Kameos are the gimmick of this Mortal Kombat game, but do they make enough of an impact?
Each Mortal Kombat game feels like it has its own gimmick, something that makes it stand out 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 make it into the series as staples going forward, while others are left as experiments of their time.
The latest gimmick is Kameo Fighters. If, somehow you're not yet aware of what these guys are, they're assistant fighters, basically, who can come in to attack your opponent, help string a combo together, and break your enemy's combo if needed. Right from their announcement, I was unsure about the inclusion of these fighters. They weren't heralding the return of tag-team fights, which had proven to be quite a lot of fun in Mortal Kombat 9, and Kameos were going to be a part of every single fight in Mortal Kombat 1.
Alarm bells truly set off when I saw how close the Kameo Fighters would stand next to you when you won a fight. Yes, Sonya, you did a great job shooting two projectiles at my opponent, but I am the one who just got my arm broken in six places. It seemed like rather than being background players, the idea was to push them as equally important to your main fighter even while they did around a third of the work. However, now that I've actually got to play the game, and mess around with Kameos, my views have changed in some ways, and stayed the same in other aspects.
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Let's start off with the positives, the things I like about Kameos. First and arguably most importantly, they've extended the roster size brilliantly. Rather than have to leave certain beloved characters like Sareena, Darrius, Frost, and more by the wayside because they didn't quite make the cut this time around, Mortal Kombat 1 has allowed fan-favourites to make their return. There is the argument that this is a bittersweet addition, as many would much rather just have Sareena be a fully fledged fighter, for example, but if it's either we get nothing, or we get to see fleeting moments of old characters, most of us would much rather take the latter.
As well, after messing around with Kameos for a little while, they can offer quite a bit in terms of gameplay. It'll probably be a couple of months before everyone's quite got the hang of them, but already the pros are stringing together combos like it's nothing, using their Kameos as the assists they're meant to be in a fight. They are an extension of your main fighter, and can help either keep your pressure up or take enemy pressure from you with a breaker. They have their uses, and while again those could be given to our normal fighters, we also get some extra animations for Fatal Blows, Fatality options, and more thanks to the additions of Kameos.
Now onto the things I'm not so keen on. It is true that Kameos do offer another layer of gameplay, but that layer proves to be rather shallow, and one that doesn't feel like it quite fits with Mortal Kombat's atmosphere. Having a best buddie that you head into fights with doesn't feel like it follows the line of killing your opponent with the most gory means possible. Mortal Kombat has always had humour, with the violence always leaning more towards ridiculous than horridly gory, but this feels like a mechanic that better fits Injustice. The same could be said for the clashes that occur between fighters. Being able to bring two superheroes to one fight sounds like it's going to cater more for that fanbase than the lovers of Mortal Kombat.
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Moreover, as was mentioned before, it doesn't feel like the Kameos add as much to the gameplay compared to how much of a focus has been put on them. They are a core part of this game, like it or not, and yet it doesn't feel like they've fully had the time invested into them to make them feel anything more than forgettable after a few hours. Even as you get used to messing around with their potential, you're often reminding yourself that they exist, rather than feeling like your battle buddy is an essential ingredient in how you're going to win this fight. There is the chance for this to improve over time, but right now Kameos are left feeling less like a way to improve the overall fighting experience, and more like an idea NetherRealm had to make this game appear different.
Kameo Fighters do allow us to see more of our favourites, I'll admit that, but besides giving some extra slots on the roster to include friendly faces, they aren't quite hitting the mark. Sure, they can help string combos or break up enemy attacks, but in past games you could do that without having someone come to your aid. There's hope that in time, this will be ironed out, but I think they're a microcosm of a problem in Mortal Kombat 1, that being that the game feels somewhat lacklustre with what it's offering right now. Great mechanics and fighting, but shallow in terms of content.