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Remembering Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks

Classic fighting game fans are in the midst of a joyous occasion: the new Mortal Kombat release is imminent. However, before we explode with nostalgic glee at the re-emergence of the legendary fighter, let us take some time to remember an experiment, a venture into the implausible. Does Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks mean anything to you?

More than likely, that answer is probably “no”. Released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, Shaolin Monks was a spin-off to the conventional Mortal Kombat recipe. Instead of purely focussing on versus combat, Midway threw you into a co-operative brawler riddled with everything you love about the MK universe. Unlike previous brawling attempts, such as Mortal Kombat Mythologies and Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, Shaolin Monks surprised by being… well, by being pretty damn good.

Speaking candidly, Shaolin Monks didn’t have the greatest visuals, the story was pretty stupid and the voice acting was exceptionally terrible. Typically, these caveats serve as one enormous admonition to stay far, far away from this title, especially since it was released during the time that some of the worst Mortal Kombat games were made. Uniquely, though, Shaolin Monks didn’t need any of those things to prove its worth as an accessible and fun title to throw into your system. After all, who wouldn’t want to throw useless foot-soldiers into the air, beat them to a bloody pulp, and then pass them to your teammate to repeat said gestures, with a nice decapitation at the end?

Mortal Kombat

Reptile vs. Scorpion from Mortal Kombat. No, I don’t know if it’s the 90s original or the new reboot.[/caption]

As previously stated, Shaolin Monks had nothing going for it in the way a standard triple-A title would. Its glory came from the fact that you could play with a friend, perform series-staple fatalities, and utilise a workable 3D combat system with two of the most famous Mortal Kombat characters, Liu Kang and Kung Lao. If it’s tough to envisage how it’d work, think of Devil May Cry’s over-the-top and completely exaggerated combat, but slower and more manageable. At points there are large numbers of enemies on screen, but there’s no demon chaos beams or exploding light vestibules to wreak havoc on your eyes. There are also platforming sections that require you to skillfully navigate distinguished Mortal Kombat zones, like the Pit.

Shaolin Monks will never beat a game like God of War on pure scale, because each of its attributes simply cannot compete with the angry Spartan and his showcase. I say shove it, though, because the simplicity and enjoyment you get from tossing your buddy an enemy several times, trading off roundhouse kicks to their cranium, is a beautiful thing. This gives scope to worry though, because with Mortal Kombat basically relaunching itself with a new (read: old) foundation, I’m afraid that Shaolin Monks‘ formula will be lost in transition. There’s also that whole Midway catastrophe, and who owns what licences, but there are always other ways around that.

Shaolin Ninjas, anyone?

Shaolin Monks wasn’t good at anything required to sell on the scale of, for example, Call of Duty, but it excelled in co-operative fare and was a worthy addition to the MK name. A note to NetherRealm, the developers: the new Mortal Kombat is looking amazing. but you can’t forget a gem like Shaolin Monks. It would be a severe disappointment.

What do you all think? Should NetherRealm bother with Shaolin Monks? Should they make a series akin to it or perhaps negate the whole game altogether?