Archive for the ‘Mortal Kombat Series’ Category
Switching It Up
A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3). For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release. In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades. The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas. These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games. Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title. It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory. Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite. Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.
Midway must have known it had a hit on its hands with the original Mortal Kombat because no time was wasted creating the sequel. While most of us anticipated the home release of the first title, Mortal Kombat II (MKII) snuck into arcades and blew our minds. This game literally had it all – more characters, more fatalities/finishing moves, and more violence. For most MK series fans, myself included, this is considered to be the best and it’s one of the highest grossing video games of all time.
MK Meets its Match
The original Mortal Kombat was an impressive fighter, especially for one that was developed with digitized actors in only 10 months, but creator Ed Boon wanted to do more. “[MKII] had everything we wanted to put in the original MK but didn’t have time for,” he said in an interview with EGM2 (issue 5, Nov. 1994). It does seem like there’s some truth to his claim, especially with the introduction of more stage fatalities, a second fatality for each character, and even joke finishers “friendships” and “babalities”. I’m not so sure the roster was an initial idea, nor was the background concepts of Outworld, but I can definitely see the Midway team wanting to break away from the perceived reality of the original. Not only was MKII the definitive version of the original concept, but it continues to be the template for which all other titles in the series are based on.
Last week Mortal Kombat released for the Playstation Vita and while I was playing it for review I couldn’t help but notice that the series has not changed much since it first released. Normally this is a bad thing, but in the case of this series its strength relies on its simplicity. Mortal Kombat is a game all about beating the crap out of your opponent and then topping it all off with a finishing move that is extremely violent in nature.
I still remember the day that I saw the first Mortal Kombat arcade out in the wild. It was 1992, I was 10 and frequented the local roller rink where I could meet up with friends and play arcade games. Yeah, even in 1992 the roller rink was still alive and well in Chicago’s northern suburbs. At that time the arcade was dominated by Street Fighter II, a cartoon-like fighter from the geniuses at Capcom, but I wasn’t all that good at it and truthfully had little interest in fighters. That is, until I walked in and saw a new game that prominantly displayed the title “Mortal Kombat” in bright yellow letters. My first thought was how stupid it was that the word “combat” was misspelled, but then I noticed that the game used digitized realistic looking actors. Even more impressive was when the first uppercut made contact and a shower of blood erupted from the opponent’s face. I was intrigued.