The Mortal Kombat series has been around for a pretty long time, and it's spawned lots of different spin-offs, including action figures, movies, and a TV show. We've even seen a spin-off game based solely on Sub-Zero. This ultra-violent fighting-game series has its share of fans, as well as its share of detractors. Regardless of your stance, Mortal Kombat Gold is sure to test even the biggest fan's faith in the line.
It's not that MK Gold is a bad game or anything. It's an outstandingly accurate translation of Mortal Kombat 4, with a few new characters thrown in for good measure. But the new characters don't really bring anything stellar to the lineup, and you're left with a game that you were finished playing around with back when it came out on the N64 and the PlayStation more than a year ago.
The game really does come across as a perfect port of the arcade game, though it also has all the extras the other console versions have, like the Ice Pit level and Goro, as well as the rendered FMV endings that had been featured on the PlayStation. Load times are next to nothing, and the graphics and sound are on par with the arcade version. Even though it's a perfect port of the arcade version, the graphics look pretty dated, especially when compared with some of the other Dreamcast launch titles.
The Dreamcast-specific features include the presence of some older MK characters, namely Cyrax, Mileena, Kitana, Baraka, and Kung Lao. All of them retain their older moves, though Kung Lao's hat toss is no longer controllable, and the moves for Cyrax's bombs are done slightly differently. Also, the 3D nature of this Mortal Kombat renders Cyrax's bombs nearly useless, since you can simply sidestep them and escape their blast. With the new characters come new endings, and like the other endings, they aren't anything special. The characters in the new endings have strangely elongated necks, and their heads seem to bobble around like those weird baseball figurines.
The game's AI is vintage Mortal Kombat, so it's chock-full of the same stimulus-response style that forces you to rely on the same cheap tactics to defeat the computer opponents. There's also a weapon-select menu on the character-select screen that lets you choose which weapon you want to take into battle, but between two skilled competitors, the weapons won't come into play very often. The game's generic combo system ensures that anyone picking up the game will be able to pull off three or four hit combos almost immediately. It also ensures that unless you're a huge Mortal Kombat fan, you'll get tired of the game pretty quickly. The Dreamcast controller does a decent job here, but some of the fatalities require you to hit multiple buttons, which can be a pretty finger-twisting feat on the gamepad.
Sitting down and playing MK Gold almost feels like a retrogaming experience - you really feel as though you've pulled out some old game that you haven't played in years - and it hasn't aged gracefully. If you're still interested in Mortal Kombat 4, then MK Gold should provide some sort of thrill. But the rest of the MK fans that have already moved on to bigger and better things will just have to wait patiently for Mortal Kombat 5.