I've played the Mortal Kombat series since its inception -- not loyally, not primarily, not taking it as fighting-game canon. With that in mind, know I say this game sucks not because I "don't know the moves" or "suck at playing it", but because some games age and others don't. This one aged.
The controls are slow, sloppy, and there's no run. The absence of the double-tap standard really threw me off for a few minutes. I'm very used to that feature that not having it all of a sudden really took me back many years -- and not in a good way. Sure, all the character's moves are still there, but when the moves have arbitrary, often ridiculous, damage counts, you can only get off about three or four before whee! the battle is over.
Yes, MKII marked a few new characters to the mix, minus some old (Kano and Sonya, if memory serves). However, any fighting game that uses a palatte swap to turn two characters into five really does not deserve any respect. That sucks. The fact they have unique moves doesn't matter -- the same characters with different colors make the same motions.
What is nice about this game is the online play. Sure, trying to play against people who do nothing but master every character in the game takes some of the fun out of it (not to mention the arcade mode difficulty was ostensibly kicked up a notch), but there's just something nice about playing a "classic" with someone else who's just so much better than you. If you can find someone to play with. It's mostly empty.
Finally, we're going to stop reviewing MKII and think about what made this game great. After discussing it with a panel of friends, we came up with one word: controversy. At a time where video game violence was new and a big deal (not that it's slowed down or anything), the Mortal Kombat titles were singled out for being insanely violent and accessible to children. Thanks to this franchise and some other games, the ESRB took off and we have our game ratings. Does controversy really create a good game, though? No. That's why the first few titles thrived -- they were being whispered about as the must-have just to see those violent fatalities (which are pathetic nowadays). Another example of a violent game made popular by controversy is Grand Theft Auto. Before the third title, the games were pixelated and subpar. Then they took it seriously, made a series of great games and have rocketed to the forefront of the "violent videogames" movement. Why don't we see Mortal Kombat still in the sights of every activist? Because the games aren't very good -- they never tried to take it too seriously, so they've made a few decent titles and fallen into obscurity.
Don't get us wrong -- the MK series has gotten better over the years, but it's just nothing special. Nothing at all. And neither was this downloadable game.
PS3 Fanboy rates Mortal Kombat II: