Retro Weekends – Mortal Kombat

Welcome to Fighting February! This month, we’ll be covering four retro fighting games. As they say, what’s love without pain. So sit back, relax, grab a loved one, and promptly break up because you’re being a cheap-ass with the hadoukens. Trust us, it’ll make us feel less lonely :)

Since the beginning, videogames have been a relatively bloodless affair. There were some excursions in shameless debauchery, one major unchecked headshot, and a journey through a pulsating heart. But overall even the most down to earth games saw no blood spilling on the pavement. Even Street Fighter II, a game about beating the living shit outta your opponent, relegated the blood to the losing fighter’s portraits. But then one company thought that maybe that blood should come to the forefront of battle. And before you knew it, everyone’s hands were soaked in digital blood. After the break, Fighting February continues with the original Mortal Kombat.

Blood, Sweat, Tears, and more Blood

Midway released Mortal Kombat in 1992, a year after Capcom’s revolutionary Street Fighter II. The videogame and arcade industry was taken by storm as mountains of quarters were dropped into MK cabinets nationwide, creating lines resembling a midnight release of Twilight (minus the severe lack of testosterone and self dignity). Today having a game’s major selling point be the pools of blood and gore is like saying “our game has a save function.” Nothing major. But back then, blood and gore was a major selling point. One punch, one kick, one uppercut saw a lot of blood flying out of the opponent on the receiving end of those attacks. And if that wasn’t enough, reducing your opponent life to zero greeted you with the famous “FINISH HIM!” and you were given one last hit. There was a good chance no one knew what to do at this point and just gave the opponent one more uppercut. But to those that did know, they pulled off a “Fatality”. This cemented MK‘s (and Midway’s) fate as this was going to be the biggest reason anyone played Mortal Kombat. Back then pulling off a Fatality made you cool. Everyone wanted to know how you did it (remember, no internet). The fighting system simple at best, slow at worst. But that didn’t stop people from calling next at a MK cabinet.

But Big Daddy Government wanted to stop all that mess. Then-Senator Lieberman wanted arcades to ban Mortal Kombat and remove them from existence. The videogame industry was no stranger to government scrutiny by then, what with Death Race and Custer’s Revenge sparking a ruckus years before. But unlike these games, which were considered novelties and not that great to begin with, MK was popular, selling in droves, and played by millions of people that also included kids. Lieberman had a problem with that (kids always seem to muck things up don’t they). Around this time, the ESRB had yet to exist, with console manufacturers creating their own rating system for their own systems. There was still nothing to worry about content wise until Mortal Kombat. Along with a handful of other games, MK almost singlehandedly created the ESRB. It would be too late to rate the home console versions of MK with the new rating system. But once MKII rolled out, it was slapped with the “M” rating. Back then, that was the sign of awesomeness to come.

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