It’s infamous. It was Mortal Monday, the day the arcade smash Mortal Kombat came home, replete with controversy and gamers frothing at the mouth. They loaded their cartridges, inputted ABACABBA, and there was Mortal Kombat.
At least, that’s what you did if you owned a Genesis. Super Nintendo owners had Mortal Kombat, but they didn’t have the version they wanted. That version was censored, infamously toned down to include sweat instead of blood. Fatalities were reworked to be less intense, and even Scorpion became polite when stabbing his foes in the chest with his spear. His special move call became “Come Here!” instead of the far more popular “Get Over Here!”
That wasn’t the only problem though. Super Nintendo fans were plagued by inconsistent controls, though they did manage to see a strong version of the game graphically. Sprites are large, full of color, and the animation is superb in comparison to the arcade game. Audio also packs a heavier impact, with clean voice samples that simply crushed the Genesis port.
If anything, it shows the original Mortal Kombat wasn’t especially deep or involving. Fans weren’t willing to deal with the lack of gore, and moved on. Now, it’s even more apparent that this shoddy port was hardly the focus of Acclaim’s attention.
The first time a special move comes off a second later than it should or Liu Kang just stands there instead of performing his special, it’s infuriating. You’ll need to prepare for that happen quite often. This is a sluggish translation, arguably even more so than trying to run the PC version on a keyboard and ran slowly even on decent hardware at the time.
If you’re looking for a Mortal Kombat fix today, you’ll find yourself looking elsewhere, whether on the Genesis, slow loading Sega CD, or even a recently released Plug and Play. Even on the Game Gear or Master System you’ll find yourself pulling off specials and the original fatalities.
Facts and Notables
While it was more than likely Sonic the Hedgehog that turned the 16-bit wars in Sega’s favor, censoring Mortal Kombat and taking the “family friendly” approach definitely played a significant role. Perrin Kaplan had this to say to Steven Kent in an issue of Electronic Games from 1994:
“We lost $10 million in software sales. There is no way to estimate the lost hardware sales from people who decided to buy a Genesis to play the game.”
Even with politicians outraged over the game, Howard Lincoln (Nintendo of America’s Chairman) had parents mad over the censoring of the game:
“We got calls from irate parents. When parents call in and tell us not to censor our games, or threaten to sue us for misrepresenting a game, it sends a strong message.”
The Video Game Rating Council (Sega’s created ratings board) handed over a MA-13 stamp, which meant the game was suitable for children 13 and above. The SNES version was unrated and contained no warnings.
A Game Genie code could add a red tint to the “sweat” pouring from the fighters heads to make it look like blood.
Nearly all versions were added to Germany’s Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons list, of which only 389 titles are listed. The Game Boy port managed to escape this fate.
I was at Sears on Mortal Monday. There it was: Super Nintendo Mortal Kombat. For whatever baffling reason in my mind at the time, I chose the Game Boy version over the home console version. The only logic was that I knew my mom hated violent content, and it would have been easier to hide it on the Game Boy.
Of course, that Game Boy cart wasn’t exactly as what we would refer to as a “winner.” Thankfully, a buddy of mine was smart enough to make the right choice, and it wasn’t long before I was over there trying to rip some ones spine out of their body with my controller. Something was wrong though.
We both heard rumors and read some articles about this being changed, but they couldn’t have taken out the best part, right? An issue of GameFan previewed the Genesis cut and said they hit a few special buttons to make the blood work. That must have been the case here too.
Uh, no. We certainly tried, but it was to no avail. It was sweat. I had the unplayable Game Boy port missing Johnny Cage. My friend had the SNES edition missing blood. Both of those would be unplayed for the most part, although mercifully to our young fanboy minds, Mortal Kombat II would set things straight eventually. We finally had something to tease Sega fans about.
Images and review courtesy of Digital Press.