Mortal Kombat 4 (1997) is the fourth game in the Mortal Kombat series and the last game in the series to be available in the arcades. It was updated into Mortal Kombat Gold, whose story overrides the former. It is one of the few 3D fighting games to have been described as having "2D game play".
Mortal Kombat 4 saw a handful of revisions in its arcade lifetime.
The first incarnation of the game was toured around America to hype the game's official release. The game was noticeably incomplete, featuring many bugs and a relatively small selection of playable characters. The selectable characters were comprised of Shinnok, Fujin, Scorpion, Raiden, Sonya, Liu Kang, Sub-Zero (masked but missing his scar), Quan Chi and Noob Saibot, along with 6 "?" character slots. Each character had a weapon and one Fatality.
The first version of the game to officially enter arcades was Revision 2. In this version, Noob Saibot was completely removed, but Kai, Reptile, Jarek and Tanya were added to the selectable characters while retaining 3 "?" character slots. This version was later modified (though still referred to as Revision 2), bringing back Johnny Cage and Jax while introducing Reiko, as well as editing Sub-Zero's appearance to include his scar and changing his 2p outfit to a look resembling his MK3 appearance. Several characters receive new weapons, such as Sub-Zero's Ice Scepter.
The final version of MK4 to appear in arcades was Revision 3. Revision 3 added a new second Fatality for every character, further fixed existing bugs left over in Revision 2, changed more character weapons and added the secret character Meat as an alternate skin to the selectable characters. This version also introduced several new costumes for the existing playable characters.
In 1997, the game was ported to the Nintendo 64 (which would retain it as a Blockbuster rental-exclusive for the first few weeks) and later the Playstation by Eurocom. Goro was implemented into the home version as a sub-boss, making his first canonical return since the original Mortal Kombat, while Noob-Saibot was reimplemented as an unlockable character (though with borrowed moves and no ending.) The Playstation version featured pre-rendered FMV endings with updated graphics, as opposed to the in-engine endings featured in the Arcade and Nintendo 64 versions. The Playstation version would be ported to the PC, with a Game Boy Color game built off of the engine featured in the Gameboy version of Mortal Kombat 3 developed by Digital Eclipse released later on.
Early on, the development team at Midway decided to make a 3D Mortal Kombat to capitalize on the rising popularity of 3D games at the time. However, Midway decided to develop its own hardware (named "Zeus") from scratch, resulting in development delays (a large amount of the game was tested on two dimensional hardware using pre-rendered characters).
As revealed in later interviews, programmer Ed Boon was particularly concerned with maintaining the game play feel of a 2D game but with 3D graphics. He at first was worried that there was some intrinsic property of 3D graphics that would make this impossible. Essentially, the major game play difference between 2D and 3D fighting games of the time, was that up to that point all 3D fighting games had attempted to somewhat simulate realistic martial arts. One of the reasons this was done was to take advantage of the fluid keyframed and motion captured animation that was now possible using 3D models. For example, in Virtua Fighter, a real martial artist was filmed performing the moves, and this movement was imposed on the 3D model in the game. Thus, while a punch in a 2D game might be a rapidly responding move with two frames of animation, a punch in a 3D game might have a delay between when the button was pressed and when the opponent was hit, owing to the realistic animation.
This delay however fundamentally changed the game play experience. Boon eventually decided to use the non realistic 2D rates of animation and movement, simply imposed onto 3D graphics. Thus the game play experience is nearly identical to the 2D versions of Mortal Kombat. While this was attempted before with the Street Fighter EX series, that series used more complex animation which did change the game play somewhat. Some critics however, were disappointed that Mortal Kombat 4 did not play like other popular 3D games of the time.
Boss and Sub-Boss
- Quan Chi (Home Version only)
- Elder Gods' Arena
- Goro's Lair - When an opponent is defeated on this stage, he/she can be uppercutted into the spikes on the ceiling. In the Home Version of the game, Goro is fought here.
- Ice Pit
- Living Forest
- Reptile's Lair
- Shaolin Temple
- The Prison - When an opponent is defeated on this stage, he/she can be tossed into the large metal fan - which proceeds to chop them into bits.
- The Tomb
- Fire Well
- Wind World
Characters' live backgrounds
- Reptile in Reptile's Lair
- Goro in Goro's Lair
- Raiden and Fujin in Elder Gods' Arena and Wind World
- Sub-Zero in Ice Pit
- Shinnok in Fire Well
New to the series
- First game to have entirely computer-generated characters, although the texture maps of the characters were taken from most of the live-action actors of the previous games and animations were all generated via motion capture.
- First game to introduce a limited weapon system to the series.
- First game to introduce 3D combat, although limited to sidestepping.
- First game to add a 'Maximum Damage' cap to the game's combo system, automatically breaking off combos if they deal over a set amount of damage to a player and thus preventing infinite combos (although this cap can be removed with a code).
- First game to feature characters dying from a game over.
"Thousands of years ago, in a battle with the fallen elder god known as Shinnok, I was responsible for the death of an entire civilization. To rid all realms of Shinnok's menace, I waged a war that plunged the Earth into centuries of darkness and banished Shinnok to a place called the Netherrealm. Now, after Shao Kahn's defeat at the hands of the Earth warriors, Shinnok has managed to escape his confines of the Netherrealm. The war is now being fought once again, only this time, it can be won by mortals." - The Words of Raiden
As a first for the series, some characters feature alternate costumes as opposed to simply being differently colored from their primary appearance. Additionally, some characters in later versions featured additional costumes. Despite this, the alternate costumes were limited by the available geometry of the original model, causing them to strongly identical to their original costumes aside from the texture.
Mortal Kombat 4 was ported to the Game Boy Color, Playstation, Nintendo 64, and PC.
Characters in ports
|Secret selectable character|
|Selectable using a game-altering device|
|Character||Arcade||PlayStation||Nintendo 64||PC||Game Boy Color||DreamCast (Mortal Kombat Gold)|
Initial reaction to the new 3D look of the series (as is often the case with long-running series) was negative, but MK4 managed to be a financial success. Much of it can be credited to an aggressive advertisement campaign which included a set of live action adverts filmed in Mexico and a US-wide tour of the arcade version by the game's creators which helped spread the word.
Although the game was hugely popular, it failed to pull Mortal Kombat out of a slump that began that same year. In fact, from 1997 to 1999, the series waned due to several Mortal Kombat projects that were either short lived, mediocre in quality, or shoddy altogether. It was also the time in which John Tobias - the main storyteller - and much of Midway's staff resigned since the industry had recently made one flop after another.
MK4 was also to be the last Mortal Kombat game released in the arcades due to a dramatic drop in arcade popularity around 2000.
- MK4 was actually not the first game that was created by Midway with the new Zeus software. A fighting game titled War Gods was released several months before MK4's debut. Unfortunately, it bombed in arcades.
- To date, Mortal Kombat 4 is the only Mortal Kombat arcade title to never receive an out-of-arcade port to any platform. The home versions have also never been re-released beyond the Dreamcast-update Mortal Kombat Gold.
- Reptile makes his first playable appearance in the series without his mask. His ninja outfit was later implemented as a secret costume, though it reused Scorpion's texture and lacked a loincloth due to lacking the necessary model geometry.
- Reptile's blood color has also reverted to red, as opposed to green.
- A number of characters were originally planned to be in the game, some even being modeled and partially implemented before being removed.
- Kitana was originally planned to be in Mortal Kombat 4. However, due to there not being enough new characters in the game, her color palette was changed to brown to make Tanya. Her leftover model was used for Liu Kang's Arcade Mode ending, although her coding is still in the N64 version of the game, and she can be accessed with a GameShark. Her coding is also in the PC version, but it can be only accessed via a trainer. While Kitana's model and textures were deleted from the Playstation version, her moves were left in, and can be assigned to any character with a GameShark.
- Sindel was supposed to be featured in the game with Kitana, but was scrapped out due to Fujin resembling her and having a similar Fatality.
- Kano was also planned for MK4. However, due to there not being enough new characters in the game, Kano was left out of the roster and Jarek was put in in his place.
- Sareena was considered to be added to the roster (the MK team wanting to include another Mythologies character in addition to Quan Chi and Shinnok), but they decided to use Fujin instead.
- Noob Saibot was originally featured in the game's first arcade iteration. However, due to fact he blended in too much with the darker backgrounds, combined with complaints of the glut of "Ninjas" featured in the previous titles, he was entirely removed from the game in its first major revision, with his model repurposed into Reiko. Saibot would later be reimplemented into the home versions of the game as an unlockable character, though he lacks a bio or ending, and his moveset is completely borrowed from existing characters.
- Although Goro was implemented into the home versions of the game, he was never publically implemented into the Arcade version of the game. The sole exception to this is said to be featured in the NetherRealm Studios office, which is said to contain an Arcade unit that features Goro.
- The game features the same style of versus screen from Mortal Kombat 3, using rendered images of characters before a fight. Unlike the previous game however, these renders do not change should the players have selected the same character. The player can also input Kombat Kodes to alter the game play.
- For unknown reasons, Liu Kang and Sonya's Versus renders depict them in their secondary outfits as opposed to their primary outfits.
- One Kombat Kode featured in the game is "Noob Saibot Mode", although it seemingly has no actual effect.
- None of the game actors from the previous MK titles were used in MK4. Ed Boon, John Vogel and several other Midway employees provided motion-capture footage for the characters. In the end credits, several past actors such as Carlos Pesina, Tony Marquez, Kerri Hoskins and Sal Divita are mentioned as providing motion capture.
- Scorpion's newly-recorded "Get over here!" audio clip from this game was recycled in future games up until Mortal Kombat 11.
- Though the character Reiko is male, the name "Reiko" is actually a feminine Japanese name, meaning "beautiful" or "lovely child."
- This is the first MK fighting game to have animated endings.
- Thus far, this (along with its update MK Gold) is the only fighting game in the series to feature kombatants speaking rather than having narration for their endings.
- The Arcade and Nintendo 64 versions featured in-engine endings, allowing the character's selected costume to appear in said ending. This allowed the player to manipulate the appearances of the endings by shifting the costume of any character involved at the selection screen. Due to the additional space offered by CDs, the Playstation version of the game featured newly animated cinematic FMVs made using higher quality models, many of which expanded on the original endings, though these pre-rendered FMVs removed the ability to manipulate costumes within the endings.
- The Game Boy Color version of MK4 uses a modified version of the Game Boy's port of MK3's game engine. Due to the lack of power behind the Game Boy Color versus the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, the game itself was not in 3D, but boasted "full video" Fatalities (grainy renditions of certain MK4 Fatalities). This port is also one of the few (if not the only) Game Boy/Color titles to have voice-overs ("Round X", "Fight!", "Finish Him/Her!", grunting when getting hit, "Fatality!"), albeit the more discernible words used are from Shao Kahn's voice over effects from MK3. Interestingly enough, Tanya has the same male grunting sounds when she takes damage (possibly due to memory constraints on a Game Boy Color title).
- In the CD-based versions and the N64 version of the game, the backgrounds of Goro's portrait is different, depending the version. In the N64 version, the background has flames in it, while on CD-based versions it is purple.
- This is the only main game in the series so far to not feature Shang Tsung as a character, nor in the form of a cameo. Though, in MK Gold, he is mentioned in Mileena and Kitana's endings.
- Some male characters, when performing a throw (or a special move), will say a gibberish statement that sounds like, "Hey I'm gonna throw you over there!". In that same vein, Sub-Zero will say "Toca el hielo" (Touch the ice in Spanish) when he does his Ice Clone move. Strangely enough, some other characters will also say this statement when they do certain moves. It can be noted that although these characters are primarily English/Asian speakers, they will speak Spanish (with the exception of Liu Kang and Shinnok). An example of this is when Scorpion takes out his sword: he says "Mira que yo tengo" (Look what I have).
- This is the only main game in the series (along with its update MK Gold) to not feature the background going dark when a Fatality is performed.
- Shinnok is playable in the Game Boy Color version with a Gameshark code - his special moves and Fatality can be executed by the player.
- In the Game Boy Color version of the game, Scorpion's name on his health bar is written as "Scorpio" instead of "Scorpion". This stems from the fact that the health bars were too small to fit more than 7 characters.
- Rarely, during demo mode, the initials of the player with the most wins will be shown and announced as "MK5." However, once the screen with the top 15 most wins appears, the top player's initials will return to normal. This is also the case with MKG. Whether this is an easter egg or a glitch is unknown.
- In an anti-piracy measure, endings, intros and background music were not in the game unless properly authorized.
- MK4 has a unique feature where characters fall down a well after losing a battle. The player will have 10 seconds to resume. If the player chooses not to continue or they run out of time, the character will land on a bed of bloody spikes with the message "Game Over"
- Sometimes, when a character comes to deliver a neck-breaking move to the opponent, the other will say "Don't touch my head". When the move is performed, the player might be treated to a rare occurrence. Despite the opponent's neck being broken, he/she will scream out "AAAAH! My legs!"
- When a character is defeated and falls to the ground, they will sometimes get back up but then fall right back down. Other times, the defeated opponent will repeatedly rise and fall to the ground (this could happen when the camera pans in on the winning character's victory pose, showcased by the screen shaking with the fall over and over).
- When a character is knocked to 0 HP using an uppercut and the "Finish Him!/Finish Her!" text appears, the character can sometimes still use an attack right after getting up. This can kill the other player, but the win is still awarded to the correct player.