First there was Mortal Monday (September 13, 1993). And then there was Mortal Friday (September 9, 1994). That of course was the infamous release date of one of the most eagerly anticipated SNES games of all time: Mortal Kombat II. Following the censored disappointment of the first game a year ago, would the sequel learn from the mistakes of the past or were they doomed to repeat it? Thankfully the game was allowed to be uncensored. I remember the days leading up to the release. It was one of the biggest gaming events of the year. And I’m happy to say that they got it mostly right this time around. It was the redemption all SNES Mortal Kombat fans were waiting for.
When Mortal Kombat first exploded onto the arcade scene in 1992, it made an immediate impact and became the talk of the town. Its unique digitized graphics, extreme violence and infamous Fatalities left a lasting imprint. But there were many who felt the gameplay wasn’t anything special. The following year Mortal Kombat II was unleashed and it changed everything. More fighters, more combos, more Fatalities and more secrets made even the biggest Mortal Kombat critics raise an eyebrow. Now not only did Mortal Kombat II have the novelty factor going for it but the gameplay too.
In December of 1993, my brother Kevin subscribed to EGM. Our first issue was #54, January 1994. I’ll never forget coming home from school that one day, with dark clouds lingering overhead, opening my mailbox and seeing this striking cover staring right back at me. The game logo jumped off the cover as if it were in 3D. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the menacing monster, Baraka. He was an odd combination of looking cool yet also very cheesy. My mind couldn’t process which one won out, but I knew it struck an emotional chord. As much as I loved Street Fighter II at the time, Mortal Kombat was the more violent and gritty alternative. It was like ECW vs. WWF in the mid ’90s. To this day I vividly remember standing there at my mailbox holding this issue in my hand and admiring the cover for what felt like 10 minutes. Finally, I decided I better head in before the rain comes pouring down. Kevin would kill me if I got the goods damaged. I suddenly imagined him giving me his own version of a Fatality. And with that, I tucked the magazine under my arm like a running back and raced inside.
Just six months later, EGM put out their 60th issue in June of 1994. Once again featuring Mortal Kombat II on the cover, #60 was an absolute jaw dropper. This time it was all about the Mortal Kombat II home ports. What a time it was to be a 10 year old boy growing up in suburban America. I was smack dab in the middle of the fighting game golden age as well as the Super Nintendo’s prime. And with summer not far behind, which promised endless lazy days playing video games galore with my best friend Nelson, it was a special period of my life that a small part of me today every now and then still yearns for. The art of those Mortal Kombat characters were amazing. Inside there was a blow-out preview on all four home ports. They used a color coordinated border around each picture to indicate which home port you were looking at. I still recall it was ORANGE for SNES, which just seemed like a right fit. My brother and I read that article easily 100 times over.
THE STORY GOES…
PLAY IT LOUD AND PROUD
SNES owners breathe a huge sigh of relief when it was confirmed that the SNES port of Mortal Kombat II would be uncensored. Not only were the Fatalities left intact but each character now had two to choose from. It only made sense to make everything about this sequel superior to the first. And Mortal Kombat II delivered just that; players marveled to the sadistic joy of severing limbs and heinous acts of decapitation. It was quite the 180 for Nintendo and looking back, part of me still can’t believe that this turned out as faithful to the arcade as it did. “SUPERB!”
EXTRA FINISHING TOUCHES
Remember the Pit Fatality from the first game? The sequel has even more Stage Fatalities! The Dead Pool is my favorite one. Few things are as sweet as knocking a bastard into the green acidic ooze.
Traditional Pit Fatality for the purists out there.
Spikes, eh? Here are your GAWD DAMN spikes!
As a kid I thought the acidic pool looked so realistic. Even today it still looks pretty stunning to me. Best of all, it never gets old throwing someone into the burning acid.
One of the all time great fighting game stages, the Living Forest gives Mortal Kombat II a ghoulish and creepy vibe. The sound of the evil trees growling is embedded in my soul. Love how menacing and unsettling those unholy growls sounded…
Speaking of creepy, the Shadow Priests look like they jumped straight out of a deranged horror flick. I’ve always hated cloaked figures growing up and these bastards did nothing but perpetuate that childhood fear.
Welcome to the barren and desolated decaying mess of the Outworld. Cloaked in darkness and shadows, this bleak backdrop is as hopeless as it can get.
While Mortal Kombat II does almost everything better than the original, not so with The Pit. I miss the nice simplicity of the original pit stage. But it’s pretty cool to see a guy burning on fire in the background I have to admit. Adds that visceral punch to this stage but I still prefer the original one.
Sorry, this stage kind of sucks
Big Brother is watching you each step of the way, even up here. Scale the wicked Tower to continue your quest to face Mr. Big Evil himself, Shao Kahn.
Any stage that offers a “Stage Fatality” is automatically awesome by default. You can impale your foe on the spikes above. OUCH!
The emperor of the Outworld sits high on his throne, watching with great amusement as opponents rip each other limb from limb. On each side Kano and Sonya can be seen tied up. Nice cameo and fan service there!
Return to Goro’s decrepit lair of despair. The big guy is long gone but in his place is the deadly hidden character, Jade. More on her later.
Johnny’s projectile now curves high or low. I love how it’s got that sweet trailing action. Cage’s trusty Shadow Kick returns and his brand new Shadow Uppercut knocks fools out of the air.
Searching for your better half? So is Jax…
Similar to Sagat, Liu Kang’s fireballs now hit either high or low. His Super Kick makes Shawn Michaels jealous and his Bicycle Kick allows him to work out his abs as he’s smashing your face in.
Easily one of the most memorable and coolest Fatalities in Mortal Kombat lore.
Rayden, the Thunder God, appropriately has some lightning-based attacks. He can also teleport and launch himself torpedo style in M. Bison fashion.
Uppercut from Hell.
Scorpion’s Harpoon Spear is back in all its glory. “GET OVER HERE!” Part man and part ghost, he can teleport from one side to the other.
Ripping his mask off to reveal his true grotesque nature, Scorpion roasts his victim. They spaz out before exploding into tiny charred pieces.
Freeze your competition with his trusty Iceball. The Slide is good for a sneak attack and his new Ground Freeze makes fighting Sub-Zero a slippery slope (sorry).
Scraping his blades together, the Blade Spark gives Baraka a long distance advantage. Up close he can damn near take his rival’s head off as well as catch them in a bloody game of slice and dice. Baraka is easily one of my favorite new characters.
Baraka impales his victim with his razor sharp blades, lifts them high and sneers as he watches them slide down ever so slowly. As a kid I could not believe this made it to the SNES uncensored. Grisly and graphic!
Making the most out of his powerful fist, Jax’s Ground Pound sends forth a devastating blast. His Sonic Wave makes the coolest sound effect. Up close he’ll grab and pummel you senseless.
Horror film aficionados can’t help but love this one. Talk about a serious headache…
Kitana’s oriental fans contain hidden razor blades. Whether you use her fans to slice and dice or lift them up for a combo attack, Kitana has developed quite the FANboy following [FANtastic… -Ed.]
Someone once asked Kitana for some “head.” She has been happy to comply ever since.
Anyone can throw a projectile, but few can control them like Kung Lao does. Press up or down to guide his hat. His Whirlwind Spin would make Mechagodzilla proud. A quick striking kick and teleportation round out his arsenal.
Throw her sai either on ground or in mid-air. Mileena can tuck and roll with the best of ‘em. Her Teleport Kick is a good way to surprise overly aggressive opponents.
Reminds me of a Dateline special I once saw on young anorexic girls who binge eat and then force themselves to vomit. This repulsive Fatality reveals Mileena’s ugly kisser.
Reptile is so cool. His Acid Spit fits the character perfectly and is one of my favorite projectiles around. He emulates Sub-Zero’s Slide and his Force Ball briefly suspends his opponent, leaving them wide open for possible combo strikes.
Similar to Scorpion, this Fatality gives us a glimpse at the real Reptile behind the mask. After a hard fought battle there’s nothing quite like a tasty post-match meal…
Throw one, two or even up to three consecutive fireballs. It just keeps coming [That’s what she said -Ed.]
Shang Tsung will take your soul without consent.
During the ? screen, use only Low Kick to fight Jade.
One of my favorite memories involving Mortal Kombat II took place in the winter of 1994. My best friend Nelson and I were so obsessed with the game that one morning before school began, we took turns on the playground pretending to be Shang Tsung. One of us would stick our hands out to emulate his fireball motion and the other one would lean back and breathe out. Our breath made it seem like “smoke” was coming out of our mouths. It captured the effect that Shang’s fireballs created upon impact. Damn, we were such dorks… [were? -Ed.]
SPIN THE FATALITY WHEEL
In the early ’90s I was infatuated with the Incredible Crash Dummies. Its toy line stood out to me. With the press of a button, your Crash Dummy action figure would explode with limbs flying every which way. It wasn’t long before Tyco released a giant plush figure whose head and limbs were attached to Velcro. This led to new creative ways of torturing your Crash Dummy. On December 23, 1993, I finally got one from KB Toys. But rather than destroying my plush Crash Dummy buddy, I felt a bond with Spin and started to treat him as though he were my pet. Just… don’t ask. At the same time, Mortal Kombat II was pretty fresh in the arcades and reigning atop the gaming world. One weekend my out of town Gaming Crew came down for yet another legendary sleepover. I sadly made the fatal mistake of leaving Spin out in plain sight. The guy we affectionately referred to as Sushi-X, upon seeing Spin, grabbed him and issued an ominous decree. “WATCH THIS.” I gasped in abject horror as Sushi-X proceeded to replicate Jax’s Arm Ripper Fatality.
Everyone cheered. I watched helplessly as my Gaming Crew began taking turns acting out various Mortal Kombat II Fatalities on poor ol’ Spin. I wanted to tell them to stop but I also didn’t want to come off as the weird guy who had bonded with his Crash Dummy buddy. It was quite the quandary. Acceptance of your esteemed peers, or become the laughingstock of the group? Sadly, cowardly self-preservation won out. The next 10 minutes consisted of them reenacting every single last Fatality on the poor little guy. Hey, boys will be boys.
MORTAL FRIDAY… IMMORTAL MONDAY
One of my favorite gaming memories revolves around the release date of Mortal Kombat II. It came out on MORTAL FRIDAY, September 9, 1994. I sprinted home as soon as school got out in order to make the trek to Target with my mom and brother. She had agreed to buy the game for us. It was rare in those days for her to buy us a game outside of a birthday or Christmas. Somehow even she knew the magnitude of Mortal Friday. I have many fond memories of the local Target in my childhood home town. In fact, it’s one of the few entities from the ’80s that still stands today in the same spot. Oh sure it’s been renovated over the years but even to this day whenever I pass by four or five times a year I can’t help but stare and smile. A wave of memories always come roaring back ^_^
My mom and I used to go to Target every Friday after school back in the ’90s. I have fond memories of entering through the back via the classic Garden Center. I rarely came through the front entrance. My mom always went here first too since she loved gardening. And I loved it because the entrance into the store inside the Garden Center always led you directly to the toy section! So it was a win-win for all. As corny as this may sound, I can still smell the distinct and rich smell of fertilizer whenever I close my eyes and think about Target’s Garden Center. Some childhood smells just stay with you!
It was a tradition of mine to hit the toy section first, followed by the magazine section and then the electronics department that housed the latest 16-bit titles. I always went through the Garden Center. My mom did her shopping while I ran around Target by myself. Looking back, it was such an innocent time in my life. I remembering gawking at the various giant LEGO play sets. I drooled at the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys and I would always bounce those silly looking bright bouncy balls that they kept stored in a cheap black plastic rack. I would then make my way over to the magazine aisle where I could thumb through the latest EGM and GameFan issues. Finally, I’d hit the game section to admire the latest and greatest. Good times.
After buying Mortal Kombat II on Mortal Friday, my brother and I spent that entire weekend playing it to death. We were blown away by what a great port it was. But we did have one small issue with it. For whatever reason, our copy was defected. Rayden’s electrocution special move didn’t work. Sure, it was kind of a shitty move anyway that left you wide open for attack if you missed, but details! We didn’t like the idea of owning a game where even one special move didn’t work properly. But it was late Sunday night and so we had to wait until Monday. My mom couldn’t take me right after school so I had to wait for my dad to come home later that night… setting the stage for one crazy Monday night…
My dad had to work overtime that fateful Monday night, so when he finally arrived home and finished his late dinner it was already 9:45 PM. We rushed to Target hoping to get in before closing time. The Garden Center was already closed so this was one of those rare times I headed in through the front entrance. I still remember the image vividly of power walking down that long well-lit aisle all the way down to the electronics department. I was a man on a mission as I clutched my defective copy of Mortal Kombat II. The lights reflecting off the floor passed under my feet as I power walked to the game section before they could close at 10. Once there I explained to them about the game’s defect. As I finished explaining, a voice blared over the PA system: “Attention Target customers, we will be closing in 5 minutes.” The worker I spoke to was a young buck in his early 20s. He gave me a funny look and then said, “Hey, I guess we can always check it.” I stood there waiting for him to take my game off the counter and to the back. But he never did. Instead he dropped a bombshell on me. “Hey kid, wanna come back there?”
Before I knew it the young college kid guided me and my dad through the backstage area of Target. Walking through the backstage tunnel felt quite surreal. Suddenly we were getting a sneak peek behind the scenes. As he led me and pops through that long hallway, I could only think to myself how awesome the whole thing felt. Finally, we came to a cozy staff room with some couches and a TV with a Super Nintendo plugged in. He threw my copy into the machine and away we went! It was absolutely surreal being backstage at one of my favorite childhood stores. After he confirmed that Rayden’s electrocution move didn’t work (he tried holding down HP for 2 seconds, then 4, then 6, then 20… none of them worked), he conceded and allowed me to exchange it for a working copy. He then most likely broke a law as he told me and my dad to hang tight. He ran off to snag a new Mortal Kombat II copy off the shelf so we can make sure it would not be defective as well. My dad and I suddenly found ourselves sitting there in Target’s staff room all by ourselves (as non employees). I remember just thinking to myself HOLY SHIT! I don’t think this is supposed to be happening but it was! As an 11 year old kid at the time it was frigging awesome.
When he finally came back, I saw that he wasn’t alone. Not only did he have a nice new copy of Mortal Kombat II but yet another Target employee walked in with him. He was also a young college kid. I looked up at the clock and realized it was now past 10 — the store had closed! They tore open the new copy and fired it up. The two of them tested to make sure that Rayden’s electrocution move worked on this copy. It did. At this point more Target employees started pouring in and the staff room was suddenly swarming and buzzing with about 10 workers. My dad and I found ourselves right in the thick of it all. Before I knew it they even asked me if I was interested in playing a few rounds. HELL YEAH! Playing Mortal Kombat II with some cool random college guys past closing hours on a school night? SIGN ME UP! I looked at my dad, who was now standing in the corner looking on, and he nodded with a smile. I ended up playing about 10 matches with various Target employees! They let me play on even if I lost. I remember my first win caused the room to erupt as they gave me hi-fives and teased the guy I had somehow beaten like there was no tomorrow. Finally, we turned the game off and they gave us the exchange.
On our way out, and I’m not sure why but I remember this SO vividly, a lovely female employee asked me if I wanted something from the vending machine that hugged the wall at the end of the staff room. She told me and my dad it’s on the house. My dad got a Pepsi and I ended up getting an ice cold Sprite. We walked out of Target at around 10:30 that night, a solid half hour after they had officially closed. In our hands were two ice cold beverages and a new defect-free copy of SNES Mortal Kombat II. It was one of those magical nights from your childhood you can never forget. After all, how many kids can say they played Mortal Kombat II backstage at their local Target with some cool college cats? It’s a memory that has stuck with me ever since.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Mortal Kombat II fared extremely well with the critics. EGM rated it 8, 8, 8 and 9. GameFan gave it ratings of 85, 90 and 94%. Super Play rated it 90%. It was well received by nearly everyone. Tony Mott of Super Play fame said, “There’s a vast amount of playability lurking beneath its deceptive surface and in quality of conversion terms there’s little around to touch it.” K. Lee from GameFan declared “Mortal Kombat II is a 95% arcade to home translation. This is truly an Mortal Kombat fan’s dream come true.” Al Manuel of EGM called it “as close to the arcade as it’s gonna get” and Danyon Carpenter said simply, “Mortal Kombat II fans can finally shut up. Their game is here and what an excellent translation it is.” Well said, my friends. Well f*cking said.
The first Mortal Kombat was a disappointing port. Not just because it was censored but because there was a slight lag in the gameplay that kind of threw everything off a bit. Mortal Kombat II on the other hand thankfully got so much right. Crisp control and it was uncensored. It’s one of the best ports the Super Nintendo ever saw. From the moment my brother bought it on Mortal Friday, Mortal Kombat II became a permanent mainstay in our SNES collection. I think back to those times where my brother, our gaming crew and I would play this late into the night. We mastered all the Fatalities, tinkered with the Easter eggs and many evenings were spent happily glued to the glow of the TV set. Looking back on it, those were some of the best gaming days of my youth.
In some cases nostalgia can blind us. But in this case, Mortal Kombat II on the Super Nintendo holds up well even 20+ years later. The visuals were amazing for its time. Hell, they still look pretty damn good. The sound is well done and very memorable. From “FINISH HIM!!” to the eerie trees growling in the living forest, it is a true arcade-like experience. But most importantly, the gameplay is about as spot on as you can hope for a tap-tap Mortal Kombat affair to be. Unlike the first game, there’s no funky split second delay in control. Every once in a while that Mortal Kombat itch strikes. While there are other sequels with much bigger rosters and even more moves, Mortal Kombat II remains the one I most often reach for. It expanded on the first game enough yet it maintained a certain level of simplicity and purity that later sequels lacked. Those sequels became a bit unnecessarily convoluted (i.e. Animality and Brutality). Mortal Kombat II on the other hand hits the sweet spot. “EXCELLENT!”