April 17, 2011

MORTAL KOMBAT!


Cel­e­brat­ing almost 20 years of spine rip­ping fatal­i­ties….
On April 19 the world will be treat­ed to the first true Mor­tal Kom­bat game of this gen­er­a­tion. (Yes I know MK vs. DC was on this gen but it doesn’t count) Vio­lent, bloody, and full of bone crunch­ing thrills; the new game, enti­tled Mor­tal Kom­bat, is a reimag­in­ing of the first three games of the series. The game play resem­bles those titles by going back to the 2‑D plain roots while retain­ing some of the move sets added when the game went 3‑D. The com­bat reminds me of the MK2; there is no run but­ton, there are com­bos but the com­bat does not rely heav­i­ly on them, and the tone is a hint of MK1 with no signs of dum­b­ass fin­ish­ers (Babal­i­ties, friend­ships, bru­tal­i­ties, and ani­mal­i­ties), just an epic, bru­tal tour­na­ment held in out­world. We would not have this cul­ture impact­ing series if Jean-Claude Van Damme was too busy with anoth­er project; yes, mis­ter Uni­ver­sal Sol­dier had a very large impact of the his­to­ry of this revered fran­chise.

The first “Fin­ish Him” takes arcades by storm….
In 1991 Mid­way want­ed to pro­duce a fight­ing game com­pete with the grow­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of Street fight­er. Ed Boon and John Tobias, the cre­ators of the fran­chise, want­ed to use Jean-Claude Van Damme for the game but he was cur­rent­ly tied to anoth­er game that would nev­er see the light of day. On a coin­ci­den­tal note, he would go on to play Guile in the Hol­ly­wood adap­ta­tion of Street Fight­er, Mor­tal Kom­bats largest com­peti­tor. John­ny Cage would be the nod to Jean-Claude in the game, being a high pro­file action star and even retain­ing his ini­tials. So Boon and Tobias went with plan B and cre­at­ed a fight­er with dig­i­tized actors with a more real­is­tic feel unlike the car­toon sprites of Street Fight­er. The game had 7 fight­ers (John­ny Cage, Kano, Raiden, Liu Kang, Scor­pi­on, Sub-Zero, and Son­ja Blade), each char­ac­ter play­ing iden­ti­cal to the next, except for their spe­cial moves. What set this game apart from its com­pe­ti­tion and gained the atten­tion of the media and the sen­ate was the blood and gore. When one of the char­ac­ters won the best of three rounds the announc­er would yell the infa­mous “Fin­ish Him or Her” and a bloody death would ensue, nor­mal­ly con­sist­ing of heads explod­ing or being ripped off, and a few spe­cial ones like Scor­pi­ons “Toasty” fatal­i­ty of light­ing some­one on fire. Blood would fly from char­ac­ters when receiv­ing an upper­cut or round­house kick or dur­ing spe­cial moves; land­ing on the ground and only stay­ing there a few sec­onds. In 1992, Mor­tal Kom­bat would be unleashed in arcades and would be a resound­ing suc­cess, but suc­cess came with a price. Mor­tal Kom­bat would become one of the prime games that Sen­a­tor Joseph Lieber­man and Herb Kohl would sight as being too vio­lent and push­ing the indus­try to reg­u­late it’s self. Out of these hear­ings the Enter­tain­ment Soft­ware Rat­ing Board or bet­ter known as the ESRB was born and has reg­u­lat­ed the indus­try ever since. The game was port­ed to the Sega Gen­e­sis and Super Nin­ten­do in 1993. There was much debate to the SNES ver­sion of the game due to its cen­sor­ship, the blood and gore had been removed. The Gen­e­sis ver­sion was held intact but there was a code to acti­vate what had been stripped of the SNES port. To this day I still know the code (A, B, A, C, A, B, B) and still have my orig­i­nal Gen­e­sis copy.


The series began and died with two….
In 1993, Mor­tal Kom­bat became a fran­chise spawn­ing one of the great­est fight­ing games of all time Mor­tal Kom­bat 2. MK2 was every­thing the orig­i­nal was and more, bet­ter graph­ics, bet­ter sound, more fight­ers, and more over the top vio­lence that would cause sen­a­tors to cringe. The game had a dark­er tone and played faster and smoother than its pre­de­ces­sor. There were now two fatal­i­ties per char­ac­ter and the inclu­sion of more stage fatal­i­ties as well as the ros­ter being expand­ed to twelve com­bat­ants, Kano and Son­ja the only char­ac­ters that were not includ­ed in the sequel, though can be seen in one of the are­nas. As well received as the game was there were some ques­tion­able design choic­es that threw the game into obscu­ri­ty with the inclu­sion of the “ali­ties”. MK2 would have some very mem­o­rable fatal­i­ties, but every fight­er was equipped with Babal­i­ty and a Friend­ship fin­ish­er both of which were non-lethal. I was not a fan of these, the Babal­i­ty would turn your oppo­nent into a baby, that was all; a huge waste of time. The oth­er, the Friend­ship was humor­ous, nor­mal­ly with char­ac­ters giv­ing gifts or honk­ing clown horns, was worth a few laughs but ulti­mate­ly use­less. Includ­ing these types of moves was a dis­trac­tion. A game built on ultra real char­ac­ters killing each oth­er to win; blood and gore fly­ing every­where and at the end a shrunk­en down ver­sion of that char­ac­ter and a baby cry. Yep, all that intense fight­ing to hear an annoy­ing kid cry­ing and throw­ing the dark­er appeal of the game out the win­dow, crush­ing your pride as the vic­tor. With the inclu­sion of these types of fin­ish­ers, the fran­chise would go into a tail­spin into the world of bizarre fin­ish­ers and char­ac­ters.

Let’s take out sta­ple char­ac­ters and break the Kom­bat….
It wasn’t till 1995 that MK2 would receive a sequel, the noto­ri­ous Mor­tal Kom­bat 3. This game was a depar­ture from the pre­vi­ous games in terms of com­bat and over all feel. The run but­ton was added, giv­ing play­ers a one up on oth­er play­ers defend­ing as well being imple­ment­ed into the new com­bo mechan­ic. The com­bat focus more on com­bos, some being ridicu­lous­ly long strings of but­ton com­bi­na­tions, and made com­bat feel faster but not as sat­is­fy­ing. The ros­ter was wide­ly changed remov­ing sev­er­al fan favorites such as Scor­pi­on John­ny Cage, and Raiden; while replac­ing them with the likes Strik­er (he was my favorite to prac­tice moves and fatal­i­ties on because he just screamed douche on so many lev­els, I still hate this ass­hat of a char­ac­ter). Some char­ac­ters from the pre­vi­ous games were kept but rad­i­cal­ly changed, Sub-Zero was unmasked and giv­en a ridicu­lous red “scar”, Shang Tsung now had some greasy long hair and some bad eye make­up, and Jax now had “robot­ic arms”, all of which came off being pret­ty lame. There were some new faces that would be a nice wel­come and would be includ­ed in future entries such as Night Wolf, Kabal, Cyrax, Sek­tor, and Smoke (now a cyber­net­ic Nin­ja). Shao Kahn would remain the vil­lain but his lack­ey fight would be dread­ful; you would face Motaro, a Cen­taur (they offi­cial­ly ran out of ideas at this point). The Stop motion char­ac­ter mod­els would look bet­ter than ever but the tech­nol­o­gy was becom­ing increas­ing­ly dat­ed. Sev­er­al graph­i­cal glitch­es would hap­pen dur­ing fatal­i­ties and the stop motion Motaro looked out of place along­side the high­ly dig­i­tized actors. The game would go on to be a hit despite the major changes and would spawn two upgrad­ed ver­sions, i.e. Street Fight­ers “Super” series. Ulti­mate MK3 would bring back some of the favorites that were lost in the sequel such as Scor­pi­on, Rep­tile, Kitana, and Jade. Mor­tal Kom­bat Tril­o­gy would fol­low after but only on the home con­soles. This release would include every char­ac­ter to date accom­pa­nied by a few new fight­ers such as Chameleon, Rain, sub boss­es and Shao Kahn. Mk3 also added more absurd fin­ish­ers with the inclu­sion of Ani­mal­i­ties, where the vic­tor would turn into an ani­mal and kill the oppo­nent. If you thought the cre­ative steam dried up there a fin­ish­er that was spe­cif­ic to Mor­tal Kom­bat Tril­o­gy was the Bru­tal­i­ty, an 11 but­ton com­bo that end­ed in the van­quished play­er explod­ing into bits. (I am going to go home and beat some ground beef 11 times in hope of it explod­ing!* pic­ture below). MK3 almost ruined the series for me. The dark, vio­lent game I knew was now vio­lent and goofy for no rea­son, but redemp­tion is at hand.

Fill the next 15 years with a roller­coast­er ride of sequels….
After MK3 the series would make its leap into the 3rd dimen­sion. MK4 would be a fail­ure at the arcades though had a fun home port that nev­er would live up to its pre­de­ces­sors. Mor­tal Kom­bat would start fresh with a string of titles on the 6th gen­er­a­tion hard­ware, Mor­tal Kom­bat Dead­ly Alliance, Decep­tion, and Armaged­don (which would be the new “Tril­o­gy” and incor­po­rate every char­ac­ter in the MK uni­verse). They were received well and brought the series into prop­er 3‑D and gave back the series its rel­e­van­cy. In 2008 Mor­tal kom­bat would share the ring with the like of DC comics in Mor­tal Kom­bat vs. DC Uni­verse. Due to DC, this would be the tamest Mor­tal Kom­bat in his­to­ry with very lit­tle blood and most fatal­i­ties been toned down to earn the game a Teen rat­ing from the ESRB.  

Let’s make like Goro, break it in half, and throw it to the ground…..
In 2009 Mid­way filed bank­rupt­cy and Mid­way Chica­go (the stu­dio behind the series) would land at Warn­er Broth­ers inter­ac­tive and find rebirth as Neather­Realm stu­dios. The new stu­dio, still lead by series cre­ator Ed Boon, is craft­ing this reboot of the fran­chise and a glo­ri­ous return to the dark and vio­lent. The game’s sto­ry line will take place between 2 and 3 while rip­ping out the spine of those games and just keep­ing the meaty parts that count. The game will be a 2.5D fight­er in the vein of Street Fight­er 4, and will be lim­it­ed to two fatal­i­ties per char­ac­ter with var­i­ous stage fatal­i­ties as well. The var­i­ous “ali­ties” of yes­ter­day have been scrapped and a new meter has been placed at the bot­tom of the screen. This meter acts almost like the com­bo meter in Street Fight­er 4. Hit­ting the first lev­el will cause spe­cial moves to increase in attack, the sec­ond to be a hit break­er, and the third to ini­ti­ate the new “X‑Ray” attack that focus­es on break­ing bones and punc­tur­ing organs for mas­sive dam­age. 26 fight­ers will be includ­ed with more through DLC and clas­sic cos­tumes avail­able with pur­chas­es at dif­fer­ent retail­ers. On April 19th pre­pare for Kom­bat and add a clas­sic fatal­i­ty to dai­ly gam­ing diet.

5 comments

  1. ScrotusKilmystr - April 18, 2011 3:22 pm

    I always loved play­ing the MK series or at least the old­er ones but was nev­er any good and with out dump­ing rolls of quar­ters in to the arcade box was nev­er able to climb the tow­er very well.…great arti­cle cab­bie

    Reply
  2. thsoundman - April 18, 2011 9:26 pm

    Ah yes mor­tal kom­bat. This one game I want entire­ly to much time on as a kid. I actu­al­ly remem­ber hav­ing to play it in secret or at a friends house because my par­ents thought it was to vio­lent. I actu­al­ly can agree with their sen­ti­ment now that I am old­er. ALl the same I had a lot of fun. I how­ev­er was nev­er good at MK or MK2… I had this obses­sion with Scor­pi­ons spear which i belive was – + – + A. So the entire fight thats all i would do and when i went to the arcade peo­ple would stare at me like I was a flam­ing retard… Per­haps they were right? We will nev­er know. All the same I loved this game. I nev­er played any of the post SNES MK games. The last MK title i played was MKII. Fan­tas­tic arti­cle cab­ster.

    Reply
  3. AiR - April 27, 2011 6:47 pm

    i pre ordered this game and have been ripin the shit since i got my hands on it. prob­ly the best mor­tal kom­bat ever.

    Reply
  4. Chokta - May 3, 2011 1:39 am

    Hav­ing played MK since it debuted in the arcades may make this a tru­ly biased com­ment to a well writ­ten arti­cle, yet here is goes. MK is a fond and pow­er­ful game of mem­o­ry and the most basic fun, kill, maim and total­ly vio­late your oppo­nent. Hav­ing played through the years and spend­ing a lot more time than one should it came as a sur­prise to see this new and won­der­ful ver­sion. Being an adult now I actu­al­ly went all out and picked up after pre-order­ing the spe­cial edi­tion. Let me just say there is no disappointment…after play­ing the first few rounds I found all those years of play­ing and laugh­ing with glee…I remem­bered a lot of moves. Sad­ly I also real­ized that with age comes a price.…I did get a lit­tle bet­ter, not great mind you but at least able to hold my own. The emo­tions and mem­o­ries attached to this game are all back, because some peo­ple that start­ed it all came through, they made the game all over again…MK is still the best, it is what a fight­ing game is all about, mak­ing the oth­er poor suck­er feel it, see it and above all remem­ber your mani­a­cal laugh as you throw down a Fatality…and say, “Next!”

    Reply
  5. thsoundman - May 3, 2011 10:17 pm

    Wel­come to the site Chot­ka… it’s nice to see you back after so much time? How are things going for you and your Corp in EvE? I believe I tried to stop by and say hi but my reg­is­tra­tion on TS is no longer valid. Glad to see you stopped by a com­ment­ed on a cou­ple arti­cles.
    I have to agree with your entire post. I remem­ber the first time I played Mor­tal Com­bat and my obses­sion with it after watchin the B lev­el film 😛 For some rea­son i had this obses­sion with scor­pi­an. I don’t know what it was or why buty I loved him. I also enjoyed using Sub Zero as well. I might per­haps give this game a try when it comes down in price.
    Stop by and say hi more often and don’t for­get to like us on face­book 😛

    Reply

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