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Friday, June 19, 2020

NetherRealm Should Just Go Ahead and Make a Horror Icons Fighting Game

When rebooting its iconic fighting game franchise back in 2011, NetherRealm Studios laid down many new precedents in the pointedly titled Mortal Kombat. New X-Ray moves gave us gorier insights into already brutal maneuvers. A greater focus on the story offered clarity to a series timeline that had increasingly spun out of control. But one of the most surprising turns came in a stronger emphasis on guest characters.

This idea alone wasn’t anything new for the genre. After all, many people can think back fondly to the likes of Soul Calibur II, in which mainstay characters crossed swords with The Legend of Zelda’s Link in the GameCube version, Spawn on Xbox and so on. However, by 2011 NetherRealm could use its experience working with characters outside of its own universe – three years earlier in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe to have Scorpion, Lui Kang, and more series staples duke it out with iconic characters from other areas of celebrated fiction.

The potential for platform-exclusive heroes neatly fitting into Mortal Kombat’s oeuvre was established right from the off with the appearance of Kratos on PS3. Yet it was only via the game’s post-release DLC, when A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Kreuger quite literally got his claws into the roster, when players received a small taste of what was possible when a guest fighter that was truly R-rated entered the fold. It all looked rather promising at first, until suddenly it didn’t. 

You see, while it’s all well and good to releasing guest fighters on a game-by-game basis, it does mean that from Mortal Kombat X onwards the concept hasn’t been able to reach its full potential. This was the entry where we finally got to see The Predator and Xenomorph go toe to toe on the screen – they were even joined by LeatherFace from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees. But if you assumed that the inclusion of the latter meant that Freddy from MK9 would be returning, you’d be wrong. And it’s a crying shame.

The nature for Mortal Kombat to follow a traditional release schedule means that we’re afforded mechanical improvements and visual upgrades, sure, yet it also causes players to miss out on what could be the ultimate fighting game crossover featuring horror icons. NeatherRealm’s inability to achieve this is no doubt a result of the strict licensing agreements for these characters that must be negotiated each time. But how is it that an asymmetrical multiplayer game like Dead by Daylight is eating Mortal Kombat’s lunch in this regard? It only stings further after seeing both the T-800 and RoboCop (another classic rivalry seen in comics) make their way into Mortal Kombat 11

All this isn’t to say that Mortal Kombat isn’t making big strides in other areas, of course. The recent reveal of MK11’s Aftermath expansion alone proves that the series isn’t one to stand still. Narrative in fighting games is such a rarity these days, so it’s nice to see NetherRealm champion this by way of story mode DLC. I can’t help but feel, though, that by forcing players onto a new Mortal Kombat release each time, NetherRealm isn’t capitalizing on the foundation they’ve built in featuring these lauded horror guest fighters. That’s why the next natural step for the studio, and what I think this has all been building towards, is a standalone game fully dedicated to the concept.

It doesn’t seem so crazy when you realize that NetherRealm has done this before. Prior to the launch of Injustice: Gods Among Us, many were concerned about how a fighting game based entirely on DC comic book characters would work exactly. The fact that it wasn’t just a sequel to Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe also made it seem like the value proposition was suddenly halved. And yet, by seamlessly translating Mortal Kombat’s most successful core tenants – a deep story, easy-to-learn but tough-to-master fight mechanics and visually impressive special moves – to the superhero mold, NetherRealm now has another hit series on its hands.

There’s no reason why a similar treatment couldn’t be given to the likes of The Predator, Leatherface, RoboCop, and more by way of a standalone fighting game. The current boundaries that exist between Mortal Kombat entries would finally be broken, letting Freddy Kreuger finally cross paths with Jason Voorhees in a game and allowing even more horror icons yet to appear to be brought in, too. What’s more, going this route would enable NetherRealm to maintain the gore factor synonymous with the studio, avoiding the need to make visual compromises that had to be made when toning down the violence for the Injustice series.

Whereas previously, before the release of Injustice 2 in 2017, one could easily look at the first game and see it as a simple skin swap of Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm has continued to make the DC fighter feel totally unique and separate. There may not be guts and viscera bandied about the screen or eye-wincing fatality kills, but its willingness to delve into the back catalog of DC’s vault, coupled with the loot-dropping “Gear System” that lets you to enhance a character’s base stats, has seen this superhero series fly. The stage is now set for a horror icon fighting game to similarly adapt the Mortal Kombat formula in a way that is less censored and makes total sense. 

The only real issue that might prevent this from happening, as alluded to earlier, are those pesky licensing deals. Because while DC owning all the rights to its characters makes it easy to annualize Injustice should NetherRealm ever want to, most of the guest horror characters featured in Mortal Kombat so far are owned by entirely separate entities. 20th Century Fox (a subsidiary of Disney) would make it easy for The Predator and Xenomorph to battle against each other, but who’s to say that Paramount would be so forthcoming to have the T-800 appear again following MK11?

Still, even if it would be just for a one-off, by smartly adapting the powers and abilities of every guest horror icon featured in Mortal Kombat thus far, NetherRealm Studios has proved that a standalone fighting game entirely centered around some of cinema’s fiercest slashers could work. Never seeing it happen? Now that would be the real injustice.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3618682/netherrealm-just-go-ahead-make-horror-icons-fighting-game/

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