Every Mortal Kombat game feels like it has its own gimmick, something that sets it apart from the rest of the series so far. Mortal Kombat 9 had tag-team battles, for example, and Mortal Kombat 11 had Krushing and Fatal Blows. Some of these mechanics come into the series as staples in the future, while others are left as experiments of their time.
The latest gimmick is Kameo Fighters. If you are somehow not yet aware of what these guys are, they are basically assistant fighters, who can come in to attack your opponent, string together a combo and break your enemy’s combo if necessary. From their announcement, I was unsure about the inclusion of these fighters. They were not heralding the return of tag-team battles, which had proven to be quite fun in Mortal Kombat 9, and Kameos would be part of every fight in Mortal Kombat 1.
Alarm bells really went off when I saw how close the Kameo Fighters were next to you when you won a fight. Yes, Sonya, you did a great job firing two projectiles at my opponent, but I’m the one who just broke my arm in six places. It seemed that instead of being background players, the idea was to push them as equally important to your main fighter, even while doing about a third of the work. However, now that I got to actually play the game and mess with Kameos, my views have changed in some respects and remained the same in others.
Let’s start with the positives, the things I like about Kameos. First and perhaps most importantly, they have expanded the roster size brilliantly. Instead of having to leave certain beloved characters like Sareena, Darrius, Frost and more on the sidelines because they didn’t quite make the cut this time, Mortal Kombat 1 has let fan favorites make their return. There is the argument that this is a bittersweet addition, as many would much prefer that Sareena, for example, just be a full-fledged fighter, but if it’s either we get to see nothing, or we get to see fleeting moments of old characters, most of us would much rather take the latter.
Even after messing around with Kameos for a while, they can offer quite a bit in terms of gameplay. It will probably take a few months for everyone to fully master them, but already the pros are stringing together combos like it’s nothing, using their Kameos as the assists they’re supposed to be in a fight. They are an extension of your main fighter and can help keep your pressure up or take enemy pressure off you with a breaker. They have their uses, and while those can be given again to our normal fighters, we also get some extra animations for Fatal Blows, Fatality options and more thanks to the additions of Kameos.
Now to the things I’m not so keen on. It’s true that Kameos offers another layer of gameplay, but that layer appears to be rather superficial, and one that doesn’t quite fit the atmosphere of Mortal Kombat. Having a best friend with whom you fight doesn’t feel like it follows the line of killing your opponent by the most gory means possible. Mortal Kombat has always had humor, with the violence always leaning more toward ridiculous than gruesomely gory, but this feels like a mechanic better suited to Injustice. The same can be said of the clashes that take place between fighters. Being able to bring two superheroes to one fight sounds like it caters more to that fan base than Mortal Kombat fans.
Additionally, as mentioned earlier, it doesn’t feel like the Kameo’s add that much to the gameplay compared to how much focus has been placed on them. They’re a core part of this game, whether you like it or not, and yet it doesn’t feel like they’ve fully had the time to make them feel anything more than forgettable after a few hours. Even as you get used to messing with their potential, you often remind yourself that they exist, instead of feeling like your battle buddy is an essential ingredient in how you’re going to win this fight. There is the chance that this will improve over time, but right now Kameos feel less like a way to improve the overall fighting experience, and more like an idea NetherRealm had to make this game look different.
Kameo Fighters allow us to see more of our favorites, I admit, but besides giving us some extra slots on the roster to include friendly faces, they don’t quite hit the mark. Sure, they can help string together combos or break up enemy attacks, but in previous games you could do that without anyone coming to your aid. There is hope that this will eventually be ironed out, but I think they are a microcosm of a problem in Mortal Kombat 1, which is that the game feels somewhat bland with what it offers now. Great mechanics and combat, but shallow in terms of content.
What do you think? Do you like Kameo Fighters?