In the 1990s, the arcades were still popular with teens like me, especially during the Street Fighter II vs. Mortal Kombat heydays. Mortal Kombat entered the arcade scene in 1992, and it easily lured arcade players away from other fighting games. A game that could pull people away from the popular Street Fighter II was unheard of. Sometimes people had to unfortunately wait for their turn to play; on occasions I’d even take a peek by looking over someone’s shoulder to see all the action on the screen. Friends and the rest of the people I knew favored Mortal Kombat, but I didn’t. I played the game a few times with my brothers and friends but never on a consistent basis when I was at my local arcade, The Skill Mill.
I was mildly interested in Mortal Kombat and never became a fan. But I was impressed with Mortal Kombat’s graphics, using real life actors to portray the characters. The fighters looked, moved, and talked just like people in real life. Midway’s decision to add buckets of blood and finishing moves to the gameplay was over the top, but very original — giving the player the power to pull out someone’s heart or spine was something I had never seen in a video game. But I guess the violence was one of the main reasons why it became so popular for kids and young adults at the arcades. Mortal Kombat did take an original approach to the fighting genre, going in the opposite direction of Street Fighter in several ways: the controls were simple to perform and the realistic graphics complemented the blood and gore.
One day during junior high school, me and a few guys had a conversation about Mortal Kombat; one of them heaped piles of praise on the game’s combination of violence and realism, his main reasons why it was the superior fighting game to Street Fighter II. I remember he used the word "cartoons" in a derogatory sense for the Capcom characters. I didn’t think about it then, but the success of a violent realistic looking game like Mortal Kombat was a sign that the future of video games today would feature violence and graphics imitating reality.
When Mortal Kombat would finally come to the home consoles, it gained a lot of buzz in my hometown and probably the rest of America too. The nostalgia for me about the game were these appealing ad campaigns in television and comic books. I collected comic books back then, like the X-Men and the Amazing Spiderman, and there were Mortal Kombat ads on the back cover of several comics I read. I saw plenty of these ads, enough to make me think Mortal Kombat’s upcoming release on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis was a bigger deal than I may have realized.
I especially recall one particular ad: it had large bold slogans like "Prepare Yourself" and "Mortal Monday" on a full-size image of a crowd of young people raising their hands in unison, some pumping their fists in the air, all of them joined together as one eagerly anticipating something important. For a young guy like myself, this ad worked. I wanted to be one of those in the crowd because I didn’t want to miss out, so I felt I had to get Mortal Kombat. I thought that maybe I had underestimated how good this game was, especially when the ad gave me the impression the whole world couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.
When I finally played the game on the Super Nintendo, I was shocked that it did not have blood. That was the only thing I was concerned about. Without the blood, the gore, it just was not Mortal Kombat. I quickly abandoned it after casually playing around with it a couple of times.
The 90s had plenty of nostalgia for me, one being my days at the arcades playing Street Fighter II and seeing lots of people hanging out at the Mortal Kombat machine. I enjoy the game on a very mild level, but if I ever have to comment on anything Mortal Kombat, I’d go back to my experiences during the 1990s, when I was part of the historic "Mortal Mania" days. I was surprised and disappointed by how much people liked the game, but I have to hand it to the marketing team for their successfully aggressive campaign. I just didn’t see this kind of marketing for any other video game back in the day.