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Have You Played... Mortal Kombat?

Get over here

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I've been playing Injustice 2 recently (sadly, not on PC) and even though it's probably quite rubbish if you're a proper fighting game fan, the kind who could have been a concert pianist given your digital dexterity, but if you just want to watch superheroes biff one another, it's top stuff. Mostly, it's the loot system that makes it so compelling. It's all silly boxes that spew out random bits of costume and stats, but that's enough to keep me coming back again and again.

The studio behind Injustice 2 is led by Ed Boon, creator of Mortal Kombat, and all of this punching and kicking has got me thinking about how much I loved Scorpion back in the day.

I'd played Street Fighter II. Of course I had. It was impossible to avoid if you spent time in arcades, as I did, and if you had friends who owned consoles. All of my efforts to learn the ropes met with disaster, though I could eke out an occasional win as Blanka. But as my friends either drifted away from the game or got so good they weren't fun to play against anymore, I forgot about fighting games for a while. Then Mortal Kombat came along and I was teenage enough that ripping someone's spine out at the end of a fight seemed so ridiculously cool that I didn't even question whether I actually wanted to learn all of the special moves.

And I hated the heaviness of the controls and the size of the characters on the screen and the fact that I had to buy a magazine to find out how to do the finishing moves and the fact that I still couldn't pull them off when I had the instructions right there on a page in front of me. Imagine going to so much effort to see an animation a few seconds long. Weird. The whole appeal of Mortal Kombat was weird. The fatalities weren't even that gruesome really. On paper, sure, but they blood was big dollops of ketchup and it was all so hokey and silly.

For a while back there it did feel illicit though, in a way that appealed so much to my rebellious side. A few of us spent an entire weekend trying to figure out if we could turn on the blood in the SNES version (it had been replaced with globules of what I assume was supposed to be sweat) after hearing a rumour at school that it was possible using some excessively long button combination during the boot-up sequence.

I still don't particularly like fighting games so I haven't kept up with Mortal Kombat since the third, when I still actually paid attention to the vast, daft, multi-realm mythology. The truth is, Injustice 2 is just as daft and is also preposterously violent. In some ways my tastes haven't changed all that much, I just take some of the more excessive aspects of those tastes much less seriously.

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Mortal Kombat (1992)

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About the Author

Adam Smith

Former Deputy Editor

Adam wrote for Rock Paper Shotgun between 2011-2018, rising through the ranks to become its Deputy Editor. He now works at Larian Studios on Baldur's Gate 3.