Fans of the great fighting game series are usually loyal to their favorites.
There's the "Tekken" camp. There are the legion of fans who cleave to "Street Fighter."
And then there's the "Mortal Kombat" gang.
They haven't had a lot to cheer about in recent years. However, that's all behind them now, with the release of "Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance," from Midway for the PlayStation 2.
Rather than shrink an arcade title to fit into a console as in the past, Midway has chosen to whip up a new MK for console fans first. Most won't be disappointed - unless they were expecting something entirely new and different.
The "deadly alliance" refers to the creaky plot, which links two mighty sorcerers who decide to team up to - all together now - rule the world. Opposing them at the Mortal Kombat tournament are many of the heroes you've grown to know and love in previous MK appearances, along with a number of new fighters.
Now fully 3D and minus many gimmicks from earlier versions, each of the game's characters is expert in two fighting styles and in the use of one weapon. You can switch in the middle of a match from one style to another, or haul out the weapon if you need a little extra oomph.
That sounds easy, but it really isn't. Stringing a few moves together isn't a huge task, but trying to switch around and keep a string of blows going will tax even the most flexible fingers.
To add to your woes, beating the bosses is a mighty task. Even on the easiest of five difficulty settings, these creatures seem impervious to your best moves. They can be beaten, but it takes a while and it's not pretty.
The game also offers an interesting sidelight - the Krypt. By collecting Koins as you progress through the game, you can purchase coffins, many of which contain real goodies, such as new characters or backgrounds. Others are empty, which is maddening when you've spent your hard-earned cash looking for a new fighter.
The game has dumped some aspects of the earlier titles, but the bloody and bizarre "fatalities" are still around. Pulling a defeated warrior's skeleton out of his body is amusing, in a gory way.
Besides the one-player arcade, you can battle a friend in two-player mode. Most players will find that the best part of the game, especially since there's a way to handicap the combat if you're regularly getting rung up like a gong.
Graphics get a B+. Fighting games offer some of the most exciting images in the videogame world, and this latest "Mortal Kombat" is no exception. Bright colors blend with excellent use of detail, shadow and environmental effects - like rain and snow - to make the game a real treat for the eyes.
Sound gets a B. The sound track is excellent, as are the effects. Some of the yowling coming from the defeated gets old after a while.
Control also gets a B. Combos are fairly easy to call until you decide to change fighting styles in the middle. The game, as with most fighting titles, requires a lot of practice to become familiar enough with the controls to extract everything it offers.
Give "Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance" a B. It's a solid next step in the series, with plenty to recommend it even for fans of other fighting series.
"Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance" is rated M, for ages 17 and over.
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