If you thought the movie was bad, wait until you get a load of this.
Genre: Adventure/ Platform
MK Mythologies: Sub Zero is unique in that it's the first game in the Mortal Kombat franchise developed exclusively for the home systems. In addition, the game marks the first time a different genre has been explored with the bloody fighting series. With Mythologies, the development team has tried to blend the fighting style that made Mortal Kombat famous with a side-scrolling 2D engine and has even thrown in some token RPG elements for good measure.
Mythologies focuses on the adventures of Sub-Zero, one of the most popular characters in the fighting franchise. The storyline is a simple one: Sub Zero, a feared Lin Kuei warrior, is contracted by the sorcerer, Shao, to retrieve the hidden map of elements. On his quest Sub-Zero encounters Scorpion, who is guarding the artifact. A fight breaks out and, once defeated, Sub-Zero learns of ulterior motives, lies and the rest of his journeys. And so you have it. It's not much of a story, but those of us who have seen the horrible movies knew that, didn't we?
Utilizing an ugly 2D engine, dithered backgrounds, and indifferent rotation/scaling effects, the game is visually unimpressive. Polygonal foregrounds have been implemented simply for added looks as they do nothing for gameplay. A fixed camera generally captures the action from a zoomed-out view, but occasionally zooms in as Sub-Zero goes from place to place. On a brighter side, the lighting effects in the game are up to par, illuminating characters as they come closer to lit objects and so on. The PlayStation version of MK Mythologies, however, is identical to the Nintendo 64 version graphically and it has FMV cut-scenes instead of screen-shots and text torture-scenes. Way to take advantage of that power. In all honesty, if we were told that Midway had slipped a Sega Genesis emulator into the cart to run this game we wouldn't be the least bit surprised.
What Mythologies lacks in graphic prowess it lacks even more in the gameplay department. Sub Zero jumps, kicks, punches and snaps multiple hit combos as he progresses through the game. Jumping is performed via the analog stick or the control pad. Midway opted not to go with jump button as it might have made the game playable. Even worse, turning around is performed via the B button. Wouldn't it have been more practical to of used one of the buttons for jumping and instead made turning around available through the control pad or analog stick? Players are expected to ignore instinct (which constantly suggests pressing left or right to turn around) and instead press a button to perform the task. When engaged in a battle, especially when multiple enemies are on-screen, this becomes more than just a nuisance. It's unintuitive control at its very best.
Level design is equally bad. The entire game is based around "die and re-try" stages. In other words, players often come to a certain point in a level where they are immediately killed and then must re-continue, now aware of the hidden obstacle. The first stage being a prime example, Sub-Zero runs through the hall-ways and is crushed by a stone pillar hiding in the ceiling. Other times players must take leaps of faith, praying that something solid will be close by to catch their fall. It's just bad game design.
In trying to add more diversity to the game the development team has also included some RPG elements. Players can access Sub-Zero's menu screen via the Z trigger where items are gathered, including herbs and keys, that help Sub-Zero along his journeys. Keys must be used in certain areas to unlock doors or open portals and can only be accessed via the menu screen. Sub-Zero, as he performs more combos, gathers special features as well. A freeze spell and a slide-attack, which can both be obtained quickly and easy, help to beat the bosses at the end.
The music and sound effects in Mythologies are well-rounded. Wind whines in the background when Sub-Zero is on ledges and ambient music plays throughout most of the stages and cut-scenes, highlighting the action. Unfortunately, the sound level is calibrated at an annoyingly low level and must be turned up all the way just to be heard clearly.
Luckily, MK Mythologies retains all the cheesy violence that made the franchise great. Pillars crush Sub-Zero into a gory mess, finishing moves can be performed and blood flows with each punch and kick. It's not very realistic, but it doesn't matter -- it's classic Mortal Kombat.
MK Mythologies: Sub Zero is a perfect example of what can happen when you sacrifice gameplay for license. Everything seems to be thrown together in a big pile of mindless re-hash, digitized graphics and horrible level design, all topped off with some blood and the Mortal Kombat name. The sad part is that the game will probably sell like hot-cakes anyway. Unless you're Mortal Kombat crazy, don't appreciate good videogames or are looking to punish your kids this holiday season, we recommend avoiding this atrocity.