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This month’s Together Retro is an epic battle between good and evil as the forces of Earth fend off the demonic machinations of the Netherrealm in the pinnacle of 2D fighting prowess, Mortal Kombat Trilogy. July may be best known for the celebration of American Independence, but you can take this time to celebrate over-the-top violence and cheesy self-aware humor that runs rampant in Mortal Kombat!
Imagine yourself alive during the height of arcades. These dimly lit dens of video gaming goodness were home to classic icons like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Centipede and so much more. As time went on, the arcades began to transition towards a more personal gaming experience. No longer were you fighting against an AI to complete a goal. Instead, you played against friends and strangers alike in one-on-one combat. Games like Street Fighter II sparked a revolution in the arcade scene for bringing out the competitive spirit in gamers.
In an attempt to capitalize on this trend, Midway Games were developing a game that would utilize digitized actors to capture a more cinematic experience inspired by the Jean-Claude Van Damme action films of the 80’s. Enter Mortal Kombat, a game unlike any other that focused on excessive violence and brutality, pushing the envelope of what a video game could be. Players could perform devastating combos and life-ending fatalities that titillated the youth with its seemingly clandestine atmosphere.
With its success, as well as the blossoming popularity of the 16-bit generation of gaming systems like the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Mortal Kombat came to the home. With it, parents saw firsthand the wild and outrageous violence the series was known for and, along with other realistically violent games like the Sega CD game Night Trap, drew the ire of parental lobbyists and the United States Congress.
This controversy helped establish a ratings system for parents to determine what is acceptable for their children and eventually paved the way for the modern ratings system, the ESRB. Say what you will of the series, but Mortal Kombat left an indelible mark on the gaming community even to this day.
Mortal Kombat went through a series of transitions on their move from 2D to 3D combat. During that time, Mortal Kombat Trilogy marked the pinnacle of the 2D series, allowing players access to every character from the previous games’ roster. Even though the game itself is an improved version of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, the game did offer unique gameplay experiences that stood out from its predecessors.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy introduced the Aggressor bar which, when filled, would allow increased speed and damage for your character in a short span of time. Also, the game introduced Brutalities, which were a series of button combinations that would pulverize your foes into oblivion. This feature was later implemented into the Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 ports for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Outside of those new additions, the game offered a plethora of characters, backgrounds, fatalities and so much more, making it the defining title and worthy of enjoyment for players.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy can be found on numerous systems, each with some unique quirks to them. The bar was set with the Sony Playstation version, which the PC and Sega Saturn versions were ports of.
The version on the Nintendo 64 came with some grave limitations, limiting the roster from 37 to 30, leaving out characters like Kintaro, Goro and the classic versions of Raiden, Kung Lao, Jax and Kano. The secret character Chameleon was replaced with a mysterious female ninja named Khameleon, which was exclusive to the console. There were some additions to this version though, including a brand new stage, The Star Bridge and fatalities were added for Motaro and Shao Khan. This version also added the ability to watch a video showcasing every fatality, babality, friendship etc.
Two lesser known ports of the game existed. The first was for the Tiger Electronics’ handheld system, The Game.com. This game features only 13 characters, each limited to 2 special moves and a single Fatality, Babality, Friendship, and Brutality. The game was also only limited to 10 arenas
The second was for the Tiger Electronics’ R-Zone, which featured 8 playable characters in an egregiously red, glorified version of their LCD handheld products of the early 90’s. This game is barely comparable to any of the other games in the series and is a standalone in the world of obscure and absurd gaming experiences.
Take this time to visit our forums and discuss what made the Mortal Kombat series so special to you. What was your favorite fatality? Are there any arcade stories and experiences you would like to share? Who did you love to play as and why? Whatever the case may be, enjoy this opportunity to enthuse about a game series that took the world by storm. To quote Shang Tsung from the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie, “IT HAS BEGUN!”