There I was, living my life, doing my things, and then this happened.
It’s been over 20 years since Mortal Kombat was first unleashed onto the World in all its blood-soaked, ultra-violent barbarity. It caused a stir and no mistake. But more than that, it started something. Henceforth nothing would be the same. When Mortal Kombat landed, gaming came of age.
But we’ll get onto that later. First up, ‘where have I been’ I hear no one caring about or saying or anything. Well, I’ve been not really in the whole gaming thing for a while. I’ve been kind of more on the film thing, and other things. I’ve been dabbling with Titanfall, which – yes – is very very very good and I hope to find time in the not too distant future to utterly immerse myself in it as every egotistical FPS super-freak should do. I’m currently enjoying the spoils of Rapture/Columbia in Bioshock Infinites 2nd DLC (and last I believe) which is just as saucy and delicious as its Big Daddy counterpart (my favourite game of last year dontcha know).
So yeah, I’ve not been blogging for a bit because, well, I really can’t force it. It needs to flow. A bit like an open wound if you like. Or a sewer. Or the Gush for all you Brass Eye fans. I’m never ‘out the game’ though; I’m always balls deep in the gaming world trying to keep up with the ebb and flow of the tides. The current generation consoles are in full swing and still, if I might say, not really impressing me much (plus some cretins still insist on calling them ‘next-gen’ for eff’s sake – clearly ‘next’ refers to whatever come after now and not what is actually now. That would just be ‘now’. Am I wrong?). Among The Sleep has been released to largely positive reviews; an indi-game I clucked about way back in one of my first blogs. Elite Dangerous Beta is imminent. I still haven’t played The Last of Us, and yes, I still badly want to. And no, I still haven’t finished Borderlands 2…….(*glares at those who can help change that…..you know who you are*). There was also a reboot of a childhood fav of mine – Strider which sits un-played in my Steam library, and the brand spanking new Wolfenstein which almost nudged me out of my hibernation last week but for various reasons didn’t quite.
I mean cripes, guys – I haven’t really been gone that long. It’s not exactly like in films where the bloke comes out of prison after 35 years and finds the world has passed him by and he’s just some hollow relic of a forgotten age. AMD and Nvidia still fucking hate each other. Call of Duty games are still popular and frequent. Fox News is still blaming violent video games for all the bad gun-shit that keeps happening in America (found it most amusing to see one of their favourite news-shitters vent his righteous spleen at Ubisoft’s new AAA behemoth ‘Watch Dogs’ which, according to said fucktard, actually teaches players how to hack real world computers and systems. Like, in real life. Cunt).
Anyway, so there I was, existing and walking around and stuff. When it was announced that Mortal Kombat X (which, as I understand it, is the number 10 in some ancient and forgotten tongue) was dropping in 2015.
Mortal – fecking – Kombat. It may seem like an odd one to shake me from my slumber. It’s not exactly high on my currently-played lists. I sort of lost interest to be honest way back when they started going all Primal Rage and basically making the game into ‘who can memorise the longest combo’ kind of twattery. But never the less, whilst that may or may not have been an inevitable requirement in the genre of the beat ‘em up, when MK first hit (or should that be smashed repeatedly) the streets, it really did change the whole landscape.
A brief history then – Developed by Midway (in liquidation since 2009…sad face) waaay back in 1992 – yes, 1992 sports fans. That’s the year before Doom was released. Mortal Kombat was an arcade goliath. When it came to fighters, it was that and Street Fighter 2 which was released a year earlier. Street Fighter was and remains undoubtedly the Godfather of fighting games, but Mortal Kombat took things to the next level. In 1993 it was ported to various consoles, including the two big boys – Nintendo’s epic Super NES, and Sega’s last real player, the Megadrive (or Genesis if you are from the US).
This bit was the problem really. See, the thing about Mortal Kombat was that it was violent. Not like Street Fighter 2 – a fighting game – was violent. No, this was like, really violent. Really really fucking violent. Jesus Christ I loved it. Gone were the Manga/anime cartoon hero’s and villains of Capcom’s Street Fighter saga. In came digitized sprites, based on actors to make everything more….well, real. This made things all the more impressive when the hardcore violence kicked in. And oh, did it ever. Straight away you knew shit was gonna get real. Some of the arena’s had backgrounds festooned with Vlad the Impaler style heads-on-spikes and bits of torso on chains and stuff. Fat splashes of bright red blood would spew forth from a satisfying smash in the teeth against your opponent. But all this was just the hors d’oeuvres to the bleeding main course which was the Fatality.
I spent vast swathes of my teenage (and beyond) existence in arcades, and more money that I care to comprehend. I had many good times and like to think that the ridiculous amount of hours I put in helped me somehow in later life be a better……I dunno, man? Ok, not man. I had some great times. But there were fewer greater things in those years than when you beat your opponent in Mortal Kombat……….
The crowd around the arcade hushed – the arena background darkens leaving only you and your dazed, defeated foe in the limelight – the music gives way to that dull, menacing tone like the Devil himself was writing the score – and the voice of Shang Tsung barks the immortal words “FINISH HIM”. It’s fatality time, and if you fucked it up, no amount of ‘flawless victory’ would ever undo the shame. →↓↘→Punch – and Sub Zero would uppercut, tearing the head from your screaming opponent, ripping it from their lifeless torso, and hold it aloft like a trophy, spinal column still intact and dangling beneath it. As a teenage boy, you have to understand, this was some unbelievably cool shit right there.
And that was also the problem in more ways than one. It was popular – HUGELY popular. But it was violent. Really violent. Don’t get me wrong, we’d had violent games before. But the digitized sprites and the very nature of this game really was like nothing else I’d ever seen. Naturally, consoles wanted to get in on this shit, and Midway were obviously chomping at the bit to get the greenlight from the two mighty console players, Sega and Nintendo. For Sega, it was a no brainer, but Nintendo had an issue. That being, it was Nintendo. The company that brought you such fun family favourites and Mario World and lots of other child-friendly games. Think ‘Disney’s Conan The Barbarian’ and you get the picture. How were Nintendo going to square this unashamed ultra violence with the Nintendo faithful. Basically, they used the c word. Censorship.
Bear in mind, all this was before there were gaming regulators in the same way there are today. After all , gaming was for kids, right? It was primarily a child’s medium. But, well, no – it wasn’t. Not anymore. The kids who grew up in the first generation of arcades and playing their Spectrum’s at home were all growing up and becoming developers themselves. The late 80’s fueled their fires with films like Robocop and Predator – gamers, hell, gaming was coming of age, and Mortal Kombat was the shining beacon to the world that showed just that. In fact, it was primarily because of Mortal Kombat that the US started the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) which still classifies games to this day in the US. The UK simply gave those duties to the BBFC which was already doing the job well enough with films.
But back to 1993, and without these regulating bodies in place, Nintendo took it upon themselves to censor the game. Red blood was out – er…..green blood was in. Gone were the heads on pikes and various other nasty things. Gone were basically any of the cool fatalities (I remember Kano pulling not a beating heart from his opponents torso….but a – er, grey blob of….well, grey). Sega on the other hand were not bound by such a family friendly association and opted instead to release the game with an option (or a cheat, I can’t quite remember) to turn the gore on in all its ‘gory’….hahaha, see what I did? The result? The Sega version of Mortal Kombat out sold the Nintendo version by about 5 to 1. I don’t want to make this out to be that violence was the only thing this game had going for it. It really was actually a good game as well, albeit the tried and tested Street Fighter formula. But it did it very well.
^ Is that…..what is that??
As for me, it was surely fate that Mortal Kombat was released on consoles in the UK on Monday, September 13th, 1993. ‘Mortal Monday’. My birthday.
And that’s why the announcement of MKX sparked this blog. The personal touch. To this day the Mortal Kombat games pride themselves in pushing the boundaries of unbelievable gaming violence, but hey, it’s Mortal Kombat. Not that that I really play them anymore, but I’d be kind of disappointed if they didn’t continue pushing those boundaries. Even well known game-journo’s such as Charlie Brooker has voiced concern over the level’s of violence in some of their more recent outings (Kung Lao’s ‘Buzzsaw’ fatality is especially gruesome, check YouTube for a taster).
^ Kung Lao gets medieval
But I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to that view. Rating boards are essential, and I think the BBFC/ESRB do a good job, as with film, on giving guidance as to what is appropriate for which age-range. But above that I don’t think censorship is the answer. In fact, I don’t even really think there is a question to answer. I don’t think my parents were that worried about me buying Mortal Kombat; maybe because they were confident that I had a functioning sense of reality vs fantasy, or maybe just because they had no fucking clue you could tear someone’s head off and hold it aloft in giddy, bloodthirsty splendour. Whichever, it surely did me no harm, right kids?
Anyway, that’s me for the day, I’m sure we’ll get to see more of Mortal Kombat X (and shed loads more) at E3. I’m off to saw someone’s face off and dance in their blood. Toodles.