Also known as “The game with the Blood Cheat”, at least in my school playground, Mortal Kombat was quite the noteworthy release, being the first console game that I’m aware of that was so blatantly violent and gory, even if that gore was hidden behind a (very easy to find and spread to friends) cheat code. Ignoring the impact it had, I remember not really enjoying it too much as an actual fighter, preferring the visuals of a Street Fighter II, but still… there’s a scene where someone removes their opponent’s heart! SO COOL. etc. etc. Simpler times, but how does it hold out today, where it’s relatively tame? (much like a certain film adaptation…) let’s find out!
I wonder if these motion capture artists had any idea how iconic some of their stuff would become?
Mortal Kombat was released in US arcades on October 8th 1992. It received ports to the SNES, Mega Drive, Game Gear, Gameboy (yes, Gameboy!) and bizarrely the Master System, in PAL territories anyway, all on September 1993 in the US, or thereabouts for Europe.
The original roster of digitized actors is Liu Kang, Sub Zero, Scorpion, Raiden, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Kano. The four-armed Goro acts as an unplayable sub-boss, while old wizard-looking Shang Tsung acts as the equally unplayable final boss.
Totally not just colour swapped.
The arcade controls were five buttons, high kick, low kick, high punch, low punch and block. The issue here is the three button Mega Drive controller! So they went with A: Low Punch, B: Low Kick, C: High Kick, Backwards+A: High Punch, Pause Button: Block. So… not very intuitive, especially High Punch! You can move forward and backwards, jump in those directions, and crouch, and with combinations of those buttons you can flying kick and do the now infamous uppercut. If you’re in close to your opponent your moveset changes to rapid punches and throws, so there is a nice mixture.
Then we get to the special moves, which are done by putting in directional inputs followed by a button press / button presses. Not quite as smooth as the quarter turns / 360 turns etc from most traditional fighters, but perfectly fine. Fatalities are done in a similar fashion, just after you’ve won the match and with longer inputs and having to be a certain distance away from people when you do it.
In terms of modes, there is only a single player mode, where you fight every character in the game (including your own!), then facing a couple of characters one after the other, then finally Goro and Shang Tsung. Multiplayer is just 1 vs. 1… and that’s it, but for a home port of an arcade game from the early 90s, I wouldn’t expect much else anyway…
Graphics and Sound:
So close to getting a screenshot of Johnny Cage getting a fireball in the crotch…
Graphics are somewhat blurry and very pixelated motion captured people doing the moves, and while it has a certain charm to it, it doesn’t look great in modern eyes. I remember it looking “weird” at the time, but it was a new idea for me so I didn’t hate it or anything…
Soundwise is fine, though given this is the Mega Drive version I’m reviewing, the music is very harsh and… Mega Drive chiptune-y, which is actually fun and nostalgic, but doesn’t really suit the mood… Sound effects and voice overs are fine as well, given it’s digitised and on a cartridge.
The best way to beat Goro: spamming the flying kick.
Shang Tsung is holding a Mortal Kombat tournament on his island, with the stakes of the Earthrealm on the line thanks to a potential invasion from Outworld. Whoever you pick wins the tournament, and that’s about it. Each character has more of a backstory than that, told via their endings or outside media (Kano killed Sonya’s partner, Sub Zero and Scorpion are rivals, that sort of thing) but that’s it. I believe in-universe the tournament is won by Liu Kang…
Wow! Woah! SO COOL.
At the time, as I’ve already said, it was the game where you heard whispers on the playground about the game with the “Blood Cheat” that’s really gory and has fatalities where people’s spines are pulled out, and for 9-year-olds this sounded so “cool”. I don’t even remember particularly liking the actual gameplay, but the happiness when you manage to actually pull off a Fatality in front of your friends was worth the price.
Thought I’d throw in a picture of the mini-game. Why not?
Now? Well… it has some nostalgia, and the actual engine isn’t that bad, but it’s quite fiddly (especially the Mega Drive version!) and a lot harder than I remembered… Meh, I won’t be playing it again, but it has held up better than I imagined it would…