The Lin Kuei ninja named Sub-Zero breaks into the Shaolin Temple to steal The Map of Elements for a sorcerer named Quan Chi, in which he succeeds. Next, the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei rents out Sub-Zero's services a second time for Quan Chi; his new mission is to steal the amulet of Shinnok from the four elemental guardians appointed by God of Thunder Raiden. Why all of this trouble for the amulet? Sub-Zero's clan doesn't care in the least, as long as they're paid for the mission. -summary
Long before 1997 came around, the Mortal Kombat franchise had already become a household name in the world of one on one fighters. Fighting games had a notorious reputation for pretty much being story-less. They all had something to do with a tournament. Mortal Kombat had something to do with a tournament as well, in fact, a lot to do with it. However, unlike every fighting game in the market it actually had some type of story, and by this time the third game had came around taking full advantage of that story. The developers of MK, Midway, decided to get even more creative by taking the Mortal Kombat 3 fighting engine, combining it with 2D side-scroller adventure platforming, and then adding more story driven background. All they needed was the character; they chose fan favorite Sub-Zero.
Sub-Zero proved to be the most fascinating, and some of the reason was because of his moves list that saw him freezing opponents with his ice technique; but his backstory was interesting also, he apparently had a feud with the ninja Scorpion and you learn in the game Sub-Zero killed him at some point, and there was actually a reason behind it which plays into the story of this game. Now around this time, Midway had been working on Mortal Kombat 4, and that game featured a new threat with characters that played into Sub-Zero's origin being Fujin, Quan Chi, and Shinnok. Midway decided to bring the storylines of MK 1 and MK4 together to create Mortal Kombat Mythologies, which acted as a prequel to both of those games. As a MK fan with Sub-Zero being my favorite, plus being a fan of platformers and fighters, I was looking forward to this game. Now what seemed like a fantastic idea on paper just didn't seem to work out once the gears began to turn. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is a very bad game that has been considered unplayable by non fans of the series, and it even managed to divide fans of the franchise. If that's not an epic fail, then it's pretty close.
Released in 1997, MKM: Sub-Zero is an ARPG (Action Role-Playing Game), 2D side scroller that follows Sub-Zero across eight missions. The game is broken up into two parts. The first half of the game follows Sub-Zero as he battles the guardians for Shinnok's amulet. This section is copy and paste, you traverse through the stages searching for two or three keys to move into the next area. The second half is pretty much more the same, as it follows him into the Nether-realm pursuing Quan Chi on Raiden's orders. As a fan of the game I was deep into the story then, and even last night I still found it just as fascinating. Unfortunately, the story and plot is just all this game has to offer.
Nearly all of the games problems are in its game play. The game uses the fighting engine of Mortal Kombat 3, which means Sub-Zero has full access to his 5-hit rush combo and ability to run. The enemies have this as well, along with the overly cheesy game mechanics of MK3. In the later stages, it will seem like the enemies can actually read your mind, because they will be able to counter most of your attacks, especially when you try to jump in on them. Later in the game, jump kicking is completely useless because they're going to always beat you to the jump kick, and this only adds to the other frustrating ailments of the game. Respawning enemies are also a problem and other unfair advantages concerning them; one moment that stands out takes place in the Water Stage, where you have to traverse through several tunnels which leads to a rope for you to either climb up or down. On some occasions enemies will appear out of nowhere and block your path. If you leap to them, sometimes they will hit you back and you will grab the rope. If you land the blow, then you miss the platform and fall to your death. You just have to hope that when you return to certain areas these bastards aren't there.
The stages biggest problem is that they are bland and repetitive once you to start to make progress. You will come into the exact same hazards over and over with very little variation. You begin to notice the lack of creativity very quick; many people go on about the excessive difficulty of the stages themselves. I will admit that late in the game, you will find yourself making blind leaps because there's no way to tell where to go, but the hardest stage is no doubt the Wind Stage which happens to be the second. No joke, the second stage is the hardest in the game and most people will quit right here. There are many moving platforms that rely on the trickiest timing I have ever seen in a platformer to date. You're going to suffer loads of falling deaths before you figure this part out, but at least on the bright side all following stages are easier when compared to this, because either they're trial and error or they offer no challenge at all.
Surprisingly, outside of the second boss in the Wind Stage being Fujin, the boss battles are pretty easy. Fujin is hard because he actually has a final desperation attack that will kill you instantly, and there's only two ways around it. The third boss battle introduces an interesting twist, while just about everything else relies on either hit and run, patience, and being able to land your combo for max damage. The boss battles are the only time I find the game fun.
The RPG aspect of the game is pretty cool, as Sub-Zero gains experience by landing combos which unlocks his moves from the main game. He has to earn his ice projectile, and the additional moves he picks up are fun to use; such as ground ice which causes enemies to slip, the ice clone that freezes enemies when they touch it, and the deep freeze which allows Sub-Zero to shatter lesser enemies into pieces. Unfortunately, you can't grind and earn all of your moves in one stage, because there's a limit of experience points you can earn per stage. His ability to use ice can run out when the gauge is depleted, but it refills quickly though.
On paper the game has everything it needs to succeed, but the game play issues are too severe to ignore; extremely cheap deaths galore, cheap and annoying AI, and I'll be getting into the terrible controls and set up.
The developers catered this towards those familiar with MK3, which means this game is not for everyone to pick up and play. Sub-Zero has his 5-hit combo that runs across all four attack buttons; being high and low punches, and high low kicks, but the controls are not that responsive since you have to be very strict with the button prompts, and landing the combos is something you can't mess up because the line between life and death is too damn thin. You screw up on the AI, bosses and final stage enemies especially, well they are going to whale on your ass. You do have health items but you have to select them in the easy to access item menu. Performing the special moves are surprisingly very responsive, the half circle movements perform nicely, but it's a shame the controls are hampered by a 180 degree turn button.
Sub-Zero has to be manually turned around with the top shoulder button, and this really does put you at a disadvantage, because sometimes you need to turn around in mid flight and it doesn't respond all the time. The AI is tough enough as it is, so adding another worry like this is overwhelming. Plus he also suffers from a floaty jump that will get you killed too. Between the game play problems and controls, the less patient will be turning their controllers into scrap.
The game uses the same digitized visuals of the main game series, in an attempt to make the characters more life like. Some of the 3D rendered character designs like Sub-Zero look really good, while the grunts, such as Shaolin monks and Nether-realm fighters have limited variety in their ranks. The only thing that sets them apart are their weapons really. Some of the bosses like Fujin and Quan Chi look great with original designs, while the water guardian is pretty bland, and the fire guardian looks like Raiden being burned alive. The animation is a mix bag too, while some of the strikes look a little stiff, special moves on the part of Sub-Zero look nice enough, but I just couldn't help notice how dead the lower half of Sub-Zero's body looks when he's climbing a rope.
The backgrounds maintain that dark and edgy ambiance of the game. The Wind Stage stands out here, with some very dark clouds in the setting as if death is only two steps behind Sub-Zero. The main issue here is the repetitive feel though, everything looks the same with little additional details that only creep up indicating you just hit a key area. There are also FMV's (Full Motion Videos) during the cut-scenes, with some overly hammy acting from real actors. Quan Chi does come off as one spooky looking guy though. The sound effects for the blows remind me of the main game with the bashing sound, and when Sub-Zero falls from high places and dies, he sounds like a pile of bricks hitting the floor. I wouldn't doubt if his body print would be left behind if his remains were ever dragged off. I like the traditional Chinese instrumentals made up of light drums and flutes. It reflects the slow methodical approach you should take in the game, while later on it uses a more upbeat techno score.
Well, there are plenty of cheats for this game, such as unlocking all of your moves from scratch, and beginning with loads of health items. But none of this makes the game any easier though. Although the death traps can be figured out, the game play, AI, and control issues never cease to be frustrating. Outside of serious MK fans, I can't see many people coming back to this after beating it.
If you played the recent MK game for today's consoles and decided to backtrack what you missed, well, you didn't miss anything here. I have nothing against very hard games, but this is hard because of bad programming and not really due to enhancing your skills. If you hate games that sound like this, plus aimed at a specific audience, being the hardcore MK fan, then MKM: Sub-Zero will be a nightmare for you. Believe me, most players will die within one minute of the first stage, and will run find themselves having to continue several times before they finish that stage. For many people, this was nearly three hours of pure frustation.
-Music, story, atmospheric
-Horrid game play, bad controls
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