Back To The Past: Mortal Kombat Series (Part 1)

Without further ado, let’s go back to the year 1992.

By azn_pride, Posted 17 Apr 2011

We now wait for a few days to finally get our hands of the reboot of Mortal Kombat, also a franchise full of histories and controversies. Before Ed Boon restarted the whole series from scratch, I thought why not look back to the history of the whole series filled with character build ups, storylines, and gameplay and how it affected the gaming industry in the process? If we take every single element into the account from the series, I doubt that I will be able to finish this blog in a week. There are fan sites that can enlighten you with many things in the game. So without further ado, let’s go back to the year 1992.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

Mortal Kombat (1992)

During this time, fighting games were enjoying their peak with Street Fighter 2, as it dominated the arcades and home consoles. It is also at this time when Ed Boon and John Tobias birthed a concept and finally released the first Mortal Kombat game that no one from the gaming industry expected. Developed and released in the arcades by Midway Games and later ported to home consoles by Acclaim Entertainment, it created huge controversies and high shock level surrounding the game’s gore content —mainly focusing on its fatalities. It was at this moment that the ESRB rating system was launched to restrict these kinds of games to minors. This game was later considered the biggest contender against the already popular Street Fighter 2. The series started with 7 characters with 2 bosses and 1 additional hidden character, each with different storylines. The game relied on digitized image sprites with unique moves differentiating each of them. Every character had their own ‘Fatality’ or finishing move, with the two most prominent one being Scorpion’s fire and Sub Zero’s spine rip.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

Mortal Kombat and subsequent games in the franchise are known for palette swapping, where a single actor with the same moves is used for multiple characters. For example, actor Daniel Pesina played Hollywood movie star Johnny Cage and Scorpion’s color palette has been swapped to make Sub Zero in the process. The series is also notable for same type of basic attacks assigned for all players with the exception being the special moves. For example, the uppercut (which is present in every game in the series) can be applied by pressing down and punch. The uppercut was considered a devastating basic move and even stage Fatalities can be applied using uppercuts. The game is also known for the juggling mechanism where the opponent has no control when being hit to the air and multiple moves could be applied. This mechanism was quite popular and was applied in other games. The game also featured a mini-game called ‘Test Your Might,’ where the player has to fill up a strength bar to a certain level to break down different objects in the game using the selected character’s bare hand and win points.

The original Mortal Kombat had no introductory video, but the storyline was revealed later. It starts out like this: The elder gods created various realms (main realms being Earthrealm, Outworld, Edenia, Netherrealm, Chaosrealm, Orderrealm and Zaterra). It is being said that the denizens of one realm can conquer another realm by competing and winning 10 consecutive tournaments in a row against the greatest warriors in the defending realm. Earthrealm, having lost to Outworld nine straight times already, had one last chance before handling the tenth defeat and crumbling to the darkness of the Outworld, which results in all humanity being lost. The first game takes place at this point where the forces of Outworld led by Shang Tsung battles against forces of Earthrealm led by the elder god Raiden. The Earthrealm was victorious and the Shaolin monk Liu Kang became their champion by defeating the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung. Earthrealm was saved.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

Mortal Kombat 2 (1993)

Considered the greatest Mortal Kombat among the series, this sequel is just an extension of the first game with many notable changes. More basic moves were added: crouching attacks were introduced and low and high punch and kicks were differentiated. The gameplay was little bit faster and this time each character had two separate fatalities along with newer comical introduction called ‘Friendship (where character display his/her friendship toward the defeated opponent in style)’ and ‘Babality (turning the opponents into crying babies).’

The point system (which was present in the previous Mortal Kombat) was dropped in favor of consecutive win tally with emblems. The game also added several more characters with 3 hidden ones and 2 new sub bosses and a main boss. Notable characters such as Sonya Blade and Kano were dropped. The mini-game was also dropped. Also, the sound quality was improved by implementing a new sound board from Williams DCS in favor of the old Yamaha sound board. Another interesting addition was the inclusion of the famous face of Dan Forden, screaming “Toasty” when a hard uppercut move is applied. There was another easter egg when Ed Boon’s face was morphed into one of the faces of the trees in the living forest level. The game was so popular in the arcades that a security deadlock panel was implemented later to prevent thieves from ripping out the game’s motherboard and bring it home.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

Mortal Kombat 2’s story continues from the previous Mortal Kombat. After Outworld’s defeat from the Earthrealm forces, they finally got their match. Facing execution, Shang Tsung, who led the Outworld team, begs his master Shao Kahn, the Outworld ruler, for a second chance. This time Shao Kahn devised a new plan to lure the Earthrealm warriors to compete in a Mortal Kombat tournament in their own realm, where they will meet their death by Shao Kahn himself. This will allow the balance in power to tip in favor of Outworld. Shao Kahn sends invitations to Earthrealm warriors. And since the invitation cannot be turned down, the Earthrealm warriors must attend. In the end it was the champion Liu Kang again, who defeated Shao Kahn in the final battle.

Mortal Kombat II is the first game that brought me into the Mortal Kombat universe. I didn’t own the game at that time and I played the game in the PC port and used to play with my teacher, who also owned a copy. I remember Liu Kang was my first chosen character. I also remember that I had applied the bicycle kick against my teacher. My teacher was mesmerized and started asking me how I managed to apply that move. I didn’t know at that time (how come I would know, because I was playing the game for the first time and I didn’t have access to the move lists). It was an excuse for me to be serious in studies, finish everything up for the day and play for at least like half an hour before I went back home. It was during this time my huge craze on MK series started to grow.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

*Trivia: The character Noob Saibot is the last names of Boon and Tobias spelled backwards.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy (1996)

Mortal Kombat III kept the gameplay mechanism nearly the same as Mortal Kombat II, with many newer additions. It includes the run feature, which allowed quickness in the gameplay, and a new chain combo feature, where player could inflict a series of combination of moves against opponents. It also had two more upgrades: Ultimate Mortal Kombat III and Mortal Kombat Trilogy. It also featured 6 digit codes to change the gameplay settings, fight hidden characters or display texts. Mortal Kombat III introduced the newest finishing move ‘Animality,’ where players can transform into animals and finish the opponent off. It also featured a mercy option where the player allows the foe to recover a little bit of life: a feature mainly used for performing animalities.

Mortal Kombat 3 also introduced a feature where the player could uppercut an opponent straight up to another stage, although it didn’t affect overall gameplay experience. The game is also known for introducing multiple blood colors for different races. Ultimate Mortal Kombat III introduced 2 on 2 Kombat mode and 8 man tournament mode. It included more characters from the earlier games with two new characters. The console ports added the Brutality finishing move where player has to make a very long series of combos to make the opponent explode and shatter into pieces of bones. However, Animality was removed from the console ports. Mortal Kombat Trilogy added every single character featured in all previous MK games. The N64 port feature 3 on 3 battle mode. The game added an aggressor bar which, when filled up makes the character faster and stronger for a short period of time. All three games featured a single space shooting mini-game with 3 lives.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

Shao Kahn, after seeing his side lose against the warriors of Earth Realm two times already, became very much desperate. Shao Kahn implements a 10,000 year old plan where he would have his shadow priests revive his queen Sindel, who died at young age.  He would revive her not in the Outworld, but in Earthrealm. This would allow Shao Kahn to access Earth Realm and reclaim his queen. When Sindel is revived, Shao Kahn managed to cross the border and as a result the Earth Realm partially merged with the Outworld. He also formed extermination squads who would kill any survivors in Earth Realm. Raiden, who could not enter Outworld (as he had no power over the realm) urges other warriors he protected to stop Shao Kahn for good. Mortal Kombat Trilogy adopts the storyline of MK1, 2 and 3 combined.

Mortal Kombat III was the first game that I owned. I had the Genesis version of MKIII and SNES version of UMKIII. I also consider MKIII as the longest MK game that I played in my video gaming days. UMKIII was supposed to take the helm but during the time when I owned UMKIII, I exchanged my UMKIII with Super Street Fighter II (since I haven’t played that game before) from a schoolfriend of mine. After few days, I found out that her brother lost my SNES cartridge. So she asked me to keep the SSFII, even I didn’t want to, or else she would feel bad.

There is a reason why I played this game for a long time. I never had access to the move lists or any other codes. During my time internet was still out of reach for most people and we didn’t have that much of gaming magazines. I spent hours and hours finding moves and writing them down. I still don’t know some of the moves though. The sheer amount of moves and finishing moves allowed me to spend more time to explore on the game. It was at this very time that Sub Zero became my favorite character and Sonya Blade became my first video game character crush. Keri Hoskins (who played Sonya Blade and also as Headmistress Helga in another game I owned: Revolution X) was quite hot though. There was a feature in UMKIII where you could unlock a video with everyone showing finishing moves. My mom used to ask me to play that video and show the Babality portion to my grandma.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

Mortal Kombat 4 and Gold (1997)

Ed Boon and John Tobias finally decided to move the game from 2D to 3D. The digitized sprites were abolished in favor of 3D designed characters and moves were assigned via motion capture. At the time it was one of the few fighting games that had 2D style gameplay in a 3D environment. The game was developed using Midway’s own “Zeus” hardware, which resulted in development delay. The game also introduced a weapon system for a limited amount of time, and also allowed weapon selection. To take the advantage of 3D environment side stepping was allowed. However, it had minimal effects in the gameplay. MK4 also introduced a maximum damage cap system for breaking off combos and dealing high damage. The disappointing note is that there are fewer gameplays than what MKIII series offered. Mortal Kombat 4 was also the last game made for the arcades since they were on the verge of decline. This game focused mainly on newer characters and dumped a lot of old fighters in the process. Mortal Kombat Gold however, brought back some of the oldies in the roster.

Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Gold

The storyline also took a different step but it tried to merge with the main storyline. Thousands of years ago, between the war against the elder gods, Raiden managed to put the corrupt elder god Shinnok in exile at the Nether Realm, in order to protect the realms from Shinnok’s further threats. Before the official first Mortal Kombat tournament had begun, the Original Sub Zero helped the evil necromancer Quan Chi in obtaining Quan Chi amulet, which is the source of Shinnok’s power. Later, Quan Chi and Shinnok formed an alliance and escaped the realms and with the help of an Edenian traitor. They managed to enter heaven and kill all the gods except Fujin and Raiden. Fujin and Raiden asked for Earthrealm’s finest warriors to fight alongside with them.

When I first played Mortal Kombat 4, I was not pretty awestruck compared to what I felt when I first played Mortal Kombat 3. It is maybe due to the fact I have been playing a lot of Mortal Kombat games and my expectations got a little higher. Mortal Kombat 4 disappointed me as I hadn’t had too much fun with this game. You could play for an hour or so but not so much. You can also safely say that this game is the least played one among entire Mortal Kombat series. It was also too easy in my opinion.

Part 2 coming soon.

Syed Rubayyat Akbar, NoobFeed

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  • It's the Mortal Kombat movie that got me into this game when I was a kid and later on I figured that game itself offers a nice story line. But it didn't keep up as good as it used to be.

    Posted Apr 18, 2011

  • one of my first game is mortal kombat 2 in arcade.. the grafik isn't so good, but the blood make me want to play it more and more... :D

    especialy in fatality.. :D

    Posted Apr 19, 2011


General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PC, Vita
Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer(s): NetherRealm Studios
Genres: Fighting
Themes: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2011-04-19

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