Mortal Kombat II (SNES)

Pub: Acclaim | Dev: Sculptured Software | September 1994 | 24 MEGS
Pub: Acclaim | Dev: Sculptured Software | September 1994 | 24 MEGS

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.


The craze could not be contained
The craze could not be contained

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.

The craze could not be contained
The cover that haunted my youth

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.

Mortal Kombat II was everywhere you looked
Mortal Kombat II was everywhere you looked

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.


What a change of heart for family-oriented Nintendo
What a change of heart for family-oriented Nintendo
At long last, redemption was ours
At long last, redemption was ours
Note: this was originally made on September 9, 2014
Note: this was originally made on September 9, 2014







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!”








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.

I miss the traditional spikes though
I do miss the traditional spikes though







Spikes, eh? Here are your GAWD DAMN spikes!

What goes up must come down... or not
What goes up must come down… or not
Turn your opponent into... a baby?! Strange but true
Turn your opponent into… a baby?! Strange but true
Don't behead 'em... BEFRIEND 'EM!
Don’t behead them… BEFRIEND ‘EM!
Totally bonkers but it adds some humor to the game
Totally bonkers but it adds some humor to the game


Life was good. It was a great time to be a kid  ^_^
Life was good. It was a great time to be a kid  ^_^


I hope you weren't too fond of Sonya and Kano, though
Hope ya weren’t too fond of Sonya and Kano though


Dead Pool
Dead Pool

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.

The Living Forest
The Living Forest

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…

The Portal
The Portal

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.

Seriously creepy with a capital C!
Seriously creepy with a capital C!
The Wastelands
The Wastelands

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.

The Pit II
The Pit II

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.

The Armory
The Armory

Sorry, this stage kind of sucks :P

The Tower
The Tower

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.

The Kombat Tomb
The Kombat Tomb

Any stage that offers a “Stage Fatality” is automatically awesome by default. You can impale your foe on the spikes above. OUCH!

Kahn's Arena
Kahn’s Arena

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!

Goro's Lair
Damn straight!

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).







Iceman Cometh.















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.

Siiiiick. Speaking of sick, see below…





























Shades of Kung Lao from the film Tai Chi Hero!
Shades of Kung Lao from the film Tai Chi Hero















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.

Shades of the Slit Mouth Woman!
Shades of the Slit Mouth Woman!















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.

Reptile can also go invisible temporarily
Reptile can also go invisible temporarily



















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.

Shang's greatest power is morphing into anyone
Shang’s greatest power is morphing into anyone




Shao, you ever thought of writing greeting cards?
Shao, you ever thought of writing greeting cards?
He's not very amused, I see...
He’s not very amused, I see…




During the ? screen, use only Low Kick to fight Jade.


There's also SMOKE and NOOB SAIBOT...
There’s also SMOKE and NOOB SAIBOT…
As kids we all thought he said WHOOPSIE!
As kids we all thought he said “WHOOPSIE!”




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.]


My poor Crash Dummy :P
My poor Crash Dummy

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.


My actual childhood Hollywood Video!
The actual Target my bro got Mortal Kombat II from

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…

I'll never forget the lights disappearing under my feet
I was a man on a mission

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?”

Suddenly I had a backstage pass!
Suddenly I had a backstage pass!

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.

All because this move didn't work in the first copy
All because this move didn’t work in the first copy

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.

Best customer service ever
Best customer service ever

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.

Looks like I wasn't the only one...
Looks like I wasn’t the only one…
Brian George from Indiana, you weren't alone...
Brian George from Indiana, you weren’t alone…
The Target guys and I were only 240 matches shy...
The Target guys and I were only 240 matches shy…



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.

Nintendo Power rated it the 53rd best game of all time
Nintendo Power rated it as the 53rd best game ever



It was only missing the names inside the bars
It was only missing the names inside the bars


Redemption never tasted so sweet
Redemption never tasted so sweet

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.

Twice the fun, twice the violence
Twice the fun, twice the violence, twice as nice

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!”

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 9

Award4Overall: 9.0
Gold Award


Check out my YouTube MK II tribute video below
Check out my YouTube MK II tribute video below















Sweet dreams...
Sweet dreams…

Christmas Memoirs

It's the most wonderful time of the year...
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Ah, Christmas. As a kid growing up, there was something truly sacred about Christmas. It was a magical time of the year where miracles happen and wonder is in the air. Every kid I knew looked forward to Christmas. Whether we were writing letters to Santa or out shopping at the local mall with our parents, Christmas was magic. And the best time of the year to be a kid. As soon as that calendar strikes October, you were in kid Heaven. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. The promise of frights, food overload and video game presents. I’ve had some great gaming-related memories of Christmas over the years. Here they are :)


The first video game that changed how I saw gaming
Sega had truly taken gaming to THE NEXT LEVEL

In December 1989, my brother and I owned an 8-bit Nintendo. We loved it dearly. But one day we went to our family friend’s house. Denny was raving about his new game system, the Sega Genesis. I was only six years old, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. Denny showed us the cool clamshell box of Altered Beast. The art on the cover blew me away with its wild beasts and savage wolf man. Before Denny opened the box he asked me, “How big do you think the game is?” Hmmm, I figured since it was bigger than Nintendo, surely the cartridge had to be huge. Denny shook his head with a sly grin. He slowly opened the box to reveal the tiniest cartridge I had ever seen in my life. I was stupefied. The next big leap in video gaming was that small? Denny popped Altered Beast in and I sat back to watch. From the moment the game fired up and I heard the infamous voiceover “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!” I was hooked and sold. The graphics were jaw dropping! So too was the sound. I never looked at gaming quite the same after that fateful December day of 1989.

Altered Beast altered the game...
Altered Beast forever altered the game…

Over the years I remember going back to Denny’s place a lot during December. We held many family friend gatherings there. I remember watching him play games like Dynamite Duke, Thunder Force III and Gaiares. Man, what a time of innocence it was. Not only were we on the verge of a new decade, we found ourselves standing smack dab in a new generation of hi-tech gaming! And life, well, life was awesome. But just when I thought gaming couldn’t get any better, it did…

One of the greatest level one bosses ever
One of the greatest level one bosses ever!


It was the vacation that changed my life...
Some vacation trips stay with you for the long haul…

I was eight years old on vacation with my family and friends. My family forged a strong friendship with four families. Between the five families you had 10 parents and 16 kids (11 boys and five girls with birth years ranging from 1977-1987). We had some of the most legendary sleepovers in the history of such. We had monthly sleepovers and each time we would stay up until 1, 2 AM playing video games. It was a glorious time, and some of the best times of my childhood.

In December 1991, the parents wanted to go skiing at beautiful Lake Tahoe. We rented out a huge cabin where all twenty six of us stayed. It was insanity! The brothers, Tommy and Denny, packed their newly acquired Super Nintendo. This is the same Denny that first introduced me to the Sega Genesis and Altered Beast. You know how in every childhood gaming circle there was that one guy who got all the coolest newest games and systems first? Denny was that guy. Tommy and Denny also brought Super Mario World, Final Fight and F-Zero.

I loved Home Alone but I didn't want to live it out!
I loved Home Alone but I didn’t want to live it out!

That Sunday morning I woke up to an empty cabin, with weird noises emanating in every which direction. A cold chill swept down the back of my neck as I tip-toed downstairs timidly. Desperately calling out the names of my family and friends, it wasn’t long until I realized I was the lone prisoner trapped inside this cabin from hell.

The only response I received for my cries was the hissing of the cabin. I felt a chill creep over once more. Some thing wasn’t right…

Once I managed to make my way to the kitchen I found a note taped to the fridge with my name on it.

All alone in that demonic looking cabin... or was I...
All alone in that demonic looking cabin… or was I…

The rest of us got up early to go out for breakfast. We’ll be back soon. You stayed up really late last night so I wanted you to get the extra rest. Make yourself some Honey Nut Cheerios and don’t watch too much TV. We’ll be back very soon.


Gee, thanks mom. I’ll be sure to remember this when I go to the booth next week to cast my vote in for Mom of the Year! I opened the fridge and saw an ice cold can of 7 Up. It was my favorite soda but there was no chance in hell I was going to brave it down that demonic looking hallway to make it to the restroom. No siree!

Ever feel that someone, or something, is watching you?
Ever felt that someone or something is watching you?

Ever feel a presence in the room with you? That someone, or something, is watching you? That’s how I felt on that cold, dreary December morning of 1991. But being eight years old and resourceful, I believed spirits would never mess with me if I had the radio or TV playing — they only attacked those who were alone. So I turned on the tube and came across a WWF show. Ah, wrestling. It’s always comforted me and did so here. But before long the show ended and I was left thinking about what evil spirits might be milling about. That’s when I spotted Tommy’s Super Nintendo lying on the floor. All the older “cool” kids were taking turns with it the night before, and the younger kids (of which I was right on the cusp of) could do nothing but peer on wishing life had dealt them a better hand. So it suddenly dawned on me that this was my chance. This was my moment.

It's true what they say: you never forget your first time
It’s true — you never forget your first time

Powering up F-Zero, I was instantly transported to Mode-7 Heaven. Every single racing track blew my mind. I couldn’t believe how fast it played, and how AMAZING the game looked. And that MUSIC… oh man. F-Zero led me from thinking about ghosts to obsessing over intergalactic racing warfare! Later I plugged in Final Fight and found myself saving the good citizens of Metro City one jaw dropping stage after another, as I smeared the streets with the blood of the hooligans from the Mad Gear Gang. I had never seen such state-of-the-art arcade-like graphics before. The characters were unbelievably HUGE and at times I found myself wondering, “WHERE THE HECK IS THE COIN SLOT?!”

Back in 1991 this was absolutely mind blowing!
Back in 1991 this was absolutely mind blowing!

I played Final Fight until my family and friends came back. Part of me was ecstatic to no longer be alone in the cabin from hell, but something funny happened during my inaugural SNES playthrough. It made me forget about malicious ghosts and evil spirits. It instead transported me to the future of video gaming, where you could snap a guy’s neck in two and soar 200 feet across a race track suspended high above a futuristic city — all in stunning graphics and sound. Even 25 years later, I still recall that Christmas with great reverence :)


There was a certain Christmas magic in the air
There was a certain magic in the air that night…

My mom and I used to go to the mall all the time. It was one of our traditions. She took me after school every Friday, rain or shine. I loved it because this was a time in life when the world was a different place. Even as young as 8, my mom allowed me to hit up my stores while she went shopping for clothes. This gave me a great sense of independence and for about 30 minutes I was on my own completely! I always visited Suncoast, Kay Bee Toys, Walden Books, Sam Goody, and of course, the classic SOFTWARE ETC.

Now rarely did she ever end up buying me anything once we reconvened, but that was never the point. It was fun enough thumbing through books, EGM magazines and drooling at the various action figures. It was the feeling that it produced. Just knowing you were on your own for half an hour made going to the mall a fun time. But the best times always came during Christmas season.

That little blond kid was me just a year or two ago...
That little blond kid was me just a year or two ago…

The mall Santa was there taking pictures, kissing babies and shaking little hands. At nine and a half years old now, I was too old for that stuff, but not old enough to not still believe in the magic of Christmas. So instead of sitting on Santa’s lap, I simply sat back from afar to admire what had been, and what once was.

My mom came over asking if I wanted to meet the mall Santa, but I told her I was too old. She looked at the kids rushing up to Santa just 20 feet away from us, lost in her thoughts. Somewhere in her aging face I saw her loosen up, as if she suddenly missed the days when I was that young scampering around. Perhaps it was the right kind of Christmas magic I’d need for what was about to transpire on that most magical late December evening…

Oh, SOFTWARE ETC. My childhood...
This was like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

There it was, plastered in big and bold blue letters. I always made it a point to hit up SOFTWARE ETC. each time we visited the mall. Of course, I could only dream of my mom complying to buy me a video game. Still, like a moth to flame, those bold blue letters always sucked me in. I stood there that evening in sheer awe of the endless shelves of SNES goodies — games in which I could only dream of owning. And then, there it was. High on the shelf I saw it, shining like a beacon of light. KING OF THE MONSTERS for the Super Nintendo! It was just one short year ago that I’d beaten the arcade and thought to myself, “Man, I can’t wait for this to come home!” And now, it finally has. Only one problem, of course. How can I convince mom to buy it? Standing there, staring at the pristine shiny King of the Monsters box, my mind desperately raced through everything I could think of in order to weigh the odds in my favor.

I didn’t have very long to think…

“C’mon honey, we gotta get back home now.”


“What is it?”

The box sat high on the shelf like a beacon of light
What kind of compelling, poetic point would I make?

“That…” I pointed to the King of the Monsters box sitting on the top shelf. “I want that.”

OK, so much for poetic language and convincing arguments.

My mom gave me “the look.” Uh oh. In the history of “momkind” the look has never been good news. Whether it was a look of frustration, disappointment or disgust, the look has denied kids an untold number of desserts, toys and video games. This task, I could tell, was going to be about as easy as Quantum Physics.

“Honey, that’s fifty five dollars.”

“No, it’s fifty four ninety nine!” I quickly countered. HA! I thought I had her — ahh, the bliss of being nine years old…

“Well actually with tax it’s about sixty,” she corrected.

Well DAMN. Talk about backfiring!

And then, out of nowhere, it hit me. My trump card. I explained to her how it was my favorite game, how I had to have it, and how much joy it would bring Kevin and me. And that if she bought it, it would count for not only my Christmas gift but also my birthday as well.

My mom grabbed the box to examine it closer. “Hey, isn’t this the game you played all night last year at Chuck E. Cheese’s? Is this the same one?”


This only took me an hour and about 5,000 quarters
This only took me an hour and about 500 quarters

December 1991. My parents took me and my brother to our favorite place, Chuck E. Cheese’s, to celebrate the end of the year. My mother was rather strict so these rare opportunities where she allowed us to binge on our desires were not taken for granted! They ordered two large pizzas and got us 50 tokens. I knew where I was going to be for the rest of that night — at the King of the Monsters cab determined to beat it! It took me some time and way too many quarters to count but at last I did it, all while my mom sat back at the table eating unwanted leftover pizza crust and watching the whole thing go down.


I nodded furiously and watched as my mom bit her lower lip, contemplating what to do. Finally, after what seemed like forever, she took the game to the counter. I stood there in awe watching as they swiped her credit card. It was the first video game she bought for me. Outside I could hear the chattering of youngsters and the HO-HO-HOs of the mall Santa. The Christmas season was ringing in full force, and this bit of Christmas magic only punctuated the moment. My brother and I played King of the Monsters as soon as I got home. It turned out to be a ho-hum translation but at the time I remember not caring a great deal about that. I was just grateful and still buzzing with excitement at the fact that the Christmas magic was still alive and well!

Downtown Christmas display was a family tradition
Downtown Christmas was our Yuletide tradition

A couple days after my mom bought the game, I was playing it one night with my brother when she urged us to turn it off so we could drive downtown to see the fancy Christmas lights. It was a basic tradition in my family that every Yuletide we do so. I love the lights but that year my parents had to pry me away from my Super Nintendo. I guess as my brother and I got older, the more my mom fought to keep tradition alive. Like how she wanted me to sit on Santa’s lap the night she bought me the game. I guess that’s something I’ll find out for myself one of these days… [Sitting on Santa’s lap? How kinky. I see you’re on that naughty list… -Ed.]

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better...
But wait! That Christmas is about to get even better

Christmas ’92 proved to be one for the record books. In addition to my mom buying me King of the Monsters, that same year our uncle bought us Death Duel. I remember the ad from EGM. It looked cool and all, but honestly, my brother and I were a bit disappointed. Of all the games on our wish list, Death Duel certainly wasn’t even in the top 20. We tried not to complain though as our mom always taught us to be grateful and that any gift was better than none at all. Still, Kevin and I went home that night talking about how awesome it would be if Death Duel magically transformed into Super Mario Kart instead (the game that topped our Christmas wish list). It was rare that my brother and I both wanted the same game — he was a “mainstream” guy while I was more fond of the obscure underdog titles. However, Super Mario Kart transcended all of that. It was just that kind of game.

Good thing my brother was still only 11 at the time!
Good thing my brother was still only 11 at the time!

And then, as we were talking, an epiphany struck us. We suddenly recalled the ad for Death Duel in EGM. We pulled out the latest EGM issue that we had bought weeks earlier and madly flipped through it in search of our great loophole. Ah, there it was. Not suggested for children under 14. I was only nine and my brother was 11. My brother wouldn’t be able to play Death Duel for another three years! And five for me! Not that we couldn’t break the rules but when the rules benefit you, why not follow them? ;)

Everyone wanted this game that Christmas season
Everyone wanted this game that Christmas season

After showing the ad to our mom, just as we predicted she would, she promptly called our uncle to explain the situation and asked if he kept the receipt. Luckily, he did and since we hadn’t opened the game yet, it was ripe for a swap. So later that week my mom took me and Kevin to exchange Death Duel for Super Mario Kart. I remember thinking that it was the greatest trade in the history of mankind. I still laugh thinking about this Christmas memory. Who knew a silly ad could bring about such a dramatic turn of events? :D

We became kings of our block
We became the kings of our block
Thanks for a great Christmas memory, Death Duel
Thanks for a great Christmas memory, Death Duel


This quickly became my next most wanted game
This quickly became my next most wanted game

Leading up to Christmas that year I was completely fascinated with Interplay’s Street Fighter II clone, Clay Fighter. Endless controversial ads filled the pages of gaming magazines and I studied the many previews drooling in sheer anticipation of this new promising fighting game. And who could forget the Clay Fighter ad campaign? I sure haven’t — it’s one of the greatest ad campaigns in 16-bit gaming history.

SHOTS FIRED. Interplay wasn't messing. It's war!
Oooh! SHOTS FIRED. Interplay wasn’t playing around

I still remember fondly my cousin calling me one night in early December of 1993. It was rare in those days for her to call as we usually just saw each other in person and communicated that way. But on this fateful night she called asking for my Christmas wish list. My heart was racing as I knew there was really only one thing I wanted: a copy of Clay Fighter. I remember explaining to her over the phone what Clay Fighter was, and being positive that she was going to buy it for me. Yep, it was only a matter of days now…

The gist of what I told my cousin that fateful night!
The gist of what I told my cousin that fateful night!
As a ten year old, I thought the ads were super dope
As a 10 year old, I thought the ads were the best

Of course, she bought something else for me. It ended up not being a video game at all. After that phone call and everything, I couldn’t help but feel massively disappointed. In retrospect though, I’m lucky she didn’t buy me Clay Fighter

I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for World Heroes
“C’mon Steve, do the Dragon Kick here! One more time!”

I would be remiss not to mention World Heroes. My best pal Nelson bought it when it first came out around September of ’93, and we played it well into the winter. Nelly even lent me the game here and there. Uncle Ben flew in that Christmas and watched me play as Kim Dragon. Uncle Ben didn’t care for video games whatsoever, but even he was drawn into World Heroes. He rooted me on, suddenly morphing into an armchair gamer! He loved Kim’s Dragon Kick and called for me to do it each time. It’s a quirky memory that has stuck with me all these years.

Christmas '93 was just a great time to be a kid
World Heroes will always have a soft spot in my heart

Christmas ’93 was simply a great time to be a robust 10 year old kid growing up in suburban America. If you had a Super Nintendo, a best friend and you loved fighting games — what a time to be alive! With choices such as Street Fighter II Turbo, TMNT: Tournament Fighters, World Heroes, Ranma ½: Hard Battle and Clay Fighter, there were plenty of fighting games to choose from. The 16-bit war was in full swing, and if you had the SNES and Genesis like I did, you were the ultimate winner.

Nothing like an unexpected post Christmas score!
Nothing like an unexpected post Christmas score!

Having hounded my parents about Clay Fighter and them knowing how disappointed I was that I didn’t get it that Christmas, my mom allowed me to buy one video game in January of ’94. Thankfully, I rented Clay Fighter just prior to this once-in-a-lifetime decree. It wasn’t a terrible fighting game, it just wasn’t very good. My parents took me to Good Guys and I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. Ninja Turtles meets Street Fighter II? Take my money, er, my parents’ money!

Yep, sure am glad I picked the right game to buy!
Yep, I sure made the right call!


SNES fans were vindicated with an awesome port
SNES fans were vindicated with an awesome port

Christmas ’94 was marked by the return of my cousin Karen, whom I hadn’t seen in a while. She was now eight and my Uncle Ben also had a one year old daughter, Liz. My bro and I bought Mortal Kombat II for the SNES and we were playing it well into that Christmas season, much to Karen’s chagrin as it would turn out.

Chill Karen, it's only a game. Don't lose your head
Chill Karen, it’s only a game. Don’t lose your head…

When Karen and baby Liz came over that holiday season, we showed off Mortal Kombat II in all its glory. Upon seeing the first blood spewing Fatality, Baraka slicing Jax’s head clean off his shoulders, Karen imploded like a soccer mom at a backyard wrestling event. Grabbing her baby sister in a mad panic, she screamed at us, “OH MY GOD! A ONE YEAR OLD BABY CAN’T BE EXPOSED TO THIS R-RATED VIOLENCE!” The way she yelled at the top of her lungs coupled with her mannerisms made it a moment in time. To this day I still give her a hard time about it whenever we see each other.

As it would turn out, Christmas ’94 was the last great gaming-related Christmas I can remember. Well, that was until…


You could say it was a powerpak'ed Christmas...
You could say it was a powerpak’ed Christmas…

November 2010. I bit the proverbial bullet and purchased an SNES PowerPak. This great device allows you to play almost any SNES game ever created. It comes at a steep price but as I found out firsthand later that Christmas season, it’s worth the asking price. Guess who visited that Christmas? None other than Karen and (no longer baby) Liz. Karen was now 24 and Liz, 17. It’s funny how life comes full circle sometimes.

You can see the love mark my SNES left on the carpet
See the love mark my SNES left on the carpet?

Saturday, Christmas afternoon. Uncle Ben, his wife, Karen and Liz were visiting from out of state and staying at their second home. Uncle Ben invited the whole fam over for a night of Christmas family fun. Normally I take the Sega Saturn with me (for Saturn Bomberman), but this time I thought I’d try the Super Nintendo instead. It was the right call.

Got the goods. Let's rock and roll
Love how it all fitted perfectly. A nice snug fit ^_^

Ah, the advantage of having a PowerPak and not having to haul 20, 25 games with you. With one cartridge you can effectively carry hundreds of SNES games. That alone makes having some kind of flash cart worth the asking price.

That night we went back in time
That night we went back in time

We enjoyed a pleasant family Christmas dinner together that night. Then my cousins Karen, Liz, David, Mia and I retreated to the living room. I unpacked the Super Nintendo to a warm nostalgic reaction. “Oh my God, I haven’t seen one of these in forever!” Karen was most eager of all being that she was old enough to really remember it. The PowerPak worked its magic. I let her browse through the endless list of games. Her eyes popped when she saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time. “I remember playing this back in the day!” Karen had turned into a wide-eyed six year old kid before my very eyes. “WE GOTTA PLAY THIS!” she declared. Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting her to pick Mortal Kombat II.

Karen and David started out on the first level. The three of us felt like we were back at the arcades in the ’90s. Liz and Mia, being young teenagers and Wii fans, didn’t get the hype so they didn’t care to join in. But Karen, David and I were having a blast. The Ninja Turtles weren’t the only ones going back in time here…

It felt like we were back in '92
It felt like we were back in 1992

The three of us rotated turns playing the two player mode. Each new stage brought about “Oooh I remember this!” memories. When we made our way to the sewer stage, with the giant yellow pizza monsters leaping out at us, Karen said, “I TOTALLY REMEMBER THOSE PIZZA MONSTERS FROM THE CARTOON SHOW!” We made it to Super Shredder, but soon fell at his evil hands.

Karen, David and I had a blast
Karen, David and I had a, er, blast

After Turtles in Time, we switched over to Super Bomberman 2.  It brought back memories of the early-mid ’90s when my old gaming group spent countless Saturday nights blowing each other up. We ended up playing the SNES from 6:45 to 9:20. We spent the next two hours talking and hanging out. Nothing like quality family time mixed in with a little multiplayer gaming :)

World Heroes 2 is a terrific and underrated SNES port

I slept over at my parents’ house that night since they live only 15 minutes away from Uncle Ben’s second home. Arriving around midnight, I was still in a Super Nintendo state of mind. I immediately popped in the PowerPak and fired up the beta version of World Heroes 2. Although I love the finished product, the beta version is more combo friendly and therefore more accurate to the arcade original. It’s almost like playing two different games! One more reason to love the PowerPak — you can play beta versions (if available) of your favorite games and compare.

Don't have a flash cart? Better catch and ride that wave
Don’t have one yet? Better catch and ride that wave!
Love it but the CPU is tough!
Love it but the computer is tough

After World Heroes 2 beta, I had the urge to revisit another childhood favorite, TMNT: Tournament Fighters. After the tough computer foes put a thorough whupping on my ass, I felt the need to do some whupping of my own, so I fired up Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2: 3-4 Budokan.

I like it more than Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium

The fatal four way match is good for a quick fix. After this, I went to brush my teeth. My parents had already gone to bed. I turned off the lights and lowered the volume. I hadn’t slept over in a long time so the house making all kinds of unusual noises in the dark was a bit creepy. I decided to go from one obscure Super Famicom import to another.

Fans of the unusual and Pocky & Rocky will like this
Fans of the unusual and Pocky & Rocky will like this

One of the weirdest games on the SNES, Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban is also rather fun. I had a blast going through the whole game. It was now 2:45 AM, and the house grew eerily darker and darker. It was the perfect time to load up the scariest Super Nintendo game ever created.

Now that's a stocking stuffer you don't wanna see
Now there’s a stocking stuffer you don’t want to see

There couldn’t have been a more perfect setting to play Clock Tower. Weird noises emanated from the house as heavy rain crashed against the windows with fierce velocity. I never imagined in a million years that a Super Nintendo game could actually scare me. But on that night, Clock Tower succeeded. Scissorman left a wake of terror as he pursued me relentlessly throughout the mansion. It was one of the best gaming sessions I’ve ever had.

SNIP SNIP -- I could still hear Scissorman's shears
SNIP SNIP — I could still hear Scissorman’s shears…

It was now 4:30 in the morning. Whoa, I played the SNES from midnight to 4:30. I staggered over to turn off Clock Tower, then I fumbled up the stairs in the dark. I was in a bit of a daze, feeling uneasy still thinking about the grisly images. I crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling in the darkness. What an epic gaming session and what a great Christmas! I laid there for a while just reflecting on the night before drifting off to a deep, peaceful sleep…


Nothing beats a good old epic multiplayer session
Nothing beats a good old fashion multiplayer party!

Once again the PowerPak proved its worth. My brother, his girlfriend and I went to visit David and Mia. We spent the night playing 4-player BS Out of Bounds Golf and 5-player Super Bomberman 5. Nothing screams quality family time quite like blowing up your brother, or knocking your cousin’s ball out of bounds. Both games quickly grew heated as the trash talking (and laughing) compounded. The fondest memory I have of this evening came when David miraculously nailed a miracle trick shot. He bounced his ball against a plate bumper, which then ricocheted its way into the cup. Everyone in the room jumped and shouted in stereo. It was certainly mic drop worthy! We all gave David a hi-five and he wore the fattest grin I ever saw. To see him have that one moment of glory made my Christmas that year. Fittingly enough, we even gave him a golf clap ;)

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT! [You're SO cheesy... -Ed.]
David bounced a shot off that bumper and in, wow!


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a very good night :)

Christmas time always brings back such fond memories of time well spent with loved ones and video games. Especially when you were a kid, there was just something special and magical about Christmas season. Whether you received a new video game system or a new video game, many of us have nostalgic memories surrounding Christmas and video games. These were mine. And they’ve stayed with me long after the snow has faded and the lights have been taken down. As tomorrow marks the beginning of winter and as we draw closer and closer to yet another Christmas, I’m reminded of all these nostalgic memories. There’s something about gaming during the winter season that can’t be beat. Those early darkening late afternoons. The whipping rain lashing outside late at night as you play childhood favorites, or unearth new ones. Wherever you are at in this stage of life, may you be blessed each day and a blessing to others, too. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?

Thank you, and God Bless everyone else too ^_^
Thank you good sir, and God Bless everyone else too