Mortal Kombat 2 was really the last game I spent any meaningful time with in the arcade (not including Ms. Pac-Man which I will play any time I can find one) but, as soon as it hit home consoles, I was out of the arcade and back into the living room. The arcade was all but dead at this point and home consoles provided SO much convenience, mainly money saved and not just on the games but on the amount of pizza and other shit we were buying while waiting to play, that it was hard to justify going. My friends and I still got together regularly for our own tournaments and just to hang out. We fawned over the game, how much better it was than the original, how this Mortal Kombat felt so much more right.
When Mortal Kombat 3/Ultimate MK3 were released, I was still jazzed about the story and visuals but the gameplay was lacking for me. Something was missing and though I know a chunk of that was the game itself, the other part was that the arcade just wasn't as busy. The people I had spent time with for 2 years playing MK 1 and 2 had similar feelings regarding MK3 and that meant *our* arcade had finally succombed to the inevitable.
I've gone on to play almost every single Mortal Kombat game that's been released, including the god-awful Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero but none of them have really hit the high's of MK2 for me. There were certainly some interesting additions to the series over the years, including some really fleshed out back story, overall narrative and a new mission-based mode called "Konquest". Mortal Kombat: Deception took that mode, flipped it around a bit and turned it into a 3rd person RPG-lite mode allowing us to get a feel for what the various Mortal Kombat Realms felt like. It wasn't spectacular by any means but it was unique to the series and a welcome respite from the previous 5 iterations. I did spend a TON of time roaming the various areas just so I could see more of the universe from which these maniacs were spawned.
The series for me had hit a major point of stagnation. Maybe it was because I was getting older. I was no longer clamoring for the gore as other games were filling that niche (Manhunt certainly comes to mind) and fighting games themselves were evolving into more combo-based, juggling affairs, which I wasn't ready for. After Deception, I kind of stopped loving the series. I still played every game because I had hopes that someday, I'd feel that kind of exhilaration I got from Mortal Kombat 2 but it was not to be. At least, not until 2011.
2011 brought the release of a newer, updated and "rebooted" Mortal Kombat. This gave the series a very much needed reinvigoration. With so many games (18 in total, including the various collections) and a story that has become pretty damn convoluted, the 2011 Mortal Kombat had to bring something new to the table while staying connected to the overall series. Ed Boon and Netherrealm Studios brought together one of the best casts of characters the series has seen, a story that allowed us to follow that cast so we could learn their motivations along with reasons for being in the tournament and cut-scenes which really upped the ante in regards to why the tournament even exists. The game itself was beautiful and brutal, introducing the all-new X-Ray moves (special moves which show a pretty graphic x-ray of your victim as their bones shatter, become impaled and a wide variety of other things you're unsure how they're surviving this). Showing those moves off for the first time was always exhilarating. Just waiting for the reaction.
I loved the game. It was the perfect resurrection for a series that had meant so much to me in my early teen years but...it still wasn't quite the same. The social aspect came mostly through playing online as opposed to going to the arcade. Every now and again, a friend would come over and we'd play it for a few hours but the conversation stopped revolving around what the Mortal Kombat world could be or what it was and focused on more grown up things like why there was no more beer. As I said, I loved the game. It was exactly what I wanted and needed from a newer iteration. 2011's Mortal Kombat came VERY close to hurdling MK2 as my favorite overall in the series but while the newer game improved the fighting and brought some fun little challenges, the reality is that sentiment is hard to beat and Mortal Kombat 2 has sentiment up the yin-yang.
This week brings us the release of a very anticipated Mortal Kombat X. New characters, new challenges, new Fatalities and of course, new levels. Netherrealm Studios has seemingly gone all-out with this one. While I'm sure it won't be perfect, the recent track record including Mortal Kombat and the DC Comics-licensed brawler Injustice: Gods Among Us is a very strong indicator that it'll be damn good. Both games are excellent fighters with great characters and pretty decent balancing. With the Mortal Kombat series, though, I'm never looking for perfection. I'm looking for my game. I'm looking for the spark that is so intrinsically a Mortal Kombat "thing".
I'm looking forward to getting back into Outworld. I'm excited to see how Reptile has evolved. I can't wait to see what kind of filthy, ugly tricks the bosses have up their sleeves.
And when they finally show their hand? I'm going to rip it off and beat them to death with it. Because this is my tournament and I'm ready to Fight!
I hope you've enjoyed this walk down memory lane with me because I really enjoyed writing these pieces. It's been a lot of fun digging through those memory banks and looking back with slightly more adult eyes. Now, get out there and maybe we'll see each other at the Tournament!
P.S. I'd like to say thank you to Ed Boon, John Tobias, Dan "Toasty" Forden and the folks at Midway, Activision and Netherrealm Studios for this series. I love Mortal Kombat and without these people we would not have the joy of tearing Scorpions demonic spine right out of his body. For that, I'm very grateful and thank you all.