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Retro Corner: Super Nintendo Mortal Kombat

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The Game

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.

The Present

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.

Personal Thoughts

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.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • Dynamo of Eternia

    Ah yes, the good old days of early MK.

    I didn’t get the first MK until Christmas of ’93, when I asked for a Genesis (partially to play the good version of MK… and to get the Sonic games).

    I already had SNES, but heard about the let down that was that version of MK.

    The Genesis one was definately where it was at in terms of the violence factor, even despite SNES’s graphical advantage.

    I did eventually get the SNES version cheap from a friend of mine when he traded in his SNES towards the purchase of the original Playstation.

    I got it mainly for the heck of it and to try out some Game Genie codes on it. I highly recommend using the Game Genie code to always fight Goro on SNES. It simply replaced whoever you should be fighting with Goro, and you can even do the Fatalities on him (though I think doing Kano’s or Johnny Cage’s will cause the game to freeze). It’s really goofy, but fun.

    I eventually rented the Sega CD version of MK at one point. In many ways the game was the best of both worlds… the graphics were better than Genesis, and it retained the blood. Though the loading made the game almost unbearable. Fighting Shang Tsung was a royal pain in the butt. You may recall other disc versions of the MK games having issues with having to load when Shang Tsung morphs… but not like this. Rather then having to load, and then having him morph all at once, it would basically stop to load after every frame or two of morphing animation, so it would have to do like 4 or 5 loads (maybe more… I haven’t played it in years) in order to complete on transformation. It sucked!

    The SNES version of MK2 was definately where it was at though for that game. Even the later 32X and Saturn versions were pretty crappy by comparison. I don’t think a better port of that ever came out for console systems prior to the release of Midway Arcade Treasures 2 for the last generation of systems.

    I miss the old days of Mortal Kombat.

  • http://www.njiska.com Jason “Njiska” Westhaver

    Matt you poor bastard. The Gameboy version? So much lost respect.

  • MikeMK4

    MK2 on 32X was better than the SNES version.

    Good deal being fair to the SNES version with this article, noting how it didn’t play as good as the Genesis version.

    Most people think the SNES version of MK1 played amazing, and the Genesis didn’t…that’s just not true.

    The Saturn version sucked though, I completely agree.

    Here’s what I’ve noticed regarding MK2.
    32X > SNES > PSX > Saturn > Genesis

    32X does have less voices (Shao Kahn fight, and the Forest tree groans) than the SNES version, and worse music, but it had all the missing combos, and better sprites.
    32X version has the missing intro, but no ending pictures, they just reuse the bio pictures.