May 29, 2011Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is a worthy addition to the MK series and is one game that the series needed for a long time. Whereas every other previous MK game was just a 1 on 1 fighting, MK: Shaolin Monks is an adventure style beat-em-up. This was something new for the franchise, and it was good. MK: Shaolin Monks takes place right after the events of MK1. It starts off with a brilliant cinematic of several MK characters fighting each other, and then you begin. There are two playable characters at the start - Liu Kang and Kung Lao. Though playing alone is fun, I think the essence of Shaolin Monks is to play it co-op with a friend or sibling. The gameplay is very good, the mechanics of fighting are some of the best in an MK game. If Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (another MK game for PS2) would've used the same style of fight mechanics and combos as MK: Shaolin Monks, it would've been a much better game. In addition to a huge variety of moves to use on the minions you can also perform fatalities right in the middle of a fight, which greatly spices up the gameplay. Throughout the game you'll get to visit all the classic MK stages and meet a lot of classic MK characters. The story is not bad. It's somewhat cheesy in places, but it's fun nevertheless. Finally once you complete the game you get to unlock two more characters to play as in the story mode - Scorpion and Sub-Zero. You will be surprised, because they do have a lot of their own moves and combos. Playing as them might be a bit harder however since their projectile attacks (spear and ice ball) deal a lot less damage than the projectile attacks of Kung Lao and Liu Kang. The slightly disappointing thing is that Sub-Zero and Scorpion only have 2-3 fatalities each, whilst Liu Kang and Kung Lao had about a dozen. There is a versus mode in the game too, but that one in my opinion is very weak as you only have 8 characters to play with. Overall a solid and very fun game, with plenty of challenges and lots of gore. The only reason why I am not giving it a 10 is because I thought the last boss was way too overpowered, which kind of ruined the experience for me. Not only is the last boss very hard, but there are also two other boss fights you engage in right before that one without getting a chance to save or replenish your health. It's hard on co-op, it's even harder if you play alone.… Expand
Jun 8, 2014OVERALL: Maybe the best 2-player cooperative game, certainly the best of those in the Beat-em-Up genre (yes, better than the Sega Die Hard/Dynamite Cop games, better than Shank 1, better than Double Dragon Neon, better than Dynasty Warriors _).
Graphics are good, especially in their adherence to the mortal kombat aesthetic and in character designs, at least by PS2 standards. The exception is the Sub-zero special effects, which look like ugly static bitmap blue clouds plastered over what's supposed to be "frozen." Enemies blast into bloody gibs if you hit them hard enough, which I loved. Sound effects are great. The cutscenes, CGI and rendered, have really great fight choreography, although they are extremely silly in the classic mortal kombat style.
Although moves only affect one enemy at a time, MK:SM lets you move around really well with the left joystick so you don't lock-on. Combos are based on button presses, not directional inputs, which avoids the problems of Devil-Must-Cry games. There's dedicated throw button, dedicated jump button, (so already we're leagues ahead of modern beat-em-up games), attack button and launch/uppercut button. Holding down the shoulder button makes these buttons activate different character-specific special moves that draw from a recharging meter. You can also pick up, use and throw weapons. The feel of combat is perfect, and it's amazing how well all the character-specific special attacks from the 2D games translate into 3D space. You can also pick up, use and throw weapons. Fatalities are incorporated as instant kill or "rage" attacks.
It's just simple enough to allow friends to pick-up-and-play, but deep enough to carry the entire game as you upgrade the special attacks and unlock more combos. There's a large variety of enemy types, incorporating most of the MK2 characters as well as background extras from the first movie. I personally prefer the MK:SM versus mode for one-on-one combat to any of the fighting game series of mortal kombats.
In addition to combat, there's also some basic platforming. Puzzles work well because they all amount to throwing or knocking enough enemies into specific obstacles, so they're integrated into combat.
Here is where all the little annoyances appear, due to some bizarrely-obviously bad design decisions.
For one thing, there are parts of the game where you need a walkthrough to figure out where to go, not to mention the secrets (including critically important unlockables like the survival mode, extra bosses to fight and extra characters for the versus mode) that are impossible to find without one.
There's no way to drop-in/drop-out of cooperative versus single player mode, so you have to restart the game to change. There's not even a way to switch characters besides restarting.
Also, both players share one health bar, which seems like the worst possible design choice in terms of player health.
There are only 4 playable characters in the campaign mode, even though there are 8 in versus mode and more besides that as bosses.
But it's a mark of how great the core gameplay was that this is the only game I have ever gone through the hassle of getting the Action Replay cheat system to work for. Using cheats, you can play as not just the 8 fully-coded-for characters, but also as any enemy that appears in the game (although most of the enemies have limited movesets).
It also gets very difficult at the end. I'm not too proud to admit I had to cheat heavily to get past the final boss Shao Kahn, who is very cheap in the classic mortal kombat final boss way.
And it's short. 4 hours!? But better a brilliant short game than a good but padded one.
Despite the flaws, it remains the best 2-player cooperative campaign I ever played, and even as a single-player game it rivals the best of the beat-em-ups.… Expand