Mortal Kombat Unchained (Review)

“The ideal package for anyone craving a Mortal Kombat experience on the go.”

At the time of this writing, the new Mortal Kombat on the 360 and PS3 is approximately a year away. In the meantime, MK fans will surely need something to spend their time on, right? While Mortal Kombat vs DC may be a good choice, there are those who do not have a 360 or PS3. This is where the PSP comes in.

Unchained is essentially Mortal Kombat Deception on the go. While this game even predates Mortal Kombat Armageddon, remember that Unchained is the only MK title on the PSP. So despite being a few years old, is it worth your money even today? In short, maybe.

As I mentioned, Unchained is just Mortal Kombat Deception, only with a few bells and whistles. Before I talk about what is new in Unchained, I’ll talk about what is carried over from Deception.

First off is the core fighting system. It has not been altered or downgraded at all for the PSP, so fans should be happy knowing that they are getting the full Mortal Kombat experience. Characters look fairly good and aren’t far off from what we saw on the Gamecube, PS2, and XBox several years ago. This is quite impressive considering that the game features thirty characters on top of the various game modes present.

Konquest mode, which was a boring and slightly unpleasant experience in Deception, is even worse in Unchained. I commend Midway for packing the full Konquest mode into a little PSP fighter, but it’s clear that they had to downgrade the mode quite a bit. The visuals are nothing short of ugly as they resemble graphics from the early 32 bit era. Collision detection is very suspicious as well, as I found myself trying to reach coins and treasure chests only to hit invisible walls where there shouldn’t be any. I would then find out that the invisible walls belonged to nearby trees or support columns that were barely even on the screen. Konquest mode also features a camera that is essentially impossible to work with. You use the L and R buttons to rotate the camera, which you will have to do almost consistently as the camera obscures your character or gets stuck on random objects littering the environment. The camera actually got itself stuck on a tree when I was playing. It was bizarre to have myself running down a straight path only to then have the camera jerk far to the right. I couldn’t see what I was doing, and it wasn’t even pointing anywhere near my character. Fortunately rotating the character restored the camera angle, but this still shouldn’t have happened in the first place and is slightly inexcusable.

The actual fighting mechanics are exactly the same as they were in the console version. Unfortunately, it is a little harder to execute many moves and combos properly on the PSP, and I frequently found myself blocking or switching fighting styles accidentally. You see, the L button switches your fighting style and the R button blocks. My fingers have a habit of venturing towards the top of the PSP and resting there, so it should be quite obvious what happened whenever I would be fighting. I would frequently try to execute a combo only to have my finger accidentally press the L button and switch my fighting style, ruining whatever I was trying to execute.

The controls are also just as clunky as ever, which seems to be a Mortal Kombat tradition. Armageddon seemed to improve the core gameplay of the 3D games tremendously, but unfortunately Unchained doesn’t have anything to do with Armageddon. Deception’s gameplay was certainly an improvement over Deadly Alliance, but playing this game today, after enjoying BlazBlue, Street Fighter 4 and Tekken 6, I cannot help but cringe at the unresponsive controls and sluggish movements of the characters. If you adapt to how Unchained plays then you will certainly be able to do well, but just getting to the point where you want to succeed in this game may be the difficult part.

Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat remain fully intact and are fun little diversions to sink your teeth into. Despite being a blatant rip-off of Puzzle Fighter, I quite enjoy Puzzle Kombat and it is perhaps my favourite part of the game. Chess Kombat is fun to play once or twice, but it loses it’s appeal pretty quickly.

The currency system and Krypt are still fully intact. Unfortunately I cannot stand the currency system in this game, as there are several different kinds of coins that you can obtain. Armageddon had one universal coin that you could use to unlock everything. Deception/Unchained instead decided to use five or six different coloured coins (onyx, sapphire, platinum, etc.) which you randomly obtained by fighting and playing Konquest mode. In the Krypt, you unlock things by spending a certain number of coins on whatever coffin you wish to open. Considering the fact that there are hundreds of coffins which all require different coins, things get a little ridiculous. Since all characters are unlocked from the start, there really isn’t a lot to look forward to in the Krypt, and unlocking things just becomes a boring chore very quickly.

So, what’s new in Unchained? There are a few additional characters and a new game mode. In terms of characters, Goro and Shao Kahn join the cast from the Gamecube port of Deception, while Blaze, Frost, Jax, and Kitana return from Deadly Alliance. This is the only version of Deception to feature the four from Deadly Alliance, so it’s quite a nice game to have. Pretending that Armageddon never existed, it’s fun to see fights between Frost and Sub-Zero, or Kitana and Mileena. I’m a little bummed out that Johnny Cage and Sonya weren’t able to return from Deadly Alliance, but I am just completely puzzled by the fact that Midway decided to omit Quan Chi and Shang Tsung from Unchained.

The new game mode happens to be one that Mortal Kombat should have had since the beginning, and it is Endurance Mode. This is essentially a survival mode in which you fight an endless wave of AI fighters. I have always enjoyed survival modes, especially in Tekken, because it’s fun to see how far I can get before an opponent finally defeats me.

So aside from a few new characters and a survival mode, there is nothing else new in Unchained. Konquest mode on the other hand has been butchered significantly, downgrading the visuals to an almost uncomfortable level and screwing the camera system up so badly that it hinders your gameplay experience. However, the core fighting system is still intact and is certainly enjoyable if you are a devoted Mortal Kombat fan. If you’ve ever wanted Mortal Kombat on the go and need something to slug away at until the promising Mortal Kombat 9 arrives next year, look no further than Mortal Kombat Unchained.

Final Score