Cue The Techno
My hometown arcade was never one to get the big games until they were well-established franchises. The first recollection I have of Mortal Kombat was a standee of Goro announcing the game’s release on the Genesis and Super Nintendo.
I never really played the game until a local rental store held a Halloween party/MK tournament, and the co-owner dressed as Sonya Blade, an image my 9 year old brain has held to this day. Needless to say, I got my ass kicked in the first round of the tournament and was laughed off the premises by the teenagers/twenty-somethings.
When Mortal Kombat II came out, I enjoyed that one tremendously more and purchased the Genesis cart with some well-timed birthday money. I would dabble in the original off and on over the years, but as new iterations came out, there was less reason to give the original any real playtime.
With the release of the new film, it seemed like an appropriate time to revisit the original in a meaningful fashion. The closest thing I own to a physical release of this game, though, is Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the PS1, so I had to rely on emulation to play the original.
It Has Begun!
Seeing as how I’m a lazy asshole, I looked over adding the arcade game to my Raspberry Pi as I already have Midway Arcade Treasures for the PSP loaded. This is close enough to the original arcade for me, plus it has the benefit of being mapped to the PlayStation style controller, making it more comfortable and easier to pick up and play.
For those not initiated into the lore of this series, there is a tournament known as Mortal Kombat that is held every century. Once Outworld wins 10 tournaments, they can conquer Earth or something. They’ve won the last nine thanks to Goro’s giant four-armed ass, so this one is pretty important.
(Please note this was written from memory while performing no research, so if there are any errors in its retelling, please kindly go fuck yourself.)
Not surprisingly, the first entry has the fewest amount of playable characters, coming in at a mere seven. Two of these, Sub Zero and Scorpion, are basically palette swaps; although, their move sets are quite different. For being small, the cast is fairly diverse, offering two ninjas, a god, a guy with a laser eye, some Hollywood pretty boy, a Bruce Lee stand-in, and a chick.
I tend to gravitate towards Liu Kang, Raiden, Scorpion, and Sub Zero when playing as the other two don’t have much appeal to me. I’m sure others will have no issue telling me how wrong I am.
I’m not sure if it’s an emulation thing or playing a portable game on a larger screen, but the graphics had this 1970s retro-sheen that made it feel like I was playing a scene from Enter the Dragon, fitting as this was an inspiration for the game. For being almost 30 years old, the game does look brilliant when played this way. Having most of my memories being of the grittier 16 bit games, this better resolution makes going back to the original much more enjoyable.
There are basically five buttons for the game: a high and low punch and kick and a block button. Each character has about two or three special moves, which typically take the form of hurling a projectile of some kind or the character themselves toward their opponent. They’re basic enough that anyone familiar with a fighting game should be able to figure at least one of them out. The special moves aren’t exactly necessary to win the game, but I found spamming them made the later Endurance style matches much easier.
Of course, along with the special moves, each character has a Fatality they can perform when the “Finish Him” message comes up at the end of a match. I could do the Sub Zero head rip easily enough, but I didn’t try any of the others for the characters I used as I’m not a pre-teen who gets excited by that shit.
The game proceeds like a typical fighting game: going one-on-one against the other characters in a linear fashion. However, the Achilles heel for me is those damn Endurance matches that are complete bullshit, forcing the player to take down two opponents to win a round. Like I said, I more or less just spam special moves to cheaply and easily win these fights, violating the spirit of the game but not the rules.
The BS meter only rises when forced to faceoff with the sub-boss Goro.
This fucker seemingly can reach across the screen and grab your character from anywhere and pound his skull in. Again, I had to resort to being a cheap spammer to get past him.
The final boss is Shang Tsung who was ripped straight from Big Trouble in Little China.
This ass can transform into other characters, but he’s not as annoying as the previous battles it takes to get to him.
If I hadn’t been playing on a version that offered unlimited continues, I wouldn’t have made it through the game. This game was made to drain quarters, and it accomplished that well enough. I can appreciate the legacy this game built, but there are much better 2D fighting games I would prefer to spend my time playing.
At the time, the shock value/mystery surrounding the game was its main selling point. However, now that the internet has dispelled all the playground rumors we used to perpetuate, all that’s left is an OK fighting game from a bygone era.
Sorry junior O’Doyle, but Mortal Kombat for the Sega Genesis is not the best videogame ever.