Mortal Kombat 1 should have actually been called Mortal Kombat 12
When the 12th Mortal Kombat game was revealed as Mortal Kombat 1, I rolled my eyes a bit, but I didn't let it bother me too much. This series doesn't ...
When the 12th Mortal Kombat game was revealed as Mortal Kombat 1, I rolled my eyes a bit, but I didn't let it bother me too much. This series doesn't take itself too seriously, but it has also shown in the past that it doesn't care much about naming conventions.
Not only do most games in the series not even have numbers, but we went from Mortal Kombat (which is the 2011 reboot, just to clarify) to Mortal Kombat X, which suddenly used Roman numerals, and then back to Mortal Kombat 11, which shrugged and returned to the norm. The latest game daringly using "1" in its title felt like it was in on the joke and aware of how little it has meant so far. Don't even get me started on how technically it's Mortal 1 Kombat...
If the prominent "1" in the title and endless discussions about time loops and reinvented versions of characters have led you to think that this is the perfect time to get into Mortal Kombat, then you might want to reconsider that, because Mortal Kombat 1 relies more heavily on your knowledge of the entire series and past games than any other MK before.
This becomes evident within the first five minutes of the campaign mode, which focuses on Shang Tsung's role in this new time loop. It's not just a direct continuation of the events from Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath DLC, but it's also important to know how significant Shang Tsung was for the series and how powerful he once was in order to understand how far he has fallen now at the hands of Liu Kang.
Things get even more complicated when Tsung is approached by an unnamed figure resembling Kronika, one of the newer characters in the series and arguably the most important one from Mortal Kombat 11. This figure informs him that his destiny has been disrupted and that he should have been something more. This once again emphasizes that this is not a fresh start, as one might think, and that knowledge of the lore is crucial here to understand what is happening.
I know this because my roommate was sitting next to me watching the first hour without understanding what was going on, who everyone was, and why Liu Kang chose a washed-up actor like Johnny Cage alongside true ninjas and Yakuza members to defend Earthrealm. Maybe I know that he does it because he knows Johnny Cage's true power, but that's because I've been following the series for so long, ever since it put a "K" in front of everything.
The decision to go for Mortal Kombat 1 instead of MK12 becomes even more confusing as you progress further into the campaign. Watching characters either defy the destiny we once knew of them or live up to it is a significant part of what makes the story mode here so interesting. However, if you go in unaware, it won't be the same to witness Johnny Cage slowly becoming the hero he is meant to be.
I won't delve too much into the second half of the story mode, but it throws any notion of a reboot out the window and fully embraces a fusion of everything that has happened in the series so far, across different timelines and eras. It can be a lot to take in all at once, even for someone who has played every game in the series thus far, let alone for someone expecting a reboot.
To clarify, I'm glad that Mortal Kombat 1 continues the tradition of MK9 by presenting itself as both a reboot and a continuation of the same story, technically speaking. However, it feels a bit silly and uninspired to market it as a time jump and soft reboot when a significant part of the appeal of the story mode is seeing familiar characters with the knowledge of who they may become. Don't make this your first Mortal Kombat game. Or if you do, don't expect to fully understand it.