Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (PlayStation & Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – Midway Games & Avalanche Software

Publisher(s) – Midway Games

Director(s) – Dimitrios Tianis & John Tobias

Producer(s) – John Tobias, Dimitrios Tianis & Michael Gottlieb

Taking just over a year to develop, and released in a time when 2D side scrollers were fast being considered a thing of the past, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was the first and last game of what was intended to be a series of games concerning the back stories of several major Mortal Kombat characters, and was subsequently panned by critics; the main reason of which being it’s visuals. Personally, I‘ve always thought this game to be nowhere near as bad as most critics have labelled it to be, since whilst it may not be the best side scroller released at it’s time, it’s certainly by no means a bad game.

Graphics – 9/10

As I said, the majority of the flack that this game received was aimed at what techniques were used to render the game’s graphics, which in lieu of franchise tradition, was a blend of both digitised live acting and real-time 3D graphics. Though games like Night Trap and Phantasmagoria used the same technique, with varying degrees of success, it’s never looked better than in this game. After looking at it, I can’t understand why this technique wasn’t adopted by other developers; especially as it made the game look far better than Mortal Kombat 4 ever did in my personal opinion. The biggest gripe I had with the visuals is in terms of concept, since throughout the beginning and middle, the enemy characters are for the most part recycled, but this is rectified later on with the introduction of more variety in enemy design.

Gameplay – 7/10

Aside from it having underrated graphics, it also has underrated gameplay; especially for the time. It was inevitable that this game would be overlook amidst the 3D gaming revolution of the late 90s, it had some distinct differences between conventional side scrollers that the industry had previously become synonymous with. It almost plays out like a Metroidvania game, with secret items to uncover, and a small RPG element to it. The only thing missing is an open world. At its core, it is still a 2D fighting game in conjunction with the rest of the Mortal Kombat series, but the series’ developers introduced something different; an idea which would be further perpetuated by the likes of Guacamelee and even Dust: An Elysian Tail to a certain extent.

Controls – 8/10

Since the control scheme works on more or less the same principles of a Mortal Kombat game, the platforming isn’t the best ever seen in gaming. There were times when I thought it would have been better if commands had been made easier to register as opposed to the development team incorporating conventional fighting game mechanics. For example, having one specific button to activate ice powers rather than players having to try and string of specific buttons together.

Lifespan – 2.5/10

The worst thing about this game in my opinion, the aspect of where I can personally draw the most criticism for, is its lifespan. Even completing the game to 100% can take just under 2 hours, which whilst may have been impressive for a side scroller back in the third generation of gaming, had been long-since outdone by this time. It’s especially shocking, since CDs were supposedly capable of holding much more digital memory than cartridges, which was part of the entire point of introducing them to gaming in the first place.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story takes place even before the events of the original Mortal Kombat game, and follows Sub-Zero, a servant of the Lin Kuei clan, as he is hired by the sorcerer Quan Chi to retrieve an amulet of unimaginable power. Events soon unfold into something much more convoluted, and Sub-Zero is forced into even further adventure to uncover the truth behind the amulet, and what purpose it serves. The plot of the game fairly well written, and contains many themes and element synonymous with the series, but a point I do have to agree with mainstream reviewers on is that the voice acting is less than average, as was seemingly customary throughout the fifth generation of gaming.

Originality – 7/10

Amidst a time when the 2D side-scrolling genre was in the process of being phased out in favour of 3D platformers, this game introduced new elements to the category that had never been seen before, and in all, they worked fairly well together to provide a very different experience distinctive from most things seen in gaming at that time. I think it’s a shame that this series never became as prolific as John Tobias originally intended before he left Midway, since it would have been interesting to see exactly how it would have evolved and moved with the times if it had come into fruition.

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In summation, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, whilst not a magnificent game, is in my opinion nowhere near as bad as most critics have made it out to be over the years. I personally regret missing out on it during the time of its release, and would advocate any fan of the 2D side-scrolling genre try it at least once.

Score

39/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

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