Posted on February 15, 2013
My Top 100: #18 – Mortal Kombat II
I never had time to “mentally prepare” myself for Mortal Kombat before it came out. There were plenty of other fighting games with realistic digitized graphics, and none of them looked particularly great to me. There was no use getting excited about it coming out, because it would just be like all the others.
Of course, when I ended up playing it, I didn’t think that at all. The characters were fascinating, and even in the censored Super NES version, the finishing moves were enough to spook the hell out of me. Not to the point where I didn’t want to play it, of course! The violence and brutality in the game didn’t change my temperament, either, but I was so curious to see just how far the game would go.
So, when rumors started flying about what would be included in Mortal Kombat II, I couldn’t help but be enthralled. Would you really be able to play as Shang Tsung, or maybe even Goro? Would there be more Fatalities? Would it push the envelope even more?
The answer to all those questions was an emphatic “yes”… except the Goro part.
MKII wasn’t released all that long after the first game, so when I saw it pop up in arcades, I was a bit surprised to see it so soon. I could barely see over the shoulders of the older kids playing it at the arcade that day, but what I saw blew my friggin’ mind.
Shang Tsung was now much younger, and though he looked completely different, you could indeed play as him in this game. The bad guy was some dude in a skull-helmet of some kind, definitely hopped up on steroids, or something. The coolest part, though, was that guy in the razor blade hat… who the hell was he, anyway?? You could barely see his face, but even then, I thought he’d be giving Scorpion a run for his money in the “most played character” department.
I don’t know where we were going that night, but I remember being in the car with Josh and his mom on the way into town. I was telling Josh everything I had seen earlier that day, but I couldn’t quite piece it all together to explain what I thought was going on. When I mentioned the guy in the hat, and that his name started with a “K”, he suggested that it might have been Kano. Maybe, but why did I see Kano and Sonya chained to posts in the background in one of the levels?
It all just seemed so odd.
In any case, I got to play Mortal Kombat II quite a few times not long after that, and also got to learn much more about the characters and moves in various magazines. The wait for a home console release was going to feel like forever, especially after hearing that Nintendo wouldn’t be censoring it this time around. All the Fatalities, Friendships and Babalities would be available from the comfort of your living room!
It was only the second game in the series, but you’d hear rumors about being able to do the whackiest stuff in the game. Because we were all so gullible, and had no idea how far Boon and Tobias would go, it was up to us to figure out if these rumors were true or not. I mean, yeah, the game was great because of how easily the combat flowed, and how you could do any one of four finishing moves at the end of the match.
But really, all I ever wanted to do was find secrets. Noob Saibot, Smoke, and Jade were cool and all, but it was the Fergality from the Genesis version that had me intrigued. There was rumblings that you could actually pull off another, much less kid-friendly finishing move, which most definitely piqued my interest at the time. There was also the “Error Macro” screen from the first game that made everyone think there was an unlockable character named Ermac, or that you could play as another Shaolin Monk named Hornbuckle.
That dude on fire in the background of the Pit II level? Hornbuckle was supposedly the guy standing next to him; a palette-swapped and more-powerful Liu Kang with green pants… now, as bland as that may seem now, the idea was enough for me to rent the game for the twentieth time, just to see if I could somehow figure out how to play as him!
The game itself was great, but it was the word-of-mouth thing that really had me hooked to Mortal Kombat II. Ed Boon is still turning rampant fan rumors into actual gameplay elements, and because of that (and many other reasons), I’ll always have a soft spot for Mortal Kombat games… even the bad ones.
In the Mega Man X post, I talked about an awesome birthday party that I was supposed to go to the night after some bad weather hit. My friend Ryan was turning 11, and he had invited his friends over to his place for some pizza, then to the arcades for a whole bunch of gaming. Here was the crazy part – every kid got 20 bucks, and was given the freedom of playing whatever game they wanted!
To a kid, 20 bucks was a fair amount of money! Not only that, but even the expensive arcade titles (like the driving and shooting ones) only cost you two quarters per credit. From what I can remember, it felt like we were playing arcade games for hours and hours… might not have been quite that long, but you get the point.
There were two games that were taking up most of my attention that day – Super Street Fighter II was still relatively new, and I enjoyed Street Fighter games quite a bit at the time, but it was Mortal Kombat II that I spent more time playing than any other. There were a bunch of other cool games at that arcade; Splatterhouse, After Burner with the huge cockpit, Samurai Shodown, Turtles in Time… but I just couldn’t stay away from MKII. The loud, booming audio that came from the cabinet’s speakers was mezmerizing, and I felt like a hero every time I pulled off a Fatality the other kids had never seen before.
That birthday party was definitely one of the highlights of my childhood… what a day!
The other memory I have about the game is the day it came out on consoles. We got pretty damn lucky at Blockbuster that day, and we were able to rent it. Thankfully, my mom had no qualms about renting it, even while my dad had expressed concern that it was a bit too violent. That wasn’t surprising, since he had been a cop for 25 years. He was allowed to think that, so long as it didn’t interfere with my gaming!
When we were about 5 minutes from home, we came to a dead stop in traffic. We could see that cars were backed up for quite a distance, and that it might take a while before we got home, whatever was happening up front. This was quite strange, since this was 15 minutes out of town, and it was usually an easy drive home unless there was construction.
The traffic was moving agonizingly slow, but when we finally saw the reason for it all, my mom and I were quite shocked to see an 18-wheeler way off the side of the road. The cab was smashed pretty badly and sitting upside-down, while its load of lumber was all over the front yard of one of the houses nearby.
I had never seen that sort of accident up close before, so the adrenaline was pumping by the time we eventually got home. I even completely forgot about having rented MKII! For some reason, the first thing I thought of was to call Josh, and be all like “AW MAN, I SAW AN 18-WHEELER ON ITS ROOF, STUFF WAS EVERYWHERE!” I told him all the details I knew, hung up, and then eventually called him back to tell him “oh, by the way, I rented Mortal Kombat II for Super NES, and it looks and plays perfectly”.
I found out the next morning that the truck driver had lost his life in the crash. They eventually re-did that part of the highway, because the corner was deemed a bit too sharp for the speed limits posted in the area. Every time I drive through that corner on the way to Mom’s place, I think of that 18-wheeler in shambles on the side of the road, and those who lost a family member that day.