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Mortal Kombat (DOS)

85
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.7
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Zovni (9355)
Written on  :  Jan 09, 2003
Platform  :  DOS

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Summary

A perfect conversion of a defining moment in arcade history.

The Good

Mortal Kombat for the PC is as near to the original arcade experience as you can get without feeding quarters to your disk-drive. Sure, it feels kinda funky to play with the keyboard, but other than that the graphics are there, the sounds are there and most importantly, the "feel" is there. It would take years for Street Fighter 2 to come out right on the pc, but MK got it right from the start.

Having said that I should now point out that regardless of the overhyping and the needless pimping the game is known for, Mortal Kombat is a damn fine one-on-one fighting game. And perhaps more importantly, it's a damn smart game that deserves all the success it had.

Wazzat? No, you can't have any of what I'm smoking! shoo!

Naw, really. Allow me to explain: Come Street Fighter 2, every arcade game set out to clone Capcom's success story, yet no one added any real innovation or special change. Mortal Kombat, for as trite and cliche as it seems now, was filled with innovative touches that made it stand out firmly over the crop of street fighter wannabes.

For starters you had the setting. Moving away from the japanese concept of "buddy fighting" or such where all fighting games where some sort of lameass tournament where everyone came either to "test" their abilities or save some sister/lover/etc from the clutches of some rich super-strong dictator/champion, etc. Mortal Kombat was not like that. In fact, as you may have noticed, this wasn't "Street Kombat", or "Championship Kombat" or whatever, this was MORTAL Kombat and it was nothing like your kiddie fighting game. Borrowing heavily from the movies "Enter The Dragon" and "Big Trouble in Little China" MK placed players in a dark island where the real prize for the winners was, as the opening screens read: "your continued existance". There was some mumbo-jumbo about an interdimensional war but the real plot here was to get the hell out of the island alive. And the assortment of characters made that an even more serious affair. You had equal quantity of "heroes" as of foes, and the (admitedly) small cast of characters included an assassin ninja, an undead warrior looking for payback, a terrorist, a demigod, a four-armed monster and a deranged shapeshifting wizard. There were no "kawaii" characters to be found and hardly anyone fell in the "best buddies" Ryu & Ken archetypes.

In all, a far more dark and brooding experience than we were used to at the arcades, but to keep it from getting too somber and boring the game made a great use of over the top violence and gore. Sure, we have had our quota of blood in previous games (ie. you could chop opponents in half on Samurai Shodown) but MK took it to the next level by throwing buckets of blood for every hit and adding in "Fatality" animations to finish your opponents in the most gruesomely entertaining ways. It was incredibly cheesy, but also wildly entertaining and a fantastic addition to the game.

Couple that with fast and responsive controls, a unique graphical look courtesy of digitized graphics and a pulse-pounding gameplay that added some new concepts (remember the endurance rounds?) to the same old "best 2 of 3" gameplay and you have one of the most refreshing games ever to hit the arcades, yet MK didn't stop there. As I said earlier, MK was a terribly smart game, and that is evidenced by it's understanding of the arcade underground scene. Many people don't seem to understand how the game gained such a success, and that's because they didn't ever set a foot on an arcade or did so for brief diversions only. As of the early nineties arcades were much more of an underground hotspot with it's very own culture (or counter-culture) similar to the multiplayer online scene nowadays. This scene thrived on word of mouth and challeges (who doesn't remember battling the local SF2 champ?) and Midway understood this and applied it to MK, which was the first game to be heavily laced with secret features. Sure, by now it's seems like a pretty stupid concept but at the time there was no internet you could log on to learn all the tricks for your favorite games, and the special moves for fighting games where *gasp!* Actually special! And couldn't be found on the manuals for the games or in the cabinet artwork. Thus arcade games had a potential for mistery that remained largely untapped by the developers. This ended with MK, which was the first game to introduce secret characters and those totally cool fatality animations that inspired every gamer to try out every nook and cranny of the game in hopes of finding a secret or even memorizing and exploiting the glitches and bugs to one's advantage. Mortal Kombat trascended the arcade boundaries and became a myth thanks to that, and the knowledge of every move and fatality earned the respect of fellow arcaders and friends, specially with MK's weird and unnatural code-like moves (hold block-up-up-release block-HP...?[Man, I can't believe I remembered that one! :))])

That's what makes MK unique, that's what makes it much more than just a good fighting game.

The Bad

Well, for as much praise as I can give it I have to still say that I prefer SF2 in many aspects. For starters the characters have all the same strength and agility thus removing the variety of strategies you had on other games (ie. Zangief vs Chun-li on SF2 was a very different fight than Ryu vs Chun-li. On the other hand, Sub-zero vs Scorpion and Sub-zero vs Raiden on MK required the same strategy save for some adjustments to each character's special moves).

This also translates to the interface, I'll be hard pressed to find a difference between HP and LP save for the blood, and the use of a block button is just annoying and unintuitive. Pulling back works much better.

Also, if you find over the top violence disgusting and are the sort of fellow that finds this or that offensive and bla. bla. bla. then first of all you suck and need to get yourself a life, (who the hell can't understand the delicate beauty of ripping someone's heart out?? ;D) and second stay away from this game because it's gonna be hell for you.

The Bottom Line

In a word?? Fatality!!! Go play MK, it's a one of the all-time arcade classics and it can still kick your ass on the PC.