Mortal Kombat 1 Embodies a Fresh Era while Honoring its Legacy

Welcome to the New Era of Mortal Kombat

NetherRealm Studios is embarking on a new journey with the reboot of the Mortal Kombat universe in Mortal Kombat 1. This installment takes us back to the origins of the franchise while adding new twists. The iconic characters and intense combat that have become ingrained in pop culture are still present, but with notable adjustments both big and small.

As I played Mortal Kombat 1 during the Summer Game Fest 2023, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia blending with fresh ideas. I had the opportunity to climb the classic towers with each available character. While Mortal Kombat is pushing forward into a new future, it still retains a deep appreciation for its past.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Introducing the Kameo Fighters

The most notable addition to Mortal Kombat 1 is the inclusion of the Kameo Fighters. Instead of engaging in one-on-one battles, each player selects a main fighter and a tag-in Kameo Fighter. These characters can be called in to perform special attacks periodically, with a cooldown period between uses.

It’s important to note that Mortal Kombat 1 is not transitioning into a tag fighter. The Kameo Fighters don’t have separate health bars and cannot be fully substituted in. During my playtime, I had Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, Kenshi, and Kitana available as main characters, with Kano, Sonya, and Jax as the Kameo options.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Summoning the Kameo Fighters is simple. Just press R1, and they’ll jump in to assist with a move. Different directions and inputs can modify their actions, such as holding R1 to charge up Sonya’s energy projectile. Some Kameo Fighters can even affect both players, like Jax’s ground slam.

These Kameo fighters bring an intriguing twist to the traditional cadence of Mortal Kombat. Choosing a specific fighter can compensate for the weaknesses of another or amplify their strengths. A duo like Sub-Zero and Sonya can quickly become a formidable force, while Kitana and Kano can be a challenging duo to approach.

These differences add depth to Mortal Kombat 1, which remains at its core an MK game. Personally, I’m not an expert at Mortal Kombat; I’m drawn to its story and characters, but I don’t delve deeply into the competitive side. From that perspective, Mortal Kombat 1 feels somewhat unfamiliar initially. It’s a game that feels familiar yet surprises you with its Kameos.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Fire God Walk With Me

This peculiar sense of blending the old with the new perfectly fits Mortal Kombat 1, which takes place in Liu Kang’s new era. If you haven’t played Mortal Kombat 11 or its DLC Aftermath (you really should), NetherRealm’s time-travel storyline sees Liu Kang ascend to become a new god and reset the universe.

Although it’s the same universe, certain aspects have changed due to this shift. The most noticeable change is the shifting dynamics between characters. Liu Kang now assumes a role similar to Raiden’s, maintaining order in this fresh world.

The recent SGF trailer hints at other compelling changes. Kitana appears to serve Mileena, while Kung Lao has taken on Liu Kang’s mantle as Earthrealm’s fighter. Meanwhile, Raiden seems to have been reduced to a mere individual with lightning powers. I’m genuinely curious to see how this all unfolds.

Alongside these role shifts, my gameplay experience at SGF showed that Mortal Kombat 1 still carries a nostalgic spirit for its origins. Sonya, Kano, and Jax don throwback outfits, paying homage to the very first Mortal Kombat. It’s also worth mentioning that MK1 boasts stunning visuals. From the character models and backgrounds to the brutal Fatalities (and the accidental Brutality I witnessed), everything looks visually striking.

I must admit that the Fatalities I observed didn’t particularly resonate with my taste. I lean more towards the almost-cartoonish Itchy and Scratchy-style fatalities, which the ones I saw didn’t quite capture. However, there is reportedly one where Jax grows to massive proportions and stomps on someone, which is undeniably impressive.

Screenshot by Destructoid

More Epic Kombat Awaits

During my gameplay session, my focus was primarily on exploring the mechanics of the new Kameo fighters. For dedicated and competitive fans of Mortal Kombat, these assist options have the potential to open up thrilling combo routes and strategic choices. It was incredibly satisfying when everything came together smoothly, and I executed a seamless combo using both my main fighter and Kameo.

For more casual fans, the appeal of Mortal Kombat 1 lies in what has always captivated enthusiasts of NetherRealm’s titles: the immersive world of Mortal Kombat itself. The studio is in a fascinating position, aiming to reimagine the established canon while building a fresh narrative. This promises to offer a captivating universe to explore in all its gruesome and gory detail.

Mortal Kombat 1 is set to release on September 29 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Eric Van Allen

Senior News Reporter – While Eric has been writing about games since 2014, he has been playing them for much longer. You’ll usually find him engrossed in intense RPG battles, exploring indie gems, or immersing himself in the world of Limsa Aethryte.

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