Mortal Kombat, in some ways, defined my childhood. Roughly around the time I was finding my identity in kindergarten, I was introduced to the first game at a birthday party for a female friend whom I had a crush on. After the opening of presents and before we were take the rink and roller skate, all of us five and six year-olds were unleashed into the arcade. My father had graciously shown me Enter The Dragon when I was two, and I was hooked on martial arts. So seeing a red box with a Jean Claude Van-Damme look alike jump kicking someone immediately grabbed my attention. With my eye caught, I inserted enough coins to earn a credit.
One push of the start button, and it was all over.
I first picked Liu Kang for his resemblance of Bruce Lee, thinking, “I’m the Bruce Lee guy, and Master Lee can never be killed!” He likely wouldn’t have had I possessed decent enough skills at the game. My first opponent was Scorpion, and after Shang Tsung declared “Round One, FIGHT!” my inadequate skills at the game showed. “Get over here,” the game roared as a harpoon came from Scorpion’s wrist and grabbed Liu Kang in the chest. Normally, five year-olds might freak out at the sight of blood gushing everywhere. This particular one ate it all up like it was Skittles, and even though it was about to cost me two more quarters, Scorpion removing his mask and burning me alive was something that made me lose my mind with glee. From that moment on it was official, Mortal Kombat had won my heart.
When the home console version was announced, it was like my brother and I discovered sex for the first time. If memory serves, that was the most we’d let a late fee run up to the point where we just ended up buying the copy from the local rental shop. My love of cinema didn’t matter, nor did my passion for the Steelers*, nor did Ashley (the girl I crushed on badly who lived next door.) The only thing my brother and I wanted to do with our lives was compete in Mortal Kombat and save the world. Sure, we loved Street Fighter II and would dream of a Mortal Kombat Vs. Street Fighter showdown (MAKE IT HAPPEN, WB and Capcom) but Mortal Kombat won us over because of its style. We loved Mortal Kombat because of the violence.
The series wouldn’t hit its benchmark until the next installment, but swept under is the rug is how much influence this game had on the fighting genre. Where Street Fighter was tamer (if not just as fun,) Mortal Kombat introduced us to a world where video games could be just as violent as cinema (my argument back in the day was “if we can have movies as violent as A Clockwork Orange, certainly we could live with violent video games.”) Mortal Kombat is the reason most of us love fighters, and there has never been a Western video game that has had more of an influence on the entire medium than what Ed Boon and John Tobias created more than eighteen years ago.
Check back soon for a look at arguably the best game in the series, Mortal Kombat II.
The new Mortal Kombat streets April 19th, 2011.