Mortal Kombat 4
Mortal Kombat 4 is the fifth and final arcade game in the Mortal Kombat series of fighting video games. It was later ported to the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. An updated version titled Mortal Kombat Gold was released a year later exclusively for the Sega Dreamcast. It is one of the few 3D fighting games to have been described as having "2D gameplay."
The game's backstory is told in a 3D cutscene by the thunder god, Raiden.
Thousands of years ago, in a battle with the fallen elder god known as Shinnok, I was responsible for the death of an entire civilization. To rid all realms of Shinnok's menace, I waged a war that plunged the Earth into centuries of darkness and banished Shinnok to a place called the Netherealm. Now after Shao Khan's defeat at the hands of Earth's warriors, Shinnok has managed to escape his confines in the Netherrealm. The war is now being fought once again, only this time it can be won by Mortals.
Early on, the development team at Midway decided to make a 3D Mortal Kombat to capitalize on the rising popularity of 3D games at the time. Midway decided to develop its own hardware, named "Zeus", from scratch, resulting in development delays (a large amount of the game was tested on two dimensional hardware using pre-rendered characters).
As revealed in later interviews, programmer and MK creator Ed Boon was particularly concerned with maintaining the gameplay feel of a 2D game but with 3D graphics. He at first was worried that there was some intrinsic property of 3D graphics that would make this impossible. Essentially, the major gameplay difference between 2D and 3D fighting games at the time was that up to that point all 3D fighting games had attempted to somewhat simulate realistic martial arts. One of the reasons this was done was to take advantage of the fluid keyframed and motion captured animation that was now possible using 3D models. For example, in Virtua Fighter, a real martial artist was filmed performing the moves, and this movement was imposed on the 3D model in the game. Thus, while a punch in a 2D game might be a rapidly responding move with two frames of animation, a punch in a 3D game might have a delay between when the button was pressed and when the opponent was hit, owing to the realistic animation.
This delay, as a result, fundamentally changed the gameplay experience. Boon eventually decided to use the non-realistic 2D rates of animation and movement, simply imposed onto 3D graphics. Thus the gameplay experience is nearly identical to the 2D versions of Mortal Kombat. While this was attempted before with the Street Fighter EX series, that series used more complex animation, which did change the gameplay somewhat. Some critics, however, were disappointed that Mortal Kombat 4 did not play like other popular 3D games of the time.
The following is a list of the "kombatants" included in the Mortal Kombat 4 character selection roster.
- Fujin - God of Wind and ally of Raiden.
- Jarek - Last of the Black Dragon.
- Kai - Shaolin monk and friend of Liu Kang.
- Quan Chi - Mysterious evil sorcerer. First appeared in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero as the main antagonist.
- Reiko - Shinnok's general.
- Shinnok - Imprisoned Elder God. First appeared in MKM: SZ as the final boss.
- Tanya - Traitor to Edenia.
MK4 also included the following hidden characters:
- Liu Kang - Shaolin monk who seeks to destroy Shinnok.
- Jax - Special Forces who finds out that Jarek is still alive.
- Johnny Cage - Hollywood movie star who will produce his next movie.
- Raiden - Thunder god who again guides the mortals.
- Reptile - Zaterran warrior who seeks to serve Shinnok to save his realm.
- Scorpion - Undead specter who again seeks revenge on his nemesis Sub-Zero.
- Sonya Blade - Special Forces lieutenant who seeks to destroy Jarek.
- Sub-Zero - Lin Kuei again stalked by Scorpion.
Boss and sub-boss
Quan Chi poses as the final boss when Shinnok is used by the player. Also, Shinnok appears as both the boss and sub-boss character when playing as Goro.
New to the series
- MK4 is the first Mortal Kombat game to have entirely computer-generated characters, although the texture maps of the characters were taken from most of the live-action actors of the previous games and animations were all generated via motion capture. It was revolutionary at the time, although the character models now appear dated.
- MK4 introduces a limited weapon system to the series, allowing one to take out a weapon using a set button combination (as opposed to the more recent single button), having an almost completely new movelist for the said character. The weapons can also be thrown and dropped, in similar fashion as the arena objects.
- MK4 also introduces 3D combat, although limited to sidestepping as opposed to the 8 way walk movements, which can be found in the Namco game Soul Calibur.
- Finally, MK4 added a "Maximum Damage" cap to the game's combo system, automatically breaking off combos if they deal over a set amount of damage to a player and, thus, preventing infinite combos (although this cap can be removed with a code).
Mortal Kombat 4 was ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and PC. An upgraded version titled Mortal Kombat Gold was also released for the Dreamcast. A Game Boy Color game based on Mortal Kombat 4 was also released as well.
PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and PC
All the home ports of MK4 are notable for containing exclusive content not featured in the original arcade version. Possibly the biggest inclusion to the ports is Goro. He was not featured in the arcade game, but now serves as a playable sub-boss who is fought before Shinnok in single player mode. Also added to the ports is the Ice Pit, which is a snow-filled arena taking place in an icy, carved-out pit. Another new feature added to these ports are a second set of alternate outfits for all characters. The arcade version provided only one set of alternate outfits which the player could unlock. The PC and PlayStation versions run FMV intro, bios and endings, due to the CD-ROM media. The Nintendo 64 version, being a cartridge game, uses the in-game character animations to run them.
Game Boy Color
The Game Boy Color version of MK4 is based on the Game Boy version of Mortal Kombat 3. It features nine selectable characters: Raiden, Quan Chi, Fujin, Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Reiko, Tanya, Scorpion, and the hidden character Reptile. Shinnok is still the final opponent. In addition, there are a few speech clips, and instead of using the in-game graphics for the fatalities, the game uses short FMV clips. Also, the back of the game's box features an earlier character select screen, which has Johnny Cage, Kai, and Sonya instead of Quan Chi, Liu Kang, and Tanya respectively.
Mortal Kombat Gold
The Dreamcast version, titled Mortal Kombat Gold, was released on September 9, 1999 as a launch title for the console in North America. The game retains the character roster from the previous versions of Mortal Kombat 4, along with six additional characters from previous Mortal Kombat games. These additional characters are Kitana, Mileena, Cyrax, Kung Lao, Baraka, and one secret character, Sektor. Gold also includes new levels not seen in Mortal Kombat 4 and a new weapon select mechanism.
A new character named Belokk was intended to appear in the game, but was cut from the released game.
Mortal Kombat Gold did not receive high marks for visual quality, even though its character models for the fighters themselves were of higher quality than those seen in the home console ports of MK4. Game Revolution commented: "The graphics are inexcusably horrible [and] it's quite a depressing let-down on Sega's 128-bit masterpiece, especially when compared to Soul Calibur". The weapons that characters can use during the game are "dull and uninteresting", often have little relation to the characters, and are "either a sword, axe, or club".
IGN had similar bad reviews about Mortal Kombat Gold, particularly regarding the poor weaponry: "Readying your weapon is a slow process in which one can be hit any number of times during the attempt". Although they commented on the improvements from previous Mortal Kombat games, the lack of depth was considered somewhat inexcusable. In fact, due to loading times (even during battles, particularly in the case of Shinnok's impersonations) and glitch-laden effects, its quality was actually poorer.
A second revision of the game, known as version 2.0, was released about a month after the initial release intending to address some of the major issues in it. This version fixed the most severe bugs and glitches in the game and added VMU support, which allowed saving to work properly. The revision is identifiable by a red tinted disc, as opposed to the original's gold tint, and a green sticker saying "Hot! New!" placed on the instruction manual cover.
Initial reaction to the new 3D look of the series (as is often the case with long-running series) was negative, but MK4 managed to be a financial success due to an aggressive advertisement campaign which included a set of live action adverts filmed in Mexico and a US-wide tour of the arcade version by the game's creators which helped spread the word.