Developed by: Midway Games / Eurocom
Published by: Midway Games
Platforms: Arcade, N64, Playstation
Feeling Like: Guiltality
There is absolutely no justification for this one. It’s a guilty pleasure. It’s a stupid, over the top fighter that adds an unnecessary three dimensional element to a series that should always stay 2-D. It has the most hokey, B-Movie writing and voice acting. It adds weapons, when each fighter’s hands are more dangerous than any knife I’ve ever seen. The whole package is bonkers, and is often forgotten. It is rarely mentioned among the “best of” the Mortal Kombat series.
I loved it.
It was cool seeing familiar characters as polygonal for the first time, rather than digitized. I’m not sure they looked “better” but it was a fresh take. Looking back, it’s surprising how well the graphics have aged – so few games on the N64 can say that, but it’s true. The framerate was/is steady, the backdrops were/are creative and the trademark Mortal Kombat zaniness remained/remains. If anything, it got zanier.
The dialogue is incredibly amateurish. Everybody shouts at everything, overreacts to everything, and switches motivations on a dime. The characters are constantly rocking back and forth in an intimidating pose, every line is delivered as if they’re swatting away imaginary flies. It wouldn’t pass any standard of quality in 2019…but in 1997, I felt like I was watching 15 mini Mortal Kombat movies. It’s still the only fighting game I’ve played through with every single character – just to see the campy conclusions.
A few other additions slithered their way in. Soul Calibur it isn’t, but Mortal Kombat 4 allowed fighters to pull out various weapons…but only when the enemy was at a certain damage level…I think? The details escape me, but I do remember the most fun part about weapons was throwing it at your opponent. There’s something hilarious about a disciplined Shaolin monk in a fight to death resorting to flinging a sword across the screen like a dodge-ball. Reminds me of Nidhogg.
Combos feel good to pull off, Goro’s presence is still adequately terrifying and there’s a good mix of experimentation and classic tropes. Gone is Shang Tsung, the ever present villain, and in his place is *smirk* Shinnok. My friends and I always called him Salmon, which lessened his perceived threat each time we uttered the nickname.
Even the Game Over screen has terrific, horrific style. Upon losing your final round, you’ll see your character falling helplessly into a seemingly endless pit. If you wait for the countdown to finish, you’ll hear one last scream only to see them impaled on spikes, true to Mortal Kombat tradition. The camera work, the macabre hilarity of the situation and the creativity are a silver lining to not winning the Tournament.
I can’t finish discussing my experience with Mortal Kombat 4 without mentioning my favorite Fatality. Quan Chi, the fellow in the above screenshot, rips off his defeated opponent’s leg and beats them with it. It’s straight out of a Treehouse of Horror episode from the Simpsons, or Monty Python. It’s both grotesque, and hysterically funny.
And that’s Mortal Kombat 4 in a nutshell. I’m pleased to see it’s held up surprisingly well, at least for what it was intending to do. I have a hard time believing the creators didn’t write the cut scenes with a tongue in cheek. Otherwise…well, hey, it’s 22 years old and there are plenty of Mortal Kombat games to come.