Mortal Kombat 4
|Mortal Kombat 4|
Cover art for the home versions
|Developer(s)||Midway Games (Arcade)
Eurocom (N64, PC, PS1)
Digital Eclipse (GBC)
|Distribution||CD-ROM (PlayStation, PC)
Cartridge (N64, GBC)
|Arcade system||Midway Zeus hardware
Main CPU: TMS32031 (@ 50 MHz)
Sound CPU: ADSP2104 (@ 16 MHz)
Sound Chips: (2x) DMA-driven (@ 16 MHz)
Mortal Kombat 4 (MK4) is the fourth main game in the Mortal Kombat series of fighting games developed by Midway Games. Released to arcades in 1997, Mortal Kombat 4 is the first title from the series to use 3D computer graphics as well as one of the first games that Midway made in 3D. Eurocom later ported it to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, PC, and Game Boy Color during 1998. An updated version titled Mortal Kombat Gold was released a year later exclusively for the Dreamcast.
The gameplay system of Mortal Kombat 4 is similar to that of the previous games; one of the most notable additions is the use of weapons and objects during fights. The storyline chronicles the attack from the corrupted god Shinnok against his former comrades who trapped him in the Netherealm various of years prior to the series' start: the other 17 playable characters take part in the battle between good and evil, with the forces of light trying to stop Shinnok and the forces of darkness attempting to conquer all the realms (Mortal Kombat Gold would expand the number of available characters).
While developing the game, the Midway staff had problems making the graphics as it was one of the first 3D fighting games they developed. Co-creator Ed Boon commented that the staff wanted to make Mortal Kombat 4 more violent than its predecessors, removing the comical finishing moves featured in them. Since its release, the game received generally positive response from critics, with an exception of the Game Boy Color port.
Mortal Kombat 4 is played in a similar way to the previous titles from the series. However, MK4 introduces a limited weapon system, allowing each character to take out a special weapon using a set button combination. Once equipped, the weapons are primarily used through the punch buttons. This includes the swinging, clubbing or even tossing of the weapons. Furthermore, the weapons can also be purposely dropped, in similar fashion to the arena objects such as severed heads and rocks; if an opponent's weapon is dropped, the other character is able to grasp it and use it. By sidestepping, the player is able to move in a 3D manner, shifting the camera angle, preventing both characters from holding up the weapons or objects they had on the ground.
MK4 added a "Maximum Damage" cap to the game's combo system, automatically breaking off combos if they deal over a set amount of damage to a player and, thus, preventing infinite combos (although this cap can be removed with a code). Unlike Mortal Kombat Trilogy which contained multiple finishing moves of various kinds, Mortal Kombat 4 only gives two Fatalities per character and two Stage Fatalities that can only be done in a certain arena and involve the character throwing the opponent to part of the arena where he or she dies. Unlike the first three games, this game does not include unplayable boss characters except Goro from the home versions.
Thousands of years before the start of the series, Shinnok, one of the Elder Gods who control the six realms in the Mortal Kombat universe, attempted to become the conqueror of them all. Thunder God Raiden fought and defeated Shinnok in a war that spanned hundreds of years, sending him afterwards to the Netherealm, where he would be trapped forever. Now, Shinnok manages to escape from the Netherealm with help from the sorcerer Quan Chi, and seeks vengeance against the Elder Gods who banished him. In his plan, he first conquers the realm of Edenia, with the aid of a traitor, Tanya, while he prepares to attack the Elder Gods. In order to stop Shinnok's menace, Raiden requests the help from the Earthrealm warriors who managed to save the realms from Emperor Shao Kahn in previous titles.
The following is a list of the characters included in the Mortal Kombat 4 character selection roster, as well as the update Mortal Kombat Gold.
- Fujin - Raiden's ally who first appeared in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero known as the Wind God.
- Jarek - The last of the Black Dragon after Kano's death.
- Kai - An Asian warrior, Shaolin monk and friend of Liu Kang.
- Meat - A bloody skeleton. An unlockable character.
- Quan Chi - The mysterious evil sorcerer who first appeared in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and then would later reappear in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero as the main antagonist. Quan Chi poses as a boss before the battle against Shinnok.
- Reiko - Shinnok's general.
- Shinnok - An imprisoned Elder God. First appeared in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero as the final boss. Shinnok appears as a playable character and players can only fight him as a final opponent.
- Tanya - A traitor to Edenia.
Returning characters include:
- Goro - The four-armed menace retains his role from the first game as a sub-boss.
- Jax - A U.S. Special Forces officer who finds out that Jarek is still alive.
- Johnny Cage - The Hollywood movie star who will produce his next movie.
- Liu Kang - A Shaolin monk who seeks to destroy Shinnok.
- Noob Saibot - A hidden character. An undead ninja.
- Raiden - The thunder god who again guides the mortals.
- Reptile - A Zaterran warrior who seeks to serve Shinnok to save his realm.
- Scorpion - Another undead ninja who again seeks revenge on his nemesis Sub-Zero and Quan Chi.
- Sonya Blade - A Special Forces lieutenant who seeks to destroy Jarek.
- Sub-Zero - A Lin Kuei assassin again stalked by Scorpion.
Co-creator of the series Ed Boon found difficulties leading the team in charge of developing the game due to how large the staff had become since the first Mortal Kombat title, with him being the only programmer. Therefore, Todd Allen and Mike Boon (Ed's younger brother) joined on as a programmer with Ed noting the staff was more than twice its original size. The Midway staff wanted to remove the comical elements from the previous Mortal Kombat titles, so they focused on the making of the Fatalities. On the other hand, the Animalities finishing moves from Mortal Kombat 3 were removed since the transformation of a character into an animal was considered to be hard to make in 3D graphics. In order to make the Fatalities more entertaining, it was decided to make a few replays from different angles of the scenes where the characters' bodies explode, etc. Since actors were no longer needed to make the characters' movements with the exception of adding some motion capture elements, the staff found it easier to make Fatalities as it was all done by animation.
The gameplay was planned to be similar to the predecessors although this would be the first game from the series to be made in 3D. Another desire from the staff was avoid making all the mistakes they made in War Gods, Midway's first 3D title. To advertise the game, Midway organized a 35-stop road tour of the United States. The version of the game shown in the tour had nine characters, and within these nine Noob Saibot, who would become a hidden character in the arcade and console ports. As Ed Boon was skeptical about the quality of the result noting that the gameplay would be slower than previous titles, he decided to hand-animate frames with timings in a similar fashion to Street Fighter EX. Art director Tony Goskie created a 3D model for each character of the game, whom he called "Meat". It was later decided to make him a playable character as part of a hidden Easter egg. Players first learned of the character's given name after the text "Meat lives!" was placed on Ed Boon's website promoting Mortal Kombat 4's third arcade revision. Years after the game's release, Boon commented that he and the staff should not have made Shinnok the final boss from the game as previous titles used enormous characters as bosses.
The arcade version of Mortal Kombat 4 was released on October 15, 1997 in North America and later that same year in Europe. The game was ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Microsoft Windows. An upgraded version titled Mortal Kombat Gold was also released exclusively for the Dreamcast. A Game Boy Color game based on Mortal Kombat 4 was also released as well.
Eurocom was in charge in the making of the home versions from the game and they worked for eight months to finish the Nintendo 64 port. One of their main objectives was to maintain 60 frames per second as they never did it with a 3D fighting game. While all the traits from the arcade mode were added to the home version, Eurocom had to change the polygon count to "squeeze into the resources of the Nintendo 64". Eurocom was also assisted by Ed Boon and the lead artist on the coin-op, Dave Michicich. While the home versions were still in development, Ed Boon gave fans hints about things that would be in the ports of the game. These hints included Goro being a playable character and the extra costumes. Also added to the port is the Ice Pit, a snow-filled arena taking place in an icy, carved-out pit. Another new feature added to these ports is a second set of alternate outfits for all characters. The arcade version provided only one set of alternate outfits which the player could unlock. The PC and PlayStation versions run FMV intro, bios and endings, due to the CD-ROM media. The Nintendo 64 version, being a cartridge game, uses the in-game character animations to run them just like its arcade counterpart.
Game Boy Color
The Game Boy Color version of MK4 was developed by Digital Eclipse and was released by Midway. It is in 2D instead of the others' 3D. It features nine selectable characters: Raiden, Quan Chi, Fujin, Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Reiko, Tanya, Scorpion, and the hidden character Reptile; Shinnok is still the final opponent. In addition, there are a few speech clips, and instead of using the in-game graphics for the Fatalities, the game uses short FMV clips. The Game Boy Color port's 2D engine reuses the game engine utilized in the Game Boy port of MK3, including the same character select screen, "Choose Your Destiny" screen, and how the characters move and interact. The background music was replaced with repetitive techno-ish songs with instrumentation befitting a Game Boy release, and the port does not contain any blood outside of the Fatality videos. The combo system and weapons were also removed. However, the graphics for the port were above average for a Game Boy fighting title, and it contains many of the arcade's backgrounds in vivid clarity.
In October 1998, Midway announced the home venues revenues thanks to the release of various titles including Mortal Kombat 4. Upon the start of the arcade's road tour, news programs commented on the violence from the game and expressed worries on how it would affect the players' personalities; Ed Boon replied that there were already more violent games than Mortal Kombat 4 and that the only reason that it was cited is that it is the most popular violent game.
GameRankings had an average of 76.07% from 20 reviews for the Nintendo 64 version of the game. The PlayStation and PC ports received smaller averages with the PlayStation having 75.75% with 16 reviews, and the PC 72.14% with 14 reviews. Although various reviewers did not find it more entertaining than previous games, they still praised the gameplay. On the other hand, the gameplay was commented to very similar to the previous Mortal Kombat titles. The PlayStation and PC ports have been commented to have improvements over the arcade game as having more responsive controls and the exclusive FMV scenes. However, IGN mentioned that playing the PC port would become "stale" unless the player "had an extra pad and a friend" and the Official UK PlayStation Magazine said that the game was "the same old stuff trotted out with a fresh coat of pixels. Tedious."
The Nintendo 64 port received positive response for being faithful to the arcade version, with GameSpot giving it a "Great" 8.9 and IGN a "Great 8.8", though they noted that the graphics were not as good as the ones from the arcade. The game has received positive response due to the new 3D graphics, the improvement of combos, and how all the characters "are still as cheesy as ever" and that they still have their original movements with a few updates.
The Game Boy Color version received only an average of 46.00% with 3 reviews by GameRankings. It received poor reviews from publications such as GameSpot whose editor Jeff Gerstmann gave it a 3.5 out of 10 due to how different the game is from the other ports and how unresponsive the controls are. Similarly IGN's Peer Schneider criticized how limited the gameplay had become in the GBC and that defeating the opponent was relatively easier. He gave the game a "Poor" 4.0 out of 10.
In retrospective, GamesRadar criticized the endings for the Nintendo 64 version of the game using a compilation from them for an April Fool joke, labelling them as hilarious due to their poor quality. Mortal Kombat 4 was ranked as having third best Game Over screen of all time according to GamePro in 2009.
Mortal Kombat Gold
An expanded Dreamcast version, titled Mortal Kombat Gold, was developed by Eurocom and released in 1999 as a launch title for the console in both regions, on September 9 on North America and on October 14 in Europe. The game contains several additional characters (Baraka, Cyrax, Kitana, Mileena, Kung Lao and Sektor) and stages, as well as a new weapon select mechanism.
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