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Why is MK1 a Reboot?

Elizbar Ramazashvili
7 min

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Why is MK1 a Reboot?
Why did NRS make this decision?

The Mortal Kombat franchise, a storied cornerstone of the fighting game genre, boasts a rich and enduring history that has captivated gamers since its inception in 1992. Developed by Midway Games, now NetherRealm Studios, MK introduced a novel and controversial blend of visceral combat and graphic violence, instantly setting itself apart from other fighting games of its time, like Street Fighter or Fatal Fury. This audacious approach generated significant attention and controversy, ultimately contributing to the establishment of the Entertainment Software Rating Board to regulate video game content. Despite its early controversies, the franchise evolved over the years, solidifying its status as an iconic series with a dedicated global fan base. Many developers tried to recapture the same magic with games like Way of the Warrior, Thrill Kill, Blood Warrior, and many others. But only MK endured.

Throughout its history, the MK series has continuously evolved, introducing new characters, expanding its narrative universe, and refining its gameplay mechanics. It has successfully transitioned from 2D sprites to 3D models and has ventured into various media forms, including movies, comics, and animated series. The franchise's narrative depth and character development have also grown considerably, with intricate story arcs and engaging world-building elements that have kept players invested in the Mortal Kombat universe for over three decades. As a testament to its enduring appeal, Mortal Kombat has become a staple in competitive gaming, with a thriving esports scene and numerous tournaments worldwide.

Final Kombat 2020 | Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat is the best-selling fighting game franchise of all time, with more than 80 million units sold, its latest iteration, MK11, contributing 15 million alone. It had a relatively rough 2000s, but after MK9 in 2011, it’s been a success upon success. Mortal Kombat 9 was notable not only for its fluid gameplay and 2.5D visuals but also for its retcons and updates to the events of the previous games. Storylines began to converge and unravel, and this comfortably continued well into MKX and MK11.

There have always been some controversial choices for character inclusion within the rosters. People vocally disliked Bo’ Rai Cho and Jacqui Briggs in MKX, and the hatred for the latter was exacerbated by her overpowered nature in MK11, which made it two games in a row where she was inarguably top-tier and hard to deal with. This has nothing to do with her lore, but when someone starts hating a character for one reason, they won’t hesitate to add another, warranted or otherwise.

MK11’s storyline was intriguing at first, but it devolved into time shenanigans and incoherent motivations with the appearance of Kronika. In the series known for its striking antagonists, she was a letdown. Aftermath story DLC tried to rectify some of the flaws of the original story mode, but it was too late.

With this, NRS had to sit down and make a decision at some point during the development of the game: “Do we continue this story, come up with another big bad threatening Earth/Reality/All of existence in the next game, or do we wipe the slate clean?” They decided to go with the latter, and there are several reasons for that.

Mortal Kombat 1 - Official Story Trailer (4K) | gamescom 2023

Those who kept attention to the pre-release promotion of MK1 will have noticed that the story in this game isn’t a hard reset. MK11’s event happened, they are kanonical, but Liu Kang, who became the Fire God, decided to create the new universe as he saw fit. This move allowed the developers to essentially re-create the familiar characters in new and interesting ways. Mighty Shao Kahn is now General Shao, Raiden is the champion of the Earthrealm, and Johnny Cage managed to reign in his ego… or not. Okay, maybe not everything was changed. However, they were still able to reintroduce our old favorites with considerably different backstories, visual and audio designs, personalities, and even movesets.

Something akin to this happened in SoulCalibur VI when the previous entry failed spectacularly in its inability to sell new characters to people. Everyone wanted Sophitia, not Pyrrha. Amy, not Viola. Taki, not Natsu. So Bandai Namco gave us exactly this in SC6, but within the new continuity, where the previous story bits matter not. This allowed the writers to craft new tales of souls and swords without any consideration of what happened before. Seriously, if you’re interested in decent stories in your fighting games, SC6 is one of them, and it’s worth it to pick the game up, if only just for that (it’s still one of the best flawed fighting games in existence).

SOULCALIBUR VI Announcement Trailer | PS4, XB1, PC

NRS can do something similar, but MK being a story-heavy series, the developers can push this even further. New big bads and reality-shattering antagonists won’t feel tacked on, and they’ll even be able to completely shift the characters and maybe give us good Quan Chi and evil Bo' Rai Cho. This will also allow NRS to simply ignore some of the more questionable additions, like Cetrion and Jacqui, without anyone batting an eye.

This also allows creators to introduce their beloved universe to a new generation of audiences, catering to evolving tastes and expectations in the process. By reimagining and revitalizing the franchise, developers have the opportunity to leverage modern technology, storytelling techniques, and gameplay mechanics, ensuring that the series remains relevant and competitive in a constantly evolving FGC landscape. Furthermore, an MK1 reboot can serve as a nostalgic trip down memory lane for long-time fans, who may have fond memories of the original but yearn for a fresh take on their beloved universe. This approach often blends the familiar with the innovative, striking a delicate balance between paying homage to the franchise's roots and pushing the boundaries of creativity.

Mortal Kombat 1 is out in a week, with the premium edition buyers enjoying it as soon as the 14th. You can also get yourself a copy of the game by visiting Eneba via this link. You can use the discount code DASH5 to get 5% off sitewide on all your purchases to further decrease already reasonable prices.

Let’s all enjoy this new world created by Liu Kang together!

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