For Flashback Friday we decided to talk about a little known but very dear holiday that occurred in September 13, 1993, it was to be known as MORTAL MONDAY! The day Mortal Kombat was released upon home consoles (as well as other platforms) and kick started another round of the Nintendo vs Sega debates on school grounds all around the world. We will talk about the difference between the main console releases and my memories from that time period so lets set the Way Back Machine for a few months before Sept 13 1993.
Before we had reliable internet we got most of our news from physical game magazines; Nintendo Power, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and the like, and so a few months before “the event” small ads would start to appear and get us hyped. At the time the concept of a hugely popular arcade game, in the increasingly popular fighting genre, was pretty interesting. My friends and I were a typical gaming group where we would debate which console was better. Just like today it was a pointless argument, both consoles had their Pros and their Cons. Though as much as a Sega kid I was I have to admit the SNES ended up fairing a lot better in my opinion. Based solely on the ads we would argue which version would be better, though really the arguments were based on which console we owned as that was the one we were getting it on, if we got it. Though we mostly kept it civil, cause if one kid had a console you didn’t you could just go over there and play it, like I did with my friend Paul and his SNES, there were times friendships were RUINED by the age old console debate. When Mortal Kombat was released on that faithful day, it sparked a new round of debates as there was major differences between the 2 console version; some good some bad, and in some cases it didn’t matter because both got lumped into lawsuits and made the focus of several groups. This unfortunately was one of the opening examples of the “Video games = violence” hysteria that would plague gaming up through out today. A lot of my friends either had their copies of MK1 taken way or their parents straight up refused to buy them one for fear of little Billy turning into a psychopath.
The violence debate is neither here nor there for this article, but we have to mention the issue in order to discuss the first major differences between releases. Blood, gore, and fatalities. If you are too young to remember, back in the day Nintendo was aware of the violent video game heat and instituted a “Family Friendly” policy; no nudity, no foul language, no blood, violence was OK as long as it was “cartoon like” or “fantasy”.And, even the text in characters’ endings was altered to remove pretty much any reference to death. So when MORTAL MONDAY came around and kids bought their SNES copies of the game they were disappointed to find that their version lacked any trace of blood, all graphics being replaced by “sweat” that would leak out the bodies. Also most of the Fatalities were redone to no include their more graphic scenes IE: Kano would just punch the guy REALLY hard in the chest and knock him down, Johnny Cage would kick them…REALLY hard, Kung Lau would side aerial and upper cut them…REALLY hard. Most of the “environmental” Fatalities were also altered, you could upper cut an opponent off the bridge but they would miraculously land between all the spiked at the bottom. And while Sega Genesis version was censored as well, due to the aforementioned magazines, it was leaked early that there was a code that would “unlock” the blood. To this day I don’t really know why they even bothered with the code, I’m not sure if was a way of getting past censors or parent groups or whatever, there was no ESRB at the time though Mortal Kombat was one of the games that led to its creation, it still confounds me why Sega bothered to censor the game at all. Anyone who was a Sega kid and felt like they were on the loosing end of the console war felt vindicated, I know I did. Didn’t matter which game came up in debate in Sega Vs Nintendo from that point on, you could just throw out “Mortal Kombat has blood” and feel the mic drop in the school yard. Unfortunately it was a petty point of contention.
In almost all aspect the SNES was better version. The processing power of the SNES made for slighty better pixels on the characters, stage backgrounds had animations, and while the Genesis version offered a more arcade like experience with the blood and gore, overall the performance on the SNES looked better. Sound was often where the Genesis would shine, for some reason the sound processor they used was really milked for all it was worth with most games, eventually SNES started having games with music that would meet and some times rival later Genesis titles, but with Mortal Kombat 1, the extra sound processing in the SNES led to better “vocal audio”. The voices were crisper and each character unique with their screams and yells, while on the Genesis most of the cast sounded the same only slightly distorted totally incoherent. Now this is gonna be a topic of slight debate, but personally I liked the controls on the Genesis version better than SNES. Even with standard controllers the Sega version felt better mechanics wise. Other games like Street Fighter 2 I was really comfortable on the SNES controller but for some reason the controls didn’t work as well for me on Mortal Kombat. This led to many of the “eh I cant play on this controller” type jokes. Though to be honest, both controllers weren’t great for fighting games, the designers of both consoles never anticipated fighting game like usage. Eventually companies started putting out “fighting edition” controller pads and sticks, which eventually led to the 6 button standard controller for the Genesis. Even with the new “fighting” controllers for both systems I still preferred the feel of the Genesis version.
So my conclusion to this article (or should I say Konclusion) is that personal opinions aside, there is no clear “winner” in the debate between SNES and Genesis Mortal Kombat. Every one likes the series for different reason, at the time is seemed to be due to carnage you could inflict on the screen, but a lot of my friends still owned in on SNES with no blood, for them it became more about the actual game play, for some they like the over the top gore that the game provided, not because there was something wrong with them, but because it was something they hadn’t seen before on a home system. It was exciting. To my circle of friends it didn’t matter which system you owned it on as long as you owned it and got your skills up so over the weekend we could go to some ones house and stay up till 2 am beating the crap out of each other.
As a small post script to this story, I still believe, to this day, that my friends SNES was possessed or haunted. Several of his games would act weird or glitch out. Most famously among our circle of friends was trying to beat the games story mode as a group. We got to Goro, the games 2nd to last Boss. For those of you who don’t know, Goro could be a bit of a jerk. A few times before we got to Goro the game acted a little funny. Once we beat Goro the first round, the game went insane. Goro would leap to the opposite side of the screen to our character, make the throwing motion back and forth like 50 times (Im not kidding), while our character could still move like normal and attack nothing seemed to work to fix Goro so we waited a few seconds. Goro stopped and stood there, then poor poor Johnny Cage just started falling back and forth, as if he was being thrown, and our life bar slowly depleted till we we lost that round…except the animation kept playing, Cage just kept on falling back and forth for a solid minute then eventually stopped, next round started and Goro was all of a sudden a different darker color, and if you hit him, he would immediately fly up the screen and land on Cage, which was his normal attack but then make several weird twitches and throws while Cage stayed down at his feet, Cage gets back up and just falls down and dies, the health bar disappears and Goro does his fly up the screen stomp but this time keeps going through the floor and repeating the animation, so its like the V hold on the TV went out and Goro is just zipping by the screen for a minute, at that point we turned it off for a bit. Take a break. Fire it back up and get all the way back up to Goro and he starts doing the “throwing dance” again, we quit for the night and turned the system off.