Mortal Kombat – 19 Years In

One of the few game franchises I absolutely love, to the detriment of all other games in that genre, is Mortal Kombat.  Some people are Street Fighter types and that’s fine, but for me, a fighting game isn’t worth playing if it isn’t the ole’ MK.  And on October 8th, Mortal Kombat will become 19 years old.  There have been tons of sequels and spin-offs, movies and a mini-series, and one awesome song that have sprung from the original game.  Some were bad, some were good, and few were great.  But when they were great, damn, they were great.

I don’t remember what year it was when I first played Mortal Kombat.  I was young to be sure, probably around 8 or so.  My friend had gotten the game on his Sega Genesis and we would all get together in his refurbished basement and play it.  He was the go-to friend when it came to violent video games.  We would also play Doom together and his parents would yell at us when they found out.  I’m not sure how a kid ended up with those games if his parent’s didn’t want him to have them, but regardless, we whooped some Goro ass in our day.  Some would favor Raiden, some would choose Kano, but I was a Scorpion man myself.  I learned quite quickly that duck-kicking opponent’s ankles over and over was not only a great way to win matches, it was also a great way to get your friends to stop playing with you.  Before the days when 13 year olds in Canada would scream at you over PSN for spamming the moves, you simply had your friends get mad and turn off their systems.  What could I do?  Go home and play my Power Rangers game on my own Sega?  Yeah right, I’d rather play outside.


Some will say that Mortal Kombat was revolutionary in that it used actual images of people as sprites.  I always thought the graphics were shitty, even then.  Some will say the blood and gore was extreme for the day, some may still consider it extreme.  But when an enemy simply ‘explodes’, and red-looking pixels and what I assume are bones just bounce around, it had no effect on me.  Maybe watching the Gulf War unfold desensitized me (kidding, I was desensitized by Ren & Stimpy) but then, and especially now, I just don’t see Mortal Kombat being the vile game that Joe Lieberman saw it as.  It just doesn’t seem like this warranted the formation of the ESRB:

As gory as a game made in MS Paint can get

But regardless of how some kid felt about it all, Mortal Kombat was certainly onto something.  A movie would be made in 1995, one that blew me away.  The theme song alone was worth it, and produces an intense effect when enjoyed over a gallon of Surge.  I remember even buying the sound track, and subsequently having it taken away when my parents discovered one of the songs had the word shit in its lyrics.  Scorpion’s weird snake-like chain, snaking through the trees while chasing Johnny Cage, was an amazing cinematic achievement, or at least I thought so at the time.  (And to be fair, I watched the movie recently, and while certainly not a good movie, its not bad, at least for nostalgia’s sake).

He would later go on to become the poster child for cataracts

And then life moved on.  We tossed aside Mortal Kombat for other games (like Primal Rage.  Sigh, no one remembers Primal Rage).  We grew up.  And while I knew there were new iterations of MK being made, I also knew they were derivative and crappy spinoffs, too far removed from what made the game great in the past.  They made games that only had new characters, a game that focused on Stryker (ugh), a game where the fighting style was in 3D, thus making getting hits nearly impossible, and a game where you could fight Batman.  For God’s sake, where was the controversy, where was the innovation of the first one?  Even though I wasn’t shocked and appalled as a kid, I still loved the first two games, but had near zero interest in revisiting this franchise.

Then last April, bored of Black Ops and reading the news, I stumbled across an article saying that a new Mortal Kombat had just been released that day.  It was a reboot of the series, a return to its roots, in all its HD glory and promising extreme violence and gore.  I headed to Gamestop and bought it on a whim, actually pretty pumped to play it.  Indeed, maybe absence had made the heart grow fonder, or maybe the fact that I had not played the crappy games in the interim allowed me to still have hope for this floundering series.

The game blew.  Me.  Away.  The mechanics were back to basics, fighting was easy and a challenge at the same time.  There were tag battles, the good old arcade towers, all the old characters and some new ones, a great online play system, the graphics were insane, and the violence was dialed up to 11.  The perfect game.  For months it was my go-to game of choice, whether I was having friends over (indeed, those same friends from back in 1992) to play some local matches, to tagging up to play online, to grinding it out myself, yearning for that platinum I never achieved.   Fighting online was tough; maybe its because my reflexes aren’t as great now that I’m 26, maybe because I had taken such a long break from fighting games, but whatever it was, it made winning all the more satisfying.  We would fall to our knees and scream when we lost and we would drink everytime there was an X-Ray.  It had reclaimed all that had made the original game so great from my childhood.  Honestly, it probably lands in my top three games of this modern generation.  Not only that, but I could finally say that I was shocked by the gore, and I loved it.

A real man's uppercut


6 Responses to “Mortal Kombat – 19 Years In”

  1. I actually do remember Primal Rage and loved it! But alas, my real experience with fighting games came with Vrtua Fighter on the Sega Saturn- good times.

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