Those keeping up on the gaming scene news may have read this little number about Midway’s *ahem* “thoughtful” means to protect and reward their top execs over… everyone else who worked there. Gotta keep those top execs who ran Midway into the ground happy with big bonuses for all their hard work, right? While I normally don’t get too snarky about one of my old “alma maters”, the misconduct is just poor, but it doesn’t surprise me. While I could tell stories, I’m not going to say more than that. I’d say from respect, but their recent antics have reached the high point of dickery, so I’ll do it more as a polite courtesy for old friends and the old good memories.

Among the recent decisions made is the now posted interest of selling the Mortal Kombat franchise to the highest bidder. Willingness to abandon a company’s flagship franchise is a sure sign that they have less intention of saving the company, and more intention of getting what the can cash-wise before they call it quits. It would be like Nintendo willing to say good-bye to Mario: The day that happens, the end is near.

I can’t say that this fills me with any real feeling other than sadness, both from my own memories, and just the mark that Midway once made on the gaming industry. It’s easy to dismiss recent contributions, but they really did define gaming back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, most prominently in the arcades. They also have enjoyed the added incentive of owning a lot of Atari’s back catalog, meaning games like Gauntlet, Paperboy, 720, Klax, Primal Rage, Marble Madness, San Francisco RUSH, STUN Runner, Toobin’, and several other titles that fell into Midway’s own library of hits. Not a bad history, even if a few of those winners were purchased just over a decade ago.

While withholding people’s PTOs is a “great” way to keep some of those dwindling funds, there’s also the issue of Mortal Kombat. As I said last entry, MK was part of my personal gaming history, and very deeply so. Granted, the series has taken some hits over the last few years, there were the original three games, Shaolin Monks (which had solid gameplay, unfortunately marred by stupid dialogue), and the surprisingly playable Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe (which went back to old gameplay mechanics, and pretended anything post MK2 really didn’t happen). Smart move for both Shaolin Monks and Vs. DC Universe, as many consider the second game the high point of the series (I’m still a Mortal Kombat 3 man, myself).

So what happens to Mortal Kombat now? Who would or even could take on the reins? Would Ed Boon and his team be included as part of the package, or would they start fresh? Would they continue on from the clustering story of the last game, or would they reboot the series, and start from scratch? Considering how the side games are pretending that the events of the last 15 years didn’t exist, I think it would be safe to start from the original trip to Shang Tsung’s island, and try again from there.

So who would be worthy of taking on not only the series direction, but the franchise itself? Certainly, Capcom and SNK have fighting game experience, and people (including Boon himself) would still like to see a Street Fighter Vs. Mortal Kombat game materialize.

EA would certainly have the funds to make such a purchase, as would Activision. But I’ll be honest in saying that I hope Activision doesn’t get it as they have no interest in producing quality or original content anymore. It’s funny that EA has lost its reputed “evil” moniker, only to have Activision pick up that crown and flaunt it.

Atari would be an interesting choice, mostly from an irony standpoint, as the old Atari (Remember: The current Atari is Atari in name only, the logo, and a collection of its legacy titles) lost so much of its back catalogue to Midway. At this point, it would almost seem fitting to have Mortal Kombat published by Atari. While they’re at it, Midway could also make a few more bucks by selling off Paperboy and the others back to Atari to reunite the old collection. Seeing an Atari with its complete collection of home and arcade games would be kind of cool.

And then there’s Sega, who has done fighters in the past, and is starting to get back into its days of mature/violent content. Which leads to another point: Mortal Kombat‘s Fatalities. People bemoaned their toning down in Vs. DC Universe, but it’s been a LOT longer than that since those finishing moves have been creative, original, violent or even relevant. Compared to other current M rated games out on the market these days, Mortal Kombat has gotten tame.

Could Sega bring the blood, gore, and dismemberment, though? Check out the finishing moves ofEternal Champions CD and tell me what you think:

Whatever is in store for Mortal Kombat‘s future, I’m thinking Midway isn’t going to be a part of it anymore, and perhaps that’s for the best. Whoever does buy the series, however, needs to take a long, hard look at what made that series so popular and work in the areas that it did:

* Return it back to its gory days. Make us gasp and gross-out like we used to.
* Rein in the character roster back to the original two games, and only add new characters that actually have a place in the story’s mythology. It used to be about sorcerers and mythological creatures, and grudges between characters. Not cyborgs, zombies, Native American stereotypes, leather daddy bikers and anyone else who wanted to be in the game.
* Rein the story back in to Earthrealm Vs. Shao Kahn, and keep that battle going until they can actually come up with a plausible “next chapter”. The story used to be epic. After a while, it became “just because”.
* 3D has never been Mortal Kombat‘s friend. Keep the gameplay 2D even if it is 3D.
* Put it back to special moves and juggle/technique combos. Get rid of the 20-30 hit combos that take an encyclopedia, chart. and map to decipher.
* Interactive environments are a plus.
* I know it’s part of the game, but finally kill off the easy cheap infinite combos.

As I’ve mentioned before, for all of the flak the game got for being what it was, Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe actually did address many of the above issues, and is the most “true to form” game the series has seen in quite a while.

I’ll be curious to see where the series goes from here, and where it ends up.

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