Mortal Kombat 1 – Birds & Swords [Review]

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It was the summer of 1992. Pantera’s “Vulgar Display of Power” pulsed through our Walkman as we took the lopsided walk into our local arcade, quarters weighing down our pockets. To our surprise, a vibrant new arcade cabinet had been dollied in. A crowd immediately gathered, clutching that next-game quarter, awaiting the chance for brutality. A dark, gritty and fatal fighting game had officially entered the scene. That game was Mortal Kombat. 

Fast-forward 31 years and NetherRealm studios has decided to take us back with “A New Level” of Mortal Kombat with Mortal Kombat 1. Although NetherRealm has insisted that MK1 is neither a remake or a reboot, it does fall somewhere in between. Or maybe it should be better described as a “reset.” Any time spent with the last couple of installments(MKX and MK11) will tell you that timelines are where the series has gone with its story. Konvoluted? Maybe. But revisiting and expanding upon the original stories that made us drool over that screen in ‘92? Killer. 

*Music featured from: Entheos/Chelsea Grin/Bodysnatcher

We see the story of Mortal Kombat 1 pick up where the events MK11 left off, with Liu Kang as the Keeper of Time, dissolving the chaos of the world that was, and resetting time to achieve peace. That’s right. Peace. Our dragon boy assumes that playing out the tournament of Mortal Kombat in a fair and organized way from the beginning will restore balance to the realms. I won’t spill any blood here, but with this “restoration” we do get a fantastic, deep and gory retelling of the origin stories we all loved back when we first discovered Outworld. It rules. Playing through the story will allow you to familiarize yourself with MK1’s roster by throwing you into fights as the story plays out. It’s a great way to involve the player in the variety of characters and styles. So if you want to do nothing but “get over here’s, look to another mode. The story begins to complicate(again) in the third act, but it is definitely worth the adventure for the fresh take on the spine-ripping nostalgia. 

Along with the story comes the klassic two-player local mode, towers mode, online mode(good luck) and an all new mode called “Invasions” mode. The Invasions mode is a rotating seasonal hub that features separate areas to travel through a sort of table-top board game, landing on spaces and throwing you into a fight. These fights typically come with modifiers, like fireballs or bats flying into bust you when you aren’t looking, and can come with cosmetic rewards. It can become a bit cumbersome and repetitive, but the grind does come with some cool get-ups and allows you to level up your favorite characters. Season 1 had a refresh of 60 days, so we will have to wait and see if NetherRealm keeps this consistent in delivering new kontent. 

Blood. Guts. I don’t know, dismemberment? This is where MK1 shines, is in its tight and fair gameplay and its unapologetic brutal finishers. This is the biggest mess we’ve ever seen. MK1 tears apart your enemies in the most creative ways to date. Whether its ripping out a ribcage or dissolving your opponent’s body in stomach acid, you’re gonna get grossed out while tossing out genuine “oh my god…”’s. NetherRealm studios continues to push the bar as the bloody king of video games. And the Fatalities are a huge reason we’re here, right? Go ahead and stay awhile, because they’re bloody incredible. 

Over the years, the Mortal Kombat series has developed itself into a legitimate fighting game. There is a fantastic fighting system built underneath the carnage. Fights are fair, learning timing and kombos is rewarded and the special moves play. You never really feel cheated, but rather think about the things that you could’ve done differently to avoid violent disaster. Another new addition of MK1 is the use of Kameo characters. This acts as a tag-team partner that can quickly enter the fight and perform an attack or reversal, and then quickly bail out. Its another fun way to get your nostalgia fix, because these characters are mostly classics from early entries in the series. This is a separate roster, and unfortunately you cannot use the Kameos as regular controllable fighters, because it makes you want to. 

It’s a brutal good time. It really is. Mortal Kombat 1 delivers on pretty much everything that we want it to, and excels in the areas that we love the most. You aren’t waiting to throw quarters into a machine, but hey, you can still listen to Vulgar while you’re playing it. 


Micah Poggemoeller

Co-Host & Publisher

Birds & Swords, 

The Barn Media Group, LLC

*Birds & Swords is a casual gaming podcast out of Milwaukee, WI. 

You can check out and subscribe to their content here


Mortal Kombat 1 is available now for Playstation 5, Xbox and Nintendo Switch.

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