The Basics: Right from the get-go, Mortal Kombat was a series that was rife with mythology. From the creation of an alternate world called "Outworld" to all sorts of creature races like the Shokans, MK boasts some of the most original and prolific lore ever tied to a fighting game. Sure, Street Fighter had the underlying past between Ryu and Sagat, and Tekken had the perpetually-feuding Mishima clan, but Mortal Kombat has always had that "extra" something.
With Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Midway intends to give us a lot more of that extra something. A 3D action/adventure title, Monks puts you in control of Liu Kang and Kung Lao, two of Earthrealm's most powerful and skilled kombatants. Their goal is to unfurl the plans of Shang Tsung, who has enlisted the help of the Tarkatan's -- Baraka's race -- to take earthrealm by force. Because as we all know, losing Mortal Kombat pretty much put his plans for earthrealm's domination on the back-burner.
Using a revolutionary new "multi-directional kombat" system, Shaolin Monks will offer the fastest, furious and most gory 3D beat-em up action to date. Everything we've come to love about Mortal Kombat -- the characters, locales, special moves, fatalities, "pit" moves, juggles, and combos -- are all present an accounted for, making Shaolin Monks one of the most fun, visceral action titles available in the past year for the PlayStation 2 (second only to God of War, of course).
What do we think? Having been a fan of Mortal Kombat since its arcade debut over a decade ago, it remains one of my favorite fighting franchises. With the release of the exceptional Mortal Kombat: Deception last year, it's good to see that the MK Team is still right on the ball. Though they have a tough act to follow -- in terms of a sequel to Deception -- Shaolin Monks is poised to be an exceptional title, both in terms of the gameplay itself, as well as fleshing out fans' favorite moments and mythos.
It goes without saying that Shaolin Monks is facing skeletons in MK's action/adventure closet (MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero and Jax: MK Special Forces), giving it a tall order to fill. To overcome the notions that an adventure game based on the MK universe won't turn out well is one of this title's biggest challenges. We all know MK has the story to work with, it's just that the past two action titles were lacking in mechanical prowess. Thankfully, from everything we've seen or heard about this title, there's little reason to think the final product won't truly be a sight to behold.
One of the team's greatest goals is to bring to life, everything fans have ever believed to be true. Remember the rumors of the Living Forest trees being able to eat the characters? That can (and will) happen in Shaolin Monks. How 'bout the creepy glowing eyes in Goro's Lair? They're not just decoration anymore... There's definitely something alive there, and it'll be coming to get you!
With a story spanning from the end of the original Mortal Kombat release all the way through MK4, a cool new "ko-op" mode with two-player simultaneous play, oodles and oodles of hidden goodies, and exceptionally responsive gameplay, I have absolutely no doubts that MK: Shaolin Monks is the action title to look for in September. If they give it even half the polish they gave MK: Deception, MK fans are in for a treat.
Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is also in development for the PS2.