Let's just get this out of the way...
That's still awesome.
In the early 90s, Mortal Kombat was an attack on American decency. This game stirred more shit than Grand Theft Auto could ever hope to. This game has the grand honor of causing so much shit that it earned a congressional hearing, resulting in the formation of the ESRB. I'm not old enough to remember that business, but I do remember when Mortal Kombat 3 came out and that whoever had it was truly a bad motherfucker. Those of us who weren't allowed to own a copy were blessed to be in its presence.
My Super Nintendo is the one that says "bad motherfucker."
And if you got to slip off to the back of the arcade to plunk in the best quarter you ever spent? Pure bliss. Mortal Kombat was such an assault on decency due to its (now silly) digitized characters. Instead of animating sprites, they took photographs of actors in the different poses.
Granted, it did look really awesome at the time and Mortal Kombat never felt the same once it made the move to 3D. Mortal Kombat's usage of digitized characters spread to several other fighting games such as Primal Rage, Clayfighter and a few others that have become nothing more than footnotes in the annals of bad games. The digitized characters are sort of odd, as they don't animate smoothly. It seems as though the gameplay was held back by the limited amounts of animation that they were able to store at the time.
LOOK AT THAT CARTOON BLOOD
SQUIRTING OUT OF THAT REAL MAN!!!
Those shots are from the arcade version, of course. What were we working with on Genesis?
Sort of...loses some of its impact. Also, all of the skies in the game are like that. Just... plain colors. I know that the Genesis has really limited colors compared to the Super Nintendo but it looks like you're supposed to Photoshop something in there.
The Sega Genesis version was the one to get back in the day because there was blood. Blood was sort of the point of the game. The SNES version was stripped of any and all blood because Nintendo was still censoring things so fast it made China's head spin. Blood isn't on by default; you have to enter the code "ABACABB" at the code screen. This is a reference to the band Genesis...because Sega Genesis and...Genesis I guess. The Sega CD version (!) had blood on by default. Mortal Kombat II came out on Sega 32X, so the dynamic duo wasn't left out of the Mortal Kombat fun.
Mortal Kombat clearly has an interesting legacy, but how does it play?
The controls are surprisingly responsive. The last time I played any Mortal Kombat it was Mortal Kombat II in the arcade, and I found the controls pretty stiff and unresponsive. Of course, this could have been due to the cabinet just being in poor condition. The moves go off without a hitch, which is likely helped by the Genesis' excellent d-pad. The responsive control makes this one of the best fighting games from the era, but this shouldn't be surprising. A lot of fighters from this time just didn't feel tight enough.
What ruins this game today is how unbalanced the game is. If you can do any special move, you can utterly devastate your opponent. Especially with Scorpion and Sub Zero. I don't know if the designers saw Street Fighter II and saw no one doing the special moves or what, but a QCF (quarter-circle forward for non-fighting game initiates) is all you need to win. Something that I'm not particularly fond of is that the game uses a block button. This is something I've just never enjoyed in fighting games. Pressing back feels more natural and allows for a quicker reaction, and with the three-button Genesis pad the start button is block.
The single player mode can be brushed aside quickly, and if you're playing the game with someone who is good at fighting games, you'll be trading specials incessantly. If the other person doesn't have any skill with fighting games, it'll be about the same as the single player mode.
There's not a lot of characters to chose from, either. It's easy to see why this game stirred up a lot of controversy and was considered a lot of fun at the time, but it doesn't hold up too well. The game is still very fun, but it's shallow compared to what fighting games became in a few short years.
The game is a cheap pick-up, and it's worth adding to your collection. Don't expect to spend hours playing it and learning the ins and outs, because there aren't many.
The Score: 7/10