As I mentioned in the previous article, Mortal Kombat was not in a good place at the turn of the millennium and grew less and less relevant as other games stepped up to take its place in the spotlight. Fighting games in general were becoming increasingly niche, arcades were dying as home consoles were getting more advanced, and even the good old moral crusaders you could previously count on for free publicity had moved on from MK to other targets.
One of these new poster boys for video game controversy was a minor 2001 release called Grand Theft Auto III, you may have heard of it. Perhaps the video game industry and the tastes of the audience had changed so much that Mortal Kombat was now completely irrelevant?
Well, turns out that wasn’t quite what was happening. After a few years in the wilderness, Mortal Kombat returned with much fanfare and an awful nu-metal theme in 2002 with the release of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube.
This was the first all-new MK fighting game since 1997 and the first of the main series not to have an arcade version. While it still didn’t skyrocket MK’s popularity back to 1995 levels or anything and, quite frankly, wasn’t all that good, Deadly Alliance was generally well received when it came out and did manage to re-establish Mortal Kombat as a major title in the sixth generation of video game consoles.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (previously known as Mortal Kombat Vengeance and Mortal Kombat: Dark Alliance, the latter was of course already taken by Baldur’s Gate) is a complete overhaul of the series’ mechanics. The old engine that was still used for MK4/Gold has finally been thrown out and replaced with a fully 3D fighting engine and motion-captured animations based on real-life fighting styles, with each character having two unarmed styles and one weapon style.
The pace of the gameplay has become slow and methodical, and the old high punch/low punch/high kick/low kick layout has been discarded in favor of an Attack 1–4 scheme. The run button has been removed, but the game now has a backdash and some characters can evade attacks with a quick backflip.
Chain combos return with a twist, as each fighter can now switch between different fighting styles by pressing the style change button (L1 on PS2, left trigger on Xbox and GameCube) during combos. The advanced style branch combos, as the game calls them, are how you do the really big damage in this game as the most advanced ones can inflict upwards of 40%. However, they are a massive pain in the ass to actually pull off against an opponent who is fighting back, so you might be better off just repeating a few shorter combos to deal damage.
The weapons aren’t the mostly irrelevant gimmick they were in MK4. In Deadly Alliance, each character’s weapon is a full-fledged fighting style of its own, with its own combos, and weapon attacks do noticeably more damage than unarmed hits. You also take more damage while in the weapon stance, which theoretically balances things out a bit but the difference is quite minor in practice. Many characters can also use their weapons to impale the opponent — losing access to the weapon while it’s lodged in the opponent’s guts but causing damage until the round ends. Some kombatants can also taunt the opponent to heal themselves a bit, or to power up their next attack.
While Mortal Kombat 4 was (rightfully) criticized for not offering anything new aside from some blocky 3D graphics and a couple of token gimmicks, Deadly Alliance arguably goes too far in the other direction. It doesn’t feel anything like the classic MK games, and the gameplay has gone from Benny Hill mode to slow and plodding with stiff animations.
It’s not totally terrible, and back in the day it was enjoyable enough. However, I think most fans of the series would agree that Mortal Kombat really does work better as a straight-up 2D fighter. The arenas themselves are circular and have some sort of a force field surrounding them, although some of them also feature hazards such as statues spitting acid at fighters who get too close.
The fighting styles are a neat idea, but having two unarmed styles doesn’t add much to the game and the system could’ve been streamlined. The increased emphasis on dial-a-combos isn’t necessarily an improvement either, especially considering the fact there is no combo breaker mechanic whatsoever. If you’re stuck in a combo, you’re taking all that damage and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.
The new graphics engine is okay and looked quite presentable when the game came out, although the animation is rather stiff and robotic as stated before. The art style is a bit awkward at times as well, as some character designs don’t look right at all. The fighters’ faces get some bruises and wounds during rounds, and someone spent a disturbing amount of time working on the, uh, jiggle physics for the ladies (and Bo’ Rai Cho).
The story is told via a very nice CG animated intro with actual cinematography and production values. Even though the character models themselves aren’t great by today’s standards, it’s still worlds better than anything we saw in Mortal Kombat 4. Quan Chi, still in possession of Shinnok’s original amulet after getting his hands on it in Mythologies, manages to escape Netherrealm and ends up back in Outworld, in a chamber that turns out to be the final resting place of the long dead and forgotten Dragon King and his army.
Quan Chi learns that these mummified soldiers of the Dragon King would be invincible if someone were to revive them, but in order to do so he needs souls from strong warriors. Of course, when it comes to soul-related business, there’s one guy you really gotta call up, and that would be Shang Tsung himself. Quan Chi promises the Outworld sorcerer eternal life and all the souls he wants in exchange for his help, and the titular Deadly Alliance is formed.
Before they can get on with their actual plan, the two sorcerers need to take care of the only two people that have the power to stop them. First of these two is Shao Kahn himself, weakened after his defeat in MK3 but still very much alive and in charge of Outworld. Why not just keep Kahn dead instead of retconning him to be alive just so he can be killed again?
Anyway, the Deadly Alliance swears false allegiance to the Konqueror and murders him. Spoiler: he’s not actually dead after all, but we’ll get to that particular retcon later. With the emperor out of the way, there is now only one person that can disrupt the Alliance’s plans: Liu Kang, the Grand Champion of Mortal Kombat and protector of Earthrealm. Shang Tsung disguises himself as Kung Lao and attacks Liu Kang while the Shaolin monk is practicing at the Wu Shi Academy.
The chosen hero of Mortal Kombat fights well, but doesn’t realize Quan Chi is helping Shang Tsung and is taken down with a surprise attack.
Liu Kang is dead and his soul has been consumed by Shang Tsung, and the game hasn’t even started yet. The sorcerers return to Outworld and begin to revive the ancient army, and with their strongest enemies out of the way there’s just about nothing stopping them from ruling all of the realms. They decide to hold a fighting tournament in Outworld, which is naturally just a ruse and the fighters foolish enough to show up would just get their souls absorbed and put inside a mummified soldier.
Raiden sees that things are going south, so he relinquishes his status as an Elder God and gathers the remaining Earthrealm warriors for a desperate attempt to stop the Deadly Alliance before it’s too late. Now, as we’ve already established, the Dragon King’s army is supposed to be invincible so this is definitely not going to be an easy task.
Deadly Alliance has a total of 23 playable characters, including the two secret ones. The new characters are fairly unremarkable for the most part and a couple of them are downright terrible, but there’s a couple of new faces here that have actually become fan favorites and worthy inclusions to the Mortal Kombat cast. In a rather baffling decision considering this is a fighting game, only twelve of the characters are unlocked at the start. One of the two GBA ports, Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition, also has a couple of exclusive characters.
Fighting styles: Mantis/Shaolin Fist/Broadsword
Since this game no longer has an obvious main hero, I wasn’t sure who should be shown off first. Kung Lao is, of course, Liu Kang’s Shaolin monk buddy, so I figured I might as well start with him.
As you might expect, he wants to beat the shit out of the Deadly Alliance for killing Liu Kang, but there’s no chance he can do it without a lot of extra training. As such, he travels to Outworld and seeks out Master Bo’ Rai Cho, the man who taught Liu Kang the flying kick he used to defeat Shang Tsung in his first MK tournament. Bo’ Rai Cho trains him to the best of his abilities, and the two journey further into Outworld to stop the Deadly Alliance.
Don’t worry, he’s still got his hat and knows how to use it. He only wears it with his alternate costume, though.
Fighting styles: Karate/Jeet Kune Do/Nunchaku
According to his in-game bio, Johnny “had been fed up with the lame writing on his current movie “Mortal Kombat: The Death of Johnny Cage”, in which his character repeatedly died and was resurrected.” No mention of his actual death and resurrection is made at any point, so I suppose this is their way to retcon the whole thing. Sure, okay. Throw it on the pile.
Johnny joins Raiden and the rest of the good guys on their journey to Outworld. Because he’s Johnny Cage, he parachuted to the location they were supposed to meet up at, which would be the beach outside Shang Tsung’s abandoned island fortress.
Cage still has his shadow kick and force balls, as well as a sliding uppercut that can be used to duck under projectiles. I realized just now that he no longer has his nut punch. What the hell? This game officially sucks.
Fighting styles: Kenpo/Tae Kwon Do/Kali Sticks
After finishing a mission with her team, Sonya is informed by Jax that someone has destroyed the Outer World Investigation Agency’s portal chamber and that there’s now two OIA agents stranded in Outworld. Sonya and Jax join the other Earthrealm warriors and Raiden at Shang Tsung’s old island fortress to plan their next move and help the thunder god and fellow fighters in their attempt to take down the Deadly Alliance. No matter what it takes, Sonya is going to rescue the agents and bring them home.
Sonya’s special moves are a flying kick and a poison kiss that stuns the opponent. Even though most of her old special moves are gone, she does have some very effective combos.
Fighting styles: Muay Thai/Judo/Tonfa
When a traitor destroys the OIA headquarters, Jax barely escapes with his life. He swears to catch the culprit and kill them for what they did to his friends, and when he travels to Outworld with Raiden and the other warriors he discovers that the traitor Hsu Hao (sighhhh…) is now working for the Deadly Alliance.
Jax is now capable of using his submachine gun in kombat and says “awwww yeaahhhh” whenever he does. He also has an alternate outfit with normal human arms. Can he remove those metal implants like in the MK: Annihilation film, or is that costume just non-canon?
Fighting styles: Tai Chi/San Shou/Katana
Easily the coolest and most popular character to come out of this game, Kenshi is a blind swordsman with telekinetic powers. Years ago, Shang Tsung found out Kenshi was a descendant of an ancient line of warrior kings and wanted to consume the souls of those kings. At this time, Kenshi was a wandering fighter who only strove to be the best and had no idea of his ancestry, and Shang Tsung (disguised as an old man named Song) convinced him that a warrior as great as him needed an equally great sword… and he knew just the thing.
Kenshi and Song journeyed to the ancient tomb where Song had said the sword was located, and Kenshi proceeded to unseal the well that apparently contained the sword. This well happened to be the resting place of the souls of his ancestors, which overwhelmed Kenshi and left him permanently blinded. Shang Tsung absorbed the souls and left Kenshi for dead.
However, it turns out the sword of Kenshi’s ancestors actually was in the well. It spoke to Kenshi and guided him out of the tomb while also revealing that Kenshi was the descendant of the warrior kings. Kenshi spent the following years training, honing his senses and looking for the man who had deceived him. Eventually, his talents were discovered by OIA agents Jax and Sonya, and Kenshi joined the agency soon after.
While on an assignment to locate a missing agent in Outworld, Special Agent Kenshi came across Ermac and freed him from Shao Kahn’s mind control. Ermac thanked his rescuer by training him at the art of telekinesis, including teaching him the Telekinetic Slam.
Kenshi eventually discovered the Deadly Alliance’s plans, but was unable to contact HQ because of its recent destruction. He was going to have to face the Deadly Alliance alone, which was a problem because the sorcerers already knew he was there and had actually sent one of their henchmen to take care of him.
Fighting styles: Ninjitsu/Sambo/Pulse Blade
The former Unit LK-4D4 had his soul restored with the help of Sonya and Jax, and Cyrax is now Special Agent Cyrax of the Outer World Investigation Agency. On his latest scouting mission to Outworld, Cyrax was attacked by a reptilian creature and his arm console was damaged in the encounter. While he did manage to fend off the attacker, his inter-realm teleporter was now busted and he was stuck in Outworld until he found another way to get out.
Eventually, Cyrax met a vampire named Nitara and struck a deal with her: if Cyrax retrieves an orb from a lava pit and brings it to her, she will return him to Earthrealm. Cyrax didn’t fully trust the vampire but accepted the offer anyway, as he didn’t really have a choice. Even though Cyrax’s cyborg body is able to withstand extreme conditions for a short time, his sensors were fried almost immediately and he had to blindly grab for the orb. He managed to find it, though, and handed it over to Nitara who then sent him back to Earthrealm by creating a portal.
Cyrax can still throw bombs, but his energy net is gone. He can, however, extend a huge sawblade from his chest compartment and has a new spin kick move. Cyrax’s unmasked alternate outfit implies parts of his body (including his arms) are still human, although that doesn’t stop him from pulling his opponent into his chest compartment and grinding their body into pieces.
FIghting styles: Eagle Claw/Ba Gua/Steel Fans
Leading the Edenian army’s offensive against the weakened Shao Kahn, Kitana made an alliance with the Shokan armies of Outworld. However, this didn’t last long, as Goro was killed in battle and the now leaderless Shokan spiraled into chaos. Edenia eventually won anyway, due to the death of Shao Kahn at the hands of “unknown assailants”.
Kitana thought she could finally return home and live in peace, but then the Deadly Alliance’s undead soldiers began to show up because Edenia just can’t catch a break. Her army engaged them but were cut down, and their souls left their bodies to fly towards a bright green beacon in the distance. Kitana also learns of Liu Kang’s death and secretly wishes he had joined her in Edenia years ago.
Kitana has been hit hard by the gameplay changes, and she is nowhere near as good as she used to be in previous games. Her only special moves are the “Pretty Kick” (basically just a flying kick) and the fan lift, which isn’t even a lift any more as it only drags the opponent towards her horizontally. I suppose that makes it easier to start a chain combo.
Bo’ Rai Cho
Fighting styles: Drunken Fist/Mi Zong/Jojutsu
Liu Kang’s old master is originally from Outworld, which means he couldn’t enter the Mortal Kombat tournament because that would have counted in Outworld’s favor. Bo’ Rai Cho is a master of the Drunken Fist style and apparently hangs out in Earthrealm because our booze is much better than the swill they have in Outworld. When Kung Lao informs him of Liu Kang’s death, he trains Kung Lao for the coming battle against the Deadly Alliance and accompanies the monk to Outworld.
Bo’ Rai Cho has been described as “too low-brow for Mortal Kombat” and one of the worst characters ever due to his tendency to projectile vomit during fights (with the opponent slipping on the puddles) and fart when he jumps or changes fighting styles. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of him either, but believe me, he’s nowhere near the worst character in Deadly Alliance.
Fighting styles: Baji Quan/Lui He Ba Fa/Sai
Li Mei is an Outworlder whose village was forced into slavery to build a palace fortress around Shang Tsung’s soulnado (a portal to the heavens that the bad guys use to tap into infinite souls). Her fighting spirit caught the eye of Quan Chi, and the sorcerer promised her that her people would be freed if she managed to win a fighting tournament. If she lost, her people would remain slaves and she would serve the Deadly Alliance forever.
Li Mei actually wins the tournament, but in a shocking turn of events, Quan Chi and Shang Tsung turn out to be assholes who never intended to keep their word. Li Mei’s soul was the last one the sorcerers needed for their undead army, and so she finds herself trapped inside a mummified soldier… forever. Or at least until the next game, thanks to Bo’ Rai Cho’s timely interruption.
Li Mei isn’t exactly a fan favorite character, but I don’t mind her. She has some really good special moves and combos, and she fights with sais which reminds me of Mileena. I quite like her storyline as well.
Fighting styles: Shotokan/Dragon/Kori Blade
Sub-Zero has taken control of what was left of the Lin Kuei (basically nothing) and is trying to reform the clan as a force for good instead of dickbag assassins who rip people’s spines out for fun and profit. When Raiden shows up and asks for his help against the Deadly Alliance, Sub-Zero joins the god of thunder to show the world that the Lin Kuei is no longer the corrupt and evil organization it was under its previous leadership. Usually, a Grandmaster wouldn’t go on such a dangerous mission, but Sub-Zero thinks it’s necessary if he wants to earn the respect of his students. His freezing powers have been boosted by the Dragon Medallion he obtained a while ago, so he is ready for anything.
For some reason, Sub-Zero looks like a Sub-Zero’s dad in this game. This look wasn’t too popular among MK fans, but at least there’s the alternate ninja costume he can wear. Sub-Zero has apparently advanced way past such beginner moves as the ice slide and the ice puddle, so now he just has his regular ice blast and a different slide that is more like a shoulder charge. He’s also upgraded from ripping out your spine to ripping out your entire skeleton.
Fighting styles: Tong Bei/Yuan Yang/Ice Daggers
When Sub-Zero took over as the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, he held a tournament to recruit the best fighters he could find. Frost won the tournament handily, and Sub-Zero was so impressed with her abilities that he broke Lin Kuei tradition and made her his personal apprentice. Frost learned quickly and her freezing powers grew strong, but she also got increasingly arrogant at the same time.
Frost’s training was interrupted when Raiden came to ask for Sub-Zero’s help. Sub-Zero took her with him, hoping that she could learn some humility and perspective from actual battle experience. This did not happen, and in fact Frost had joined her master on the journey to Outworld due to her own selfish reasons.
It turns out Frost had wanted to be the Grandmaster herself all along. She betrays and attacks Sub-Zero and takes the Dragon Medallion, but doesn’t have the strength and discipline to control its power and is consumed by her own freezing ability.
Frost has the ground ice and slide moves Sub-Zero no longer bothers with, and some of her chain combos are completely insane. She also has an alternate outfit that makes her look a lot like Killer Frost from the DC comic books.
Fighting styles: Nan Chuan/Jujutsu/Staff
Poor old Raiden. Just when he became an Elder God and thought he could ascend to the heavens and play golf with his fellow Elder Gods (or whatever it is they do up there), Shang Tsung and Quan Chi just had to go and murder Liu Kang and threaten the realms again. Time for the god of thunder to head back down to Earth and gather the warriors once more. He’s getting too old for this shit, I think.
The animation for his electrocution grab move is MK4 levels of hilarious.
Fighting styles: Hapkido/Pi Gua/Ninja Sword
Scorpion was having a blast beating the shit out of Quan Chi in the Netherrealm, but unfortunately the sorcerer managed to escape with some assistance from two Oni (demons from the Netherrealm, basically). Scorpion followed Quan Chi through the portal and ended up in Outworld, but in a different location. Not that that’ll ever stop him from hunting down that bald bastard who killed his family and clan.
What does stop him, though, are the two Oni who have also followed Quan Chi to Outworld. They ambush Scorpion and toss him in the soulnado, which rips his hell-spawned body apart. Scorpion seemingly getting killed off in his ending would be a lot more dramatic if everyone didn’t know that Ed Boon loves him.
Scorpion doesn’t have his teleport punch in this game, which is just as well because half the time it would just teleport him into the exact same spot and get him killed. He does, however, get a new flip kick and is able to summon hellfire. And of course, the spear is still there, even though they changed the input for some reason.
Fighting styles: Leopard/Fu Jow Pai/Kama
Nitara is a vampire, on a quest to separate her original realm from Outworld. In order to do this, she needs to get her hands on the orb that binds the realms together. She knows where the orb is, but is unable to actually access it because there is no way for her to survive in a lake of molten lava. One day, the cyborg Cyrax shows up and Nitara sees an opportunity.
Of course, the vampire knows that Cyrax probably isn’t going to wander into a lava pit out of the goodness of his heart (or whatever cyborgs have instead of a heart) and she needs to give him something in return for his services. So, she hires Reptile to attack Cyrax and break his teleporter. Once that is done, she’ll introduce herself to the cyborg and offer to help him get out of Outworld.
The plan actually works and Nitara gets the orb. After sending Cyrax back to Earth, she smashes the orb and frees her realm, waking up back home.
Being a vampire, Nitara can suck blood from her opponents. She can also spit blood back at them and glide for short distances. In case you’re wondering how she can fight on stages that take place in daylight, the explanation is that only Earthrealm’s sun harms vampires. Obviously.
Fighting styles: Hung Gar/Crab/Kirehashi
After Shao Kahn is killed by Shang Tsung and Quan Chi while Reptile is distracted by Nitara (for her plan to work, she needs Shao Kahn to be killed and lures Reptile away from his master), the Saurian desperately seeks a new master. He ends up serving Nitara, who manipulates him and Cyrax into a fight.
Eventually, Reptile realizes he has been fooled and his master died as a result of the vampire’s plan (to be fair, the plan probably didn’t make any kind of difference except that Reptile most likely would have died had he been there), so he hunts down Cyrax and Nitara in an effort to get his revenge. However, by the time he gets there, the two are gone and all that’s left is residual magical energy… and a dragon egg. The egg hatches and a beam of light hits Reptile, transforming him. The Dragon King lives again.
As you can see from his picture, Reptile has gone full Lizardman from Soulcalibur for this game. In the story, the change is explained as him devolving and becoming more beastly due to prolonged separation from his race. His in-game model looks goofy as hell, and the ridiculous crab walk he does while using his second fighting style doesn’t really help make him seem any more dignified. I never thought I’d say this, but bring back the palette-swap ninja look.
Fighting styles: Xing Yi/Aikido/Butterfly Knives
Kano was presumed dead after his encounter with Sonya during the events of MK3. The two fought on a rooftop and Kano was thrown off, and he would have died if Motaro hadn’t been observing the fight. The centaur healed him and threw him in prison for his failure, but Kano escaped when Sheeva killed Motaro. Kano and Sheeva came up with a plan to assassinate Shao Kahn, but Kano decided to turn on Sheeva at the last second and left her at the mercy of the Konqueror. For this, Kano was promoted to General in Kahn’s army.
Kano turned out to be a pretty damn good general and actually managed to repel the attack from the Edenians and Shokan, albeit with Goro’s death sending the Shokan ranks into disarray. He returned to Shao Kahn’s palace just in time to witness the attack from the Deadly Alliance. Once Kahn had been taken down, Kano emerged from the shadows to offer his services to the Alliance.
Everyone loved the late Trevor Goddard’s performance as Kano in the 1995 MK movie, so now Kano is officially Australian. (Goddard wasn’t, he was actually British and pretended to be Australian to land a certain role, and it stuck). One of his combos, “Ear to Ear” is a reference to a line in the film. By the way, that thing he wears around his neck is a lock of Sonya’s hair that he cut off during their rooftop fight. Not creepy in the slightest.
Fighting styles: Long Fist/Wing Chun/Hookswords
Mavado is the leader of the Red Dragon clan, which is kind of like the Black Dragon but red. Actually, the Black Dragon was formed when a bunch of Red Dragon members didn’t like the clan’s code restraining them and went off to start their own, presumably with blackjack and hookers. Mavado seems to prefer using his intelligence rather than brute force, and at one point he seemingly killed Kabal and stole his hookswords.
Mavado is hired by the Deadly Alliance to hunt down Kenshi in exchange for a fight with Kano, the last survivor of the Black Dragon. He does exactly that and defeats Kenshi, who is nearly killed as a result. Presumably, he also defeats Kano, as the latter is said to have been in prison the next time he shows up in an MK game.
Honestly, this guy is kind of boring. He zips around with silly grappling hooks and that’s about it, his only special move is a grappling hook strike. His alternate outfit makes him look like Strider Hiryu, though, and I wish they had kept his original concept that looked like a matador.
Fighting styles: Shuai Chiao/Wrestling/Sun-Moon Blades
I could say that this guy is unpopular, but that would be the understatement of the year. The MK fans hate Hsu Hao. The MK developers and writers hate Hsu Hao. Nobody likes Hsu Hao. Seriously, take one look at this worthless doofus. Is that a guy you want to play as in Mortal Kombat?
But hey, maybe he’s better in gameplay? Not really, no. He has a couple of decent combos and that’s it, his special moves (all two of them) are godawful, although I suppose that he might not be completely shit gameplay-wise if you really want to play a grappler character. And even then you’re playing as Hsu fucking Hao, so you lose no matter what. The best thing about Hsu Hao is the fact his alternate outfit makes him look like a giant baby, especially combined with his Shuai Chiao stance.
In the story, Hsu Hao is Mavado’s henchman who is hired to infiltrate the Outer World Investigation Agency. Somehow, Jax and Sonya don’t tell him to go fuck himself the second he walks through the door and he completes his mission, infiltrating the agency and destroying the HQ. Jax eventually catches up with him and rips out his artificial heart, giving him a “most painful death”.
Fighting styles: Netherealm(sic)/Oni/Iron Club
Drahmin used to be a cruel warlord in Outworld hundreds of years ago. When he died, he was cast down to Netherrealm for his crimes and was tortured until he completely lost his sanity and humanity. Eventually, he accepted his fate and was turned into Drahmin, the Oni Tormentor. When Quan Chi was running from Scorpion, he enlisted the help of Drahmin and fellow Oni Moloch by promising them freedom.
Drahmin’s concept is kind of cool, but unfortunately he sucks quite hard. He’s painfully slow and doesn’t have any chain combos, and his special moves aren’t particularly good either so he’s just kind of terrible. He also has a swarm of flies constantly buzzing around him, which is incredibly annoying. And why does he wear pro wrestling trunks? Is he going to make a surprise appearance at the Royal Rumble?
Fighting styles: Tang Soo Do/Escrima/Broadswords
The sorcerer has a new look that may remind you of some other video game character. Indeed, when God of War came out, I went “oh, nice to see Quan Chi’s still getting work.”
I think his storyline has been talked about enough in this article, so let’s just get to the gameplay stuff. Quan Chi still has his awesome green skull fireballs and his Rising Star kick, but the most memorable thing about him in this game is his fatality. His leg rip fatality was the best one in MK4 and possibly the entire series, but now he has the worst one of them all — he grabs the opponent’s head and pulls on it, stretching the neck to a ridiculous length. This was apparently added very late in development and no one liked it, but there was no time to make a new fatality for him so it got to stay.
Quan Chi and Shang Tsung are fought one after the other (in separate fights) in the game’s arcade mode. Which one of them acts as the final boss depends on your chosen character, but neither is particularly hard to defeat.
Fighting styles: Snake/Crane/Straight Sword
No Mortal Kombat character has been hit harder by the move to 3D than Shang Tsung. His defining trait in the 2D games was his ability to morph into other kombatants, but that was no longer feasible with 3D models. So, now he only has some fireballs (some of which are shot in a circle because 3D!!) and a soul steal move that lets him regain a bit of health.
Just like Quan Chi, he’s fought as an underwhelming boss at the end of the arcade mode.
Before you get to the Deadly Alliance, you have to take care of this fine fellow here. Moloch the Oni Destroyer is this game’s horribly powerful sub-boss that will clobber you into submission. His thing is that nothing seems to faze him, projectiles only stagger him a tiny bit and his punches (with a goddamn wrecking ball in his palm) go through mostly everything.
I did manage to get a flawless victory on him, though. Used a quick attack that interrupted his strikes and then spammed a simple chain combo, although I doubt that would work on harder difficulties than “potato”.
Fighting styles: Hapkido/Jeet Kune Do/Xing Yi
One of the secret unlockable characters. Blaze is an elemental from Outworld, on a quest throughout the realms. His quest was interrupted when the long-dead Dragon King’s servants enslaved him with their magic and forced him to protect the last remaining Great Dragon Egg until it finally hatches and the Dragon King returns.
Blaze was first seen in the background of The Pit II in Mortal Kombat II, as a burning figure initially dubbed “Torch”. The name was changed to Blaze for Deadly Alliance in order to avoid copyright infringement. You know, Human Torch and all that.
He was a late addition to Deadly Alliance, which is why he doesn’t have his own fighting styles or a fatality.
Fighting styles: Tai Chi/Karate/Tae Kwon Do
The other unlockable character is a joke and Carlos Pesina homage more than anything else. He is a motion capture actor working on Johnny Cage’s latest movie and somehow ends up fighting on the side of the good guys during the events of this game.
GBA EXCLUSIVE CHARACTERS:
Fighting styles: Tae Kwon Do/Yuan Yang/Sai
When Shinnok attacked her, the demon Sareena lost her human form and was sent back to the fifth plane of the Netherrealm. She remained there in her demon form until she discovered an abandoned portal leading to Outworld. In Outworld, she learned to feed off the living aura of the realm and was now able to remain in human form without Quan Chi’s sorcery.
She later encounters Sub-Zero, who offers her asylum with the Lin Kuei because she helped his brother many years ago. There is a bit of a cliffhanger in her ending, as it states that Sub-Zero might soon discover it may not be a good idea to befriend a demon from the Netherrealm, while Sareena has a shifty look on her face. Obviously, it never leads to anything interesting or, indeed, anything at all.
Fighting styles: Ninjitsu/Sambo/Pulse Blade
Sektor was always a ruthless killing machine, but then his programming got corrupted and he got even worse. The first thing he did was kill the Lin Kuei’s Grandmaster and try to take control of the clan, but Sub-Zero managed to defeat him. In the aftermath of the battle, Sektor flees to Japan and starts his own clan of cybernetic ninjas called the Tekunin.
Fighting styles: same as Scorpion, apparently, the wiki only lists Ninja Sword
The dark ninja from Netherrealm is still taking orders from Shao Kahn and turns out to be the person who kills Goro (albeit when the Shokan is already exhausted from battle, but still).
Whew! That was a lot of characters and storyline to cover. And it’ll only get worse from here… Oh, by the way, some of the cut characters included Tiamat and Baphomet. I’m sure they would’ve ended up being dumb and disappointing, but they at least sound a lot cooler than Hsu Hao and Mavado.
Aside from the fatalities, all the moves in this game are taught to you via the new Konquest Mode, an extended tutorial consisting of ten missions for each fighter. Konquest also gives you each character’s backstory in text boxes between the tutorial missions, and finishes with a mirror match with five rounds. Some of the text boxes also have some fairly amusing writing.
Not everyone has the same missions in Konquest; some characters have actual fights on top of the mirror match at the end, and others get to participate in a “Trial of Blood” in which you try to spill 50 or 80 pints of the opponent’s blood before the timer runs out (not too hard if your weapon can impale the opponent, entirely too hard if it can’t). Generally, Konquest teaches you your character’s basic attacks, basic combos, special moves and advanced combos, in that order.
The AI ramps up the closer you get to finishing Konquest with everyone, so by the time you’ve done 178 out of 218 missions it will be in full “fuck you player” mode and winning becomes massively difficult. Some of the harder style branch combos are an absolute nightmare to perform as well, especially if the opponent happens to be moving. You will never be using any of these in an actual fight in this game unless you have four hands, so I don’t know why Konquest insists you learn them in order to progress.
By completing missions in Konquest and winning fights, you earn Koins. These come in six different colors and are used to unlock content in the Krypt, which makes its very first appearance in this game.
Most of the coffins in the Krypt don’t have anything particularly interesting in them (mainly concept art and other junk), but some of them have unlockable characters, outfits and stages. The problem with all this is that you need to grind for Koins to earn all this stuff, and it just takes forever. You can’t even exchange Koins for different ones.
Of course, everybody knows that the best unlock in the Krypt is this:
While looking for this, I noticed there is an actual Cooking with Scorpion series on Youtube. Couldn’t bring myself to watch it yet, but some of the episodes seemed to feature Batman and Sub-Zero as special guests.
All your Koins and unlocks are tied to the profile you create when you start playing, and I think you’re supposed to be able to wager Koins against other profiles but I haven’t really messed around with that because who cares.
Speaking of wagering Koins, Test Your Might returns along with a new minigame called Test Your Sight, where an MK logo is hidden in one of several cups and you need to keep track of the one it’s in. Both of these are still nice diversions, and you can also set them to happen more or less often if you feel like it.
Deadly Alliance was released on all three sixth-gen consoles, and the versions are more or less identical from a technical standpoint and completely identical in content. The DualShock 2 is undoubtedly the best controller for this game’s control layout, though, so unless you’ve got an arcade stick the PS2 version is probably your best bet if you want to play this game for some reason.
I’ve mainly been playing the GameCube version for this article, and let me tell you — that d-pad is useless for Mortal Kombat. I can barely hit the easiest special moves with that thing, and I’m quite sure I could learn to throw fireballs in real life before completing Konquest on the GameCube controller. Then I tried playing the game on the Dolphin emulator and using a DualShock 4, which made things at least a hundred times better and more responsive.
As is probably evident by now, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance is not a great game by any means. It did, however, revive the series for the sixth generation of game consoles and spawned a couple of sequels using the same engine. Since the engine was more or less done, the MK team could focus on improving things and adding more content into the next game. And man, did they ever add more content into the next game.
Next: Puzzle Kombat? CHESS Kombat!? A 20-hour sort-of-RPG mode?!