Mortal Kombat II
|Mortal Kombat II|
An arcade flyer for the game, featuring its newcomer characters Kung Lao, Mileena and Baraka, and its redesigned version of Shang Tsung
|Arcade system||Midway T Unit|
|Display||Raster, horizontal orientation, 400×254|
Mortal Kombat II (commonly abbreviated as MKII) is a competitive fighting game originally produced by Midway Games for the arcades in 1993 and then ported to multiple home systems, including the PC, Amiga, Game Boy, Game Gear, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, SNES and the various PlayStation consoles.
Mortal Kombat II was the second game in the Mortal Kombat series, improving the gameplay and expanding the mythos of the 1992's original Mortal Kombat, notably introducing multiple and varied Fatalities and several iconic characters, such as Kitana, Kung Lao, Mileena and the series' recurring villain, Shao Kahn. The game's plot continues on from the first part, featuring the next Mortal Kombat tournament being set in the otherdimensional realm of Outworld, with the Outworld and Earthrealm representatives fighting each other on the way to the evil emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn.
The game was an unprecedented commercial success and was acclaimed by most critics, receiving many annual awards and having been featured in various top lists in the years to come, but also sparking a new major video game controversy due to the continously over-the-top violent content of the series. Its legacy include a spin-off game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and having the greatest influence on the 2011 reboot game Mortal Kombat, as well as inspiring numerous video game clones.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Plot
- 3 Characters
- 4 Development
- 5 Release
- 6 Reception
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The gameplay system of Mortal Kombat II is an improved version of that from the original Mortal Kombat. There are several changes in standard moves: a crouching punch and turnaround kick were added, low and high kicks became differentiated (be it crouching or standing up), the roundhouse kick was made more powerful (knocking an opponent across the screen, similarity to the game's uppercut), and it is easier to perform a combo due to reduced recovery times for attacks. Returning characters also gained new special moves, including some in-air, and the game plays almost twice as fast as the original. However, all characters in the game still share generic attributes (such as speed, power and jump height) and all normal moves are also the same between each character.
As with its predecessor, matches are divided into rounds, and the first player to win two rounds by fully depleting their opponent's life bar is the winner; at this point the losing character will become dazed and the winner is given the opportunity of using a finishing move. Mortal Kombat II drops the "test your might" bonus games and point system from the first game, in favor of a consecutive win tally where wins are represented by icons.
The game marked introduction of multiple Fatalities (post-match animations of the victorious characters executing their defeated foes) as well as additional, non-lethal finishing moves to the franchise: Babalities (turning the opponent into a crying baby), Friendships (a non-malicious interaction, such as dancing or giving a gift to the defeated opponent) and additional stage-specific Fatalities (the winner uppercutting his or her opponent into an abyss below, spikes in the ceiling, or a pool of acid in the background). Finishing moves, however, can not be performed against the defeated bosses and secret characters who do not have finishing moves.[note 1]
Following his failure to defeat Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat tournament, the evil Shang Tsung begs his master Shao Kahn, supreme ruler of Outworld and the surrounding kingdoms, to spare his life. He tells Shao Kahn that the invitation for the next Mortal Kombat cannot be turned down, and if they hold it in Outworld, the Earthrealm warriors must attend. Kahn agrees to this plan and also restores Shang Tsung's youth. He then extends the invitation to the thunder god and Earthrealm's protector, Raiden, who gathers his warriors and takes them into Outworld. The new tournament is much more dangerous, as Shao Kahn has the home field advantage, and an Outworld victory will allow him to subdue Earthrealm.
According to the Mortal Kombat series' canon, Liu Kang won this tournament as well, defeating Shao Kahn and his bodyguard Kintaro. The game's story mode can be also finished using any other playable character, resulting in the different non-canonical endings for each of them.
- Baraka (played by Richard Divizio) – Outworld's Tarkatan race nomad warlord, responsible for the assault on the Shaolin Monastery on the orders of Shao Kahn.
- Jax Briggs (played by John Parrish) – U.S. Special Forces officer who enters the tournament to rescue his partner Sonya Blade from Outworld.[note 2]
- Kitana (played by Katalin Zamiar) – A female ninja who is a personal assassin in the service of Shao Kahn. She has been suspected of secretly aiding the Earthrealm warriors.[note 3]
- Kung Lao (played by Anthony Marquez) – Shaolin monk and close friend of Liu Kang, descendant of the Great Kung Lao (who was defeated by Goro and Shang Tsung 500 years before the events of MK). He seeks to avenge his ancestor and the destruction of the Shaolin temple.
- Mileena (played by Katalin Zamiar) – Twin sister to Kitana and also serving as an assassin for Kahn. Her mission during the tournament is to ensure the loyalty of her sister but she also has plans of her own.[note 4]
- Johnny Cage (played by Daniel Pesina) – Hollywood actor who joins Liu Kang in his journey to Outworld.
- Liu Kang (played by Ho Sung Pak) – Shaolin monk who is the reigning champion of Mortal Kombat. He travels to Outworld to seek vengeance for the death of his Shaolin monastery brothers.
- Raiden (played by Carlos Pesina) – Thunder god who returns to Mortal Kombat to stop Kahn's evil plans of taking the Earthrealm for his own.
- Reptile (played by Daniel Pesina) – Shang Tsung's personal bodyguard.[note 5]
- Scorpion (played by Daniel Pesina) – Hellspawned spectre who returns to the tournament to once again assassinate Sub-Zero.
- Shang Tsung (played by Philip Ahn M.D.) – The evil sorcerer who convinced Kahn to spare his life after losing the last tournament, with a new evil plan to appease his master, who in turn restores Tsung's youth. He also serves as a sub-boss of the game, appearing before Kintaro in the single player mode. As in the first game he is able to morph into any of the playable characters, retaining their moves (in some versions only the character against whom he is currently fighting).
- Sub-Zero (played by Daniel Pesina) – A male ninja with the power of ice. Despite having been apparently killed, Sub-Zero mysteriously returns, traveling into the Outworld to again attempt to assassinate Shang Tsung.[note 6]
- Shao Kahn (played by Brian Glynn, voiced by Steve Ritchie) – The evil Emperor of Outworld, who wishes to conquer Earthrealm by any means. The host of the tournament and the game's new final boss.
- Kintaro (stop-motion) – Kahn's bodyguard, sent by his race to avenge Goro's defeat. He is the game's penultimate boss.
The game's hidden opponents are Jade (played by Katalin Zamiar), a green-clothed female ninja;[note 7] Noob Saibot (played by Daniel Pesina), a dark-silhouetted ninja who is a "lost warrior" from the first MK game;[note 8] and Smoke (played by Daniel Pesina), a gray-clothed male ninja.[note 9] Sonya and Kano are the only playable characters from the first Mortal Kombat to not return as regular fighters, though they do appear in the background of the Kahn's Arena stage, chained and on display.
According to the project's lead programmer Ed Boon, Mortal Kombat II was "intended to look different than the original MK" and "had everything we wanted to put into MK but did not have time for." In 2012, Boon placed creating the game among his best Mortal Kombat memories, recalling: "When we did Mortal Kombat II, we got new equipment and all that stuff, but it was funny because when we started working on Mortal Kombat II, the mania, the hysteria of the home versions of Mortal Kombat I was literally all around us. We were so busy working on the next one, going from seven characters to 12 and two Fatalities per character and all these other things that that consumed every second." Both the theme and art style of MKII became slightly darker, although with a more vibrant color palette employed and a much richer color depth than in the previous game. A new feature was use of multiple layers of parallax scrolling in the arcade version. The game became less serious with the addition of humorous alternative finishing moves.
To create the character animations for the game, actors were placed in front of a gray background and performed the motions, which were recorded videotape (initially on a standard Hi8 camera, later upgraded to a broadcast-quality, $20,000 Sony camera), which had been upgraded since the development of the first title from standard to broadcast quality. The video capture footage was then processed into a computer, and the background was removed from selected frames to create sprites. Towards the end of the game's development, they opted to instead use a blue screen technique and processed the footage directly into the computer for a similar, simpler process. The actors were sprayed lightly with water to give them a sweaty, glistening appearance, while post-editing was done on the sprites afterward to highlight flesh tones and improve the visibility of muscles, which John Tobias felt set the series apart from similar games using digitized graphics. Animations of Shang Tsung morphing into other characters were created by Midway's John Vogel using a computer, while hand-drawn animations were put into effect for other parts of the game, such as the Fatalities. For animating Kintaro, a clay scupulture was created by Tobias' friend Curt Chiarelli and then turned into a 12-inch latex miniature that was used for stop motion filming. Because of technical restrictions, the actors' costumes had to be simple and no acrobatic moves such as back-flips could have been recorded; the hardest moves to perform were some of the jumping kicks.
Several characters (namely Jade, Kitana, Mileena, Noob Saibot, Reptile, Scorpion, Smoke and Sub-Zero) were created using the palette swap technique from just two base models. Due to memory limitations and the development team's desire to introduce more new characters, two fighters from the original Mortal Kombat, Sonya Blade and Kano, whom Boon cited as the least-picked characters in the game, were excluded, substituted by two palette swaps, Mileena and Reptile. In place of Sonya, two new playable female characters of Kitana and Mileena were introduced so the game might better compete against Street Fighter II and its Chun-Li. Another planned female fighter, based on the real-life kickboxer Kathy Long whom Tobias admired, was dropped due to time constraints. A bonus character played by Kyu Hwang was also cut from the game.
Care was taken during the programming process to give the game a "good feel", with Boon simulating elements such as gravity into the game design. Tobias noted that the previous game's reliance on juggling the opponent in the air with successive hits was an accident, and had been tightened in Mortal Kombat II. Boon said that the reason to not completely remove it in favor of a different system of chaining attacks together was to set the game apart from titles such as Street Fighter and allow for players to devise their own combinations of attacks. At one point, a bonus stage was planned to feature "a bunch of ninjas jumping all over the place and you would swing at them, just like you're in the middle of a fight in a kung fu movie." All of the music was composed, performed, recorded and mixed by Dan Forden, the MK series' sound designer and composer using the Williams' DCS sound system.
The first version of MKII, revision 1.4 released in September 1993, "was effectively a public beta test," featuring few Fatalities and many software bugs; it did not even have the endings for the characters. It took three subsequent revision to have the moves and finishing moves finalized and all the bugs taken care of, also adding additional content, as the development had continued all that time. The final version was the revision 2.1, released in January 1994.
Marketing and merchandise
In conjunction with the release of the arcade game in 1993, an official comic book Mortal Kombat II Collector's Edition, written and illustrated by Tobias, was released through mail order, describing the backstory of the game in a greater detail. Acclaim Entertainment stated that it "had started Mortal Kombat II with a $10 million global marketing campaign" for the home versions. A part of this sum was used to film and air the live-action TV commercial created by David Anderson and Bob Keen. The video featured Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Reptile (with a notably more reptilian appearance), Kitana, Baraka and Shao Kahn, who were played by the same actors as in the game. The marketing campaign's tagline was "Nothing... Nothing can prepare you." In 2008, Eurogamer called Mortal Kombat II "a marketing triumph."
Malibu Comics published a series of Mortal Kombat comic books featuring the characters from both MKII and the original game. Mortal Kombat II: Music from the Arcade Game Soundtrack, a 38:44 minute long album featuring music from Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat, composed by Dan Forden, could originally only be purchased by ordering it through a limited CD offer, which was posted on the arcade version of the game's attract mode. Other merchandise for the game included a series of collectible stickers by Panini Group and two different series of action figures (released in Argentina in 1995 and in the USA in 1999, respectively). Mortal Kombat Kard Game was marketed as "Mortal Kombat II trading cards".
Since 1994, multiple official port and emulated versions of Mortal Kombat II were released for a wide variety of home systems, including the 8-bit (Game Boy, Master System and Sega Game Gear), 16-bit (SNES and Sega Genesis) and 32-bit (Sega 32X, PlayStation and Sega Saturn) consoles, Amiga and PC DOS computers, and the PlayStation Network (PSN). The game was also featured in several compilation releases, including as part of Midway Arcade Treasures 2 for the PlayStation 2, Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play for the PlayStation Portable, and Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection for the PSN, Xbox Live Arcade and Steam.
Mortal Kombat II proved to be an enormous commercial success and even a cultural phenomenon. WMS Industries' (owner of Midway Games at the time) 1993 sales in the quarter ended December 31 rose to $101 million from $86 million and the company said much of its revenue gain was related to the sale of the arcade version of MKII. By 1996, the number of the arcade game machines sold approached 25,000 units; at that time, arcade games that sold 5,000 units were considered strong titles and an arcade cabinet cost $3,000–4,000. MKII was considered an arcade game of the year, taking over from the original Mortal Kombat.
On the day of the release of the game's first four versions for cartridge-based console systems (Sega's Genesis and Game Gear and Nintendo's SNES and Game Boy), dubbed "Mortal Friday" (September 9, 1994), an unprecedented number of more than 2.5 million copies were shipped to be distributed, with the best opening-week sales in video game history at this point. Acclaim's analysts expected that the number of copies sold would reach at least 2.5 million within the first few weeks of release (at an average retail price of $60) and the sales to top $150 million by end of the year. First-week sales of over $50 million managed to surpass the initial box office results of that season's Hollywood film blockbusters, such as Forrest Gump, True Lies, The Mask and The Lion King. Mortal Kombat II became the world's best-selling video game (until it was eclipsed by Donkey Kong Country, released in November 1994) and just the Genesis version managed to sell 1.78 million copies in the United States alone, along with additional 1.51 million American copies of the game for the SNES. By 2002, estimated gross sales of Mortal Kombat II home video games exceeded $400 million.
The initial critical reception of Mortal Kombat II has been overwhelmingly very positive, with Sega Visions describing the way in which the sequel was directed as "sheer brilliance" and Nintendo Power calling it "the hottest fighter ever". Regarding the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version, Mark Patterson of Computer + Video Games (C+VG) wrote, "Probe has done an incredible job with this conversion. Everything is here, and I mean everything," while Sushi-X of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) called it "a great translation considering its limitations," although a reviewer for The Detroit News felt "very disappointed" with this port and recommended the SNES version instead. About the 32X version, IGN's Levi Buchanan stated that "if you do not have a SNES, this is the home version of MKII to get." A reviewer for The Baltimore Sun called the SNES version "the best game I've ever played - a true translation," while Patterson noted it was the bloodiest game Nintendo has yet allowed to be released.
Regarding the portable console ports, Patterson stated that "no Game Boy owner should go without this" and called the Game Gear version "still the best handheld beat-'em up" on the market despite all the cuts to this version of the game. Critical reception of the Amiga version was also mostly very favorable (however, in a rare dissenting opinion, Jonathan Nash of Amiga Power called it "a clearly nonsensical title", advising to "buy Shadow Fighter instead"), as was this of the PC version, with Next Generation stating that "if you like fighting games, this is the best that's available." Sega Saturn Magazine was extremely disappointed with the final version of the CD-ROM based Saturn port, calling it "much worse than any of the versions seen on the cartridge format," as opposed to the very different and vastly superior but mysteriously unreleased previous Saturn port they had reviewed five months earlier.
Mortal Kombat II received numerous annual awards from gaming publications. Game Players gave it the titles of "Best Genesis Fighting Game", "Best SNES Fighting Game" and "Best Overall SNES Game" of 1994. The staff of Nintendo Power ranked MKII as the second (SNES) and fifth (Game Boy) "Top Game" of 1994, while the magazine's readers voted it to receive the 1995's Nintendo Power Awards for "Best Tournament Fighter (all Nintendo platforms)" and "Best Play Control (Game Boy)", with the game having been nominated by the staff also in the categories "Worst Villain" (positively, an equivalent of "Best Hero") and "Best Overall (all Nintendo platforms)". VideoGames & Computer Entertainment named MKII as the "Best Fighting Game" of 1994, also awarding it second place in the categories "Best Super NES Game" and "Best Arcade-to-Home Translation". Other awards included "The Best of the Show (Super NES)" for the SCES '94 from GamePro and "Bloodiest Game of 1994" from EGM.
As in the case of the first Mortal Kombat game, the absurdly bloody content of Mortal Kombat II became the subject of a great deal of controversy regarding violent video games. According to IGN, "Mortal Kombat II wore its notoriety as a badge of honor, boasting about it in promotional materials, and even parodying it in-game." The game was banned in Germany, MKII was put in the index of the works allegedly harmful to young people by Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM) and all versions of the game except this for the Game Boy were subjected to being confiscated from the nation's market for violating the German Penal Code by showing excessive violence and cruel acts against representions of human beings. Due to regional censorship, the game was also released with green-colored blood and black-and-white Fatalitiy sequences in Japan; it was at that time an unique occurrence of a western game being censored in Japan, not the other way round. In 2012, Boon recalled: "I've always had the position that the rating system was a good idea and should be put in place. Once Mortal Kombat II came out, there was a rating system in place. We were an M-rated game, and everybody knew the content that was in there, so it became almost a non-issue." Tobias agreed, saying that they "were content with the M for mature on our packaging."
There were also some other controversies. In 1994, Guy Aoki, president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), criticized the game for allegedly perpetuating existing stereotypes of Asians as martial arts experts with the game's portrayal of several of its characters. Allyne Mills, publicist at Acclaim, responded to this by stating: "This is a fantasy game, with all different characters. This is a martial arts game which comes from Asia. [sic] The game was not created to foster stereotypes." In 1996-1997, members of Mortal Kombat II cast (Daniel Pesina, Philip Ahn and Katalin Zamiar, as well as Sonya's actress Elizabeth Malecki), seeking additional royalties for the game's home ports, sued Midway, Williams, Nintendo of America, Sega of America and Acclaim Entertainment for misuse of their likenesses in an unauthorized way in two different cases, losing both of them. After that, Pesina (who sought $10 million for his role in both games, after being paid only several thousand) agreed to participate in the BloodStorm advertisement photo shoot attacking Mortal Kombat. He recalled: "I don't think [the ad] actually upset people at Midway. I think it more upset some of the hardcore Mortal Kombat fans."
According to IGN, 1994 "was the year of games like Doom and Mortal Kombat II". Over the following years, multiple publications acclaimed Mortal Kombat II as one the best video games ever. It was ranked as the 97th top game of all time by the staff of Game Informer in 2001, as the 38th most important video game of all time by the staff of GamePro in 2007, and as the 32nd best video game of all time by The Boston Phoenix in 2010. Featuring it in their 2003 video game hall of fame series, the staff of GameSpot wrote: "Mortal Kombat II was so much better, as a sequel, than it had to be that it absolutely deserves a place in the pantheon of all-time classics."
Many publications also listed Mortal Kombat II among the best video games of its genre or era. It was ranked as the third best fighting game by the staff of GamePro and the ninth best fighting game of all time by Rich Knight of Cinema Blend in 2008, as the third top fighting game of all time by Marissa Meli of UGO and the second best 2D fighting game ever made by Robert Workman of GamePlayBook in 2010, and as the third best fighting game of all time by Peter Rubin of Complex in 2011. It was also ranked as the 53rd best game on any Nintendo platform by the staff of Nintendo Power in 1997, featured among the 100 best games of the 20th century by Jakub Kralka of Benchmark in 2009, and ranked as the tenth best 16-bit game ever by McKinley Noble of PC World that same year.
Platform-specific, Mortal Kombat II was included among the ten best arcade games by Wirtualna Polska, and ranked as the fifth top arcade game by the staff of GameTrailers in 2009, as the 31st top arcade game of all time by the staff of GameSpy in 2011, and as the sixth best arcade game of the 1990s by Complex in 2013. Regarding the 16-bit console versions, MKII was ranked as the fourth best ever Genesis game by Complex and as the 19th best Genesis game by GamesRadar, as well as as the 12th best ever SNES game by Complex and as the 25th top game for the SNES by IGN; in 1995, SNES magazine Super Play also ranked it as the best sequel on the platform. In Poland, where the Amiga was the most popular gaming platform of the early 1990s, MKII was ranked as the ninth best ever Amiga games by Michał Wierzbicki of CHIP and as 22nd best Amiga game by PSX Extreme editor-in-chief Przemysław Ścierski.
GamesRadar called it "the point when the series became great." In 2007, GamesRadar included four elements of this game - Dan Forden's "Toasty!" effect during an uppercut (also ranked as the 11th funniest moment in video games by Rich Knight of Complex in 2012), Friendship and Babality finishing moves, and the ceiling-spikes Stage Fatality - among ten greatest things about Mortal Kombat. Reviewing the PlayStation 3 release in 2007, IGN's Jeff Haynes stated that "Mortal Kombat II still manages to stand up almost 15 years later as one of the best arcade fighters around." As late as 2009, many fans still considered MKII to be the best title in the series. According to a 2011 article by Mike Harradence of PlayStation Universe, "bigger, bolder and bloodier," the game remains "a firm fan favourite among MK aficionados." That same year, IGN's Richard George wrote that "Mortal Kombat II is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the series" and called it "still one of the most fun 16-bit fighters to play." In 2013, Rich Knight and Hanuman Welch of Complex wrote, Mortal Kombat II took everything we loved about the original and magnified it by about a million. (...) We still love this game."
While many games have been subject to urban legends about secret features and unlockable content, these kinds of myths were particularly rampant among the dedicated fan community of Mortal Kombat in connection with Mortal Kombat II. According to GameSpy, "the [arcade gamer] community was abuzz about myriad secrets both true and false." The game's creators did little to dispel the rumors, which included Nudality (or Sexuality) finishing moves for Kitana and Mileena, which would supposedly have undressed either fighter, an ability for Shang Tsung to transform into Kano and Goro and "Hornbuckle" being featured as additional secret characters.
Some of them were even eventually implemented in subsequent MK games. Among these later-adapted rumors were the Animalities (used in Mortal Kombat 3 and its updates) and an ability to throw an opponent into a mouth of a living tree in the Living Forest stage (first used in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks). Rumored characters included a red female ninja character (actually just a glitch that simply turned Kitana's outfit from blue to red), who was dubbed "Scarlet" by fans and was officially introduced as Skarlet in the 2011's Mortal Kombat, the red male ninja glitch "Ermac" that became a character in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and an initially unnamed man-on-fire figure from the background of the Pit II stage that was dubbed as "Blaze" by fans and officially introduced as a secret character in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, before becoming the final boss of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.
The plot and characters of Mortal Kombat II were partially included in the 1995 film Mortal Kombat and served as basis for the 2005 beat'em up spin-off game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. The events of MKII, along with the first Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 3 (including its expansions), were later retold in the 2011 fighting game Mortal Kombat, where Raiden uses a time travel to revisit the tournaments from the original games in the series in order to change the future in the aftermath of Armageddon. The ladder/arcade mode of this reboot game follows the same order of bosses as in Mortal Kombat II (with Shang Tsung, Kintaro and Shao Kahn as the final three opponents) and its controls and Fatality system are most reminiscent of MKII.
- The arcade version also contains a hidden game of Pong.
- Jax was originally going to be named Stryker, a name that would later be used for another character in the next sequel.
- She indeed does, after she learns the truth that Kahn adopted her after conquering her realm and killing her parents.
- It is later revealed that she is really a clone of Kitana with Tarkatan traits.
- Previously a palette swap of Sub-Zero with Scorpion and Sub-Zero's moves, Reptile has been made into a distinct character and given his own moves.
- Later revealed to be the younger brother of the original Sub-Zero.
- Jade is a green palette swap of Kitana who is invulnerable to projectiles. Subsequent MK titles would establish her as a close friend and partner of Kitana.
- Noob Saibot's name stems from the names of MK creators Boon and Tobias spelled backwards. Subsequent games reveal that he was the original Sub-Zero who was turned into an evil wraith after being killed by Scorpion.
- Smoke is a gray palette swap of Sub-Zero (though he uses Scorpion's fighting stance) who emits puffs of smoke from his body and also moves faster than normal characters. Subsequent games reveal that he is a fellow ninja from Sub-Zero's clan.
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