MKDAcoverBy 2002, the Mortal Kombat series had become a running gag of the fighting game world. The last gamers had seen of the series was an awful port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and the horrific action game Mortal Kombat Special Forces. Now granted, the fighting game scene was in a slump, but even then there were still quality titles such as Capcom vs SNK 2, King of Fighters, and Dead of Alive 3. Midway knew that they if Mortal Kombat was once again going to be relevant, they would have to go back to the drawing board, and they did just that with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.

The Deadly Alliance the game speaks of is that of the sorcerers Shang Tsung and Quan Chi. The two decide to team up and gain control over the army of the Dragon King. Before that, the two must get rid of their two biggest enemies: Shao Khan and Liu Kang. After dealing with one, the other is dealt with in one of the most shocking moments in gaming. Several classic fighters, such as Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, Kung Lao, and Sonya Blade join up to take on the two and thwart their scheme. Several new characters also join the fray as well: Mavado and Hsu Hao are members of the Red Dragon, a rival organization to Kano’s Black Dragon. Kenshi is a blind warrior who seeks revenge on Shang Tsung and Quan Chi. Li Mei is a sexy warrior who battles to free her village from the two sorcerers. Drahmin is a creature who was once human until he was twisted by his time in the netherealm, and Moloch, the game’s sub-boss is a huge monster in the tradition of Goro and Motaro.

Gone are the tap-tap-tap stylings of earlier Mortal Kombat games. Most of the characters have three fighting styles, one of which utilizes a weapon. You can switch between them at any time to mix up combos. While combos seem a bit robotic, the three style system adds some much needed depth to Mortal Kombat and fans of hardcore fighters such as Virtual Fighter and Tekken will appreciate it a bit more. The test your might minigame returns, and it’s joined by the test your sight minigame, which is basically the old shell game. The crypt contains tons of unlockables, and it includes everything from new characters to new backgrounds, and even the Mortal Kombat comic book. Of course, the gory fatalities are back and bloodier than ever.

Deadly Alliance bought the franchise back from the brink of obscurity and made it a hit in players’ eyes once again. The game’s sequels, Deception and Armageddon elevated it further. After 2008’s questionable Mk Vs DC Universe, new owners Warner Brothers along with Ed Boon’s Netherrealm Studios are hard at work on yet another revision for the series, one that promises to bring it back to its roots.