Now that Mortal Kombat has released a sequel to its famous reboot that went back in time to stop the events of Armageddon, I decided that it was time to take a look back at the original sequel. Mortal Kombat 2 brought more of what everyone loved from the original arcade classic. More characters, more moves, more secrets, more stages, more blood and of course more fatalities. Each of the game’s twelve playable characters each has two fatalities. If you dig deeper, you could also perform babalities and friendships, but only if you don’t punch in that round.
For those that don’t know, Mortal Kombat is a bloody, ultra violent one-on-one fighter. Unlike other fighting games, it incorporated a simpler high punch, low punch, high kick, low kick button scheme that included a block button. At the time it was unique and since all of the fighters play the same it made the game accessible. The only thing that you need to learn are their special moves which make them all different. These special moves and fatalities weren’t readily available outside of magazines.
Even if all characters fight the same, there’s still depth to even basic moves. Sweeps, uppercuts, roundhouse kicks, crouch attacks and up to jump in. There’s a risk and reward to every attack like rock-paper-scissors. A jump kick will take out a sweep, but an uppercut will take out a jump kick.
Mortal Kombat 2 an era that the Mortal Kombat franchise has gone back to time and time again with Shaolin Monks and even Mortal Kombat 9. There’s just something special about Mortal Kombat 2, it felt fresh before the game became just a rehash of itself. These new characters felt unique and not just taken from popular movies like Big Trouble in Little China or the Terminator. You’ll find a lot of life and flair in Mortal Kombat 2 in its backgrounds to character connections. The new characters were all interlinked, perhaps more than any other game in the main series.
Most of the original characters are back. The bland, easy to play as Liu Kang, the Hollywood actor Johnny Cage that grew more over-the-top in this game, the thunder god Raiden, Sub-Zero the frosty ninja and Scorpion the somewhat generic ninja with a spear. They each look far better than they ever did in the previous game. Each one has new moves and just play better than the previous game.
You’ll find two new big bosses while making a former boss, Shang Tsung and a secret character into two new playable characters. At the time it was a big deal playing as both of them from the start. The two bosses Shao Kahn and his four-armed Shokin bodyguard Kintaro felt like true obstacles compared to Shang Tsung from the previous game. Both Kahn and Kintaro (Kahntaro?) are towers, superior and stand out from everyone else in the game. In order to get to Kahn, you’ll need to climb a tournament ladder to the top with each match having two out of three rounds for a winner.
Before you fight Kahn and his bodyguard, you’ll still have to fight Shang Tsung who is now a lot younger than he was, but he can still morph into anyone in the game. To make Shang feel special, you can even morph into other characters when you play as him. The game manages to make a lot of the characters feel special. Reptile can become invisible, Liu Kang turns into a giant dragon for a fatality and Jax can pound faces.
Shao Kahn had imprisoned Kano and Sonya from the original game, but he brought a whole slew of new assassins, thugs and rogues to play as. Baraka, a Tarkatan with blades in his arms and jagged teeth. Kahn’s daughter Kitana and her clone of a twin sister Mileena. The heroes have allies as well, Liu Kang has newcomer Kung Lao. Jax joins the game to find his comrade Sonya. Again, the game brought a lot of fresh things to the table that were still cohesive to everything familiar.
With twelve different fighters, they all have their own play styles; although I do find myself wondering how Mileena and Baraka are both Tarkatans, and Mileena and Kitana are twins cloned from one another, but its Kitana and Baraka that share a lot of the same maneuvers. Since there are so many fighters, I’ve always welcomed the random character selection.
The fatalities are bigger, bolder and more gruesome than ever before. Even the original fatalities are bloodier with more detail. Sub-Zero will deep freeze, then shatter an opponent, Johnny Cage will rip them in half, if not decapitate them two or three times. Reptile can belch acid all over an opponent or eat their head. Mileena and Kitana can kiss fighters, make them expand to explode or just inhale them and spit out their bones. There’s a lot of variety and creativity, something that the third game is sorely missing, but there are more characters in that game.
Then the friendships give the game a lot of personality and style. Johnny Cage will leave an autographed photo. Baraka gives a wrapped gift that I swear will be a set of kitchen knives inside. Kitana presents a cake. Jax makes paper dolls and so on. A lot of work went into these friendships and its always a good way to end a bloodbath of a fight.
I own Mortal Kombat 2 on several different platforms, PC, SNES,Genesis, X-Box twice and a few other places. At around the time of the X-Box there were arcade perfect ports. The only difference is not having an actual cabinet to play at and humiliate someone. So instead, I’m stuck with a 360 controller, which I have to say isn’t the most precise way to play on the directional pad or left analog stick. I don’t remember the original X-Box controller giving me these problems.
The arcade is always the toughest, because you can’t set the difficulty. Its out for your quarters, but I’ve discovered when you lose a match, the difficulty drops considerably. The original Mortal Kombat trilogy of games is one of the only few that the computer is more difficult to fight than real life players. You’ll see some incredible blocks that bounce you off into uppercuts. Its staggering how good the computer is. Even though I talk about how tough the computer is, it will still intentionally walk into Baraka’s slicer or Kitana’s fan lift.
You can always play cheap though and just use sweeps with a back and low kick. Of course the computer can play cheaper using massive amounts of vigorous face punches. There’s also some questionably lucky throws, but that’s why you have projectiles, to keep your opponent on their toes.
Mortal Kombat 2 has plenty of beautiful new stages. A creepy forest with tress that have faces. A red portal with two blue druids in front of it. An armory, a bridge that inspired Armageddon’s Blaze and even a giant arena with Kahn himself with his two captives. There are even two new stage fatalities in the sewer and the tower that let you impale your opponent on ceiling spikes. Performing these stage fatalities (stagealities?) is more complex than the previous game where it was just an uppercut. They’re not nearly as painful looking as any of the other fatalities in the game, but its still a diverse way to finish someone off.
Music and sound design are always a shining point in Mortal Kombat 2. The music is amazing and goes a long way to get your blood pumping for brutal arcade fights. You hear groans, screams and other pain sounds throughout the game. These sounds go a long way to add credibility. The best sound design is Shao Kahn’s voice. You’ll hear it all the time, everything from “Finish Him” to taunts before each round against Kahn. Its brilliant.
There’s even a special character Smoke tied to sound design. You can use the famous “Toasty!” to challenge Smoke to a fight. He’s not the only hidden combatant though, there’s also Jade at the mystery square and Noob-Saibot if you win X amount of matches in a row. These are all pallet swapped ninjas both male and female. At least they’re extra combatants with more maneuvers to really test your skills.
Mortal Kombat 2 is still my favorite game from the classic trilogy before it went too far over-the-top with the third game. With the franchise going back to the era so often, I can tell its everyone’s favorite too.