Test your might.
Mortal Kombat has resurfaced in recent years to critical acclaim. Gorier and more feature-packed than ever, the series managed to evolve past its simplistic roots and is even a mainstay at annual events like EVO. What you may not know is that Mortal Kombat has quite an extensive universe, and previous games have demonstrated there’s a lot more to the series than copious dismemberment.
Starting from Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and ending with Armageddon, the series began to regularly include a side mode known as Konquest. In Deadly Alliance and Armageddon, the mode was terrible; the former being a glorified tutorial for each fighter while the latter relied on a half-baked beat ’em up with a main character no one remembers. However, in between those two games came Mortal Kombat: Deception, which despite being a part of MK’s awkward 3D phase, ended up being a pretty solid entry. Actually, the spin-off Shaolin Monks was pretty amazing, too. But that game’s for another time.
What Deception had in its Konquest mode was a fully explorable MK universe. Now to be fair, there wasn’t much you could do; as a character named Shujinko, you were tasked with meeting Kombatants from across the Realms to learn their fighting styles. For Shujinko is something of a plagiarist, see; he has no moves to call his own. And would you know it, meeting these warriors is by far the weakest part of Konquest mode as you’re forced into a move-by-move tutorial. But it’s not this that so deeply enamoured me with the mode in the first place…
As Shujinko, you’re tasked with travelling to each of Mortal Kombat’s six realms in search of the Kamidogu, mystical weapons created by the Elder Gods. Unbeknownst to Shujinko, however, the quest takes most of his life to complete, and we watch him grow from a young boy to a teenager, all the way through to old age. Progression through the mode is fairly slow paced, though, and the story doesn’t do anything to warrant mention, but there’s something just so damn endearing about this mode, and it lies in the exploration of each Realm.
Each Realm you visit had its own look, feel and atmosphere. While Deception’s Konquest mode was widely criticised for being a rather underwhelming addition, I couldn’t help but dive into the game if only to explore everything each Realm had to offer. This lead to an awful lot of running around, not particularly accomplishing anything, and there wasn’t much you could interact with besides NPCs (some of which would offer you side quests) and the occasional object that will reward you with an unlockable. Shujinko could meditate to quickly pass the time, allowing him to access certain quests and unlockables that only appear during certain times of day.
From the quaint, tranquil Earthrealm to the fires of the Netherrealm, the awkward peace of Orderrealm to the lush gardens of Edenia, each area was filled with interesting things to see, as well as no shortage of Mortal Kombat alumni to interact with. While Konquest may not have added a whole lot in terms of compelling gameplay, its strong showing of the series’ now encyclopedic lore made it strangely captivating from start to finish.
Of course, Konquest Mode was only a part of a much larger, content rich game; Mortal Kombat Deception was indeed the most competent entry in the series’ awkward 3D phase. For the first time, the change was handled with a noted degree of confidence compared to the preceding Deadly Alliance and even the divisive MK4, a game that arguably should now rank on a list of titles that have aged the worst.
Deception’s character roster was honestly quite the mixed bag. A whole host of new characters (most of which were completely forgettable) such as Kobra (AKA the discount Ken Masters) and Kira replaced series mainstays like Kitana. However, one newcomer to Deception I really liked was Ashrah, a female demon whose ambiguous morality gave her an enigmatic air; and the MK team have done literally nothing with her since. It’s a shame as I think Ashrah is a character that still has a lot to give to the franchise.
The Gory Details
Mortal Kombat Deception’s Fatality offerings were a great deal sillier than most previous installments. I understand that’s saying a lot when you take into consideration Sonya’s Kiss of Death, Robot Smoke’s blowing up of the Earth and of course, Liu Kang’s infamous arcade machine. You might instead enjoy newcomer Darius’s ability to defy physics by breaking off his opponent’s leg and shoving it through their chest. Ashrah’s voodoo doll fatality is also darkly chuckle-worthy.
New to the series in Deception, and a feature I seriously think needs to make a comeback, are the Hara-Kiri finishers. Basically, these allowed the losing player to off themselves before the winner could input their fatality combination, effectively creating a race to who ends up getting the kill. Of course, the loser still lost if they were successful in inputting their Hara-Kiri, but it’s the thought that counts! I like to think of it as an early version of Titanfall’s evacuation endgame for the losing side.
Continuing the “it’s the thought that counts” trend in Mortal Kombat Deception are the game’s extra modes. Largely throwaway, the additions of Puzzle and Chess Kombat modes were nevertheless welcome and hilarious additions. Puzzle Kombat is literally Capcom’s Puzzle Fighter, albeit with less nuance, depth and ultimately charm. The roster is re-imagined with “chibi” body proportions and matching blocks deals damage to the opponent. There’s not much to it beyond that.
Chess Kombat suffers a similar fate. Clearly going for a Battle Chess vibe, it’s ultimately far too slow paced to be enjoyable. Chess Kombat forgoes the rules of the ultimate mind game; instead of “taking” pieces from your opponent, those that come in contact with one another will be forced into a battle. You must then win the battle to take the piece. It’s incredibly dull and honestly a waste of time. The fighting in Deception is still fun, but when surrounded by a needless chess game it only serves to dampen the experience.
Mortal Kombat Deception comes from an era before the series pulled its socks up and became truly great again. That said, Deception is still a solid entry, being more competent than the two games it’s sandwiched between in order of release, and offering an incredible wealth of content. While time hasn’t been incredibly kind to this one, Deception is one of the most bizarre but fun games in the series, and is definitely still worth checking out.