There are few things as odd in the video game world as the concept of crossovers. Oh, placing two great tastes that take great together seems obvious enough, but in some cases, the combination doesn't consist of great tastes that you'd dare to stick together. Take the bizarre announcements in just the past year. You've got Capcom crossing over Tatsunoko, which will feature the oddity of Ryu and Chun-Li battling characters from Gatchaman and Gold Lightan. Then you've got Cross Edge for the PS3, which will feature an insane crossover between Disgaea, Mana Khemia, Darkstalker and who knows what else. However, for those not familiar with obscure Japanese games and animations, by far the strangest crossover announced in the last year is Midway's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is following in the steps of Capcom's Marvel vs. Capcom idea and bringing the two brands together into a fighting game. A dimensional rift has opened up between the Mortal Kombat and DC universes, and as with any good superhero crossover, it means that there is fighting afoot. For those wondering exactly how Superman can lose to Sonya Blade, Midway has confirmed that the magical nature of Mortal Kombat's Outworld and other factors have weakened the DC heroes to the point where they can actually fight the MK fellows without winning in a single attack. To quote Mystery Science Theater 3000, it's just a video game, and you should really just relax and enjoy watching Scorpion and Superman duel it out.
If you've played a recent Mortal Kombat game, then Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe isn't going to be too hard to pick up and play. The title will have two sets of controls available at one time. The analog stick moves you around like you would in a 3-D fighter, with the direction you press being the direction in which you move. The d-pad on your controller makes you move like a 2-D fighter, with your up and down buttons causing you to jump and duck, respectively. The analog stick is easier for pure movement, while the d-pad was easier for pulling off special moves and regular combat. Beyond that, combat is exactly what you'd expect from a fighting game. You can activate different kinds of punches and kicks using the face buttons or use button combinations to pull off special moves and powerful grabs to dish out the hurt onto your opponent.
The cast of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is the biggest drawing point, and it looks like Midway is giving them the star treatment. So far, the announced characters are as follows. The DC side brings Batman, Captain Marvel/Shazam, Catwoman, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Joker and Superman, while Mortal Kombat fields Jax, Liu Kang, Kitana, Scorpion, Shang Tseung, Sonya Blade and Sub-Zero. Most of the Mortal Kombat characters are basically unchanged from what you'd expect to see from their earlier counterparts. Scorpion still shoots his spear, teleport kicks and breathes fire, and Sonya Blade still has her deadly poison kiss. The DC characters are a bit more interesting in this regard. Superman was a powerhouse with a wide variety of moves; he could suck people in with super breath, blast them with heat vision, pound them into the ground with super strength, or even freeze them solid with ice breath. The Flash was a bit different, relying on two different available styles of fighting. One used regular punches and kicks that were not exactly visually impressive but solid, and the other tended to use Speed Force-infused punches, allowing him to hit enemies many times in the span of a second. The Flash also had a range of neat speed-based super moves, such as a Justice League-inspired move where he runs around the world three times in rapid succession, dizzying the opponent, or another where he runs off-screen and back on-screen on the opposite side to punch the enemy in the back of the head.
One of the biggest changes from the usual Mortal Kombat fighting formula is the inclusion of Klose Kombat sequences, which can be activated in a number of different ways, with different effects each time. By grabbing an enemy, you activate a Klose Kombat sequence, which entails a button-pressing minigame, where the attacking player chooses a button and the defending player has to match it or suffer damage. Once the defensive player does, however, they both break free.
Another way to activate Klose Kombat was visible in the Hell stage, where knocking your opponent off the side of the ring caused a free fall where both players had to match buttons again. This time, however, things were a bit different. Each successful press filled a super bar on the side of the screen, and once the bar was half full, the attacking player could use it to perform a nasty super move, such as slamming the enemy into the ground or blasting them up-close with a poisoned kiss. The more of the meter is full, the more powerful the super attack will be. However, if the defending player successfully matches the button, he will switch positions with the attacker and even keep any super meter that's been built up, which is quite devastating if you handed over a full super bar.
Finally, there was the "Test Your Might" Klose Kombat that's usable in the Metropolis stage. Knocking an enemy through one of the buildings on the side would cause the attacker to burst forward and continue knocking him through every successive wall in a rush. Both players had to pound buttons like the classic "Test Your Might" Mortal Kombat minigame, with the attacker trying to increase damage while the defender wants to decrease it.
The biggest rumors that was flying around when Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was announced was that the inclusion of the DC heroes and the change from a Mature to a Teen rating would mean that fatalities would be replaced by super moves. Fear not, Mortal Kombat faithful, since fatalities are certainly in, although they're a bit less violent than before. Obviously, you're not going to have Superman frying anyone with his heat vision or Batman pulling out someone's heart, so the DC heroes have "brutalities" instead. These moves are nonfatal, but certainly don't look any less painful for it. In the demo, we got to see Superman's finishing move, where his eyes turned bright yellow for a moment and, copying Shiva from Mortal Kombat 3, he pounded his enemy into the ground like a tent stake. However, you'll find that only heroes are willing to show this level of … err … restraint. Mortal Kombat characters and DC villains such as The Joker and Catwoman will have fatalities instead of finishing moves. (Catwoman is considered a villain for the purposes of this game.) While in gameplay terms, they're indistinguishable from the heroes, fatalities are a bit on the "fatal" side. The only one available in the demo was Scorpion's, which was his classic flame breath move that reduces his enemy to a charred corpse. It's almost more brutal than Scorpion just turning enemies into skeletons, and it leaves me curious about what the toned-down fatalities are.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe isn't a bad-looking game. The characters are fluid and move quite smoothly, and neat little visual flourishes are added to the special moves. A lot of the damage animations looked quite brutal, even from the DC heroes, but it was pretty hard not to wince when Scorpion did his arm-breaker move. The few environments that we got to see were also quite impressive, ranging from the battle-ravaged street in front of the Daily Planet in Metropolis to Scorpion's home stage of hell itself.
A neat touch is that all of the characters suffer damage as the battles progress, depending on their specific model. For example, Sub Zero's clothes got torn as the battle progressed, as did The Flash's, and by the end of the fight, it looked like they had really been through a knock-down, drag-out fight. Not every character suffers damage to their clothes, though. Superman's suit will remain in pristine shape, but his cape will become tattered and frayed, and his face will begin to show signs of wear and tear, including a really nasty-looking Death of Superman-inspired black eye by the time he's about ready to fall.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is a darn strange crossover. The DC Universe, despite its recent rash of incredibly over-the-top violence in series like "Infinite Crisis," has generally been considered a rather "clean" place in comparison to other comic publishers, let alone a super-violent game like Mortal Kombat. Even more surprising than the crossover is that Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is actually shaping up to be pretty fun. It probably won't satisfy the hardcore technical fighting game fans who are going to stick with Melty Blood and Street Fighter IV, but it's impossible to deny that it was pretty fun to take Superman up against Sub-Zero, and the controls and gameplay mechanics worked quite well. The demo we saw at E3 was fairly limited, but assuming that the main game improves upon the demo in a reasonable way, we can expect Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe to be a rollicking fun time.
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