Narrative Continuity of Fighting Games is Convoluted, Especially Mortal Kombat X

Narrative Continuity of Fighting Games is Convoluted, Especially Mortal Kombat X

It's tough to do a linear style story in fighting games, but Mortal Kombat X takes the wrong approach in trying to make the narrative work.

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Out of curiosity, where would the BlazBlue series fit into this?

If you're interested in fighting games with stories, why haven't you played Persona 4 Arena?

Thanatos2k:
If you're interested in fighting games with stories, why haven't you played Persona 4 Arena?

Yahtzee has a general dislike of anything JRPG related made after Final Fantasy VI. Not an opinion I necessarily agree with, but one I do understand.

The Soul Calibur series story is probably the best among one on one fighters that I've played, and even that isn't great, and V's was even worse.

"The story campaign of MKX feels like a shitty film (such as, just for example's sake, Mortal Kombat Annihilation)"

Isn't that sort of the point? I never took MK seriously, it's always been a little tongue in cheek (despite the violence) and that's what I enjoy about it. It feels like you're trying to look for serious narrative continuity in a game series that has featured (among other things) "animalities", "Friendships", a guy who pops out of the bottom and yells "toasty!", "babealities", a character based on fan rumors that "Error Macro" (ERMAC) was actually a hidden character, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees as playable characters, as well as tons of other silliness.

My point is that MK isn't really asking you to make sense of it or take it seriously, you seem to have taken that upon yourself.

I think more fighting game developers need to take story telling lessons from Skullgirls as that's the best example of narrative working in a fighting game.

However I get the feeling Yahtzee wasn't paying attention at certain points. Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Jax weren't simply brought back to life because Sonya beat up Quan Chi. Raiden zapped the revenant spawning pool and that caused a reaction that restored those three back to life.

Notice how even by the end of the story mode, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Kitana, Sindel, Smoke, Nightwolf, Stryker, Kabal, and supposedly Jade are still undead and evil. Yeah death in MK is cheap but it's not like that Dragonball kind of cheap where the heroes can be simply wished back to life w/ a magic macguffin. The writers have to effectively go out of the way to write an explanation on how they were resurrected.

See it's stuff like this that makes me think Yahtzee shouldn't review fighting games anymore.

In the Substance re-release of Metal Gear Solid 2, there was a set of alternate universe missions called "Snake Tales", each taking place in their own universe. At first, I wasn't really interested, since they just felt like re-skins of the Main Game missions.

But when I actually took the time to read the text dump at the start of each mission, I found myself really getting into it.

Maybe fighting games could adopt a User Created Content system, similar to Portal or inFamous, where players can craft custom campaigns, each with their own text scrolls between fights, or simplistic comic book panels.

Some could have custom made characters designed specifically for the stories, while others could be tailored as "Everyman Stories". Potentially interesting prospect?

LordTerminal:

See it's stuff like this that makes me think Yahtzee shouldn't review fighting games anymore.

I've already passed that point. It was when he spent half his "Honorable/Dishonorable mentions" EP article shitting on Smash 4 based on his "Button masher" fallacy, and claiming people only play Smash out of nostalgia.....

Doesn't make me hate Yahtzee, but it's one of those gaming viewpoints of his that clashes with mine (The other 2 being JRPGS and his opinions on Nintendo).

09philj:
The Soul Calibur series story is probably the best among one on one fighters that I've played, and even that isn't great, and V's was even worse.

Indeed. For me, the most fun part of any Soul Calibur game is looking at the setup for the story mode in the current game and trying to piece together what must have gone down in the previous game in-canon.

My completely inexplicable love for Soul Calibur aside (seriously, SCII is my favorite game of all time) I really don't like fighting games much, for much the same reason as Yahtzee. Which is why it surprises me that he's somewhat down on Injustice, because the story mode of that game was the one part of it I actually liked. It *felt* like an interactive DC comic storyline, darn it, and it was glorious.

After beating the story, I played through arcade mode once with the Martian Manhunter, got bored, and never touched it again. It did the story well, and that was the only thing it did well.

Yahtzee Croshaw:

You see, fighting games are a bit like orgies. Without at least some kind of context you might accidentally find yourself putting something sticky up an immediate relative.

What kind of porn are YOU watching?

captcha: you win
FATALITY

Ironically I think the MK game that did closest to what Yahtzee says was "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon", it has a story mode, a shitty one yes but the end of that story is essentially "and now the tournament begins", which in my opinion was a great way to end that.
Netherrealm should have done the same here as well and end the story mode with Shinnok about to get power but with literally everyone trying to kill him for one reason or another, and the tower is the character you choose fighting the rest to get to Shinnok.
It still would have the problem of allies fighting each other but thats something the other games had from the beginning so it could be ignored easily.

Play the first BlazBlue game, Christ. It gets pretty irritating to hear him constantly complain about fighting games not having interesting stories when there is a very prominent one that is almost universally lauded for being both a great fighting game AND having a rather complex, interesting and deep storyline. Whether or not you liked it is a different matter, but the execution was pretty grand considering its peers.
(shame the story went doolally swiftly afterwards.)

Mortal Kombat ain't got shit on the wonderful mess that is the Street Fighter continuity.

"Every new releases second versions storyline is the one that is taken as canon by Capcom." Wait, what? And that's just a minor thing, really. You literally need guides for the story to make any sort of sense.

Oh wow, dude is still complaining about the story for Mortal Kombat even a week later. Missing the point of a fighting game, twice in a row.

Yahtzee (and several other game reviewers) would be far better reviewing movies rather than games.

To me the canon ending is Sub Zero's, where after punching the demon and saving the world, finds some frost dragon eggs, hatches them with his cold powers, becomes the father of dragons, and in the end you can see him riding one of them, beard in the wind.

The story, and all other ladder endings didn't happen. Period.

And what with a lot of the new characters being the young sidekicks of existing characters, they are dependent on the story establishing them, and can't punch their weight in the contest of pure visual characterization. Outside of the story I would have dismissed Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs as interracial twins who buy clothes at the same military disposals shop. The two characters that did pass the instant-characterization test for me were Erron Black and Ferra/Tor. At one glance I instantly knew I wanted to know more about them, so of course they are among the characters that the story campaign never gets around to focusing on.

Totally agree with this. A bunch of Grey Robins. Even Jax, Johnny and Sonya are grey. I would like to have played with all the outworld characters than them.

LordTerminal:
I think more fighting game developers need to take story telling lessons from Skullgirls as that's the best example of narrative working in a fighting game.

Great game, story is good (specially with the new characters), concise and not needleesly complicated or wordy.

However I get the feeling Yahtzee wasn't paying attention at certain points. Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Jax weren't simply brought back to life because Sonya beat up Quan Chi. Raiden zapped the revenant spawning pool and that caused a reaction that restored those three back to life.

Notice how even by the end of the story mode, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Kitana, Sindel, Smoke, Nightwolf, Stryker, Kabal, and supposedly Jade are still undead and evil. Yeah death in MK is cheap but it's not like that Dragonball kind of cheap where the heroes can be simply wished back to life w/ a magic macguffin. The writers have to effectively go out of the way to write an explanation on how they were resurrected.

See it's stuff like this that makes me think Yahtzee shouldn't review fighting games anymore.

The issue is that their deaths are not effective cessation of interaction with living people and more like faction changes and mind control. It doesnt have the same impact.

LordTerminal:
However I get the feeling Yahtzee wasn't paying attention at certain points.

You're just now noticing this? He does it for a LOT of games, especially if he doesn't enjoy the game or the genre of the game.

Transdude1996:
Out of curiosity, where would the BlazBlue series fit into this?

The Groundhog Day of fighting game storytelling.. and I mean that in a positive way...

ShenCS:
Play the first BlazBlue game, Christ. It gets pretty irritating to hear him constantly complain about fighting games not having interesting stories when there is a very prominent one that is almost universally lauded for being both a great fighting game AND having a rather complex, interesting and deep storyline. Whether or not you liked it is a different matter, but the execution was pretty grand considering its peers.
(shame the story went doolally swiftly afterwards.)

Well, in terms of the story going "doolally", I guess you can only go Groundhog Day so many times before even the main antagonist goes "Fuck it! We'll do it live!"

OT: Jeez, Yahtzee... It's too bad that Yahtzee doesn't try to delve into other fighting games like the [other] one's coming from Japan (or, at least, Skullgirls if he wants to go indie) and maybe he wouldn't put Mortal Kombat X on such a high pedestal for convolutedness in a fighting game... Then again, there's no point forcing him to keep actively looking for fighting games to look through, anyway...

LOL! No one ever complain or criticize for putting story mode in a fighting game, and thinking it is redundant. Well, except Yahtzee of course. No matter how dumb and dull the story mode can become, at least MKX DOES have a story mode, and better than have nothing at all. Yahtzee sometimes have a different viewpoint than anyone else, but it is what it is, doesn't need to be forced on agreeing on anything.

I'm going to have to largely agree with Yahtzee on this one. While I haven't played a one-on-one fighter in a long time, the structure of a linear narrative seems to work at cross-purposes to that of a tournament fighter game. The way a tournament fighter is traditionally structured has the player select a character, then use that character to fight each of the other contestant characters in turn. Trying to make a linear narrative out of this would require a ridiculously long one, since you need to have every character encounter every other character at some point. Granted, the newer tournament fighters' story modes seem to do away with that requirement, treating it slightly closer to how an actual martial arts tournament would be handled, where losing a match would eliminate a character from the competition (though some story modes have characters get fought multiple times).

However, this runs into a different problem. Since a story mode has to follow this closer-to-reality structure for a tournament, it necessitates changing the player character as the story moves along. That runs contrary to traditional expectations with a tournament fighter. Most players, I suspect, want to stick with a chosen charcter; they like their move set, their design, etc. Sure they might be willing to experiment with other characters, but that's for a later playthrough; I can't imagine many of them wanting to change horses midstream, especially multiple times.

To be fair, it may be we just need to change our expectations when it comes to tournament fighters. Perhaps story modes are just something we need to learn to accept as the canon for a given franchises' plotline, and in that plotline, not every character meets and fights every other character, because as Yahtzee pointed out, doing otherwise requires some pretty contrived reasons for two people to try and beat the shit out of each other. The other modes, like an actual tournament mode/tower mode/whatever-it's-called mode would be non-canon by necessity.

If for some reason this couldn't work and the traditional tournament mode HAD to have a narrative to it, then the only way I can see that working is by having separate storylines for each character and calling each one a different timeline/alternate reality where that given character fights their way through the tournament and claims victory. That's going to create one hell of a burden on the writers, having to come up with X-number of unique plots (especially for a character roster as big as the MK franchise's). Also, it's still going to require chosing one of the characters to be the canon victor of a given game's tournament so later installments to the franchise can say who won the last tournament. But how to choose? Maybe the developers can poll the players and have them vote on a canon victor. Or better yet, they can have the players duke it out among themselves over who officially won; if they can agree on how to organize the fights, that is.

I saved the entire universe by punching an evil death god in the testicles.

I have ZERO complaints with a story that concludes like that.

What Yahtzee describes is the Tekken method of story isn't it? At least the old ones I played 2 or 3, I really can't remember. You play through 9 one-on-one bouts ending with a fight against a purple demon with a shitty cheap laser third-eye, and when you beat them you got a snippet of what it meant for them to win the tournament. I still remember some of them really clearly.

Like Anna, Nina's sister, in the shower for some reason. The Bruce Lee rip-off Chan(?) gets his own dojo. The drunken master pours 40 for his dead hommie. The bizzare one I remember is the iron jaguar. Not the guy with the jaguar head, king something, but his counterpart. His story ends with Xrays of his chest, and him walking to the ring and having a dizzy spell. Terminal illness? It's never clear. Oh, and the Arnie/Russian/robot dude, going AWOL and protecting a little girl, until an orbital laser blasts a hole in his back and kills him. Odd stories but they made sense narratively.

Is it just me, or am I the only guy on this site who actually liked the "New Generation" of Earthrealm fighters (Cassie, Jacqui, Takeda and Kung Jin)? Granted, it's mostly for the snappy one-liners they fire off during pre-match dialogue (look up "Cassie intros", "Jacqui intros", etc. on YouTube to see what I mean), but I also don't think their stories are really BAD - sure, they're not exactly surprising or groundbreaking, but they work just fine for me.

That being said though, I REALLY want to have at least one chapter in the next game devoted to Erron Black (especially with how his ending showed he was basically granted eternal youth by Shang Tsung 150 years ago, likely making him a real Wild West-era cowboy), and I DO hope the next story allows for some non-linear storytelling (I think that MKX was originally supposed to have branching paths, or something like that).

Hopefully, if they take time away from the microtransaction crap in this game, they'll have more time to actually focus on the story mode for the next time around

MaddKossack115:
Is it just me, or am I the only guy on this site who actually liked the "New Generation" of Earthrealm fighters (Cassie, Jacqui, Takeda and Kung Jin)? Granted, it's mostly for the snappy one-liners they fire off during pre-match dialogue (look up "Cassie intros", "Jacqui intros", etc. on YouTube to see what I mean), but I also don't think their stories are really BAD - sure, they're not exactly surprising or groundbreaking, but they work just fine for me.

That being said though, I REALLY want to have at least one chapter in the next game devoted to Erron Black (especially with how his ending showed he was basically granted eternal youth by Shang Tsung 150 years ago, likely making him a real Wild West-era cowboy), and I DO hope the next story allows for some non-linear storytelling (I think that MKX was originally supposed to have branching paths, or something like that).

Hopefully, if they take time away from the microtransaction crap in this game, they'll have more time to actually focus on the story mode for the next time around

I liked Takeda just because he had a cool gimmick, and Cassie is pretty funny, but I found Kung Jin and Jacqui extremely boring, especially compared to D'Vorah, Erron Black, and Ferra/Torr.

What I'd really like to see in the next game is to have two story modes: good and evil, with the game explicitly telling you that the good story is canon. Then you could have a story mode where you get to see a lot more of (and play as) the evil characters (and the morally ambiguous ones too). The big thing I hate about story mode is that it only covers half (if that) of the characters that you get to play as.

I don't really mind that linear narrative of recent Mortal Kombat games story mode, but I do hope they will focus more on the fun/interesting parts. I agree that most new characters are just not interesting. They serve well as human punching bags, but I'm not thrilled to learn more about Jacqui or Cassie, I'd rather see how D'Vorah species actually breeds (10+ different larva stages, something like xenomorph from aliens?).
See, Mortal Kombat has a massive, massive convoluted canon story that involves gods, demons, time travel, betrayal etc. etc. And they acknowledge it very well in MKX - you see Kira, Blaze, Daegon etc. etc. mentioned. Which brings me to the main point. We're in a world where cyborg criminals hatch dragons and kidnap fire demons to guard them, immortal vampires, gods, cowboys and mutants plot intrigues against each other. You create a cinematic story campaign in this world and you spend screen time on boring temple thieves and generic military guys/girls? What's wrong with this team? I do have some hopes for next game though. They actually mention Onaga in MKX. But I really hope they focus more on weird and unusual worlds and characters. Like Deception maybe? I wanna see Chaosrealm in HD dammit.
I honestly would rather play as Meat and learn more about him than those boring new characters. In case you forgotten Meat is a failed Shang Tsung flesh pit experiment with not much story relevance, just a skinless dude killed during Armageddon with everybody else.

MC1980:
Mortal Kombat ain't got shit on the wonderful mess that is the Street Fighter continuity.

"Every new releases second versions storyline is the one that is taken as canon by Capcom." Wait, what? And that's just a minor thing, really. You literally need guides for the story to make any sort of sense.

Wasn't the order like this: I > Alpha 2 and 3> 2 > 4 > 3 > 5 ?

OT: I don't know why MK tries to make a pretentios excuse for a fighting tournament, instead of treating it like a plot device (like KoF)

Speaking of orgies, saying the plot of a fighting game matters, is like saying the plot parts of a porn movie are important to 'the task at hand'. A lot of adult movies are just scenes now because most guys just fast forwarded through the parts with the background story of the characters and the bad acting and sets. By saying you dont like the actual gameplay you are saying you dont enjoy the main reason for the games existence. The fun of the actual matches and the learning of a characters moveset. I agree that some of the plots are silly but surely not as silly as Katamari or Fruit Ninja. Back in tha day the movie parts of games like Tekken was a graphical reward in the era when the memory constraints prevented much multimedia. The graphics of fighters didnt need to get any better than Dreamcast DOA2 and these games certainly DONT need stories.

 

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