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Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat game flyer.png
Developer(s) Midway,
Sculptured Software / Probe (home consoles)
Publisher(s) Midway,
Acclaim (home consoles)
Designer(s) Ed Boon, John Tobias (creators)
Dan Forden (music / sounds)
Composer(s) Dan Forden
Platform(s) Arcade, Super NES, Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega CD, Amiga, Game Gear, Game Boy, Sega Master System, MS-DOS, mobile phone, TV game
Release date(s) August 1992 (Y-Unit release)
1993 (T-Unit release)
Genre(s) Versus fighting
Mode(s) Up to 2 players
Input methods 8-way joystick, Buttons: 5 (HP, LP, BLOCK, HK, LK)
Cabinet Upright
Arcade system Midway Y Unit (Version 1-4)
Midway T Unit (Version 4-5)

Mortal Kombat is a fighting video game developed and published by Midway for arcades and by Acclaim Entertainment for home versions. The game was released in North America in 1992. It is the first title in theMortal Kombat series. Upon release, Mortal Kombat became one of the most popular arcade games of all time. It was subsequently ported to home video game consoles and became a best-selling game. Mortal Kombat also became one of the most controversial video games, for its depiction of gore and violence using realistic, digitized graphics.

Mortal Kombat focuses on the journey of the monk Liu Kang to save Earth from the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung, ending with their confrontation on the tournament known as Mortal Kombat. The game spawned numerous sequels, and is considered one of the most popular American fighting games to date.

Contents

Gameplay

Fighting and basics

Whereas other fighting games had characters with considerable differences in speed, height, attacks, strength, jumping heights and distances, the characters in Mortal Kombat played virtually identically to one another (with the exception of unplayable characters), with only minimal differences in their moves' range and speed. The controls consisted of five buttons arranged in an "X" pattern: a high punch, a high kick, a low punch, a low kick, and a block button, as well as an eight-way joystick. If the two fighters were standing next to each other, hitting any of the attack buttons would result in a modified strike: a low punch turned into a throw, a high punch turned into a heavy elbow, head butt, or backhand, and either kick turned into a knee strike. Crouching and hitting high punch resulted in an uppercut, which was the most damaging attack of the game. Jump kicking and crouch-kicking were executed in a similar fashion to Street Fighter, although leg sweeps and roundhouse kicks were performed by holding away while pressing the appropriate kick button. The characters in Mortal Kombat differed mostly in their special moves and finishing moves. The game also changed the way special moves were performed. Mortal Kombat was the first to introduce moves that did not require a button press (such as tap back, tap back, then forward), and only a few of the special moves required circular joystick movement. In an interview with Computer and Video Games video game magazine, 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."[1]

The blocking in Mortal Kombat by itself greatly changed the flow of fighting in comparison to contemporary games which used Street Fighter conventions. Characters do not block while retreating or crouching, but only block when the block button is pushed. Even then, characters still take damage from any hit while blocking, although it's very reduced. However, successfully blocking moves is simple – a crouching block can successfully defend against all moves, even aerial attacks such as jump kicks – and blocking characters give very little ground when struck rather than sliding backwards. This style of blocking rewarded dodging to avoid damage but also made counter attacks much easier after a successful block, and the ultimate result was an environment which rewards a more furtive playing style than contemporary games. Mortal Kombat also introduced the concept of juggling, an idea so popular it has spread to many games and even other genres. Juggling takes advantage of the fact that when a character is knocked into the air, that player is unable to control his or her character and is still vulnerable to other hits, until he or she lands and gets up again. The idea behind juggling is to knock the enemy into the air and then follow up with other combat moves to keep them there. Theoretically, one could juggle one's opponent to death without ever taking damage, though this was difficult to accomplish in practice. In early versions of the game, juggling was extremely easy because the physics caused characters to fly upwards when hit; by version 5.0, however, characters reacted with somewhat more realism, and also fell more rapidly with successive hits, effectively limiting juggles to 3 hits under normal circumstances.

Another of the game's innovations was the Fatality, a special finishing move executed against a beaten opponent to kill them in a gruesome fashion.[2] For example, Sub-Zero would grasp a defeated opponent by the head, then rip out the head and spine while the body crumpled to the ground in a pool of blood.[3]

Test Your Might

Test Your Might is breaking minigame featured as a bonus level between battles. In it, the player's character is stood in front of a large block, and he must break the material in front of him with his bare fist by filling a strength gauge past its breaking point, which is noted by a red line placed on the bar. If the player fails to fill the strength gauge past that point by the time he strikes, the material won't break and the player fails the round. The first material the player must break is wood, once broken he progresses onto stone, then to steel, ruby and finally, diamond. Each material has a higher breaking point than the last, with diamond being the hardest, requiring the player to fill the strength gauge almost entirely. As materials become harder, each of them awards more points than the previous one.

In single-player mode, the minigame appears after every three consecutive battles. However, since the single-player mode ends after the twelfth battle victory, this mode gives players only three chances to play Test Your Might before their game is over. This means that the two hardest blocks of the five (Ruby and Diamond) are reachable only by playing two-player mode. In this mode, the minigame also appears after every five consecutive battles, with each player's progress maintained individually.

Test Your Might would eventually become the franchise's trademark minigame, but it was not used in the subsequent Mortal Kombat games until 2002's console-only Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, where it returned with improved graphics, a similar but longer block sequence (bamboo, coal, oak, brick, redwood, marble, iron, then diamond), and another minigame, Test Your Sight. Whereas in Mortal Kombat Test Your Might was there to earn points, it is in Deadly Alliance to earn "Koins" used to unlock special features. In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, the minigame appears whenever the player needs to perform some feat of strength, and at times, even during specific parts of boss battles.

Plot and setting

In Mortal Kombat, the player receives information concerning the backstories of the characters and their relationships with one another mainly in biographies that are displayed when the start button is not pressed in the title screen. These bios featured short videos of the characters taking their fighting stances and text informing the motives for each character to enter the tournament. The game takes place in a fantasy setting, with most of the game's events occurring on the fictional realms of the Mortal Kombat series. The original game is notably the only title in the series that features only one realm, that being Earthrealm. The tournament featured in the story actually takes place fully at Shang Tsung's Island, located somewhere on Earth, with seven of its locations serving as Kombat Zones.

To fully understand the plot of Mortal Kombat, the player must beat Arcade mode to unlock endings for each character, but only a few endings or a part of them are considered canon to the Mortal Kombat storyline. Some endings even contradict one another. What really happened to the characters was only revealed on the sequel Mortal Kombat II.

Characters

Mortal Kombat character selection screen.

The original Mortal Kombat included seven playable characters, two bosses and one secret character, all of wich would eventually become the series trademark characters and be included in later sequels at some point. The game was developed with digitized sprites based on actors, as opposed to animated cartoon graphics.[4][5] The protagonist of the game is the monk Liu Kang, played by Ho Sung Pak, who enters the tournament to defeat Shang Tsung, the main antagonist and final boss who curiously is also played by Sung Pak. Despite his old age, Shang Tsung moves with incredible speed and summons skull fireballs at will, and can also steal the souls of fallen adversaries and morph into any character of the game, assuming their appearance and their special moves. Upon defeat, all the warriors' souls leave his body.

Elizabeth Malecki played the Special Forces agent Sonya Blade, who is pursuing the Black Dragon mercenary Kano, played by Richard Divizio. Carlos Pesina played Raiden, the God of Thunder and protector of Eartrealm, while his brother Daniel Pesina played Hollywood movie star Johnny Cage and the Lin Kuei warrior Sub-Zero. The blue color of Sub-Zero's Ninja outfit was changed to yellow in order to create the Ninja specter Scorpion and to green for Shang Tsung's servent Reptile[6] , both also played by Daniel Pesina. Mortal Kombat would become famous for these palette swaps, and later games would continue with this tradition.

The four-armed Shokan warrior Goro serves as the sub boss of the game, being a half-human, half-dragon beast that is a great deal stronger than the other characters, and impossible to grab. Also, he takes less damage when attacked, and is not affected by sweep kicks. Although many of the characters displayed super human special powers, Goro was the only character from the game to actually look unhuman. The character's stop motion model was created by Curt Chiarelli. When fighting on The Pit stage (the bridge), the player could qualify to fight the secret character Reptile.[7] The requirements to face Reptile would be met on home ports if the fighter achieved a double Flawless Victory (winning without taking any damage) without blocking, and performed the standard finishing move, rather than the finishing uppercut to the pit. In some versions, a silhouette must float across the moon in the background during the fight, as described above. Goro, Shang Tsung and Reptile were not playable in the original game, but would later return fully-playable in sequels.

Story

The original Mortal Kombat is the only game in the series to not have an introduction video explaining its plot. Eventually, the story of the Mortal Kombat universe was revealed, as well as the story behind the tournament itself. It is said that the Elder Gods created various realms, and that they decreeded 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. With one of such realms, Outworld, already having won nine tournaments in a row, Earth's warriors would have to avoid handing Earthrealm the tenth loss, or all of humanity would crumble into the darkness of the Outworld. The first game takes place during this decisive battle. With the help of the Thunder God Raiden, the Earthrealm warriors are victorious and the monk Liu Kang becomes the new champion of Mortal Kombat after defeating the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung.[8]

Ports

The September 13, 1993 launch of Mortal Kombat for home consoles by Acclaim Entertainment was one of the largest video game launch of the time. A "Mortal Monday" ad campaign featured a flood of TV commercials, and all four home versions of the game were made available for sale on the same date. In addition, an album Mortal Kombat: The Album was released to accompany the release.

Versions of the original Mortal Kombat game appeared on several different formats, notably the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and Nintendo's SNES. At the time of the game's SNES release in North America, Nintendo of America had a strict "Family Friendly" policy. This required the removal of graphic violence, religious imagery, and mentions of death from all game content. The SNES version, therefore, had characters that sweated upon injury instead of bleeding, and most of the Fatality moves were toned down. As of Mortal Kombat II, however, Nintendo decided to leave the gore from the original arcade version intact.

Official ports

  • Genesis (1993) – The Genesis/Mega Drive version was modified, but entering a secret cheat code restored the full gore and fatalities from the arcade version. The code notably spelled out "ABACABB",[9] a nod to the Abacab album by the band Genesis who obviously share their name with the console. This version was given an MA-13 rating by the Videogame Rating Council. The music in this version, while based on that of the arcade game, was rearranged, and rhythmically and melodically different. There were also few voice samples in this version.[10] The Japanese port was named Mortal Kombat: Shinken Kourin Densetsu.[11]
  • SNES (1993) – This version contained modified gray sweat in place of blood. Additionally, several fatalities (now called "Finishing Bonus") were altered or changed completely. Some critics overlooked the fact that the game played differently to the original arcade version. The venerable uppercut counter to air attacks was missing, and the combo system also differed from the arcade version. The graphics are superior to those of other console versions. The sound more closely resembles the arcade version (especially in terms of musical accuracy), though not as accurate as that of the Sega CD version. The use of grey sweat in place of blood led to the urban legend that you could activate blood in the SNES version of Mortal Kombat however no cheat code was ever in the game.[12]
  • IBM PC (1993) – The IBM PC version is the most faithful port of the arcade version.
  • Amiga (1993) – This version is famous for being able to perform all moves in the game using just one button on a joystick, although a second button could be used as a kick button. This was required because most Amiga joysticks of that time only had one button. The Amiga port of the second game in the series included a Two Button option.
  • Game Boy (1993) – Due to technical issues the Game Boy version was severely cut down from its arcade counterpart. It suffered from laggy controls, (making most moves extremely difficult to perform), and a limited button layout. It also omitted Johnny Cage, Reptile, and the bloodier fatality moves. However, players could play as Goro via a code.
  • Sega Game Gear (1993) –Basically the Game Boy version with major improvements, (like color, faster game play, and less laggy control). Like its 16-bit brother, the game was censored unless a cheat code had been entered. It lacked Kano and Reptile and had only two arenas.
  • Sega Master System (1993) - Similar to the Game Gear Port, but with more screen space. This port also lacked Kano and Reptile.
  • Sega CD (1994) - The Sega CD version of the game was released with a grainy version of the famous Mortal Monday commercial and loading times. This version did not require a code to be entered and thus was given an MA-17 rating. While this port was technologically inferior to the better-looking SNES port, it resembled the arcade version more faithfully in actual gameplay. It also featured the authentic soundtrack, taken right from the arcade version, but some of the tracks play on the incorrect arenas, (such as Courtyard playing The Pit's theme). The gore could be disabled by entering the "DULLARD" code at the main menu. One notable issue with this version is the load times, which causes a lot of delays when fighting Shang Tsung, sometimes leaving him open to attack.
  • Xbox/PlayStation 2 - In 2004 a new port was included with the Mortal Kombat Deception "Premium Pack". This port is an "arcade perfect" emulation. Unfortunately, it wasn't as arcade perfect as it claimed, as there were some sound issues such as the music for the palace gates being relatively low, as well as the ending music being abruptly interrupted at the start of the second segment of the credits, and gameplay being slightly faster than the actual arcade verion.[13]
  • Jakks TV Games - In 2004, Jakks Pacific released their version of Mortal Kombat as part of their TV Games lineup. The game was released as a joypad shaped like a Mortal Kombat cabinet. 2-player mode is also possible with a 2nd joypad and a link cable. This version of Mortal Kombat is graphically similar to the Sega Genesis version but with slight resemblance to the arcade port. The game sounds similar to the Genesis version, but with different midi-like music, and retains the original arcade voices. This port, however, lacks flashing text and a scrolling background layer, so moving objects - such as the clouds on the Pit and Palace Gates stage and the monks in the Courtyard - instead remain static.
  • PlayStation Portable - The game was a part of Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play. This port features the same controls, graphics and gore that the original game contained, but like the Premium Pack of Mortal Kombat Deception, it suffers from sound issues, and Reptile makes no appearances.

Unofficial Ports

  • NES - This version was illegally ported by Cony Soft, and gameplay was similar to the Street Fighter pirates.
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum - Two unfinished but playable unofficial versions exist, one created in Ukraine in 1997 and the other in Russia, both uses converted graphics. One unofficial full version exists too (1996); this one uses only the characters and setting of original game, and has its own graphics. It is mainly based on the first game and the first movie, but it has some features from MK2 and MK3. (For example, Liu kang has his fire teleport fatality from MK3)

Hacks and other revisions

The intro screen has been changed, and Reptile can be easily fought in Turbo Ninja.

In the arcade version of Mortal Kombat, there were hacked versions of the arcade:

  • 3.1 Turbo/Kombo edition - This was an extremely rare hack for the arcade version, which tweaked the gameplay for more juggling, which made the speed of MK1 up to MK2 standards. Other features include Sub-Zero's freeze tweaked to levitate opponents to the top of the screen, which meant more combo possibilities, and fight Reptile faster (without double flawless but still with a fatality, even without going to the Pit stage). Since it was very rare, it wasn't dumped on MAME, but however, on August 31, 2009, it was dumped and is fully playable on MAME.[14]
  • Turbo Ninja - Another rare hack, but it is similar to 3.1 Turbo. This was the first MK1 hack dumped on MAME.[15]
  • Nifty Kombo - It is an earlier edition of 3.1 Turbo, similar features to its successor. Some differences includes Sub-Zero's levitating freeze levitates opponents about an inch, and a harder Goro.[16]

Development

According to various articles, the first Mortal Kombat game was, "... put together in 10 months in 1991-1992..." [17] and also in an interview with Official Nintendo Magazine, Mortal Kombat co-creator, Ed Boon, stated, "Mortal Kombat started out with four people in 1991; I was the only programmer, John Tobias and John Vogel were the only two artists, and Dan Forden was the only sound designer. That was it. We developed the first Mortal Kombat in ten months from beginning to end..." .[18] however, other sources tend to differ. For example, on Shacknews it is stated, "Mortal Kombat was created by Midway Games in only five and a half months as a competitor for the hugely popular Street Fighter II..." [19]

Originally, creators Ed Boon and John Tobias wanted to create a video game starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, with a digitized version of the action star fighting villains.[20] However, Van Damme was already in negotiations with another company for a video game that ultimately was never released. Van Damme's likeness is still clearly seen in the character of Johnny Cage (with whom he shares his name's initials, JC), a Hollywood martial arts movie star who performs a split punch to the groin (performed by Van Damme in a scene from Bloodsport[21]).

Reception

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 84.17% (3 reviews)[22] (Sega Genesis)
83.3% (3 reviews)[23](SNES)
Review scores
Publication Score
Electronic Gaming Monthly 8.25 out of 10(Sega Genesis and SNES)[22][23]
GamePro 5 out of 5 (Sega Genesis and SNES)[22][23]
Nintendo Power 3.875 out of 5 (SNES) [23]

Mortal Kombat was awarded Most Controversial Game of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. The same publication also awarded the character of Goro the 1993 Hottest Gaming Hunk title.[24] Mortal Kombat for the SNES was rated by IGN the 8th worst Arcade to console conversion stating, "So out went the decapitations and spine-rips, everyone sweated buckets instead of bled, and Kano's heart-rip move was turned into a fatal chest-hair pluck." [25] The Arcade version of Mortal Kombat was rated the 85th "Top Coin-Operated Videogame of all Times".[26] Forbes called Mortal Kombat one of the "Most Loved Arcade Games" stating that it was the "king of the arcade" in its day. As of this article, the arcade machines of the original title go from a few hundred dollars to $2,500.[27]

Controversy

Mortal Kombat was one of many violent video games that came into prominence between 1992-1993, generating controversy among parents and public officials.[28] Hearings on video game violence and the corruption of society, headed by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Herb Kohl were held in late 1992 to 1993. The result of the hearings was that the entertainment software industry was given one year to form a working rating system or the federal government would intervene and create its own system. Eventually, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was conceived, requiring all video games to be rated and for these ratings to be placed on the games' packaging.[29]

References

  1. ^ Bishop, Stuart (April 23, 2007). "Ed Boon talks Mortal Kombat". Computer and Video Games. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=162494. Retrieved October 18, 2009. 
  2. ^ Gertsmann, Jeff (October 24, 2008). "Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 Review". GameSpot. http://uk.gamespot.com/xbox360/action/ultimatemortalkombat3/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary;read-review. Retrieved January 11, 2009. 
  3. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNwAi_nAOuw
  4. ^ Staff (June 1994). "The Minds Behind Mortal Kombat II". GamePro (59): 117. 
  5. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dddmSvd4mY
  6. ^ Midway. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. (Midway). Level/area: Reptile Kombat Card video. (October 11, 2006)
  7. ^ Carter, Chip; Carter, Jonathan (1994-02-07). "They are just dying to talk about Mortal Kombat". St. Petersburg Times. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=JvwNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=t3sDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6678,2240242&dq=mortal+kombat&hl=en. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  8. ^ Midway. Mortal Kombat 2. (Midway). Level/area: Opening sequence. (1994)
  9. ^ Fahs, Travis (2008-10-13). "IGN Presents the History of Mortal Kombat". IGN. http://retro.ign.com/articles/919/919357p2.html. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  10. ^ http://www.gamefaqs.com/console/genesis/review/R78607.html
  11. ^ "Mortal Kombat: Shinken Kourin Densetsu (JP, 05/27/94)". http://www.gamefaqs.com/console/genesis/image/563332.html?box=2952. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  12. ^ "7 Video Gaming Urban Legendss". http://web.archive.org/web/20080423095521/http://kezins.com/2008/04/09/kezinscom-presents-video-game-urban-legends/. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  13. ^ http://ps2.ign.com/articles/535/535211p1.html
  14. ^ http://www.vm68.com/mkromhacks/mk_kombo.html Mortal Kombat 3.1 Turbo/Kombo edition information and screenshots.
  15. ^ http://www.mameworld.info/ August 25, 2009, dumping information of Mortal Kombat Turbo Ninja edition with screenshots of the PCB board.
  16. ^ http://www.vm68.com/mkromhacks/mk_nifty_kombo.html Mortal Kombat Nifty Kombo edition information and screenshot.
  17. ^ Lynch, Stephen (April 19, 1994). "THEY PROGRAM THE BEST INCARNATIONS OF GAMES THEY PLAYED AS KIDS". Deseret News: p. 2 SO. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=336&dat=19940419&id=z64RAAAAIBAJ&sjid=z-wDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6741,2381083. 
  18. ^ "Mortal Kombat: Ed Boon Interview". Official Nintendo Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. http://web.archive.org/web/20071023152817/http://www.officialnintendomagazine.co.uk/news_060707_mortal.html. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  19. ^ Craddock, David (2005-09-29). "The Rogues Gallery: Controversial Video Games". Shacknews. http://www.shacknews.com/featuredarticle.x?id=23. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  20. ^ http://g4tv.com/gamemakers/episodes/3446/Mortal-Kombat.html
  21. ^ "Bloodsport Fight #2 at 6:50". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtcrFCfoyxo. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 
  22. ^ a b c "Mortal Kombat for Genesis". Game Rankings. http://www.gamerankings.com/genesis/563332-mortal-kombat/index.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  23. ^ a b c d "Mortal Kombat for SNES". Game Rankings. http://www.gamerankings.com/snes/588499-mortal-kombat/index.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  24. ^ Electronic Gaming Monthly's Buyer's Guide. 1994. 
  25. ^ Harris, Craig (2006-06-27). "Top 10 Tuesday: Worst Coin-op Conversions". http://pc.ign.com/articles/715/715301p1.html. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  26. ^ McLemore, Greg. "The Top Coin-Operated Videogames of all Times". http://www.klov.com/TOP100.html. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  27. ^ "Mortal Kombat 1992". Forbes.com. 2008-02-13. http://www.forbes.com/2008/02/12/vintage-arcade-games-tech-personal-cx_ps_0213vintage_slide_9.html. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  28. ^ "Too Violent for Kids?". Time. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,979298,00.html. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  29. ^ Kohler, Chris (2009-07-24). "This Day In Tech Events That Shaped the Wired World July 29, 1994: Videogame Makers Propose Ratings Board to Congress". Wired News. http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2009/07/dayintech_0729/. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 

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