Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection should have been a celebration of Mortal Kombat's golden years. What the original holy trilogy lacked in mechanics or balance was compensated with the violence and excess that defined videogames as a viable hobby for teenagers and adults. On a personal level Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 were the reasons why I rode my bike to an arcade for almost four years. It was a huge part of my adolescence and played a role, in some way, to why I write about games today. Sure, other machines contributed toward my memories of the arcade scene, but Mortal Kombat and the lore surrounding it ultimately defined them.
When I cracked open the Arcade Kollection download and started poking around at its features, I was at a loss. Hopes of behind the scenes material from a bygone era at Midway were probably foolish, but at the very least I expected amenities consistent with Capcom's reissues. Maybe a bit of history about the games, some text describing the ultimate mystery of pre-internet secrets and rumors. Possibly an option to play a handful of hardware revisions for MK1. Concept art of deleted characters, at the least. But no, all that's on the table are a few filters to clean up the graphics and the prerequisites CRT bend filter. "OK," I thought, "that's fine, for $9.99 all I need are the games the function properly."
And they didn't even get that right.
At first everything seems fine. I can live with straight arcade dumps sans the options granted to the games when they came home to consoles. After all, I wouldn't have expected anything less than the actual arcade games if we're expecting arcade-perfect ports. After a while I started noticing a few inconstancies, and before long I was checking YouTube for MK videos just to make sure I wasn't remembering the games wrong or going crazy.
I was remembering them right, and what’s wrong is pretty ugly. Combat codes didn't work in UMK3, sound effects and music were sped up, mixed incorrectly, or unrecognizable across the board, screen tearing was omnipresent, and, perhaps most indicative of how little attention was paid to anything, voice samples were a bit off. UMK 3's Scorpion, specifically, couldn't make it through one word of his classic “GET OVER HERE” without the sample cutting off. Honestly it was all so much I actually deleted my game and re-downloaded it in hopes that the file got corrupted or something, but that didn't solve anything.
The rest of it simply feels lazy. Other Ocean and NetherRealm, whoever was responsible for porting this, couldn't be bothered to center the screen in UMK3, or even something as simple as allowing the option to completely rotate the arcade cabinets when trying to pick a game to play. Observations like that seem petty and, really, don't have a direct effect on how the game plays, but everything is so sloppy across the board that they're indicative of the amount of effort put forth at getting Arcade Kollection out there. I mean, come on, someone had to notice UMK3’s consistently broken screen and think, “hey this looks terrible,” and yet nothing was done.
Bungling online play is sort of forgivable given how few games actually get that right, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Arcade Kollection dropped the ball there as well. Its interface is bare bones and the netcode appears poor. I'll accept that my connection may have been at fault for each game's inherent lag, but I don't honestly think I was the problem. Some trace of effort, like maybe my Gamertag appearing below the health bar, would have been appreciated, but like the rest of the package what we're given is somewhere below the minimum.
The in-game move list was a nice concession except for the fact that it does not account for player one facing left or player two facing right. Achievements also seem nice, but even those didn't work. "Perform a Fatality" seemed like the safest best, and even that didn't click when I performed Sub Zero's spine rip in MK or Reptile’s Tomb Fatality in MK2. Again, what the hell is going on here?
The AI, in all its ultra cheap glory, was something I was actually fine with. I expected the games to massively unfair because, well, that's the way it was when I was losing quarters by the pocketful. Toggling easy mode from the game select screen had no observable difference in the AI's behavior but, again, at least that's in line with getting annihilated in the arcade. Then again, battling the AI was a cursory activity, something one did on the rare occasion where everything else was off playing NBA Jam or pinball. Two player battle was the star of the show, and I’m glad to report that duking it out with a friend is mostly functional. If that’s a majority of what you plan on doing, Arcade Kollection might be a sound investment.
But let's assume you're somehow able to ignore the comedy of errors that compose Arcade Kollection. Let's pretend you have a good friend and a decent pair of arcade sticks handy. Let's suppose you still get a charge out of hearing Shao Kahn yell "FINISH HIM." Let's assume you can still recall the fatalities, babalities, animalities, and friendships. Let's remember what it felt like to pull a Mercy, play as Ermac, battle Noob Saibot, or anything else to impress the legions of fans gathered around an arcade cabinet. If you can capture this moment in time Arcade Kollection is almost functional as an indulgence in nostalgia. The music and characters are there, and the meaty bits are reproduced most of the time. Everything else is sort of embarrassing. Here's hoping for a patch.
(Looking for screens? Me too. Review will be updated if any manage to surface)