Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon. The three mainline entries in the Mortal Kombat series that released during the 6th console generation. Despite each of them having their flaws, and the 3D era Mortal Kombats having a stigma around them, I still enjoyed them all.
They were fun, brutal, featured iconic characters, tried some new things, and could even be quite quirky at times. I’m a big fan of the Mortal Kombat franchise and if you are too then I hope you will accompany me as I delve into the somewhat wacky world of fire ninjas, decapitations, chess, kart racing and cooking videos that is the 6th gen MK games.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Mortal Kombat had already entered the world of 3D with Mortal Kombat 4 in the arcades, you know the one with ‘that’ picture of Quan Chi on the side of its cabinet. Anyway, home consoles were getting bigger and the next entry in the series would be primarily for home consoles as opposed to being ported to consoles from the arcade. Which was the trend with previous MK games.
2002 saw the release of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance in the NA region for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube along with a scaled-down version for the Game Boy Advance. PAL regions would see the game the following year.
Round 1, Fight!
I personally liked the gameplay in Deadly Alliance. I’ll admit it’s not anything that should be looked back at in awe for its greatness nor would it hold up in a competitive environment today. But I found it fun and I still think you could even today if you’re a long-time MK fan.
Deadly Alliance introduced the fighting style gameplay mechanic. This allowed players to switch between three different fighting styles on the fly. Character moves would change and the style switches could even be incorporated into combos. Although I’m not the biggest fan of this mechanic, I did think it was cool back in the day when I changed styles and whipped out a sword as Scorpion.
Speaking of weapons, some characters could embed their weapon into the opposing Kombatant, slowly draining their health over time. At the cost of losing the style with the weapon. It was an interesting idea but I found it resulted in too many people I faced playing like a coward. Sticking whatever weapon they could in me and then running. I’m guilty of this myself though, so I was part of the problem as well.
Deadly Alliance opens up with some bold story moves. In the space of roughly 3 minutes Quan Chi and Shang Tsung have teamed up and killed Mortal Kombat champion Liu Kang and main villain Shao Khan. I’ll give it props for having the guts to do this, but having Liu Kang killed by having his neck snapped when he wasn’t really looking feels lame. And unfortunately, the ‘Deadly Alliance’ that is Quan Chi and Shang Tsung fails to feel as threatening as Shao Khan did.
I can see why they killed Shoa Khan off though. It could feel stale and old going up against him again. But they could have handled his death better. Having the boss we have fought against on numerous occasions killed off-screen without much of a fight and not in some epic throw down makes him look like a chump.
Story Mode or Tutorial
The story mode in Deadly Alliance called ‘Konquest’ is poor, to say the least. It’s a glorified tutorial in reality. Each stage sees you learn moves and combos for characters while you read about the story in text between the stages.
With the power of the 6th gen consoles, an interesting world and characters, it was a missed opportunity to explore the MK universe. Especially after the opening this game had.
Test Your Might makes a return which was pretty sweet. A new test mini-game called Test Your Sight is part of the game too. An MK dragon logo gets placed under one of three cups and is moved around and you choose which one you believe the logo is under, a nice little addition.
Deadly Alliance contains eleven new characters, one of them (Moloch) is unplayable however and acts as a sub-boss.
The new characters are a mixed bag, characters like Frost are OK and I personally liked Kenshi. Some would say he was the best thing to come out of the 3D era Mortal Kombat games. But most of them were uninteresting and in Mavado’s case trying too hard to look edgy.
Unfortunately this was a trend with the 3D era MKs. Some new characters have returned and been expanded and fleshed out in newer games. Bo Rai Cho, Frost, and Kenshi have all been playable in at least one game post the 6th gen. Lei Mai who had made her first appearance in Deadly Alliance made a cameo in Mortal Kombat X.
The usual badass fan favourites return, meaning we did get some good characters. Staples like Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Raiden are instances of this. Some returning characters received questionable changes though.
Kung Lao’s default costume doesn’t have him wearing his iconic hat for some reason, his alternative costume put the hat back on his head and it looks much better. But the main offender here is Reptile. He’s literally been made into a full-blown lizard complete with tail. I’m glad later games managed to have Reptile look like, well, a reptile, while keeping the ninja look. Because this version will either leave you in hysterical laughter or with nightmares.
Tales From the Krypt
Throughout the game, you would earn various coins that act as the in-game currency which could be used to unlock bits and pieces such as concept art, arenas and alternative costumes.
One collectible in particular would unlock a watchable live-action video called Cooking With Scorpion. It’s only seventeen seconds long, but you’re bound to watch it more than once. It’s best if you watch it yourself to understand it and get the most out of it.
It was an unusual and unsuspecting thing to unlock. I still wonder how this came to be a thing and still think about the video itself today. I’m glad it’s up on YouTube so it can be watched by everyone whenever they want. It’s probably one of my favourite video game unlockables. It’s light-hearted, funny and feels out of place, in a good way.
At the end of the day, if the main menu isn’t the most interesting thing then it’s no big deal, but I will give credit when one is. So here I am praising Deadly Alliance’s main menu.
The menu takes place in some sort of fully 3D temple. And depending on what you pick in the menu, the game will travel to a different part of this temple. The sights and sounds give the main menu an atmosphere. It wasn’t something that had to be done but Midway did it. The well done main menu was welcomed, it made what is usually a mundane part of most games amusing.
It’s In Us All
I’m not sure how many people are aware of the marketing campaign for Deadly Alliance, which proved controversial here in the UK.
A live-action advert (commercial) was made which depicted people leaving bloody handprints on surfaces they touched. With the tag line ‘It’s In Us All’
One section had a hooded man wipe blood on another man’s coat shoulder. This section of the ad also appeared in poster form, which caused people to complain to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about its distressing and violent nature. With the ASA agreeing.
Mortal Kombat: Deception
The Follow Up
Mortal Kombat: Deception, the sequel to Deadly Alliance, was released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2004, with a GameCube version released in 2005 in the NA region.
The gameplay was similar to that of its predecessor, with some additions. Deception introduced the Combo Breaker to MK and stages were more interactible, with instakill traps and special weapons that could be picked up and used.
The brutality remained as you would expect. Characters got two fatalities this time around as well as a harakiri. Which allowed you to well, make your character kill themselves during the iconic Finish Him/Her part of the match, stopping the victor of the fight from performing a fatality. Instead of a gruesome, spectacular ending of life to round out a ferocious fight. You got an anti-climatic suicide, which was never as entertaining as a fatality.
Taking the Fight Online
By the time of Mortal Kombat: Deception online gaming on consoles had grown, mainly on the Xbox Platform with Xbox Live and games like Halo 2.
Deception took full advantages of this, allowing online play on both the Xbox and PS2. The CPU can put up a fight, but the real competition in fighting games comes from playing against other people. The online play would become one of, if not the most important mode in Mortal Kombat in the years to come.
Deception has more characters on offer. Again staples and classic characters return alongside some new faces.
The new faces follow the trend, they were forgettable and kinda lame. A prime example of this would be Kobra. An uninspired character based on Ken from Street Fighter.
His backstory is, that he was literally a street fighter who would kill his opponents. Murder wasn’t his only crime though, as he started robbing convenience stores and petrol stations. In the end, he was busted and the cops. This is where the Black Dragon clan comes in. They got Kobra out of the police’s hands and he would then join the clan.
He’s unlikable and can’t compete with the already established characters. It’s no surprise Kobra would be killed off in an MK graphic novel, at the hands of Erron Black. More characters new to Deception are also guilty of being a bit ropey, with Kira and Dairou coming to mind.
Noob Saibot and Smoke return, in the form of the character/characters ‘Noob-Smoke’. During gameplay switching fighting style changes between what character you control, either Noob or Smoke. Making Noob-Smoke unique in comparison to the other characters. The idea is also reminiscent of how Triborg in Mortal Kombat X was handled.
Shao Khan and Goro were also playable on the GameCube version of Deception.
Going on an Adventure
Deception’s story mode, also called Konquest, is vastly superior to the Konquest in Deadly Alliance. It was ambitious and quite unexpected for a fighting game.
Konquest played out like a third-person open-world game but with typical MK fights throughout. You went on an adventure around the MK realms, you ran into familiar faces and experienced the MK universe in a new way.
Bringing back the topic of new characters, you got to play as Shujinko who was a new character. Shujinko would travel the realms in the search for the six ‘Kamidogu’, I’m sure MK lore aficionados will know what I’m on about. As the story progressed Shujinko would get visually older, a detail I really like.
If you wanted to fight as opposed to run around, then you had plenty of chances, it is a fighting game after all. Various fights, challenges centered around fighting and move tutorials come up throughout Konquest. And if that wasn’t enough you can throw a nasty punch at people in the open world. Just be careful who you smack though.
Breaking Bricks, Breaking Bones
If you wanted to test your puzzle game ability, Mortal Kombat Deception can help you out, with a game mode called Puzzle Kombat. Puzzle Kombat shares similarities between Super Puzzle Fighter, the Street Fighter puzzle game spin-off.
Match the colour bricks to break them and don’t let your bricks get too high, you get the gist. You do get to pick a character from a small selection of miniature versions of MK characters, who will duke it out, performing attacks on each other as you break bricks. These fights come complete with pints of spilled blood and even fatalities. Giving a typical MK bloodthirsty spin to a more cartoonish mode.
Puzzle Kombat is joined by Chess Kombat. In Chess Kombat you assign characters to your many chess pieces. Chess Kombat doesn’t feature the typical chess pieces, instead it has pieces called Grunt, Shifter, Sorcerer, Champion, and Leader. Different pieces have different abilities, the Sorcerer can cast spells like Heal and Kill for example.
When taking a piece you will engage in a fight to decide if the piece gets taken. More powerful pieces have more health when engaging in combat, or should I say Kombat.
Chess is something I don’t think many people thought they would be seeing in an MK game, but it was welcomed. Minigames like this are one of the reasons I think this era of MK was fun. Sometimes it didn’t take itself too seriously, especially when it came out with something as left-field as chess, or the kart racing mini-game from Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (which will be covered). I can see the developers probably having fun as well coming up with and implementing these minigames.
Mortal Kombat: Armaggedon
6th Gens Final Outing
Mortal Kombat: Armaggedon would be the final MK for the 6th gen consoles. A Wii release meant that it also crossed into the 7th gen. Versions for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox released in 2006. The PAL region didn’t receive the Xbox version, while the NA region did. Both regions did get the Wii version in 2007 though.
Gameplay retained the feel from Deception with some alteration. Characters only have two fighting styles now and the fatality system received an overhaul that was unliked by players and never made a return, thankfully.
Konquest came back with 3rd person gameplay like Deception’s Konquest. This time it had aspects from beat ’em up games (a certain MK spin-off probably comes to mind). Midway decided to shed the more RPG feel of Deception’s Konquest, in favour of changing up the gameplay. The story here follows new character Taven on his adventure in the MK universe, going after his evil brother Daegon.
How Many Characters? All of Them
MK: Armageddon contains 62 characters (63 in the Wii version). This doesn’t include characters created by the player. Every fighter from previous MK games makes an appearance. Taven and Daegon from Konquest are the only two new characters.
It’s certainly an achievement to feature this many characters, I guess it also keeps everyone happy, as no one’s favourite was left out. It’s one of the reasons I think people remember Armageddon, it definitely made the game stand out.
If 62/63 characters wasn’t enough, Armageddon also lets you make your own characters, with the Kreate a Fighter system. The character creator was pretty in-depth as well considering it was a first for MK.
You could change your character’s gender, you could alter their appearance by tweaking facial features such as nose length, lip size and eye angle. An assortment of clothing options was also at hand.
The most important thing about a character in a fighting game is their move set. And the Kreate a Fighter let you choose what moves you wanted your character to have. As well as what weapon you wanted them to wield when using the fighting style which uses a weapon.
Kreate A Fatality replaced the traditional fatality system, but it unfortunately wasn’t very good. The objective of Kreate A Fatality was to put different moves together to make and perform a fatality, this is while a timer runs between moves, getting faster as the fatality goes on.
These fatalities lacked the impact of the traditional ones. It certainly was an interesting idea, but it just wasn’t executed right. I would say the sheer amount of characters was a reason why traditional fatalities didn’t make an appearance. Having to make that many fatalities for all of those characters, even if they only had one each, would have been a tall order.
Neither Chess or Puzzle Kombat returned in Armageddon. We did get Motor Kombat though. Which was an MK themed kart racer.
Clearly inspired by games such a Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing, players select an MK character each with a unique looking vehicle and special ability. An example would be Scorpion using his spear to pull opponents back.
Motor Kombat was like its own game inside a game, and definitely made up for only having one minigame as opposed to the two Deception had.
It’s also another example of the developers having fun along with creating a complete package, making the game worth its price tag.
Spin-Offs and Other Entries
Deadly Alliance, Deception and Armageddon weren’t the only releases in the Mortal Kombat franchise while the 6th console generation was in swing.
Handheld versions of MK games are among them. Deadly Alliance received a GameBoy Advance version, twice in fact. One called Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and the other called Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance Tournament Edition. Tournament Edition featured different characters.
Deception received a handheld version on the PSP called Mortal Kombat: Unchained. Frost, Kitana, Blaze and Jax didn’t appear in the console versions but do in Unchained.
Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is quite different compared to most MK games. It was a beat ’em up, where players took control of either Lui Kang or Kung Lao in single-player or co-op. Sub-Zero and Scorpion could also be unlocked and played as.
Shaolin Monks is a good game and is generally regarded as the best MK spin-off, that’s not hard though considering the other two are Mortal Kombat: Special Forces and Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. The less said about both of these the better.
Midway Games to NetherRealm Studios
Despite the success of Mortal Kombat, the pies Midway Games (developer of MK from the original to Armageddon) also had its fingers in weren’t doing as well. Even after a transition to the 7th console generation. Midway Games were involved with the likes of Blacksite: Area 51 and Hour of Victory, which received poor reviews. And when something Midway was involved in was received better, like the game Stranglehold, it failed to achieve the sales needed to keep Midway going.
Even Mortal Kombat started to lose traction, with the release of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, which failed to garner the same type of positive reception from fans that MK had gotten before. It did sell over a million copies but it wasn’t enough to save Midway.
Let’s not forget about This is Vegas either, the game with a troubled development that Midway had put millions of dollars into and never got to see release. In fact nobody did, as it was eventually canceled, even after Warner Bros who purchased the game during Midway’s liquidation, pumped even more millions into it. This is Vegas could be a whole story of its own.
You may have noticed I mentioned Midway’s liquidation. That’s because Midway wasn’t bringing in the profits it needed, leading to them ending up selling off their IPs and closing their doors.
The MK franchise and the Midway development team in Chicago that was responsible for MK ended up in the hands of Warner Bros as well. The development studio became NetherRealm Studios, and would helm the critically acclaimed MK reboot and MK’s 8th console generation games, as well as the successful Injustice fighting game series.
MK games during the 6th console generation for all their problems and missteps were enjoyable and fun. Ambition and going the extra mile are littered throughout.
Various mechanics and ideas would reappear somewhat in later MK games and other NetherReam titles. Like the variation system in MKX and MK11 which is reminiscent of the multiple fighting styles. The Krypt in MK11 with its 3rd person gameplay resembles the Konquest mode from Deception and Armageddon.
They may not be as important or as good as the MK arcade games or the games from the reboot onwards. But I think they are worth remembering, even if it’s for the goofiness.
I personally hold these games quite dearly, I enjoyed them a lot and spent quite a bit of time in all three of them. I still own Deadly Alliance and its Collectors Edition bonus DVD as well as Deception. Unfortunately, I no longer own Armageddon, as the Xbox version is hard to get hold of in the UK due to its lack of a release over here.
I still really enjoy MK, I think the newer games are fantastic, but they could be even better if we could get at least one of these things from the 6th gen games back, either Chess Kombat or Motor Kombat. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t want them back as well. Or at the least could we get a follow up to Cooking with Scorpion. Please!