’t want to invest the time to learn all the intricacies of the combat system.
Not all is unicorns and rainbows though; there are a few hiccups here and there to concern yourself with. For starters the standard attacks such as high and low punches are performed using the d-pad on the Wii remote. This is just as uncomfortable as it sounds and it really detracts from the lightning fast gameplay. The second issue is that while the game recognizes a majority of your motions, even while laying the controller on your lap, it does tend to ignore some of them from time to time. This can be a huge downfall in a game that can be decided by one wrong move.
The last piece of the combat puzzle is obviously the fatality system. Now we all know that over the years MK has sort of gotten a bad reputation for being too focused on these finishing moves and less on the actual gameplay. With Armageddon the team has completely re-worked the entire fatality system that fans will either love or absolutely despise. Instead of having specific finishers for each character you can now create your own custom fatality so to speak. This is done by inputting a series of gestures with the Wii remote or button taps on the controller that will take the brutality even further. While inventive this system all but takes away the subtle charm of having specific finishers for each character. I guess it was simpler to add one common type for this amount of combatants than try to create new ones for each one individually, but as a long time fan I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.
Outside of the core Kombat (yes I am going to spell it like that everytime) you also have a bevy of other modes that have become tradition for the series. The first is a returning version of the Konquest mode. This is basically a mini action game where you follow the story of Taven as he ventures through a series of encounters that will unlock new items and other goodies. The second addition is a Mario Kart-style game where you can pick a combatant and race around familiar environments from the MK universe all while delivering pain to your opponents via special moves and power-ups. While both of these modes are a very nice addition, they do feel a bit tacked on; however fans of the series will find the diversion a nice change of pace.
Of course the core of any fighting game is its multi-player, and while Armageddon offers it via same console, a lack of any sort of online mode hurts the score more than anything else. Seeing as the original game released ten months ago on both the PS2 and Xbox had an online function, and even offered you the ability to play the kart racing across the web further drives home just how much not having this feature hurts. It is obvious that the lack of online is due to Nintendo’s lack of online focus, which at this point is becoming less and less of a valid excuse.
Visually the game is the same as it was on the PS2 and Xbox a year ago. The arenas are vast and detailed and the fighters sport some solid animation and detail. The backgrounds are also interactive which makes the battleground much more appealing than your standard square arena. The frame rate runs at a solid 60 FPS without ever skipping a beat and the game supports 480p and widescreen for those of you fortunate enough to have the cables and a proper TV to display it on. The music and sounds are standard fare for the series and the presentation is about what you would expect from the MK universe. Overall the package is more than acceptable on every front minus a lack of online support.
Mortal Kombat Armageddon is the most feature-rich version of the series to date, not to mention the best fighting game currently available on Nintendo’s newest console. With a ton of fighters to choose from, loads of extra content and intuitive motion controls this version is more than worth the price of admission. If you have already conquered the game in previous outings there isn’t much here to deem a second purchase, but if you have yet to dive into the realm of Armageddon there has never been a better time. It’s only crime comes from a lack of online support, but hopefully that will be ironed out before we see the next chapter in the series when it drops next fall.