For more nostalgic 90’s ninja-fightin’ techno-feels, click the media player above and enjoy!
Mario Vs Sonic, Jordan Vs Bird, Birds Vs Piggies, Ryu Vs Ken, Spy Vs Spy.
There have been so many rivalries in videogames over the past few decades that it’s almost a ridiculous task to list them, let alone rank them. But one rivalry that has withstood the test of time is Scorpion Vs Sub-Zero, the yellow and blue, fire and ice ninja of Midway Games’ 1992 classic, Mortal Kombat.
Welcome, to the Videogame Shoebox.
Released to critical acclaim, and some news controversy regarding its violence, Mortal Kombat immediately became such a roaring success that in 1995 it was brought to the big screen, a movie which mostly kept to the plot of the first game in which Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade & The Highlander have to defend the realm of Earth from rival dimension, Outworld. With some good special effects for the time and impressive fight choreography, it remains a cult hit to this day. It didn’t hurt its chances that it had a pretty great techno soundtrack too. If you wanted a reliable time-capsule for media in 1995, Mortal Kombat: The Movie is probably it.
The game itself is a one-on-one fighting game with a unique 5-button control scheme featuring highs and lows for punches, kicks and a block. What made the game stand apart from others at the time was its look. The characters fighting on the screen were all digitised versions of actors, well, most of them anyway. This helped the game stand out and lent a sense of quality to it, I distinctly remember having arguments with friends at school about how videogames will simply never be able to look better “They’re real! The fighters are made using real people!” I would shout. “You can’t make anything look more real than real! It’s the best looking game ever!”
I was an idiot.
The series would go on to become more violent with each new title the team at Midway would create but many of the themes and character traits that are still present in the series all came from this first game. Sub-Zero still freezes people, Liu Kang still has a fireball attack, Johnny Cage still has his weird shadow-kick thing, The Highlander-I mean, Rayden still electrocutes his enemies and Scorpion still chucks a spear at his enemies chest with a rope attached to yank them towards him, no, Mortal Kombat: The Movie, he doesn’t have a weird pointy-mouthed spear-creature of seemingly infinite length living in his arm, nice try though. COME ‘ERE!
Fatalities, ridiculous moves you could end a match with and of course, your opponent’s life which the series became known a lot more for with Mortal Kombat II and onward, are actually present in the first game as well, although if you played the Super Nintendo version, like I did, they were replaced with less violent “Finishing Moves”. This was due to Nintendo’s “Family Friendly” Policy, which forced Midway to also change the blood to sweat. A couple of the “Faketalities” (I think I just made that up?) left in the game are still violent, although their supernatural themes probably gave them a free pass. I guess Nintendo back in the day figured it unlikely that any kids playing this game would attempt to rip his own face off down to the bone in order to spew fire at his bullies. How wrong they were.
However even with all the great memories I have of this game and playing it with my brother, cousins and friends, going back to it for this feature left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Visually it still holds up with my memories but gameplay wise I was mostly left frustrated with it. The difficulty of the A.I. characters could transition from borderline stupid to virtually unbeatable within the same match. Even with experimenting with different difficulties many a match would just be over the moment the CPU started mashing the high-punch button when your back was to the outer edge of the arena, keeping you in a stun-lock animation until your health bar went from completely full to completely empty over the course of just a few seconds.
That being said though Mortal Kombat is still a series that I hold dear, over the last few years its has been going through somewhat of a renaissance, with a much-needed reboot in 2011, a great 2 season web-series in Mortal Kombat: Legacy, and Mortal Kombat X in 2015. Series creator and still very much in-charge Ed Boon is a man I have a great deal of respect for and I look forward to what we can expect from him and his talented team in the future so Ed, if you’re listening, whoever wrote Johnny Cage’s quips for Mortal Kombat X needs a raise.
Thats it for this visit to the Videogame Shoebox but be sure to tune in next time for another step down memory lane as I dust off some more cartidges.
Be sure to let me know on twitter @MikeNotridge any games from your childhood you’d like to see on here.
I’ve been Mike Notridge and I will see you, next time.
What’s in your Videogame Shoebox?