Beautiful graphics, tight control and excellent sound put new life into a tired franchise.
The Mortal Kombat series has always enjoyed phenomenal success in the arcades and on home systems because of its fast-fighting engine and extreme gore. Over the years the fighting franchise has gotten bloodier and seen more inventive, sometimes comical fatalities, but it has remained in 2D. Mortal Kombat 4, the latest title to bear the Mortal Kombat brand, drags the series into 3D with a tight new polygonal engine that never hitches, but the game does little to improve upon what has become an increasingly stale fighting system. That said, Eurocom's port of Mortal Kombat 4 to Nintendo 64 is superb, and, in fact, near perfect. Despite a few minor flaws, this is, without a doubt, the best fighting game for Nintendo 64.
The game plays fast and furious -- and we mean exactly that. The development team behind the Nintendo 64 version, Eurocom, has managed to maintain a blazing framerate that never slows down. In fact, the only thing faster than the game's impressive framerate is the actual pace of the title. Those familiar with the series will know that its fighting system is largely based around projectile weapons, simple, easy to perform combos and speed. Mortal Kombat 4, like previous versions of the game, emphasizes all of the above. The good or bad part, depending on how you look at it, is that while the game has finally made the cross-over to full 3D, it employs the same old fighting style. If you're a huge fan of that style then you will no doubt love MK4. However, if you never liked it, well, you probably still won't. Each character can perform a handful of unique moves, generally the same selection from previous incarnations, plus four new fatalities. Of course, fatalities are exceedingly gruesome, a Mortal Kombat trademark, and equally creative. Players can spin opponents into the fan, which is now in polygonal 3D, and watch as body parts fly in every direction; decapitations are common, amputations, bodies torn in half, enemies dying in a ball of flames -- all the MK goodness has returned. We don't think you'll be disappointed. What is a bit disappointing, though, is the game's semi-3D feel. While MK4 is fully polygonal, one never feels as if they are really doing battle in a 3D arena. There is a standard 3D button for strafing in and out of the screen, but the it's not very intuitive and is hardly ever used. Not a big deal, but worth noting.
Eurocom has also included a few new, exclusive levels for the Nintendo 64 version and a host of new options. The game features a very useful practice mode which explains how to perform each move and fatality, there are team modes, group challenges and of course, a two-player game.