Mortal Kombat took the arcades by storm as the mature one-on-one fighter. A game that there isn’t just blood, but fatalities at the end that resulted in decapitations, torn out hearts and severed spines. Mortal Kombat crossed the line and its something that made it both popular, famous to player and infamous to parents. It broke the mold of a genre defined by Street Fighter 2 and went away from artistic sprites and brought digitized actors and an actress into the game. Everything is real, perhaps so real that it looks mediocre and bland.
Blood was left on the arcade floor, because the Super Nintendo version doesn’t have it. Instead there’s sweat. Even the Sega Genesis port had blood, but only with a code. For those that don’t know you fight two out of three rounds. The one that wins the most rounds is declared the winner and gets the opportunity to perform a fatality at the end. The fatalities have been toned down for the the SNES version. Nintendo just wasn’t willing to let Mortal Kombat be what it truly is and that’s an ultra violent fighter that people play for the blood and ability to humiliate opponents by killing them at the end.
The game doesn’t just bring a new digitized style, but it has features a totally different button configuration with a high and low punches and kicks along with a block button when holding back had always blocked before.Mortal Kombat sets itself to be different and more accessible than Street Fighter 2. Its faster, less buttons and instead of holding a direction to charge, all you had to do was double tap the directional pad. The Super Nintendo controller is perfect for this control scheme with its four face buttons and shoulder buttons. The Sega Genesis just can’t compare even with its blood code.
While there are seven characters in the game, they all play the same with their exceptions being special moves and maneuvers. When the game begins, you can play as Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Sonya Blade, Kano, Raiden and Johnny Cage. You then fight your way up through a ladder tournament all the way up to an evil shape shifting sorcerer named Shang Tsung who can take the form of any fighter in the game! He feels quite average and mundane compared to the cast of seven.
The real boss is the champion just before him. A tower of a half-man, half-dragon prince of the Shokan named Goro. This four-armed mountain is the real struggle to climb, but Johnny Cage always knows his weakness with a split punch to the groin. Along the way you’ll compete in mini games that test your might and even an endurance match that has you facing two opponents back to back.
The graphics for the Super Nintendo version are closer to the arcade, so even without the blood or brutal fatalities, this is the superior port for home consoles. The controls feel right, the graphics look closer to the original, its just missing that key ingredient and that’s blood.
Since this is a fighting game, there are plenty of stages to fight in, but all of which seem too realistic and humble. Mortal Kombat really sticks to its theme of seven fighters brought to an island to fight a tournament. You’ll see areas like Shang Tsung’s throne room, a courtyard, a pit full of spikes and even Goro’s darkened layer. The pit might look like a simple bridge, but it hides one of the easiest fatalities around… well not in the Super Nintendo version. No one actually dies. You can still uppercut an opponent off of the bridge into the pit when its time to “Finish Him” or her.
While the fighters have all become iconic to the series, a lot of them feel taken from popular movies at the time. Sonya Blade feuding with a metal faced, red eyed Kano might as well have been Sarah Conner and the Terminator. Raiden the thunder god looks like he fell out of Big Trouble in Little China. Johnny Cage is a staple of the series offering some of the silliest moves out there, but even his big shot Hollywood moves weren’t over the top until future games. He can still do a split punch, and Sonya can do a hand stand body scissors throw. Both flashy and fantastic moves, but none more flashy than Liu Kang, Sub-Zero and Scorpion.
Liu Kang brings the fire and he’s probably the easiest fighter to play as if not the protagonist for the entire game. You can tell he’s the protagonist because of how generic and bland he is. Sub-Zero and Scorpion are both pallet swapped ninjas that you can take your pick between an icy ninja *cough Lin Kuei* or a generic one. They both have special moves that setup an opponent for what is inevitably an uppercut. These uppercuts are just crouch and high punch, but they’re the biggest moves in the game. Well worth the time and risk to perform them.
A lot of fighters in the game can be taken out with sweeps. In fact it seems like the logical choice sometimes. Otherwise the game is indeed pretty tough, as most arcade ports tend to be. It wants your quarters, even if you’ve already bought the game. Each of these fighters has their own fatality, but on the Super Nintendo, some cut to black and decapitations are turned into just simple uppercuts. Sonya, Raiden and Scorpion all had fatalities remain in tact. I guess that turning people into a pile of dust or a skeleton is okay because there’s no blood.
Because the game is from the arcade, its the first and last to offer points after each victory. These points build up in order to face Reptile, which is the third ninja in the game. At least all of these ninjas have different colors. They could have done the same thing with Sonya. Have her be a blonde, with two others that have red and brunette hair. It makes sense. More content right?
With Reptile fresh in people’s minds there was always speculation of a fourth ninja named Ermac for Error Macros. Others hoped there would be a code for blood that would be even more secret than the one for the Genesis version. Mortal Kombat lives and thrives off of myths and urban legends.
As for the music, its excellent and has an upbeat Asian rapid pace to it that keeps your blood pumping. At the end of matches in front of an audience, you’ll hear polite clapping. Its a lot of great little details. The voices and sounds are great and add a lot of credibility to the fighting.
If you can’t have the arcade cabinet sitting in your house, feel free to pick up the Super Nintendo version. Its a true testament to a game when you can strip it of a colorful gimmick and still make it fun.