When a plethora of information flooded the Internet for NetherRealm Studios’ latest fighting game, there was one very important fact. Mortal Kombat X is going back in time with the addition of three fighting styles per character. Mortal Kombat fans should remember that both Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and Mortal Kombat: Deception featured multiple fighting styles per character. However, in MKX, the system works a bit differently, which indirectly increases the roster size drastically.
The E3 build character select screen had room for 24 total fighters. At this early stage in development, that doesn't mean much of anything. For all we know, the select screen is far from final, and there could be double the number of characters or even half that number. What we do know is that for every character that makes it into the final retail version of MKX, there will be three fighting style variants to choose from.
Each of the fighting styles features that character's unique special moves. For example, Sub-Zero retains his ice ball projectile so he can freeze the opponent in all three fighting styles. Likewise, Scorpion retains his trademark spear attack in all three of his fighting styles. This isn't like Deadly Alliance or Deception where you change between styles on the fly during a match. Instead, you select the fighting style right after you select your character of choice. You're then bound to that fighting style for the upcoming match.
This gives you three different versions of the same character. You can think of it like Ken and Ryu in Ultra Street Fighter IV. They both have a fireball, Hurricane Kick and Dragon Punch, but they play very differently, especially in the hands of skilled players.
Let's take a quick look at Sub-Zero and how his fighting styles impact how he should be played. Sub-Zero uses the Cryomancer, Unbreakable and Grandmaster fighting styles. Cryomancer gives him ice-based weaponry, in Unbreakable he gains access to an ice parry, and in Grandmaster, he can use an Ice Clone. With just those few details about each fighting style, you can already see how different they are.
Cryomancer is more offensive with the ice weapons, and Sub-Zero has more attack range, meaning he probably has better ground control attacks (footsies). With Unbreakable having an ice parry, this is more of a defensive style for Sub-Zero. The opponent has to be cautious when attacking because of Sub-Zero's ability to counter it with the ice parry. Finally, the Grandmaster style having an Ice Clone (and one he can use as a giant projectile, no less) means he can sit back and force an opponent to come to him (turtle-style). Ultimately, you have an offensive Sub-Zero, a defensive Sub-Zero, and a turtle-style Sub-Zero.
One of the problems with many fighting games is that there are counter-picks to certain characters. One character may have all the right tools to completely shut down another character, or at least make it a much harder fight for that character. In Killer Instinct, many Thunder players dislike fighting against Glacius because Thunder wants to be as close to his opponent as possible, while Glacius is built around the ability to keep an opponent away from him.
With multiple fighting styles in Mortal Kombat X, it should be rare to find a character that doesn't have a fighting style to properly handle a match-up against every character in the game. Granted, you'll still have counter-picking styles based on the character and fighting style your opponent selects, but you'll have an answer without having to change characters.
Depending on how well each fighting style plays, NetherRealm may even be able to avoid an issue that has plagued many other fighting games that offered different versions of characters. In many cases, there's one definitive version of a character played in tournaments. For example, if Sub-Zero's Ice Clone proves to be one of his best attacks, it may cause most competitive players to think there's no reason to use Sub-Zero's other fighting styles because Grandmaster is the best.
Hopefully all of the fighting styles are good enough to the point where that doesn't become the norm. We already know the developer is open to patching the game to make changes, so even if the community starts playing favorites, things can change considerably with a single patch.
Look for new Mortal Kombat X strategies throughout the year.