Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All

foe_en_s4_b22.jpg

Mortal Kombat (Arcade) artwork

Mortal Kombat (Arcade) review


"“Mortal Kombat” is without a doubt the coolest fighting game ever. It isn’t necessarily the best; that honor might rightfully be held by some Japanese title like “Street Fighter II” or “Garou: Mark of the Wolf.” But none of those games are as cool as MK. When push comes to shove (or fatality) Kombat has the most colorful of fighting game mythologies. Nothing else in the genre can match the sheer characters, the outrageous settings—the ludicrous plot twists! I’ve lost count of how many times the ..."



“Mortal Kombat” is without a doubt the coolest fighting game ever. It isn’t necessarily the best; that honor might rightfully be held by some Japanese title like “Street Fighter II” or “Garou: Mark of the Wolf.” But none of those games are as cool as MK. When push comes to shove (or fatality) Kombat has the most colorful of fighting game mythologies. Nothing else in the genre can match the sheer characters, the outrageous settings--the ludicrous plot twists! I’ve lost count of how many times the Earth has been taken over by Outworld.

In the original “Mortal Kombat” there were seven principal characters. Anyone who was of elementary or junior high age in the early 90s can name these players by heart: the hellspawn Scorpion, his mirror nemesis Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage the superstar, the femme fatale Sonya Blade, the thunder god Raiden, the boisterous and sinister Kano, and Liu Kang the honorable china man. You had to fight every one of these characters, including a mirror image of the one you picked. After you were done fighting them, you had to do it again in the endurance rounds, but now taking on *two* fighters at a time. Geez.

The pinnacle of the single-player experience was confronting Shang Tsung and his right-hand Shokan warrior Goro. Goro had four arms, towered over the player, and roared like a damn bull. You’d think that would be a difficult act to top, but Tsung manages to do the creature one better by being able to morph into every character in the game. He also fired *screaming souls* at you. These final confrontations took place in Goro’s Lair, a labyrinth of brick walls and dark passages with beady eyes glowing and blinking in the shadows. It was the coolest setting in the game, with the honor of second coolest going to The Pit, that level where you could knock your opponent off a bridge and into a hellish pit of blades and spikes. Together they rank among the most memorable places visited in video games.

I suppose this game is pretty technical. You have two kinds of kicks and punches, and every character has a selection of moves like back kicks, sweeps, uppercuts, jump kicks, throws, etc. Blocking is done with a button as opposed to automatically, which creates some interesting scenarios in contrast to other fighting games. For example, you can “block” to lure your opponent in real close and then lay one on ‘em. Having to consciously block attacks also lends to an interesting mixture of relentless offense and taut mind games.

By now the fatalities and signature techniques have become legendary within gaming circles. The most iconic is Sub-Zero’s decapitation finisher, which became a figurehead of sorts for gaming violence and the backlash against it. The carnage is about as authentic as a junior high kid’s Photoshop. Can you believe people once found this shocking and demoralizing? Other great kills include Raiden’s “exploding head” trick, Sonya’s kiss of death, and Scorpion’s “toasty” breath. There are also the non-fatal signatures, the most famous of which are probably Scorpion’s harpoon (“Come Here!”) and Sub-Zero’s ice wave. Ranking closely are Johnny Cage’s Shadow Kick, Liu Kang’s soaring kick, and Raiden’s torpedo, complete with its ludicrous incantation.

But perhaps the most enduring thing of all about “Mortal Kombat” was its cryptic nature. It was the first major fighting game to have a hidden character, Reptile. It also helped to establish a culture of unfounded rumors surrounding ridiculous methods to unlock things, which would later manifest in classic gaming legends like “Luigi in Super Mario 64” or “Reviving Aeris in Final Fantasy VII.” One of the reasons this game and its successors had such a tremendous shelf life was because people kept looking for secrets, and Midway humored them. This was in the days before you could open up a ROM and inspect its contents for obscure graphical data or code. Kombat embodied riddles and enigmas as much as blood and gore.

I guess in the grand scheme of things you could say seven characters is a quaint line-up, especially compared to the dozens that would comprise rosters in later Kombat installments. You could say that the fighting isn’t as technical as “Street Fighter” or “King of Fighters” or “Virtua Fighter.” You could probably argue that all sorts of things are “broken” or that the computer is cheap. Shucks to that; MK is one of the icons of my generation. Here’s to fatalities and hidden characters.

Rating: 10/10

joseph_valencia's avatar
Community review by joseph_valencia (September 11, 2009)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by joseph_valencia
Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition (Genesis) artwork
Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition (Genesis)

Alan Grant is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.
Mega Man Zero 2 (Game Boy Advance) artwork
Mega Man Zero 2 (Game Boy Advance)

The first stage of “Mega Man Zero 2” is one of the best possible notes a game could start on. Our hero, garbed in a poncho, fatigued from the battles he’s fought since the prior installment, limps his way through a canyon in the midst of a sandstorm. The storm dies down, and a battalion of Neo Arcadian foot soldiers fl...
Mega Man Zero (Game Boy Advance) artwork
Mega Man Zero (Game Boy Advance)

My initial impression of “Mega Man Zero” when I first played it was: This game is hard as fuck! I was humiliated by the first real boss, Aztec Falcon. The claustrophobic quarters where you fight him caused me to panic. He dwarfed my little Zero character in size, and he nimbly bounded and dashed all over the place. He ...

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Mortal Kombat review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
zippdementia posted September 11, 2009:

Nice review. I like the way you put this game in its place for the period talking about what it represented more than what it is. It's not a game I'd easily return to today but it definitely marked a generation.

One error:

" Other great kills including Raiden’s..."

Should be INCLUDE not including.
board icon
joseph_valencia posted September 11, 2009:

Should be INCLUDE not including.

Damn, can't believe I let that slip. Fixed.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Advertise | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Mortal Kombat is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Mortal Kombat, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.