I’m about to discuss why I think a game I’ve never played is better than another game I've never played
I don’t generally like fighting games. Their complex systems feel inherently outdated and exclusionary to new players. It’s almost like there’s a brick wall of skill you have to break through to get any enjoyment out of them and honestly I just don’t have the time. Of course the one exception is Super Smash Bros; because seriously, Smash Bros is my jam.
Still though for the first time ever, I want to buy a non Smash Bros fighting game and to my surprise the game that makes me want to give the genre a try is Mortal Kombat X. Now I’m going to heap some praise onto this thing but for full disclosure’s sake I want to make it clear that I have not played the game. I’ve watched a decent amount of gameplay and I've watched the entire story mode but I have not actually played the game. I hear it’s a competent fighter but again, I wouldn’t know.
So what makes Mortal Kombat X stand out? This is going to sound crazy but its aesthetic design is really on point and its story mode is actually pretty well written. It’s not a master piece by any means but for what it is, it's rather entertaining and has enough heart to make the journey worthwhile.
A lot of things make Mortal Kombat X standout from its predecessor. One of the things that immediately caught my eye was the character redesigns, specifically how the women were redesigned. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that skimpy outfits were a staple of the series but they were… noticeable after the franchise left its 2-D origins. Mortal Kombat 9 was one of the worst offenders by far.
Mortal Kombat 9 had series mainstay Sonya Blade, wearing this
Now not only is this just… a very poorly designed and conceived costume, it also really doesn’t make sense for Sonya’s character as she is portrayed in Mortal Kombat 9. She’s a Special Forces agent hunting down a highly dangerous criminal. Given her character, her back story, and her profession, if she was a real person, would she really dress herself this way? I tend to think not. This is troublesome to me because it’s an example of taking away Sonya’s agency. Instead of making decisions about her visual design which spring from her character, the designers make visual designs which spring from what they perceive is the desires of their demographic.
Which like… come on guys, does anyone even really like side boob?
Well the designers of Mortal Kombat 9 certainly like them some side boob, that’s why almost all of the ladies are showing off the side of their breasts. So you understand here is every other female character in Mortal Kombat 9.
I warned you about side boob bro
I told you dog
The amount of side boob present in this game is quite honestly astounding. When I sat down to write this I hadn’t even realized that literally every single female character was made to have the side of their breasts exposed but hey, there you go.
So low and behold my shock when Mortal Kombat X not only cut the side boob but also seriously cut down on the amount of skimpy outfits. I can’t stress how cool it is that Sonya Blade went from this
As a whole, compare the women of Mortal Kombat 9 to the women of Mortal Kombat X
Again there is nothing wrong with fan service or skimpy outfits, the problem is when it clashes with character and creates a conflict of agency. I think it’s also important to balance out the skimpy outfits. Not every male character is objectified in Mortal Kombat 9, it was ridiculous that the same wasn’t true of every female character. This is another thing that makes Mortal Kombat X so cool, it’s super progressive and inclusive.
The fact that Mortal Kombat X features the first openly gay character, the first black female, and the first Hispanic character in a Mortal Kombat game is astounding. The fact that none of them are reduced to stereotype or offensive caricature is even more fantastic.
But even outside of the more socially progressive parts, Mortal Kombat X’s story is a step up from Mortal Kombat 9 and I think there’s one simple reason for that, quite frankly the game doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously. I think one of my biggest problems with the plot of Mortal Kombat 9 was just how dang serious everything was. Seriously look how many characters are brutally murdered in story for no reason other than “Mortal Kombat is super serious you guys… Like suuuuuuuuuuuuper serious.” But I think that tone betrays the gameplay. Mortal Kombat is inherently pulpy, with excessive and over the top gore pouring from every orifice.
Mortal Kombat X on the other hand balances its pulpy and ridiculous elements with its more serious ones in a much better way. Awful things are happening but overall the narrative stays mostly positive, showing the main four heroes growing into better people as the story progresses. Sure some of the last game’s good guys are evil now, and in the end (spoiler alert) Raiden enters his goth phase. Watching this story and watching Cassie, Jacqui, Kung Jin, and Takeda become heroes is heartwarming. At the end of the story you have confidence in those characters and that makes the story so much better than the dour and grim dark plot of Mortal Kombat 9.
So ultimately, taking everything into account that isn’t the gameplay… and the dlc choices… Mortal Kombat X holds my attention and makes me invested in these characters, this world, and this mythology much more than Mortal Kombat 9, and that’s because the creators weren’t afraid to change some things from the last game. I absolutely applaud these changes because the last game was a smash hit so they didn’t have to make these changes.
Mortal Kombat X is still a gore fetishizing piece of pulp entertainment and you know what, it’s a dang fine piece of pulp entertainment. I think people have this idea that because something is pulpy that it is somehow lesser than other, more erudite forms of entertainment. Mortal Kombat X though shows that there’s a right way to do it, and that you can produce some fun stuff if you’re willing to go the extra mile.
Also let's be real here, Cassie Cage's selfie fatality is the best thing ever.
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