Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe from Midway GamesMaybe I’m late to the party, but I just got wind of the next MK series — Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe — which will debut on the PS3 & XBOX 360. Opinions very, Ricardo Torres over at Gamespot thinks the game will surprise you, and Ben Kuchera with Ars Technica reveals his disinterest in a long forgotten fighting series. I caught the teaser video for MK vs DC over at Gamespot.

While both reviews weigh in on the concept of Mortal Kombat characters taking on the likes of Batman or Superman, neither really emphasizes what I feel is paramount to making a successful fight game – the combat system.

A combat system succeeds in the potential number of strikes & combinations a character can produce matched against the player’s ability to pull them off. In my experience, a good fight game can be as entertaining to those watching, as it is to the people actually playing. The trouble is finding the balance in making the gameplay challenging, but accessible to the widest possible audience. When the Dreamcast came out with its four-player console, the instant hit at any party was Power Stone, due mainly to its crazy animated action. The key selling point was the combat controls were so simple (maybe too much so), even folks who didn’t gravitate towards fight games could jump right in. (And really, who doesn’t love bashing other players with a big hammer?) Evil Zone on the PS2 is another fight game that mixed simple playability with entertaining animated segues. (I could mention the success of the Wii console, but that’s an article for another time)

Titles in the Tekken & Mortal Kombat series have had a roller coaster ride of popularity. Throughout their evolution the titles have improved their visual appeal, and been hit or miss when adjusting player controls. Common complaints when a fight game is tweaked in release are characters becoming too powerful or downgraded. Mortal Kombat Gold was a bust to some, but in my immediate circle we appreciated the faster game play over the original Soul Caliber title. Sure Quan Chi’s teleport stomp was a cheap move, but nothing got the crowd riled up quicker than pulling it off successfully or have another player freeze/zap Quan Chi mid-stomp.

The idea of mixing comic characters within the realm of a fight game is nothing new. I could see today that comments are already being tossed back in forth that this is a poor man’s Marvel vs. Capcom wrapped in a 3D package. However, even with the argument that the idea is not so original, the real question is are the characters compelling enough to draw interest? More importantly, will the game generate the necessary buzz with a strong combat system as fatalities (one of MK’s identifying trademarks) have been removed? Midway Games needs a hit, and given its recent struggles some could argue the new MK game is quite a gamble.

Personally, I’m more excited about the next Soul Caliber IV release coming in June. Sure guest fighters Darth Vader & Yoda are a stretch in the mythology of the game, but I enjoyed being able to play Heihachi, Link & Spawn in Soul Caliber II. It’s enough to make me think about buying a PS3 and/or XBOX 360.