One of the most successful and beloved fighting arcade games in recent history is also one of the most controversial. To celebrate the much anticipated 2011 re-imaging of Mortal Kombat, we go inside its brutal history, from the timeless feeling of battle in the arcade to the bloody battlefield players can now enjoy at home, this is Mortal Kombat!
Remember arcades, the place where gamers used to gather to play their favorite games and to play each other? In the 1990’s acade games were struggling to stay relevant in the ever increasing video game console market. In 1991 the Japanese company Capcom released Street Fighter II. It was a major success pitting players against each other in a tournament of supremacy. In 1992 Mortal Kombat was born.
Commonly abbrivated as MK, Mortal Kombat was created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. As Ed Boon stated in an interview with Major Nelson “The first Mortal Kombat game was 4 guys, literally, one programmer, myself (Boon), two graphics guys (Tobias and Vogel), and a sound guy (Forden) was the entire team, literally” The series began originally as a game based on the popular martial artist and actor, Jean-Claude Van Damme. The game would feature a digitized version of the action star fighting villains. The idea fortunately fell through and Mortal Kombat was concieved instead! The original three games, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Mortal Kombat 3, along with updated version Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy were stylized in a 2D fashion. Gameplay consisted of six buttons that were high punch, low punch, high kick, low kick, block, and run was later added. Mortal Kombat is especially recognized for it’s realistic digitized sprites. Instead of hand drawn sprites that other fighting games used, Mortal Kombat focused on actors to bring characters to life. Mortal Kombat is also noted and scrutinized for it’s high levels of blood and gore and the use of fatalities. This high level of violence lead to the creation of the ESRB. The series name itself is known for using the letter “K” in the place of “C” for it’s hard sound.
Mortal Kombat was released for the Arcade in 1992. Since then it has been ported to over ten different consoles. Mortal Kombat II was released for the arcade in 1993 and improved upon the graphics of Mortal Kombat and included and increase in it’s character roster. Mortal Kombat 3 was released in 1995 for both the arcade and home console. MK3 also received two updates to the games expanding its character roster and other features: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy were released. Mortal Kombat 4 is the last game in the series to be released in the arcade and on consoles. An updated verison, Mortal Kombat Gold was an exclusive to the Sega Dreamcast. After the first four initial installments Mortal Kombat started to take on a different naming scheme and also began to become a continuing force on gaming consoles only. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was released in 2002 for the Xbox, Playstation 2 (PS2) and Nintendo Gamecube. Two additional games were released for the Gameboy Advance, Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. The sequel to Deadly Alliance is Mortal Kombat: Deception and it was released in 2004 for the Xbox, PS2 and gamecube. Following Deception, Mortal Kombat: Unchained was released for the Playstation Portable (PSP) in 2006. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon debuted in 2006 as well for the PS2 and Xbox and was later released for the Wii in 2007. In September of 2008, Midway released the Mortal Kombat Kollection. The collection included the most recent games in the franchise: Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. A ninth game in the series, simply titled Mortal Kombat, is set to be released April 19, 2011. The trailer for the game debuted June 2010. The latest installment would be a re-imaging of the series bringing back the 2D style of fighting Mortal Kombat has been known for.
The story of Mortal Kombat is a complex and fantastical one. The series takes place within a fictional universe that consists of six surviving realms created by the Elder Gods. These 6 realms include: “Earthrealm, home to such legendary heroes as Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, and Jax, and also under the protection of the Thunder God Raiden; Netherrealm, which fiery depths are inhospitable to but the most vile, a realm of demons and shadowy warriors; Outworld, a realm of constant strife and where Emperor Shao Kahn claims this realm as his own; Seido, The Realm of Order, whose inhabitants prize structure and order above all else; The Realm of Chaos, whose inhabitants do not abide by any rules whatsoever, where constant turmoil and change are worshipped here; and Edenia, which is known for its beauty, artistic expression, and longevity of its inhabitants.” The Elder Gods decreed that the denizens of one realm could only conquer another realm by defeating the defending realm’s greatest warriors in ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments. The first Mortal Kombat takes place in Earthrealm where seven different warriors with their own reasons for entering participated in the tournament with the main prize being the continued freedom of Earthrealm. Among the established fighters were Liu Kang, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. With the help of thunder God, Raiden, the earth realm warriors were victorious and Liu Kang become the champion of Mortal Kombat.
In Mortal Kombat II, unable to deal with Shang Tsung’s failure, Shao Kahn lures the Earthrealm warriors to the outworld where the earthrealm warriors eventually defeat him. This defeat frees Edenia and its people and peace was restored. Mortal Kombat 3 sees the resurrection of Sindel by Shao Kahn. This combines the Earthrealm with Outworld. Mortal Kombat 4 introduces the former elder god Shinnok as he attempts to conquer the realms and attempts to kill Raiden. However, he is defeated by the earthrealm warriors. In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance the sorcerers Quan Chi and Shang Tsung join forces to conquer the realms and subsequently become the antagonists.
By Mortal Kombat: Deception, after several fights, the sorcerers emerge victorious having killed most of Earthrealms’ warriors until Raiden steps forth to oppose them. During this time Shujinko, our hero for earthrealm, is tricked into finding pieces of Onaga’s power. He eventually defeats the Dragon King and rids Mortal Kombat of his presence. During Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the end of the world, or Armageddon, begins. Centuries before the first Mortal Kombat, Queen Delia foretold the realms would be destroyed in an event known as Armageddon. King Argus had his sons, Taven, the protagonist of the game, and Daegon, put into incubation who would one day be awakened to save the realms from Armageddon. As a result of this catastrophe unfortunately there is no clear containment for Armageddon, instead of destroying or decreasing the enemies power, fighters become even more powerful.
Mortal Kombat 9, to be released April 19, 2011, will tell of the events befalling the original Mortal Kombat Trilogy but with a twist. MK9 follows an alternate timeline where Raiden receives a message from himself in the prime future where Armageddon has happened and Shao Kahn became the supreme leader of all the realms. This will bring a new conflict with characters that players will already be familiar with.
Lets talk gameplay and the controversy that ensued. The gameplay in Mortal Kombat is incredibly simple. In an interview with Computer and Videogames, Ed Boon stated, “…since the beginning, one of the things that’s separated us from other fighting games is the crazy moves we’ve put in it, like fireballs and all the magic moves, so to speak.” Midway would keep their single styled fighting moves with four attack buttons which were a different array of punches and kicks and block until they changed this in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance by differentiating characters normal moves and even giving them multiple fighting styles. Most of the fighting styles in later games were based on real martial arts.
The most controversial part of Mortal Kombat was the introduction of Fatalities. Fatalities are finishing moves that allow players to end a fight by killing their opponent in a gruesome manner. It was developed to give players a free hit at the end of the fight, As Mortal Kombat progressed, predecessors expanded upon the Fatalities. They included: Friendship (MK II)-This includes giving opponents presents instead of killing them, Animality (MK 3)- players turn into an animal and violently finish their opponent, Mercy- The player gives a bit of health to their opponent, Brutality- (MK Trilogy) bashing your opponent into pieces with a long combination of hits, Babality- your opponent turns into a baby, and Hara-Kiri- your opponent has chosen to commit suicide. Earlier fatalities lead to extreme controversy because of the over the top graphic violence. Jeff Greeson, the editor in chief and site manager for The Realm of Mortal Kombat , a Web site dedicated to the game franchise, said “It is important to note that Mortal Kombat launched in the competitive world of arcade games, all vying for the same quarters, and that standing out amid the competition meant survival. Mortal Kombat not only stood out, it grabbed you by the shirt collar and demanded your attention. Mortal Kombat had the biggest and most realistic characters ever featured in a video game at that time. You were literately watching digitally animated photographs of people flying through the air and beating the living hell out of each other.” Interactive Digital Software Association or IDSA (now the Entertainment Software Association or ESA) formed the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) at the tail end of 1993 to offset the impending congressional hearings mounted against the games industry and spearheaded by Senators Lieberman and Kohl. The ESRB rates the content in video games on a scale similar to how films are rated: “E,” suitable for everyone; “T,” appropriate for teens aged 13 and older; “EC,” for early childhood; and “M,” for mature or 17 and older. The “Adults Only” or “AO” rating is for people 18 and older (although most places rarely carry AO rated games). This rating system in held in place today.
The Mortal Kombat series has also seen its fair share of heroes, villians, and shady characters. Lets revisit some shall we.
Liu Kang: He is one of the few original characters debuting in the first Mortal Kombat game. He serves as the main character and is the grand champion of the first four tournaments.
Johnny Cage: John Carlton, AKA Johnny Cage , is a action movie martial artist in Mortal Kombat. He is one of the most recurring characters and one of the few original characters, debuting in the first Mortal Kombat.
Sonya Blade: Lieutenant Sonya Blade, (USA) or Lt. Sonya Blade, (USA), is a female soldier who is a member of Earthrealm’s Special Forces unit known as Outer World Invesitagion Agency (OIA) in Mortal Kombat. She also debuted in the first Mortal Kombat.
.Kano: Also debuting in the original Mortal Kombat, he is originally a mercenary and leader of the international crime cartel known as the Black Dragon. He is sly and cunning and a portion of his face is covered with a metal plate as a result of a disfiguring injury he sustained at the hands of Major Jackson Briggs prior to the events of the series. Caution is advised as the plated eye houses a laserlike device which can tear opponents apart.
Raiden: Raiden is the eternal God of Thunder and former protector of Earthrealm.
Scorpion: A resurrected ninja debuting in the original Mortal Kombat. Scorpion was a human ninja assassin and one of the Shirai Ryu clan’s finest warriors: Hanzo Hasashi. He seeks revenge on all those who killed his family and his clan. He serves as an antihero, his motives not inherently good or evil.
Noob Saibot: Debuting in the original Mortal Kombat as Sub-Zero, Noob is Bi-Han the older brother to Kuai who also dons the blue and black suit. He was a Lin-Kuei assassin and now wraith. Now resurrected he is pure evil incarnate.
Sub-Zero: Debuting in MK II, Sub-Zero is a Lin-Kuei assassin. He is also the younger brother of Noob Saibot, the original Sub-Zero in the first Mortal Kombat. There are in fact two incarnations of Sub-Zero, and they are siblings: the older brother Bi-Han, and younger brother Kuai. They possess the ability to generate and control ice.
Mileena: A clone of Kitana created by Shang Tsung’s sorcery in his flesh pits for Shao Kahn, using Tarkatan physiology, Mileena debuts in MK II. She is evil and vicious. Her wish is to destroy Kitana and claim the throne to Edenia as princess.
Kitana: Driven by a search for justice, redemption, and peace, Kitana is a strong combination of discipline, intelligence, love, and perseverance. She is princess of Edenia and is of great importance there.
For a complete list of characters and their stories please visit: mortalkombat.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Mortal_Kombat_characters.
The next installment of Mortal Kombat promises to be a brutal one. Mortal Kombat 9, just titled Mortal Kombat, will include an online mode featuring a King of the Hill option. This King of the Hill option will let up to eight players spectate fights, rate the fights and play the winner. There will also be a Tag-Team mode pitting teams of two against each other. There will be a challenge tower and this will test players to their full capabilities. This mode will include 300 specific challenges of varying difficulties. The completion of challenges will provide players with Koins and these koins can unlock prizes in the Krypt. Challenges included will be the “Test Your Might”, “Test Your Sight”, “Test Your Strike” and “Test Your Luck” challenges. These will be scattered throughout the various other challenges. The 2D style of fighting Mortal Kombat has been known for returns. With this we see the debut of X-Ray combo moves. During these X-ray moves, the camera will zoom in and will show an inside view of the character who is being attacked while bones and organs are broken or ruptured. Last but certainly not least, there will be a fatality practice room so players can learn the deadliest combos worthy of decimating opponents.
Mortal Kombat has also made way into several other mediums. There are two movies, Mortal Kombat (1995) and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997). Two television series, a 1996 animated series titled, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and a live action series in 1998-1998 called Mortal Kombat: Konquest. Mortal Kombat has also debuted within the comic book universe, has it’s own card game, has provided popular stage shows in the 90’s and has released numerous soundtracks showcasing the trance/techno music and popular character themes within the games.
To coincide with the release of the next installment to Mortal Kombat a web series has surfaced. Mortal Kombat: Legacy was created by Kevin Tancharoen following an ambitious and beautifully crafted debut trailer titled Mortal Kombat: Rebirth. The story will follow key characters and the events leading them into the tournament. The feel of the web series is focused on realism and gritty underbelly of the tournament. So far Jax, Sonya Blade, Kano and Stryker have appeared in the first episode. Mortal Kombat: Legacy will air every Tuesday on Machinima.com and their Youtube channel.
Mortal Kombat has spanned all areas of entertainment and has left its mark on the gaming industry forever. From the arcade to your bedroom, Mortal Kombat has been immersing players in a mystical story while letting them rip each others heads off. Be there for the next installment, you don’t want to miss this next generation of visceral carnage. Now GET OVER HERE…and play!
Did I forget anything? Tips and tricks for the games? Who is your favorite character? Please sound off in the comments section!