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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Mortal Kombat

This article concerns the fighting game. For the movie based on the game, see Mortal Kombat (movie).
Mortal Kombat

Developer Midway
Publisher Midway
Release date 1992
Genre Fighting
Modes Up to 2 players simultaneously
Cabinet Standard
Arcade system Midway Y Unit hardware
Main CPU: TMS34010 (@ 6.25 Mhz)

Sound CPU: M6809 (@ 2 Mhz)

Monitor Raster resolution 400 x 254 (Horizontal) Palette Colors 32768
Input Joystick; 6 buttons
Mortal Kombat is a 1992 fighting game by Midway. It was popular because of its realistic, digitized graphics mixed with bloody and brutal action. This differentiated it from the hand-drawn, more anime-like graphics of competing games like Street Fighter II.

Mortal Kombat was developed as a reaction to the popular Capcom game Street Fighter II, with simpler controls and digitized graphics. Some say the game's graphic violence was gratuitous, and was only included in order to generate a public outcry and controversy that would garner publicity for the game.

Although highly controversial, the mix of realism and violence propelled Mortal Kombat to widespread renown. The game included many innovations over earlier fighting games such as Street Fighter II. These innovations included digitized graphics, fatalities, and a specialized control system.

An example of the game's innovations was the Fatality, a special finishing move executed against a beaten opponent to kill them in a gruesome fashion. For example, one character would grasp a defeated, wobbling opponent by the head, then rip the head and spine out of the opponent's body, which then crumpled to the ground in a pool of blood. Fatalities could only be executed after you had defeated your opponent in combat, and served as an ornamental restatement of victory rather than a dynamic of gameplay.

The game's violence and graphics were not the only innovations Mortal Kombat brought to the fighting game world.

Mortal Kombat introduced a new combo system called juggling. Juggling is an aspect of gameplay that became a recurring element in games that followed. The juggle involved following an initial successful combat hit with moves that kept the opponent in mid-air, hence rendering the opponent unable to defend subsequent moves of the juggle until falling to the ground and standing again.

Mortal Kombat also deviated from Street Fighter in the way moves were performed. Street Fighter (and many other fighting games) performed all special moves in variations of circles on your joystick followed by a button press (half circle back, half circle forward, forward then half circle forward). Mortal Kombat was the first to introduce moves that not only were not-half circles (tap back, tap back, punch) but also introduced moves that did not require a button press (such as tap back, tap back, then forward).

These innovations allowed Mortal Kombat to succeed where so many Street Fighter clones had failed.

Midway created five sequels for the arcade and home systems, each one bloodier, more brutal, and stranger than the last. Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of the previous games with polygon models, while Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was the first in the series to skip arcades altogether and go directly to consoles, a symptom of U.S. arcade market's dramatic decline. The newest installment in the series, Mortal Kombat: Deception, was released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 platforms in October 2004 (with a Nintendo GameCube version released in February 2005). Following a gameplay style very similar to the one found on Deadly Alliance, Deception also features several new gaming modes, such as a Tetris-like puzzle and a chess game, as well as a suicidal finishing move for each character, usually performed to prevent the opponent from doing a fatality.

Finishing moves in later games included the Animality (turning into animal to violently finish off the opponent), the Brutality (decimating an opponent into pieces with a long combination of hits or combo), the Friendship (offering one's opponent a token of friendship), and the Babality (transforming the opponent into a baby). The Babality and Friendship moves were created as a jokey non-violent finishing move, a swipe at the US Congressional Investigation for Violence in Videogames who came down harshly on the Mortal Kombat games. Purists, fonder of the earlier style, were upset by the introduction of such finishing moves, yet Mortal Kombat's "purely violent" and dark gameplay was once again implemented after the release of Mortal Kombat 4.

Throughout the series, the game was noted for its simplicity of controls and the exotic special moves it featured.

Easter eggs and secrets
Mortal Kombat was among the first titles in the fighting game genre to include secret characters, secret games, and other Easter eggs. Mortal Kombat 3, for example, including a hidden game of Galaxian. In the 1992 original, by executing a Fatality when fighting on The Pit stage (the bridge) without taking any damage or pressing the block button in the winning round, the player could fight Reptile, a merge between the Sub-Zero and Scorpion characters. In Mortal Kombat II, Reptile would be developed into a full character with his own special moves and would be available from the outset. Carrying on in this tradition, if the player won 50 consecutive fights he/she would come face to face with the black ninja Noob Saibot, which originates from the last names of the lead designer John Tobias and lead programmer Ed Boon spelled backwards. It was pioneering ideas like these that has made Mortal Kombat one of the most memorable of the beat 'em up genre. Other Easter eggs appeared in Mortal Kombat II. After landing a strong upper-cut against the opponent, the face of Dan Forden, a lead programmer, would appear in the lower-right corner of the screen and shout, "Toasty!". If the player very quickly held down and hit the start button before Dan's head left the screen, they would then instantly begin a new stage against a secret character named Smoke (a grey-costumed version of Scorpion that emits puffs of smoke). Another secret character was named Jade (a more difficult, very fast, green-costumed version of Kitana). To fight Jade, a player would have to defeat their opponent before the mystery "?" stage using nothing but low kicks. In The Living Forest stage both Smoke and Jade could sometimes be found peeking behind the trees during battle.

Another Easter egg actually came about from a rumored glitch. In the original arcade version of the first Mortal Kombat, a rumor stated that the game would sometimes present problems due to a bug and mix two characters together. This would usually be two of the ninja characters, resulting in a ninja in a semi-red suit. The computer would display his name as "ERMAC", short for "error macro." As word spread, people thought they had found a secret character. That wasn't the case, yet in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, it was decided to make an actual Ermac character. Also, glitch characters occurred in the very rare instance of a player reaching Reptile on an endurance level (rare due to the fact that not only did one have to have the condition's set for being able to reach Reptile, but then one was required to beat two characters without being hurt or using the block button on the harder levels). Once Reptile was defeated, the second character would jump down. As Reptile used a special green colour pallette, the following fighter (a normal fighter) would be a jumble of the characters original colours plus Reptile's green colours.

However, one of the most fascinating elements of Mortal Kombat was completely unplanned and out of the programmers' hands. Following the release of Mortal Kombat II, a myth culture was created around the game. The most famous one is the Goro myth. In the first game, Goro was a four armed monster that acted as a miniboss to the game's main boss, Shang Tsung. Many fans were convinced that Goro was hidden somewhere in Mortal Kombat II and many were obsessed with finding him. The UK's GamesMaster magazine (also a popular TV Show on Channel 4) received numerous letters asking about where to find Goro. Much searching was done, both by fans and the computer game press, until in 1995 GamesMaster concluded, "We are positive Goro isn't to be found in Mortal Kombat II, we are positive he would have been found by now."

Two similar non-existent hidden characters were "Torch", and "Hornbuckle." In Mortal Kombat II there is a location called The Pit II. Far in the background of this stage there is another bridge across the chasm. Standing stationary on this bridge are two fighters: one of them is a Liu Kang sprite with green pants who was named Hornbuckle by fans. One of Jade's hints was "Hornbuckle who?", which people thought was the name of a hidden fighter, and was apparently given to the guy opposite "Torch" on the Pit II. If you watch the ending credits, one of the programmers last names is Hornbuckle. Just a bit of MK humor. The other fighter, is a humanoid character that seems to be made of fire. As these two characters never move, it's been suggested that the "other fighter" is actually a funeral pyre. Finally, there is a cloaked figure who floats in front of the window during fights in The Tower, and Portal stages in MK2. This character was dubbed Cloak by fans, and was assumed to be a hidden character.

The character of Torch, who had been very popular with fans, eventually showed up as a playable character in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. Unfortunately, due to trademark issues, he had to be called Blaze instead of Torch. Despite Cloak's popularity with fans, he has never shown up as a fighter (playable or otherwise) in any Mortal Kombat game.

The annual Shaolin Tournament promises to be a good one. The best of the best will gather from far and wide to put their skills to the ultimate test. It seems like it will be a wonderful day of fighting.

When everyone leasts expects it, a seemly old sorcerer and a strange four-armed creature appear and corrupt the tournament. This Shokan warrior was the half-human, half-dragon fighter named Goro, who became the ultimate fighting champion by defeating the Great Kung Lao. Because this 2,000 year-old monster has been the undefeated champion for the past 500 years, he made little work of all participating fighters. This was all part of Shang Tsung's plan to tip the balance into chaos and help the Outworld conquer the Earth Realm.

However, this was going to be a bit impossible. In 1992, Raiden, the thunder god, saw this and he would go and take care of Shang Tsung. However, even though he had the powers of a god, this was going to be a bit of a problem. He would need some Earth Realm-born fighters to help him out. Of course, Liu Kang would help, since it's his country's tournament. Other fighters also took part in the melee. They included martial artist/movie star Johnny Cage, Lin Kuei ninja Sub-Zero, and Shirai Ryu ninja Scorpion.

Kano, the Black Dragon's most diabolical thug, was getting chased a by a U.S. Special Forces Unit, led by Lt. Sonya Blade, when we received a vision from Shang Tsung to lure them towards his tournament. Once Kano arrives, he would have his personal army ambush them. Kano manages to get away and into the tournament, while most of the Special Forces Unit got caught in the surprise attack. So, Sonya had no choice but to take part in the tournament, in order to save her team.

Raiden would also participate in the tournament, but he would have to take the form of a human in order to do so. So, the tournament was set. With the Earth Realm already having lost 9 tournaments in a row, our heroes must avoid handing the Earth Realm its 10th loss in a row, or all of humanity will crumble to the darkness of the Outworld.

Mortal Kombat featured two bosses. One was a sub boss (in which you'd have to face before challenging the main boss of the game). The Sub Boss of the game was a four armed shokan warrior named Goro, a half human, half dragon beast. Despite fact that he wasn't really fast, he was considered to be tough to beat. Upon defeat of Goro would the player then have the right to face the game's boss Shang Tsung. Tsung was an old man who was in fact incredibly fast and shot out skull fitreballs at will. He also had the ability to morph into any character of the game and not only assume their identity but their special moves too (Goro was the character Tsung most notoriously morphed into on a continuious basis). Upon defeat, the many warrior souls that Shang Tsung used during battle would leave his body and then would he be engulfed in flames.

Mortal Kombat's trend of using the sub boss would set the trend that the future Mortal Kombat games would follow. While most sub bosses would be hideous monsters like a Shokan, Centaur or an Oni, Mortal Kombat: Deception would break this trend by replacing the character Noob Smoke as a sub boss.

Movies and television
Mortal Kombat was adapted into two major motion pictures, Mortal Kombat, and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Both had a poor critical reception at the time they were released, but the first movie was a major financial success, eventually grossing over $125,000,000 worldwide and starting the Hollywood career of Paul W. S. Anderson. A third movie, Mortal Kombat: Devastation, is said to be in pre-production as confirmed officially, and will be released some time between 2005 and 2006.

The franchise also sparked two TV series, the animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and the live-action Mortal Kombat: Conquest. Neither series ran for more than one season despite the popularity of Conquest. In 1995 an animated TV movie was released titled Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins.


Mortal Kombat cartridge for the Game Gear.From a marketing perspective, the 1993 launch of Mortal Kombat for video game consoles by Acclaim was probably the largest launch of a video game up until that time. A "Mortal Monday" TV campaign featured a flood of TV advertisements, which were unusual for video games at that time, and all four home versions of the game were made available for sale on the same date.

When the first game in the series was released for the SNES in North America, Nintendo of America held a strict "Family Friendly" policy towards the content of the games released on their systems, this included the removal of graphic violence, religious imagery and themes; mention of death, sexual themes, and other sensitive subjects. Henceforth, the first Mortal Kombat game on the SNES had the blood recolored gray in order to pass it off as sweat, and the various Fatality moves were graphically changed to be less gruesome. The SNES version was graphicaly superior to the Genesis port, but all violence was censored. The success of Mortal Kombat on Genesis drove Nintendo to rethink its censorship policies.

After this, Nintendo began to concede on their policies, and the SNES version of Mortal Kombat II was released with the violence fully intact with a warning label on the game's packaging. Nintendo later allowed other publishers to make games with sensitive subject material following the advent of various video game content rating systems. In Japan, the game was also released for the Japanese version of the SNES, the Super Famicom.


Sega Genesis/Sega Mega Drive (1992) - the American Sega Genesis version was censored, but entering a secret code (a-b-a-c-a-b-b) restores the blood and the actual fatalities from the arcade version. In 1993 a Sega CD version of the game was released with arcade quality sound, a grainy version of the famous Mortal Monday commercial and loading times. The Sega CD version did not require a code to be entered and this was given an MA-17 rating by the Video Games Rating Council.
Amiga (1993)
Game Boy (1993)
IBM PC (1993)
Sega Master System (1993)
Sega Game Gear (1993)
SNES/Super Famicom (1993) - Because Nintendo of America had a problem with the depiction of blood, the SNES replaces blood with yellowish sweat and all fatalities that involve decapitation or mutilation are modified or replaced.
The game has been ported illegally to the Famicom in Asia. It has appeared in several multicarts in China.

Mortal Kombat II
Mortal Kombat 3
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Mortal Kombat 4
Mortal Kombat Gold
Mortal Kombat Advance
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition
Mortal Kombat: Deception
There was also a separate game starring the character of Sub-Zero called Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. This was a platform game rather than a fighting game. This and as well as having an extremely complicated storyline and sluggish gameplay, the game received negative reviews from its inception and it became widely regarded as a disappointing and lackluster endeavour.

Another interesting Mortal Kombat game is Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, which is an action game that was originally supposed to star Jax and Sonya. Due to Midway cutting a lot of corners after Tobias left, Sonya wasn't in the game. This game was an even bigger failure than Mythologies, and the series has fallen to its lowest point in 1999, a few years after reaching its peak with Mortal Kombat 3 and its updates (UMK3 and Trilogy). This caused Midway to take some time off and refocus.

Another game, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, has been confirmed and will be released in September or October 2005.

Plot continuity
One interesting aspect of the Mortal Kombat series' plot is that every single game features a different ending for every character. Because many endings in a single game will contradict each other, only one or a few per game are considered canon, and the true endings are never known until the next game is released. The result is that when a new Mortal Kombat game is released, fans speculate about which ending (or endings) are real.

Nearly every game's canon ending involves the good guys emerging triumphant over evil, though this trend was broken with the release of Mortal Kombat: Deception, which revealed that Earthrealm's warriors in Deadly Alliance had failed to prevent Shang Tsung and Quan Chi from resurrecting the Dragon King's army, and that all of them (including Raiden) had died as a result.

Mortal Kombat crossovers
Mortal Kombat has also been the focus of several extremely popular game modifications, including hacks to the original Mortal Kombat PC games (MK2: Kintaro's Vulgar Version), and the integration of console artwork and audio into other game engines, including but not limited to the original Quake and Unreal engines (Mortal Kombat Quake TC).

3:20 AM


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