Review: ‘Mortal Kombat II’

Kids like videogame violence. Go to any mall, cruise any video arcade, and you're likely to find the biggest crowds of youngsters grouped around games like Mortal Kombat II, taking on the identities of characters with exotic names like "Baraka" or "Liu Kang" and duking it out onscreen.

Kids like videogame violence. Go to any mall, cruise any video arcade, and you’re likely to find the biggest crowds of youngsters grouped around games like Mortal Kombat II, taking on the identities of characters with exotic names like “Baraka” or “Liu Kang” and duking it out onscreen.

Knowing this, and as the parent of an avid 11-year-old video gamer, I approached the home version of MK II with a certain degree of trepidation. After all, it was the original Mortal Kombat, with its much-touted evisceration scene at the game’s climax, that was at the heart of last year’s ruckus about violence in video games.

So with trembling thumbs I assumed the persona of “Johnny Cage” and squared off against my son, ready for a bloodbath worthy of the ominous MA17 rating emblazoned on the box (meaning it’s for mature audiences — roughly equivalent to an R film rating).

Instead of Armageddon-in-a-box, what I found was a well-designed, visually compelling example of the current state of the industry in terms of video combat games.

This isn’t to say that MK II is for little kids. Blood often spatters when players get hit, and I did witness “fatalities,” in which characters came to a brutal demise after losing their round of combat.

Seasoned players say that there are even more spectacular fatalities that occur further into the game, but apparently my son and I both lacked the skill necessary to get to the grislier parts. It would seem the idea is that only older kids will have the level of skill needed to get to the really rough stuff.

We compared the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo versions of MK II. While both versions are nominally based on the original arcade game, we found considerable differences between the two (the result of programmers’ recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of the different hardware platforms).

The Genesis version reacted to the controls more quickly but was lacking in voices and sound effects, while the Super Nintendo was more sluggish but had better background graphics and a full selection of voices and sounds.

Animation and rendering of figures is equally good on both platforms, boasting a very fluid, natural human feel that is not at all “cartoony”.

The MK II home games are actually in the vanguard of an extensive cross-promotional marketing franchise set to be unleashed in the spring and summer of 1995, including a feature film, animated video and a line of action toys.

The background story is one of those typical made-to-be-marketed yarns made up of equal parts of martial arts films, GI Joe cartoons and pulp science fiction. While it all seems pretty outlandish to adult sensibilities, the kids seem to like it.

— Michael Fisher

Mortal Kombat II

Production

Acclaim Entertainment; $ 34.95-$ 74.95; Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Game Gear.
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