I remember being instantly intrigued when the commercial popped up on our large, boxy Sony TV screen ... A young guy was standing in various locations, raising his fists into the sky and yelling 'Mortal Kombat!' At the top of his voice ... Weirdo. The advert must have worked on me however, because I'd soon bought the game and was sitting in my room with the Sega powered up, trying to find out all the button combos for the now famed 'Fatalities'. The feeling when I finally cracked Sub Zero's 'ripping head and spine from body' finisher was worryingly satisfying!
If you've lived in a cave for the past two decades, The first Mortal Kombat was a controversial one-on-one fighting game with some extravagant bells and whistles (and and some very realistic graphics for its time) that really made it stand out from the crowd. The fights took place in a 2D side view with some pretty interesting backgrounds that greatly enhanced the atmosphere. Although the characters' fighting styles didn't even come close to reaching the levels of individuality that Street Fighter 2 did, their dark back stories and unique, gory finishers certainly enhanced their unique identities.

The single player campaign stuck to the basic principle of choosing one of the seven playable characters to control through a series of fights. Your fighter would have to work their way through the other six in game characters to advance to the 'mirror match' where you basically fight yourself. In reality this would be easy for me, I would simply hold up a bottle of quality rum and say to my 'mirror self' ... "Submit, and it's all yours!" (He'd throw the towel before I'd finished the sentence). Once the mirrored opponent is conquered, you then advance to three endurance matches where you are required to defeat two of the other main characters consecutively. The semi-final in the tournament then takes place against a big four armed badass called Goro with the evil Shang Tsung awaiting you in the final match!
Another aspect of the game that set it apart from other technically superior fighters was the excellent spike pit! Once a fighter's energy is sapped, they will sway about in a dizzy state for a few seconds which gives you a window of opportunity to perform your Fatality move that I mentioned earlier. On the spike pit level however, you can opt to uppercut your opponent and they will fall off the thin ledge, eventually getting impaled on the spikes below in very graphic fashion (for its time). Later instalments in the series would add similar aspects to new stages, so you could use them to finish your opponent in imaginative, super-gory ways! Ultimately though, nothing could better the unique Fatalities that each character could use on their opponent, adding insult to injury (and further suffering). Scorpion would take off his mask and incinerate his opponent with fire breath, Johnny Cage would uppercut his rivals heads clean off their shoulders, Raiden would use an electric current to literally explode his victim's head and I've already mentioned the great Sub Zero finisher which was my personal favourite!
As I'm starting to feel a bit weird about discussing my favourite methods to virtually kill folks in extremely violent ways, I'll press on!
Unfortunately, this game wasn't without its flaws ... Once the novelty of the Fatalities, excessive gore and extravagant characters had worn off, there was a definite lack of depth to the actual gameplay. While Mortal Kombat was never trying to be a technical masterpiece, the lack of unique fighting styles per character (and the fact that there weren't many to choose from) was detrimental to the games longevity. There was also the issue of some lazy ass design, for example, Sub Zero was the same character model as Scorpion with the only difference being the secondary colour on their ninja gear. In other words, Midway's aesthetic experts simply copied the graphic and changed the hues! Admittedly there was a vague back-story explaining why they would look and dress similar, but it's the same bloody graphic! Even worse, there is a 'hidden Kombatant' called Reptile ... Yet another duplicate of this character who's only individual physical trait is the green outfit!
Ultimately, Mortal Kombat was the game that started off a hugely successful franchise with iconic characters and a huge fan base. The initial few play throughs were a great experience and the first time you executed a Fatality sequence would be jaw dropping! Unfortunately, when you removed all the bells and whistles, you were left with a fairly shallow fighting game ... But the bells and whistles were pretty damn cool!

The Good
- Imaginative Fatality Finishers
- Deep and interesting characters
- So popular, it's spawned many spin-off movies and MK games are still being made today!
- Excellent visuals for it's time 

The Bad
- When you dig a little deeper, the gameplay is quite shallow
- Characters fighting styles are all very similar
- With only 7 characters and one hidden fighter, the fact that 3 of them are the same graphic is a bit lazy! 

How does it hold up to today's standards?
Hmmmmmmmmm, the thing that set this game apart was the graphical gore and controversial Fatalities. Sadly, by todays standards, you'd hardly bat an eyelid at the so-called 'excessive violence'.

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8.jpgPlease note: Our review scores are based on various factors
such as nostalgia, technical limitations of the time and most
importantly, the reviewer's personal opinion.
In other words, don't take these scores as an 'expert's view',
take them for what they are ... a gaming fan's personal perspective!