Browsing my local Barnes and Noble one random day this past November, I spotted a new graphic novel on the shelf that immediately caught my eye. From the simple title to the creepy art cover, I knew it was right up my alley. I got back into reading books in 2019, and only in the past year or so have become enthralled with the graphic novel medium. Man, if only these bad boys were around back in 1993 when I was 10 years old! Sure we had comic books but nothing like the high quality today’s graphic novels pack, in terms of color and page quality. But I digress. Speaking of 1993, that’s the year The Sleepover takes place, and Michael Regina was not shy about early-mid ’90s references. But unlike some other entities, he didn’t go overboard so it wasn’t super in your face, which I appreciate because some of these throwback nostalgic stories can be too much when it comes to that sort of fan service.
The story focuses on Matt Russo and his younger sister, Judy. For years their nanny, Ruby, has taken good care of them while their mom toils away at work. One day Ruby dies. The mom scrambles to find a new nanny. Miss Swan is sus to say the very least. Matt is stricken with emotional grief as he laments the loss of his nanny, whom he shared a close bond with. His friends come over for a sleepover in an effort to cheer him up and fuel his mind with horror movies and video games galore, while fueling his stomach with pizza and soda. Sounds like an epic sleepover from the ’90s eh? I know I sure had my share of those!
But of course, what good is a story if there’s no conflict? The boys’ plan to have the perfect sleepover is soon thwarted when they come face to face with a local urban legend that is beyond anything they have ever encountered before…
I really like the art. It’s clean, simple and pleasant to look at. The Sleepover opens up with Matt and his 3 friends watching The X-Files. The first episode aired on September 10, 1993, which is perfect since this story takes place in the fall of ’93. I remember reading this first page at Barnes and Noble and thinking, “Oh yeah, this is an instant buy.” Thank God for their 20% off teacher discount!
Matt and Judy’s nanny, Ruby, is introduced early on, and throughout the story we get occasional flashbacks to see through Matt’s eyes why Ruby means so much to him and his family. It’s a wild and crazy stormy night, making it perfect for a ghost story to be told…
One of Matt’s friends regales the group with a local urban legend of a horrible witch that lives in the woods nearby. Judy, being a lot younger, seeks Ruby’s reassurance. You can tell that Matt’s got the heebie-jeebies!
You keep saying that, four eyes. You keep saying that.
Every group in the ’90s had a kid like this. The one always sprouting off about ghouls and ghosts, trying to convince everyone else that something sinister is afoot…
Hell, maybe YOU were that kid. Hmm, maybe Iwas in mine…
I love the full page chapter breaks! There is something so simple yet alluring about a classic nice little house set clearly somewhere in the suburbs. Probably because that’s where I grew up and had all of my childhood memories. Whether it was my house or one of my friends’ giant two story homes, they were always the backdrop of a fun Saturday night staying up late watching scary movies and playing SNES games until the cows came home.
Sadly, Ruby the nanny passes away. The Russos attend her funeral, but life marches on. As soon as they get back home, the mom has to go back to work and she needs to find a new nanny pronto. No rest for the weary, eh?
The help wanted ad dubiously finds it way into the woods. No harm no foul though, right? Sure.
Ah, it plays out like a classic scene from a thriller or horror movie. The bad guy (or gal) is introduced with an ominous back of the head shot. To make matters worse, the parent has already met them and is none the wiser! Looks like the poor kids will have to fend for themselves…
Whoa, major creep vibes! Ms. Russo approved of this nutjob?! Talk about not winning the Mother of the Year award.
Cheese and rice, man. Miss Swan is so unsettling.
I love how all those parents approved of their kid to have a sleepover with a random new nanny that they haven’t met yet. But I suppose they trust Ms. Russo’s judgment. Ha! Little do they know.
Scary movies and a sleepover. As timeless a combination as any other imaginable 1-2 combo.
The ’90s stylized S in “Best Sleepover” popped me. Hard. My wife teases me that I used to write my name Steve with that S back in the ’90s. Hey, we really thought it was cool back then! Major props to Regina for that subtle nostalgic callback.
What else made for an epic sleepover back in the ’90s? Why, chugging, of course.
Ah, the prank call. When you were 10, and with your friends, these unethical acts were undoubtedly a crowd pleaser. I can still hear the stifled laughter to this day.
Whether it was Halloween, Friday the 13th, Child’s Play or even Leprechaun, horror movies were a staple of my childhood sleepovers. I like how Regina threw in Vampire Hunter D. I’ll never forget the first anime my old best friend Nelson and I ever watched: Devil Hunter. The unexpected (and excessive) nudity, to my 10 year old eyes back then, was wild.
But the definite MVP of my childhood sleepovers: video games. Just being in a room with 3 (or 10) friends all cheering and yelling, playing late into the early mornings… those were some badass times. Love the nods to Mortal Kombat here.
Last (and possibly least), the random talks we had about girls and crushes. These were always fun 10 minute breaks but I always wanted to get back to my slasher movies and 16-bit video games!
Miss Swan’s evil eyes jump off the page with a very otherworldly glow…
Have I mentioned how much I love the simple effectiveness of these full page chapter breaks?
We come to find out more about the witch’s backstory in a flashback and some exposition.
Love this scene! Plays like how it would in a horror movie. Very cinematic.
Miss Swan’s true form is creepy and demonic. She would be a badass horror movie villain.
Gotta appreciate the Super Soaker shoutout! If you grew up in the early-mid ’90s, you know all about that Super Soaker life!
MORE SHOUT OUTS
So I won’t reveal more of the story — you’ll have to read the rest to find out what happens. But I can’t resist sharing this callback. Gamers from the ’90s will know those infamous four words:“RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
I remember seeing Altered Beast for the first time circa 1989 at my friend’s house. Tommy and Denny were those two brothers who always got the coolest and latest games first in your gaming group. I was blown away by the graphics and sound.
“POWER UP!” Two of the most iconic words in gaming history.
Michael Regina did an excellent job capturing what being a 10 year old boy in 1993 was like. Absolutely nailed it.
In a YouTube video he posted, Michael Regina shares some background info on his graphic novel, The Sleepover. It’s an interesting watch for anyone intrigued by the book.
Regina based a lot of his graphic novel off his very own childhood. They grew up with a nanny also named Ruby who took care of him growing up. Ruby was a huge part of the family.
The Sleepover is dedicated to Ruby. Pretty cool how much of his own childhood experiences were incorporated in the book.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The Sleepover has garnered some high praise, and deservedly so!
Looking for a spooky middle grade graphic novel? Look no further. The premise is simple and straight forward. A group of 10 year old boys face off with a witch demon in an American suburb. They’ll need to rely on their wits, and each other, to survive the night(mare). Michael Regina knocked it out of the park with this one! While a little basic (don’t expect any crazy twists or plot development), it’s just a fun ride from beginning to end, with some genuinely creepy moments sprinkled here and there. If The Sleepover came out when I was 10, I probably would have read it 50 times. I could easily see this being adapted into a NetFlix movie one day. It’s got that sweet early-mid ’90s vibe going for it, as well as being rather Stranger Things-esque. Hard to go wrong with this sucker. I’ll never look at a raven the same way ever again.
Many fond memories come to mind when I think of Christmas. So much so that I even wrote a special article dedicated to just that. There are certain things that I’ll always associate Christmas with, for better or for worse. For me, Clay Fighter will always be linked with Christmas. Released 25 years ago (damn where does the time go), this Street Fighter II parody is but a minuscule footnote in the annals of SNES lore. But to me, Clay Fighter represents something beyond that, even if the final product isn’t all that good. It represents a time of true innocence, a time of allegiances and a time of change. Not to mention learning how to navigate expectations and disappointments even in the smallest of ways. Indeed, Clay Fighter was one of my childhood games. As such, I’ll never forget it. Especially whenever Christmas comes rolling around…
ONCE UPON A TIME…
It was the summer of 1993. 2D fighting games were all the rage, and seemingly everyone and their brother were getting in on it. From Kaneko to Konami, everyone wanted a piece of the pie. It was the fighting game era, and 1-on-1 brawlers was a booming business. One idyllic summer day in ’93, my mom took me to the local grocery store. As per usual, I browsed the VHS rental section while my mom bought food. I remember seeing cheesy horror movies like Leprechaun (oh Jennifer Anniston…) and Critters 4 (oh Angela Bassett) before making my way to the magazine section. It was there that I picked up a GamePro issue and first laid eyes on Clay Fighter. It was love at first sight.
There was just something special about growing up in the late ’80s to early-mid ’90s. From cheesy horror movies (with badass memorable box art) to hundreds of fun 8 and 16-bit video games, it was the perfect time to be a gamer who loved horror movies to boot. I miss those halcyon days where my mom would drop me off at a store and I would just spend a good 30 to 45 minutes browsing the various boxes and back covers of horror movies and the latest video games. Truly a special time in our lives (for those lucky enough to have lived it).
But I digress. As the months went on, the Clay Fighter hype train gained more steam. Gaming magazines previewed the hell out of it, and the comedic aspects of the game really appealed to a 10 year old kid. It promised to be WACKY!, WEIRD!and WILD!I mean, what more could you want?
The fighters had their own unique charm.
Not only was it a parody of Street Fighter II but it was also a parody of many other things such as Elvis, The Blob and The Headless Horseman among others. Clay Fighter was Parody City.
The unique claymation graphics made it stand out in a crowded genre. I couldn’t help but be drawn to its unique look, even if the aesthetics were a bit sloppy. Hey, it was 1993 and I was 10. Clay Fighter looked super cool in my book back then!
And then came the ads. And boy, were there a TON of ads. Clay Fighter had one of the most robust and memorable ad campaigns in 16-bit history.
One of my fondest memories came in the Fall of 1993 when I stayed home from school due to being sick. I remember just hanging out in my room, playing a demo song on a Casio keyboard a relative recently gifted me and gawking at that Clay Fighter ad above and flipping through the preview. There’s nothing like looking at a few blurry screenshots and letting your imagination run wild. The possibilities were endless and more often than not, your imagination made the game way better than the actual end product. Still, it was all part of the fun of gaming back in those days.
Filled with puns galore, I couldn’t help but love it.
THE CHRISTMAS GIFT THAT NEVER WAS
December 1993. One fateful evening my cousin called me asking what I wanted for Christmas. I didn’t hesitate to tell her all about Clay Fighter. By the end of the phone call I was assured that Clay Fighter would be mine come Christmas morning. Alas, for whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be. My cousin got me something else (I can’t even recall what she got me). My Clay Fighter dream went up in smoke. POOF.
THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS 1993
Noting my abundantly obvious disappointment the night prior, my old man decided to take me to The Wherehouse to rent Clay Fighter as a consolation prize. I wanted to buy it instead, but I happily settled on renting it. I remember running to the game section, seeing the box on the shelf and taking it down from its resting place nestled up top. I admired the front cover and couldn’t get enough of how cool I thought it looked. Bad Mr. Frosty coming right at ‘chu as Tiny stretches poor Taffy (oh the irony). It fit in perfectly with the times we were living in… that whole attitude era of the early-mid ’90s.
I then flipped it over where I must have stood there for 5 minutes reading over the back cover and being completely convinced that Clay Fighter would only be a tier below Street Fighter II, in terms of gameplay.
I love how 16 MEGS was considered a big deal back in 1993. I miss when meg count was a thing and people got hyped partially because a game contained a certain amount of megs. There was something charming to that. Even though we knew game quality wasn’t based on a game’s given meg count, it always served as fun playground chatter with your friends. It brings back memories of the Neo Geo and their fighting games containing 100+ MEGS, as well as the 16-bit console war. Wait, Super Street Fighter II on the SNES only has 32 MEGS while the Genesis copy boasts 40 MEGS?! Good times.
I got a kick too out of the humongous 1 OR 2 PLAYERS graphic. It just added a certain pizzazz to the back of the box and it’s been burned into my memory bank. I can still see that giant logo in my mind to this day. The whole package just hit all the right notes. I handed the game off to my dad who then walked to the counter to make the magic happen. I was only a 5 minute car ride away from finally experiencing Clay Fighter.
On the ride home I admired the beautiful color instruction manual. The artwork was pretty banging, and I studied that little booklet for all it was worth. That was part of the fun of renting video games back in the ’90s: combing over the instruction manual on the way home.
I remember being a little worried when I got to the character bios. They looked great and I loved the detailed description of their special moves but one thing greatly bothered me. At a glance, it seemed as though you had to press all three punch buttons to do projectile-based attacks. I thought to myself “Please don’t let this be” and “Damn what a terrible decision if so.” Thankfully, it turned out not to be the case. The colored buttons there simply depict either of those buttons would suffice.
After popping the game in for the very first time, it took me less than 5 minutes to realize Clay Fighter was a bit of a dud. A dud in the sense that it came nowhere NEAR my level of expectation. It wasn’t unplayable, but it wasn’t very good. I remember thinking thank God I didn’t waste one of my few precious video game buys on this. Thankfully I rented it instead and picked out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters to buy the following week. COWABUNGA!
The lit bomb acting as a timer was creative. I liked that it wasn’t just another typical countdown from 99 seconds as was the case for most fighting games back then.
Once a mild mannered snowman, this devious spawn of winter lives for the icy cold of the far north. The good manners of snowmen no longer mean anything to Bad Mr. Frosty. He believes in the cold of winter and little else. He lives to see an eternal winter, where the snow never melts; and enjoys sharing his keen weather sense with all those around him.
This malleable clay fighter really goes for the clay. Once a simple glob of salt water taffy, he has been transformed into a mean spirited ball of solid sugar. Emerging from the sugary goo which spawned him, Taffy took an oath, “The Circus will be mine, and every clay fighter will require new fillings when I get there.” Taffy’s stretchable body allows him to make long range attacks. These moves can surprise opponents who believe they are out of his reach.
The buffest of the clay fighters, Tiny works out whenever he isn’t pounding the clay out of the other players. A member of the WCWA (World Clay Wrestling Association), he truly loves to wrestle and fight. He is not very bright, so he relies on his massive strength to win. He is proud of his physique and will smash anyone who laughs at him.
Once the meteor was done mutating the clay fighters into their present forms, there were bucket fulls of radioactive clay left over. Not wanting to be thrown away like common garbage, the clay rolled itself into one elastic mass. The ball of clay developed intelligence quite quickly and named itself Blob. Studying goojitsu, Blob has become a force to be reckoned with among the clay fighters.
The radioactive clay meteor has given this middle aged circus freak delusions of grandeur. Once a respected member of the circus, his great arrogance has turned the rest of the world against him. Believing that he is the king of rock and roll, he croons to the masses from his porcelain throne; sickening many and scarring the rest. Taking time off from his busy movie career, he has joined in the fight to control the circus. When not doing battle he focuses much of his time on his hair. To him there is nothing cooler than his groovy doo.
Every circus has its share of ghost stories; the lion handler who didn’t train his cats enough, or the clown who never came out of the little car. The coming of the clay meteor brought one of these haunts back from the ethereal plane and gave him substance. The circus ghost, Ickybod Clay, has come to rule the circus for those who are halfway between our world and the next. While existing in our world, Ickybod Clay is able to tap the ethereal plane for power.
From the far north, this Viking woman has earned the title of Valkyrie from her people. She is looking for another arena in which to compete and is planning to take control of the circus. With her Viking heritage has come special powers from the gods. Thor and Odin have granted her abilities no other clay fighter could even hope of mastering. Many of these abilities are to offset her one vice; eating. She lives to eat, and often has a hard time breaking away from a clay salad sandwich.
A previous employee of the circus, Bonker was caught sleeping under the Big Top when the meteor landed. Once a friendly clown, Bonker has become as hard as clay. His other motto is to keep them laughing as he pounds them into the ground. This has turned many of his old clown tricks into dangerous attacks. What may have been hilarious to a 4 year old now brings other clay fighters to their knees.
January 26, 2006. I just recently got back into all things Super Nintendo. On that fateful Thursday night I decided to revisit the town I grew up in. It marked 10 years since I moved from my childhood home. 10 years. I wanted to swing by the old crib and also check out the Game Crazy hub inside my childhood Hollywood Video, which still stood at the time. Being less than two weeks into my SNES resurrection and having a wish list of over 200 games meant there was a good chance I was going to find at least one game to add to my ever growing collection.
Early 2006 was a good time to get back into the SNES scene. Prices had yet to explode and real life stores like Game Crazy (a chain tucked inside Hollywood Video locations) actually carried a decent selection of SNES games. So many times as a kid my dad took me to this very Hollywood Video location and I would spend hours browsing the SNES and horror section. There was nothing like admiring the art work on the front covers and reading the description on the back of the boxes. It’s a shame that kids of today will never know what that feeling is like.
That evening I bought Art of Fighting, Mortal Kombat II, Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 and got Clay Fighter for free. These games represent the crux of my SNES comeback to a tee; two games I liked playing as a kid and two I always wanted to play but never did. But now I could. Such is the beauty of the hobby. In a lot of ways, retro gaming is the closest thing to a time machine.
Clay Fighter came free because Game Crazy used to run a Buy 2 Get 1 Free promotion for retro games. Early 2006 was a glorious time to be buying SNES games. I beat the nostalgic train by several years and was able to scoop up all these old titles for bargain basement prices. Great times they were
How fitting it was to get Clay Fighter free on the day of my 10 year anniversary since I moved from my childhood home. With another bag full of old childhood favorites and curiosities, I made a beeline toward my old house. There was no way I was ending this 10 year reunion trip without seeing my old house live in the flesh.
Exiting the premises of Hollywood Video around 6:30, my hometown had been devoured by darkness. As I drove back to my old neighborhood where I grew up, I took full inventory of all the sights, sounds and smells that assaulted my senses. I remember those roads. That old street corner. The little hill where my brother, our friends and I used to play tag and flag football. The smell of the crisp cool night air. The soothing sounds of the grass and leaves swaying gently in the calm of a quiet January evening. It was a little slice of paradise.
At last I spotted my house. Memories came flooding back like a tidal wave crashing over me. It was an ordinary house, like any other house in America, in a suburban neighborhood just like any other. But it was home. My home. Or at least, it once was, anyhow. Somewhere in the depths of my heart though, it will always be to some degree. I turned off the engine and radio. I sat there for a quiet minute, admiring my house from across the street in the dead still of the night. Has it really been 10 bloody years?! Gawd DAMN.
I ended up going inside and talking with the lady who now lives there. Crazy shit. It was one of those serendipitous moments. After 10 minutes of being back in my childhood home, I slipped back in my car. I took a quick glance at my new SNES games resting on the passenger seat, turned down the windows, cranked up the radio and put the pedal to the metal. It was one of the best drives of my life.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Clay Fighter earned good to great reviews. It’s one of those weird games that got rated really high at its time of release but such glowing praises have since been rescinded over time. EGM scored it 8, 8, 7 and 7. GameFan gave it ratings of 97, 92, 90and 90%. Super Play rated it 85% (very high by their strict standards). The reviews at the time cemented in my mind even more that Clay Fighter must have been can’t miss. Sadly, if only that were the case.
They mocked Capcom with the HYPER tagline and refusal to number up this pseudo sequel. Nice!
Clay Fighter 2 however was a legitimate sequel featuring a slew of brand new characters (although sadly they did away with many of the original fighters). I like how it played off the title T2: Judgment Day. Even though C2: Judgment Clay was several years late to truly capitalize on this marketing ploy, you gotta give them credit for creativity.
Can’t believe it’s been 25 years since I was obsessed with Clay Fighter. From studying the magazine previews to asking my cousin to buy it for me, I certainly have quite the storied history with this game. There’s a ton of nostalgia but when it comes down to it, it’s all about how well a game plays. And I’m sad to say Clay Fighter does not play very well. The characters are way too big for their own good, the physics feel off and the characters have a strange weight to them. It’s kind of hard to explain but it’s one of those things that you immediately recognize the second you play it. In a nutshell, Clay Fighter tries to get by on flash and style, but underneath the fancy coats of paint, there just isn’t much substance. It’s very much a product of its time. There are so many better fighting games you can play on the SNES instead. This one is strictly for collectors and those with nostalgic memories.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unplayable. Some enjoyment can be had but it’s very lightweight and even if you approach it with the proper mindset, its novelty act grows old fast and you’re left with a mediocre fighting game, at best. Clay Fighter just doesn’t scratch my fighting game itch. Play one of the Street Fighter games or SNK brawlers instead. That said, there will always be a place in my gaming heart for Clay Fighter. It just takes me back to a place and space where a one page colorful ad with a few rinky dink screenshots could blow your mind. Where seeds of hope are harvested and then later realized, or crushed, by reality through renting, borrowing or blind buying. It was all part of the magic back then. So here’s a toast to Clay Fighter, who did more with its 15 minutes of fame than most other average games. Happy Taffy 25 years!
Street Fighter II arrived on the scene in 1991 and arcade fighting games were never the same again. It jumpstarted a revolution and inspired many other companies to develop their own fighting games, hopeful for a slice of the pie. Midway changed the gaming industry on August 2, 1992, when they released Mortal Kombat. Featuring a more “realistic” look, buckets of gore, eye-popping Fatalities and an elaborate backstory, Mortal Kombat became nothing short of a phenomenon. It’s crazy to believe it’s almost been exactly 25 years to the day that this game first came out. It was a different era back then. And whether you liked or hated Mortal Kombat, it was the kind of game that elicited a reaction. That year Midway, Capcom and SNK all battled for arcade fighting game supremacy. What a time to be alive.
Who could ever forget the infamous ad campaign for MORTAL MONDAY? That, of course, was the big day the home ports of Mortal Kombat were set to be released. It was one of the most memorable campaigns to any video game ever. September 13, 1993 was the day Mortal Kombat finally came home. It was quite the moment and an amazing time to be a robust 10 year old boy growing up in suburban America. Whether you liked the game or not there’s no denying that the hyped release was a HAPPENING. Yup, no 16-bit gamer who grew up back then will ever forget those two infamous words, Mortal Monday. Good times.
Indeed, it was a special time. SNES owners had been enjoying Street Fighter II Turbo for a month, and then Mortal Kombat joined the fray. I was 10 years old, loving the 5th grade and loving my SNES. Life was simple and life was good.
THE STORY GOES…
You’re not the only one who grew up in the ’90s wanting to do that to Acclaim at some point. Thanks for making our dreams come true, Goro. You’re a real hero.
Indeed, there were only a measly 7 combatants to select from, but one could argue Street Fighter II had only 7 itself as well (Ryu and Ken had matching movesets). At least the two palette swaps here, Sub-Zero and Scorpion, have their own unique, distinct fighting styles.
We didn’t quite understand the infamous FINISH HIM!! part when we first encountered Mortal Kombat in the arcades as kids. It was clear though that in those 3 seconds post-battle, you had the chance to do something. I’ll never forget the first time I saw somebody pull off Scorpion’s Fatality in the arcades. It was the first Fatality I witnessed and a moment in time that I will never forget. Everyone huddled around the arcade cab started screaming and basically losing their shit. We had never EVER seen anything like THAT before. It instantly put Mortal Kombat on the map. Say what you will about the game — it’s a gimmick, it’s a novelty, it’s a far cry from what constitutes as a “good” fighting game — but there’s NO denying that being a kid and seeing your very first Fatality back in 1992 was a moment you’d never forget. It’s just one of those epic defining moments in the ol’ video game memory bank. It’s right up there next to the first time you saw the two Barons of Hell bursting out of their pods from DOOM, or the rabid zombie dogs crashing through the window in the very first Resident Evil.
You find yourself on the inside but the battle has only just begun. You feel the intense burning eyes of over 20 monks tracking your every movement. In the far distance, high above, the creepy Shang Tsung looks on. I love the way the monks are all quietly bobbing away. Reminds me of all the kung fu flicks I watched as a kid growing up…
Ominous clouds linger overhead as you continue to prove your worth. The giant Buddha statue there is certainly a nice touch. If you can defeat your opponent here, the gates open to reveal the…
Only the best of the best are immortalized here with a life-sized statue. Goro’s gigantic statue eerily towers over the combatants, constantly reminding you of what terrors await at the end of the arduous road.
Lurking deep below in the pit are hundreds of razor sharp spikes. Many bodies have been mutilated when knocked over the precariously narrow platform ledge. It’s a very basic but effectively sadistic stage. One of the true Mortal Kombat classics. Gotta love it!
Under the watchful glare of Shang Tsung, you battle to the death for his twisted amusement. It’s genuinely creepy how he claps at the end of a round. The motion of the clapping is a bit erratic and just doesn’t seem right…
The skeletons adorned to the walls and glowing red eyes flickering in the dark say it all. Many heinous acts, far too horrible to speak of, have been conducted down here in this decrepit dungeon of DEATH and DESPAIR. The foul and putrid smell of decaying bones invade your senses. You would probably puke and gag if you weren’t busy trying to stay alive. Meanwhile, somewhere nearby the hideous monster Goro lurks…
THE BONUS STAGE
Can’t help but love that name. Johnny Cage is a shallow narcissist who also happens to be a grand martial arts fiend. He’s capable of taking out a small army in the matter of seconds. Why did he enter the tournament? To garner more publicity toward his brand and to prove he’s truly the best in the universe. His fashion sense could use some work but hey, it was 1992.
Through years of intense training, Johnny can muster up so much chi that he’s able to unleash a lethal green flame from the palm of his hand. His trusty Shadow Kick produces so much force that you can actually see a shadow trail.
His Fatality has been sadly neutered.
Kano is nothing but a punk. Leader of the deadly Black Dragon clan, Kano believes Shang Tsung’s palace to be made of gold. He entered the tourney in order to find out if the rumor’s true or not.
Never one to shy away from violence, Kano’s Knife Throw travels fast and cuts even harder. He’ll do anything to gain the upper hand, including putting his very own body in harm’s way. This is clearly evident by his Cannon Ball where he throws caution to the wind. Eat your heart out, Blanka. Hell, Kano would.
Infamous for his vicious “rip their heart out” Fatality, Nintendo of America of course would not allow such a thing. Wish I could tell you the pillar there is blocking the heart graphic but it was sadly censored and Kano in fact doesn’t hold a heart at all. This makes the animation of him staring into his empty hand a bit awkward.
Who didn’t get a kick out of Liu Kang back in the day? This Bruce Lee wannabe is out to restore nobility and honor to the tournament, which has been tainted by the likes of madman Shang Tsung. Liu Kang once said, “Spikes don’t hit back… wait, actually, they sort of do… hmmm.”
Dragon Fire scorches its target. His lunging Dragon Kick darts across the screen in a flash, keeping opponents on their toes.
Another horribly neutered Fatality, he does a little fancy flip into an uppercut. Really?
In my gaming crew back in the day we used to joke about how one of our friends was secretly the elusive Sushi-X from EGM fame. We also thought another one of our friends, Tommy, moonlighted as Rayden. For a couple years there in the early-mid ’90s, we tried several times to sneak a rice hat onto Tommy’s head, always to no avail. I swear the dude was the spitting image of Rayden. Ah, those were the days…
Rayden’s Lightning Bolt is sure to electrify the competition (sorry). His infamous Super Man torpedo elicited many exaggerated “AH-LA-LA-AHH-LAAA!”yelps from fans back in the early ’90s.
Teleport from one side to the other to catch the opposition off guard. Start a fancy combo if you wish or simply nail them with an uppercut that sends them sky high!
Rayden electrocutes his victim into a pile of dust. It’s a bit hard to pull off but it’s one of the better looking Fatalities in this port. Don’t mess with the Thunder God.
Ah, Scorpion. My friends and I — hell, everyone I knew growing up — always thought he was badass. But when we witnessed his Fatality for the very first time and saw that hideous skull behind the cool ninja mask, Scorpion officially became alegend among legends. This hombre is frigging awesome. Besides, he is responsible for three of gaming’s most iconic words: “GET OVER HERE!!”
Scorpion’s infamous “GET OVER HERE!!” Spear is to Mortal Kombat what the Hadoken is to Street Fighter II. It’s one of the most iconic special moves in fighting game history. Scorpion can also teleport and quickly reappear attacking on the other side.
Never before 1992 had I seen anything like this. There was a palpable buzz in that arcade hall the moment the screen went dark. Scorp takes off the mask, reveals his true horrific identity which naturally elicits a collective gasp from the crowd, *POOF* does his thing and the rest is history. It’s one of those legendary video gaming moments that you never forget.
Sonya was Miday’s answer to Capcom’s Chun-Li. You may scoff at her fashion sense but back in ’92 no one knew any better. Kind of scary, when you think about it.
Before Chun-Li’s Kikoken fireball you had Sonya Blade’s Energy Rings. Sonya also loves taking to the air as well as tossing her opponents with her mighty strong legs.
Brings a whole new meaning to “Kiss of Death.”
Sub-Zero is the man. Who doesn’t love ninjas, especially ones with ice powers? His longstanding rivalry with Scorpion is well documented.
Putting the big freeze on an opponent leaves him or her frozen for a few moments. This makes them ripe for the taking. Sub-Zero also has a sliding attack to keep his opponents honest.
While it’s not his uncensored arcade original Fatality of ripping out one’s bloody spinal cord, this more kid-friendly reimagining is not too shabby.
Indeed he is. And what a sight for sore eyes. When we first saw him, like many of the Fatalities themselves, there was a palpable visceral reaction. He looked, moved, sounded and played the part of a menacing monster like we had never seen before.
Shang Tsung is a shapeshifting bastard. The idea of a boss who could turn temporarily into any of the other fighters always appealed to me. After all, if there was a boss code that meant you could pick a character who would basically serve as an in-game Russian Roulette
Remember the Mortal Kombat song? It was actually pretty damn cool. Great beat and I loved the actual Mortal Kombat announcer saying the fighters’ names and memorable phrases like “EXCELLENT!”and “TEST YOUR MIGHT!” To honor the theme song, I compiled a montage below that walks you through the first part of the song. So if you’d indulge me for a bit, click on the YouTube song and enjoy a blast from the past as you scroll through the pictures below.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
EGM gave it scores of 7, 7, 7 and 8. GameFan gave it ratings of 75, 76, 78and 80%. Super Play scored it 81%. It was praised for its amazing visuals and sound but the severe censorship definitely was not a popular choice with the critics. Late 1993 was a great time to be a Super Nintendo owner as well as a fighting game fan. Street Fighter II Turbo and Mortal Kombat, released only a month apart of each other, battled for SNES supremacy. I always saw Turbo as the superior game but Mortal Kombat did stand as an intriguing alternative. The tap tap style was certainly unique, as well as the huge digitized characters. The debate would rage on that fall of ’93 as the two games graced magazine covers galore. It was all part of the fun of that magical era… a time period in which I still look back on with a real deep fondness even more than 20 years later.
1993 was a special time in my life. It’s a year I’ll never forget. I was 10, I had a best friend, my 5th grade teacher was the best I ever had, the school’s two cutest girls were in my class, the SNES and Genesis were waging war at their peak, and it was the age of the 2D fighting game. When I think back to that precious time of my life and the games that helped to define that era, Mortal Kombat inevitably comes to mind. Its bloody mayhem and rivalry with Street Fighter II Turbo was simply the stuff legends are made of. And so too was the hype train when these two games were set to make their shiny SNES debut. My brother bought Street Fighter II Turbo and our gaming crew bought Mortal Kombat. It was the best of both worlds as we hosted tournaments for both games whenever we got together back in those days. Good times!
The SNES port, aside from being censored, was decent for its time. The fighters were colossal and looked pretty amazing back in 1993. The sound captured the intensity of the arcade original. I’ve always enjoyed the music and sound effects of Mortal Kombat. The gameplay, however, takes a bit of a hit. I was never the biggest fan of the arcade original in terms of sheer playability. I always felt the Street Fighter games were in another class. The original Mortal Kombat, I feel, was never a fantastic game to begin with. It was the unique novelty that drew us in. While the SNES port is fairly faithful, Fatalities and blood aside, it’s a fairly faithful port of an arcade game that wasn’t all that good to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy busting out this game even to this day for the random stroll down memory lane. But the control wasn’t all that great and left the gameplay feeling a little stiff as a result. Moves don’t flow out smoothly and it takes a while to get used to. It’s a fun piece of history I suppose, and a look back at simpler times — a magical time of childhood and the awe of witnessing your first blood-laced Fatality. But as a game, it just doesn’t quite hit the mark. Now, Mortal Kombat II on the other hand…
Mortal Kombat falls a little short in my book, not just because it was censored but because the control is not as crisp as it should have been. Still, it’s something of a guilty pleasure I have to admit and a game that I still randomly pop in for the sake of nostalgia. It’s a relic from my youth that perfectly captures those lazy, hazy, crazy 1993 days.