Home Featured Retro Review: Mortal Kombat
Retro Review: Mortal Kombat

Retro Review: Mortal Kombat


Mortal Kombat was an arcade fighting game developed and published by Midway Games in 1992 as the first instalment in the Mortal Kombat series for Arcade machines. The game was eventually released a year later by Acclaim Entertainment for the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Gameboy and the Sega Game Gear, it has since been ported to various other consoles and even had a relaunch in 2011.

The first game introduced many of the key aspects of the series such as the gory “Fatalities” or the unique five-button fighting control layout. A basic tear down of the story is that we follow the journey of the monk Liu Kang to save Earthrealm from the malevolent sorcerer Shang Tsung and it ends with their confrontation in the Mortal Kombat tournament.

Now, I am playing mine on the Game Boy Advance so it’s a little different to the arcade version. The games character roster has a grand total of seven fighters: the Black Dragon mercenary Kano, the God of Lightning Raiden (Rayden), the Shaolin monk Liu Kang, the vengeful shade Scorpion, the ice ninja Sub-Zero and finally, the Special Forces agent Sonya Blade. – it always struck me as a little weird that hers was/is the only name that made me think “Sure, that’s a real name…” and movie star Johnny Cage.

Each character has different game endings and the story is portrayed in this way, though the games wouldn’t begin to have a ‘proper’ storyline until Mortal Kombat 2, which had an introduction explaining the banishment of Shang Tsung to Earthrealm 500 years ago, his alliance with the four-armed Shokan (half-dragon, half-human) warrior Goro and their take-over of the Mortal Kombat Tournament in an attempt to doom the realm.

Mortal Kombat takes the story a little less seriously, again being played out in the character endings. For example, Raiden’s ending talks about how the Mortal Kombat tournament began to bore him so he decided to invite other Gods along for playtime, resulting in the eventual Final Destruction of our world and then ends with a quaint little “Have a nice day.”! We also see that Sub-Zero only joined the tournament to kill a certain someone, collect his payment and then retire to live a happy life. The game could not take itself any less seriously if it tried and I thought and still do think that that iss a good thing, it makes the humour work for it; I think most gamers know the infamous “Toasty!!” and that’s an accolade very few games can claim.

The game consists of a ladder of 5 fighters taken from your roster, a mirror match against yourself, and then you fight the annoying pair matches which see you fight two enemies on your own with one health bar – at a young age, Mortal Kombat thought me that life wasn’t fair!
The final two matches are the sub-boss Goro and then finally Shang Tsung and even now they are still my least favourite fights in ANY game because they are just so damn difficult. Maybe it’s just me but god damn I lost more against Goro then any fight in any other game EVER. That said though the fighting is fairly simplistic, making it easy to learn combos but at the same time making the fights that bit more annoying. Your movements need to be very deliberate which mostly takes away the problem of spamming the same long ranged attack but sometimes you need to be able to do that to get by the harder parts Mostly. When you first play it, the game feels a little clunky but once you get into the system things come naturally, you start to automatically go for the upper cut after the low kick, low kick after a jump kick, etc.

The soundtrack also shows the way the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, with a weird pitch to the chip-tune soundtrack, along with jazzy little intervals to take away the rigorous thumb crushing, button pressing tension. The series got a ret-con game in 2011 imaginatively named, Mortal Kombat, following the release of MK vs. DC (which was received with mixed reviews). This game took the story on an alternate route, wherein future Raiden sends a message to himself in the past, hoping to change the things that ended in Earthrealms destruction.

With it’s roots grounded in such a strong first title, it’s not hard to see why the series took off the way it did – with numerous sequels, crossovers, movies, toys, cartoons and comics, Mortal Kombat really knew how to work it’s angle. It’s impact isn’t just seen in it’s own growth, the game is widely considered to be one of the main causes for the video game rating system and the inspiration for many other fighting games and truth be told it’s not hard to see why… let’s just hope they stick to their own Universe and don’t want to hang out with Aquaman again!

[Words, Keith Slattery]