If you read my preview a couple of issues ago or even had only half an eye on the media over the past couple of months you can't have helped but notice that Mortal Kombat means big business. From its humble beginnings as an arcade machine through inadvertent promotion by rapper Ice T to the lofty heights of Mortal Monday, this game's gone from strength to strength. It's even had a whole episode of Gamesmaster devoted to it! Amidst all this hype the Amiga version has been acting like a little lost lamb. Well, it's time that we shouted its praises 'cos let me tell you it's a wolf in sheep's clothing. Mortal Kombat is the slickest, fastest, smoothest beat 'em up ever to poke its bloody nose into the Amiga scene.
Set on an island governed by the evil Shang Tsung, seven fighters have gathered together to take part in a martial arts tournament. Each has their own reason for coming, but they all have one goal - to beat the rest! They're a mixed bunch too. Starting off there's Sonya who, despite looking like a refugee from a Jane Fonda exercise video, has a pair of thighs men die for. Next up there's Liu Kang, a proud Shaolin monk with a wicked spinning kick. And then there's Johnny Cage, a movie star with a nut cracking splits technique. And many more...
Despite being converted from the arcade version via the Mega Drive to the Amiga. Probe Software have stayed faithful to the original and kept all the blocks, kicks, punches and special moves as well as the gore. It's this aspect of the game that has caused a great deal of controversy, so much so that there have been calls to ban it. You see, when you beat an opponent there's none of the namby pamby bowing and shaking of hands you see in real life martial arts. In Mortal Kombat you have the opportunity to tear another combatant's heart out or punch their head clean off. That wouldn't be so bad if the character sprites wore cartoony or evidently computer generated, but MK uses massive digitised pics of real actors. To make matters worse, virtually every blow that lands is accompanied by a gout of crimson blood and a nerve shaking squelch. Mary Whitehouse aside, it makes for an incredibly realistic bout of martial mayhem.
Players progress in MK by taking on all the other fighters in one-on-one matches before fighting a mirror image of their current character. If you're tough enough to get through all that it's on to a series of three endurance matches where you face a pair of opponents. You fight them one at a time but you only get one bar of energy to their two. So, every blow you receive is like being hit twice.
Only superb competitors can manage to get past this stage to take on the mighty Goro, a four-armed alien prince and the current tournament champion. If that wasn't enough, beat him and you're on to the master of them all, Shang Tsung. This soul-stealing ancient monk can warp himself into any other character and utilise all their special moves, so it's like fighting every other character all over again. It truly is an awesome game and, even on the easiest difficulty setting, it'll take you ages to complete.
On loading the game my first reaction was to look for the wires leading to the coin op machine -it's such a close match. If you don't believe me take a peek at the panel comparing the versions. The colours are so vibrant and the sound is a perfect arcade match, even down to the digitised speech. Shang Tsung's cry of 'Finish Him!' and Scorpion's 'Get Over Here' send shivers down your spine. All your favourite moves are in there too. From Sub Zero's freeze ray to Sonya's thigh throw, every blow has been included. What's more they're easy to perform. Unlike some other beat 'em ups I could mention you choose what to throw and when to throw it. There had been some speculation over how Probe would achieve this. Rumours abounded that you would have to use a fiddly combination of joystick and keyboard. Fortunately, they abandoned that method and opted for a standard joystick or joy pad control. Now, although Mortal is still playable with a normal joystick, you will need a joypad or dedicated two-button stick to get the most out of it.
Leaving comparisons aside for the moment, the difficulty curve has been pitched almost to perfection. On the Easy setting novices should be able to have one or two bouts before their lungs are torn out. And with a little practice you'll soon make it to the Endurance matches. However, only very good players will have any chance on the Very Hard setting. As Probe have used the arcade code and graphics for this version all the fighters move exactly as they do on the coin op. This means that an increase in difficulty setting doesn't just make things move faster, the opponents actually seem more intelligent. You'll get nowhere trying to use the same moves over and over again. Also, it's no good just using missile attacks from a distance cos, at best, you'll only get two in before the computer reads what you're doing and counteracts. I don't know how Probe managed it but fighting the CPU is like fighting another human player: it thinks and reacts!
BLOODY BUT UNBOWED
Having played Street Fighter on most formats I almost wept with frustration when I saw how US Gold butchered the Amiga version. So, it was with a heavy and skeptical heart that I approached Mortal. I couldn't have been more wrong. Probe may have taken their time but it's paid off. Mortal Kombat is a dream come true - a good arcade conversion. This game will set the standards for Amiga beat 'em ups for some time to come.
All time favorite! The fist episode of the coolest beat 'em up game. Mortal Kombat were one of the bloodest game that time. You can kill your enemies (like in Moonstone), make fatalities, extra moves, etc. Not for kids!
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