Re(?)Considered: Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero
Ooh, Chinese Ninja warrior with your heart so cold
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is one of the most notoriously awful games ever made. To dispute this would be a fool's errand. It is an inept, awkward hodge-podge of extremely difficult Mortal Kombat fighting and horrendously designed trial-and-error platforming, with confusing maze-like levels, platforms that flit in and out of safety in ways that are near-impossible to parse (the rotating blades in the early game are a nightmare of collision detection), constant one-hit deaths from traps that are impossible to avoid without precognitive ability... it's a laundry list of flaws that relegate it quite succinctly to the very lowest tier of franchise flops. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is, to utilise the dismissive parlance of this terrifying modern era, a garbage fire.
And yet. And yet. And yet.
There's something intriguing about a garbage fire, isn't there? If you saw one you'd be at the very least curious. That's rather how I feel about Mythologies, a game I routinely go back to because... it just can't be like this. It can't. How did it happen? How was this allowed? Someone sat back from this, smiled and nodded assuredly and stated "this is fit for release". You fight gods and do pitched battle with a fire-breathing dinosaur. There's a giant, mechanical prison guard with a buzzsaw for a hand. It's outlandish, downright nonsensical in places. But it's trying. Somehow, it's thoughtful. It's interesting. It raises questions, at any rate.
Obvious effort has gone into its presentation. The live-action cutscenes, far from being cheesy crap, are clearly well-made with decent production values. The story is interesting and it's a decent core idea. Graphically the game is pretty atmospheric, despite a few 2D sprite/3D model clashes. At the time it was reviewed harshly in this capacity for having the temerity to be two-dimensional (like a baby game), but quite frankly it's better-looking than the majority of games from its era with their low-poly, poorly-textured fuzz.
A more story-focused Mortal Kombat adventure game was not inherently a bad idea; following the early 1997 release of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, the series was still somewhere towards the pinnacle of its cultural cachet and the impending sequel to the (genuinely enjoyable) Mortal Kombat movie meant that an appetite for narrative Kombat was certainly in the air. To this day, in fact, Netherealm's fighting franchises showcase unheard-of love and care put into their Story Modes. Mythologies is simply a flawed precursor to a style that would later be mastered; it's a trial run for the terrific Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and the later PS3/PS4 games. For that matter, it's also - somehow - a far better game than 2000's abortive Mortal Kombat: Special Forces.
Despite its critically flawed execution, Mortal Kombat Mythologies has to be appreciated for its ambition if nothing else. It deserves to be played as an example of just how bad a game can get while still retaining a sort of mystique, a sense of fascination. There's extremely cool stuff in this game, but it really makes you work for it.