I never fault a videogame for being formulaic. Okay, that’s probably a lie, I’m sure some of my loyal readers are anxious to remind me of all the times I’ve mocked a game for being predictable. Heck, I’ve got that “plagiarism” tag going for a reason. Regardless of whatever I said last week, though, I am aware that videogames require an awfully high number of moving pieces to simply produce a playable experience, and, if you’re already experimenting with a new graphic style, plot, or even just an interesting gimmick or two, then why reinvent the wheel? People liked the last game that did x, why not do x, but this time with, I dunno, dogs or something? People love dogs! Why don’t we make a Zelda game, but starring a dog? It’ll be a best seller!
On the other hand, every once in a while, a developer decides to throw any and all creativity to the wind, and just make the same game twice.
Hey, kids, did you like Mortal Kombat? Well get ready to love War Gods!
War Gods is, initially, a good idea. It’s a fighting game, and it’s of the faux-3-D variety like Mortal Kombat 4 (really like MK4… we’ll get to that). This is a fine excuse to start a “new” fighting game franchise (or it was in 1995, at least), and, frankly, “war gods” is a great concept. Gather up the most… angry looking gods from throughout history, determine which ones aren’t immediately owned by Marvel Comics, and then toss ‘em all into a fighting ring, and see who wins. In a way, it’s not too far off from Darkstalkers’ approach to “what monsters we got?” but with, you know, gods. And gods have a built in identifiable appeal. Guile and E. Honda were basically just “USA Soldier” and “Sumo Wrestler” before later Street Fighter games shaded in the details, so you could totally hit the ground running with “Egyptian God fights Japanese God”. Oh, and like Eternal Champions, the “gods” concept allows for a lot of cross-time hijinks, so if you want to throw a Terminator or Nuclear GI Joe in there too, then have at it. The heavens are the limit!
Unfortunately, that was the last original idea that ever festered anywhere near War Gods.
War Gods is a fighting game. The buttons are High Punch, Low Punch, Low Kick, High Kick, Block, and a “3-D” button that allows 3-D movement. If you crouch and press high punch, you will perform an uppercut. If you press back plus low kick, you get a sweep. Back plus high kick is a mighty roundhouse. At the end of every bout, the winner is told to “Prove yourself!” and, if you enter the right combination of buttons at the right distance, you will perform a fatality. And, to be clear, that isn’t a “No Mercy” or “Death Blow” or whatever other euphemisms are available out there in fighter land, this is straight up called a “Fatality”. And if you decide to tackle one player mode, you’ll fight through a tower of other opponents, a mirror match, a battle against a boss ogre with insane proportions, and then a final boss that presides over the tournament. And then it’s time for an ending that shows like one happy render and some text about a plot that may or may not make any sense at all.
Thanks for playing. Thanks for playing Mortal Kombat.
And this one is a really unusual case of plagiarism. Midway, producer of Mortal Kombat, is responsible for War Gods, so at least it isn’t full-blown IP theft. On the other hand, Boon and Tobias don’t seem to be anywhere in the credits, so thanks for the gameplay concepts, dudes. Additionally, while there may have been some level of crossover if War Gods were ever successful, it seems like WG has been completely dropped from the Midway pantheon. While even the worst Mortal Kombat game seems to see random rereleases throughout the generations, I want to say War Gods never saw the light of day ever again. Despite being a Mortal Kombat game in all but name, this god game is ignored so we can experience yet another port of Pit Fighter. Nobody has ever wanted to play Pit Fighter!
And, to be absolutely clear, this is not a situation wherein War Gods borrowed a few control schemes or gimmicks, but otherwise presented itself as a totally new game. As an easy example, Anubis, the Egyptian God of Getting Biz-ay, has three unique special moves: a charging ram (that somehow allows him to impale an opponent on his widdle doggy ears), a “pyramid net” that works exactly like MK3’s Cyrax’s net, and a teleporting uppercut that is straight out of Smoke’s repertoire. It’s… blatant, and makes you wonder why they didn’t just decide to release a 3-D Mortal Kombat with all the same, familiar characters. Or did they decide that Kabuki Jo would be that much better than Jade at impaling a dude on a stick and calling it a fatality?
And, even weirder, Mortal Kombat 4 was finally released two years after War Gods, and, despite claiming that there were focused attempts to “learn from War Gods”, absolutely nothing was changed by the time MK hit the 3-D plane. Mortal Kombat 4 is easily the worst of the Mortal Kombat games (even gray scale Gameboy Mortal Kombat had the decency to at least seem like a MK game), and… it’s worse than War Gods? I mean, they are still practically the same game, but MK4 decided to go the extra mile and include voice-acted cutscenes that are, even today, legendary for their terrible dubbing. At least War Gods knew that nobody wanted half-assed movies at the end of their silly fighting games.
And I think that’s the moral here. War Gods was lauded as a graphically amazing game at its release, but it was also quickly forgotten and forsaken for practically every other fighting game available at the time. When Mortal Kombat 4 was released, it aped War Gods’ “3-D” dynamics, and, even though practically nothing was changed between the two releases, Midway somehow expected MK4 to do better. It didn’t. Mortal Kombat 4 crashed and burned as badly as War Gods, and, when Mortal Kombat “came back” a generation later with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, it barely resembled Mortal Kombat at all. War Gods could have been a fun experiment to test what would work for Mortal Kombat in the 3-D world, but it wound up being a lame copy that was then lamely copied to the “real” franchise.
In the end, War Gods failed as an experiment, and was superseded by the game it copied in the first place. There is no place for War Gods in our modern world. War Gods is dead.
FGC #232 War Gods
- System: N64 technically for the review, though all my dates and suppositions about releases were based on the arcade version/timing. War Gods wound up being practically a simultaneous release with Mortal Kombat 4 on the consoles. Oh, and it was on Playstation, too.
- Number of players: Two gods enter, only one is worshipped.
- Why I remember War Gods: Vallah is a Valkyrie War Goddess that is clad in a pink/purple battle bikini. And a hat. And I’m not sure if her battle boots count. She appeared in roughly in 12 billion Gamepro advertisements, and I think even Nintendo Power gave her a pretty sizable spread during their coverage of the game. I was… right about the right age to notice that kind of thing.
- Favorite fighter: Tak, a big rock golem, seems to indicate that this game might have had a playstyle slightly different from the “everybody is the same” of early Mortal Kombat games. He’s more… Goro shaped than everybody else, and his walking and idle animations make him appear to be more like a classic Grecian wrestler than a Lin Kuei assassin. He still winds up playing like every other War Gods/Mortal Kombat character, but there’s the tiniest promise of something different there.
- I don’t even know if this is racist: Voodoo is the one Caribbean on the roster, and he’s simply named “Voodoo”, not “Lao” or any other “voodoo god” name that could have been uncovered after ten seconds of research. And he has weird, elongated fingers. Is… is that like a tarbaby thing? Is it racist? I have no idea. Oh, wait, he has a special attack that is named “pimp slap”. There. That’s racist.
- Did you know? Like Mortal Kombat games of this era, there’s an “easy fatalities” code on the console versions. I never quite understood the point of such a thing, because, if you’re already acknowledging that fatalities are a pain in the ass to enter, why not, I don’t know, just make them mandatory or easier? Is memorizing some archaic button sequence that much of a sign of Kombat mastery?
- Would I play again: With God as my witness, I shall never worship these false idols again.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubsy 3D for the Playstation. ROB, seriously, did I do something wrong? This has been your worst batch of picks in forever, and I’m frankly concerned for you. Did that ditto break up with you? Why are you choosing the worst games? Why, ROB, why? Oh well, please look forward to this inevitable and unavoidable suffering.
And I’m not even going to address… this.