Five Hundred years ago, an ancient and well respected Shaolin fighting tournament, held every 50 years, was corrupted by an evil and elderly sorcerer by the name of Shang Tsung. Shang was accompanied by Prince Goro, a warrior of the Shokan race (a four armed half-human/half-dragon). Knowing that if ten tournaments in a row were won by the Outworld champion, the Earth Realm would be conquered by evil and fall into darkness, Shang entered Goro in the tournament and had him defeat the great Kung Lao. Goro has been reigning supreme as the undefeated fighting champion for five hundred years now. As the last tournament required draws near, Raiden, Thunder God and protector of the Earth Realm, enacts a plan to tip the scales in the humans favor, Seven fighters step into the arena on Shang Tsung's mysterious island: Shaolin warrior Liu Kang, Special Forces operative Sonya Blade, the mercenary thug Kano, fame-seeking actor Johnny Cage, the ice wielding Lin Kuei warrior Sub-Zero and his undead adversary Scorpion, and Raiden himself.
Mortal Kombat is a side-scrolling 1 on 1 fighting game. Fighting is set as one on one kombat, allowing each player to perform a variety of punches, kicks, and special moves in order to defeat their opponent. When the opponent faces their second round loss, the winner can perform a finishing move called a "Fatality" on the loser. The Fatality is a move unique to each fighter that graphically kills the loser in a blood-soaked finale.
Mortal Kombat began its life as a 2-player arcade title. It is notable for its use of digitized actors to represent the game's fighters, as well as its use of copious amounts of blood during gameplay.
"FINISH HIM!"... a phrase that rang out in arcades everywhere in 1992, when Mortal Kombat hit the fighting scene. Who can forget the first time they saw Scorpion torch an opponent, or when Raiden caused someone's head to explode? It brought out laughter from the kids playing it, and anger from the parents who walked into the arcade and saw little Billy ripping off someone's digitized head. This game got released on a host of systems, including the version being reviewed here. How'd it shape up? Read on.
The premise of the game is simple. A tournament is held, where the best fighters on Earth go up against Shang Tsung, and the reigning Mortal Kombat champion, Goro. As it turns out, Shang Tsung's champion has won so many tournaments, that Tsung is on the verge of enabling Outworld to invade Earth. If he wins this last tournament, he'll accomplish this goal. In an attempt to stop him, you'll chose one of seven fighters (each with their own reason for being there), and then make your way through a series of individual and endurance matches before coming up against Goro, and finally, Shang Tsung himself. Pretty straight forward stuff.
Graphically, Mortal Kombat made a name for itself by using digitized graphics for the backgrounds, and the characters. This gave the game a unique look, and the DOS version replicates that look quite well. There are lots of little details that can be seen, and the various effects come off looking very similar to the arcade original. Most of the frames of animation are also intact, so the DOS version of the game stacks up nicely in this area.
Aurally, the game doesn't fare quite as well. Many of the voices are here, and they sound much like the arcade game did. However, there are some samples missing. The music, while not "arcade perfect", does a respectable job of recreating the MK soundtrack via the soundcards of the time. However, the Roland card seems to drop the voices altogether, so you may want to stick with the Sound Blaster setting.
Despite what the game's announcer might say, Mortal Kombat doesn't attain a flawless victory. While the moves themselves are pulled off easily, the game itself just feels... buggy, at times. Sometimes you'll feel like you're having to wait for the game to catch up with what you're doing, and other times you'll make contact with your opponent even though you're clearly not touching them at all. It's these kinds little things that just seem off with the game, and make it feel sluggish once in a while. To be fair, the original arcade game was similar, so it's not really the fault of the programmers. What is the fault of the programmers, is the odd way the sound effects are handled. Voice samples are left out, sound effects are replaced with odd choices (like Scorpions spear)... it literally comes off as if Probe just blindly threw darts at a board littered with voice and sfx names, and that's how they choose which sounds stay, and which ones go. They spent so much time trying to get the visuals right, yet slacked off on the sound. Of course, this shouldn't be much of a surprise, given that their ports of MK1 and MK2, regardless of system, were generally much the same in their haphazardness with sfx and voice choices.
Despite these faults, the DOS version of Mortal Kombat is a game that pulls off an arcade port rather well. It's clear that some areas got more attention than others, but it still got a lot right overall. I can't help but think that this port could have been virtually arcade perfect with a little more work and memory. Some of the things that drag it down a bit are easily fixed, but for one reason or another, they weren't addressed. Despite those shortcomings, if you're a fan of the arcade original, you'll probably have some fun with this port.
Part of the Mortal Kombat series
How to run this game on modern Windows PC?
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Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Street Fighter II, Doom, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2
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