- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

• Mortal Kombat Deception: Kollector’s Edition from Midway Games for Xbox and PlayStation 2. (Rated M: Content suitable for ages 17 and older, $49.99.)

The third-person fighter that has helped fuel a thousand congressional hearings into the topic of video-game violence returns to live up to its bloody history and give the cerebral player some bang for his buck.

Since 1992, Mortal Kombat has been about a pair of players facing off through lifelike avatars as they button mash their way to glory. Distinguished for its sophomoric brutality and ludicrous amount of red liquid being spilled on the screen, the franchise has managed to work its way to mainstream popular culture much like a tick into human flesh.

If someone would have told me this mother of all influential fighting games would now include a chess and Tetris simulation, I would have torn their esophagus out and pummeled them with it. (See what playing violent video games does to the psyche?) I mean, what’s next, Mortal Kombat Candyland?

However, before venturing into some of the title’s finer qualities, I should mention its latest highlights. These include a role-playing adventure christened Konquest where players hone their fight moves as a character named Shujinko while collecting riches.

These Kombat coins come in handy when visiting a graveyard to buy a staggering amount of goodies such as costumes, production art, videos and playable characters.

Additionally, Kombat fans will find an online component that allows them to rip the hearts out of players all over the world through a broadband connection as they choose from 24 playable characters.

Now a bit about the virtual board games.

First, Chess Kombat allows players to choose from the legendary characters to take the place of traditional pieces used on a chessboard. The game functions much like the challenge except for some brutally subtle differences.

As a piece vies to occupy the square of an opponent, they are immediately thrown into a death match with levels of health based on a piece’s ranking (e.g. a bishop has a longer health meter than a pawn).

Second, Puzzle Kombat involves dropping colored blocks that must be moved to an opponent’s side by attaching same colored coins to them. As the game progresses, miniature Kombat characters with giant heads battle at the bottom of the screen and mimic the success of the player’s cube strategy.

This limited edition version of Mortal Kombat also contains an extra disk with a 10-minute history of the franchise, the ability to play the 1992 version of Mortal Kombat and enjoy 25 detailed character biographies, which mix video game highlights with interviews of the creators.

The limited edition even contains a serialized, embossed metal Kollector’s Card with rounded edges as to not poke an eye out, or slice off an ear or … you get the picture.

Even though Mortal Kombat helped define a genre of games that make parents sweat at their very mention, it still deserves recognition for both its innovation and place in the revolution of virtual entertainment history.

• Dead or Alive Ultimate from Tecmo for Xbox. (Rated M: Content suitable for ages 17 and older, $49.99.)

Another three-dimensional, third-person fighting game has also returned to the home entertainment console that takes a less gory approach to battling opponents while offering one of the most graphically rich and dazzling presentations around.

This double-disk set pays tribute to the popular Dead or Alive franchise by giving gamers the 1997 version released to North American audiences for the Sega Saturn (Dead or Alive 1) and the 2002 release for the PlayStation 2 (Dead or Alive 2). Both include the added functionality of online play (Xbox subscription required).

Both games combine to offer more than 20 characters to chose from and more than 30 fighting arenas ranging from atop a frozen mountain in a snowstorm to an African range filled with dangerous animals to the Great Wall of China.

Those new to the franchise will be blown away by the dynamic presentations of the retooled Dead or Alive 2. The selection of costumes for both male and gorgeous females competitors, the ability to follow story lines of each character and the multiple fighting modes makes the antiquated soap-opera antics of the World Wrestling Entertainment look like a PBS kiddie show.

Ultimately, Dead or Alive breathlessly lives on as an expansive entertainment option for the older male member of the family.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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