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. It was later ported to multiple home systems, including the PC, Amiga, Game Boy, Sega Game Gear, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and various PlayStation consoles.
Mortal Kombat II was the second game in the Mortal Kombat series, improving the gameplay and expanding the mythos of the original Mortal Kombat, notably introducing more varied Fatality finishing moves and several iconic characters, such as Kitana, Kung Lao, Mileena and the series' recurring villain Shao Kahn. The game's plot continues from the first game, featuring the next Mortal Kombat tournament set in the otherdimensional realm of Outworld, with the Outworld and Earthrealm representatives fighting each other on their way to the evil emperor 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 and decades to come, but also perpetuating a major video game controversy due to the continuously over-the-top violent content of the series. Its legacy includes spawning 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.
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 had greater differentiation (be they crouching or standing up), the roundhouse kick was made more powerful (knocking an opponent across the screen, like 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 to be used in mid-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 lacks 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 the 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, cannot 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 if they hold it in Outworld the invitation for the next Mortal Kombat cannot be turned down, and 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 different non-canonical endings for each of them.
- Ho Sung Pak as Liu Kang, Blazec, Hornbucklec
- Anthony Marquez as Kung Lao
- Daniel Pesina as Johnny Cage, Reptile, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Smokec, Noob Saibotc, Ermacc
- Phillip Ahn as Shang Tsung
- Katalin Zamiar as Kitana, Mileena, Jadec, Skarletc
- John Parrish as Jackson "Jax" Briggs
- Richard Divizio as Baraka, Kanob
- Carlos Pesina as Raiden
- Brian Glynn as Shao Kahna (voiced by Steve Ritchie)
- Elizabeth Malecki as Sonya Bladeb
- Kintaroa (stop-motion)
- Gorob (stop-motion)
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 were slightly darker than those of its predecessor, although a more vibrant color palette was employed and the new game had a much richer color depth than the previous game. A new feature was the use of multiple layers of parallax scrolling in the arcade version. The game was made to be 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 on 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 lightly sprayed 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 used 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 first game's palette swap technique on 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, Kitana and Mileena, were introduced so the game might better compete against Street Fighter II, which featured Chun-Li. Another planned female fighter, based on the real-life kickboxer Kathy Long whom Tobias admired, was omitted 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 video 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, "was effectively a public beta test," featuring few Fatalities and many software bugs; it also lacked the endings for the characters. It took three subsequent revisions to have the moves and finishing moves finalized and all the bugs corrected, also adding additional content, as development had still been in progress for all that time. The final version was revision 3.1, 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 game's promotional 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, an 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 ports 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 (Super Nintendo Entertainment System (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 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. A Nintendo DS compilation release was cancelled.
Mortal Kombat II proved to be an enormous commercial success and even a cultural phenomenon. WMS Industries, owner of Midway Games at the time, reported its 1993 sales in the quarter ending December 31 rose to $101 million from $86 million and said much of its revenue gain was related to the sale of the arcade version of MKII. By 1996, the number of arcade machines sold approached 25,000 units; at that time, arcade games that sold 5,000 units were considered strong titles (Midway printed special T-shirts to celebrate 300 machines being manufactured in one day) 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 that 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 the Genesis version managed to sell 1.78 million copies in the United States alone, along with an 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. Re-released in 2007, the PSN version has continued to occupy the service's top ten monthly sales chart nearly three years later in February 2010.
The initial critical reception of Mortal Kombat II was overwhelmingly 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". Tony Brusgul of The Daily Gazette opined the "incredible" hype surrounding the game was "well deserved," describing it as "a perfect blend of great graphics, action and violence".
Regarding the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version, Mark Patterson of Computer + Video Games (C+VG) wrote that "Probe has done an incredible job with this conversion. Everything is here, and I mean everything." 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. 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. 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."
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 content that was not present in this version of the game. Critical reception of the Amiga version was also mostly very favorable, but in a rare dissenting opinion, Jonathan Nash of Amiga Power called it "a clearly nonsensical title", recommending that players "buy Shadow Fighter instead". The PC version was also well-received, with Next Generation stating that "if you like fighting games, this is the best that's available." Reviewing the CD-ROM based Saturn port, Electronic Gaming Monthly commented that the graphics are identical to the arcade version but that there are missing sound effects and "unbearable" slowdown when first performing a special move. They rated it the best home version of the game to date, but felt that with Mortal Kombat II having considerably aged by this point, any port needed to be near arcade perfect to stand out. Sega Saturn Magazine was extremely disappointed with the final version of the Saturn port, calling it "much worse than any of the versions seen on the cartridge format," as opposed to the vastly superior pre-release version 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 content of Mortal Kombat II became the subject of a great deal of controversy regarding violent video games. Nancian Cherry of Toledo Blade wrote that both games had "an army of critics too: people upset by the bone-crunching, blood-spurting, limb-ripping violence depicted on the small screen." 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, where MKII was put in the index by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM) and all versions of the game except for the Game Boy version were subjected to being confiscated from the nation's market for violating the German Penal Code by showing excessive violence and cruel acts against representations of human beings. Due to regional censorship, the game was also released with green-colored blood and black-and-white fatality sequences in Japan; it was at that time an unique occurrence of a western game being censored in Japan, not the reverse. Years later, 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." Critical studies professor Marsha Kinder accused the game of allowing the player to have "a misogynist aspect of combat." Kinder alleged: "In MKII, some of the most violent possibilities are against women. Also, their fatality moves are highly eroticised." 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 in 1996–1997, losing both of them. After that, Pesina (who sought $10 million for his role in both games, after being paid several thousand) agreed to participate in the BloodStorm advertisement photo shoot attacking Mortal Kombat. He later 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's Leif Johnson, 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.
The game also received accolades for its various conversions. 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 Rich Knight of Complex and as the 25th top game for the SNES by Richard George of 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 game 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 the 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, the "bigger, bolder and bloodier" game remains "a firm fan favourite among MK aficionados." That 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 that "Mortal Kombat II took everything we loved about the original and magnified it by about a million. (...) We still love this game." That same year, Knight and Gus Turner from the same magazine also ranked it as the sixth best 2D fighting game of all time, stating: "Truth be told, the latest MK has nothing on this one. Nothing. A step up from the original in every way, MK II was, and still is, a solid, violent game that's an essential title to grab for any serious fan of fighting games." In 2014, Kevin Wong of Complex wrote: "Today, we remember Mortal Kombat II for its anarchic spirit—the game was endlessly intriguing and weird, and it had an uneasy atmosphere—anything could happen at any given moment. Critics derided Mortal Kombat as meaningless shock value, but its sequel proved those naysayers wrong. Mortal Kombat II was a Flawless Victory—irreverent, hilarious, and horrific in equal measures."
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 gaming] community was abuzz about myriad secrets both true and false." The game's creators did little to dispel those rumors that included supposed "Nudality" or "Sexuality" finishing moves for Kitana and Mileena, Shang Tsung's ability to transform into Kano and Goro, and "Hornbuckle" being featured as an additional secret character.
Some of them were eventually implemented in subsequent MK games. Among these rumors to be adapted later were the Animalities (used in Mortal Kombat 3 and its updates) and an ability to throw an opponent into the mouth of a 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 reportedly turned Kitana's outfit from blue to red), who was dubbed "Scarlet" by fans and was officially introduced as Skarlet in 2011's Mortal Kombat, and the male ninja Ermac that has originated as a glitch in the original game and was teased in MKII before finally becoming playable in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. A nameless, flaming palette swap of Liu Kang seen far deep in the background of the Pit II stage, initially dubbed as "Torch" by fans, officially debuted in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance as a secret character Blaze that later became the final boss of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.
Some elements of Mortal Kombat II (such as the characters of Kitana and Reptile) are featured in the 1995 film Mortal Kombat. It was, nevertheless, mostly based on the first game.
The plot and characters of the game served as basis for the 2005 spin-off game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, a beat'em up title which follows Liu Kang and Kung Lao as they fight their way through Outworld to defeat Shao Kahn. Some of the plot Shaolin Monks, such as the death of Jade, is not compatible with the general Mortal Kombat game series.
The events of Mortal Kombat II, along with the first Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 3 (including its expansions), were later retold in the 2011 fighting game Mortal Kombat, which was as an effective reboot of the series. In it, Raiden uses 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 game follows the same order of bosses as in MKII (with Shang Tsung, Kintaro and Shao Kahn as the final three opponents) and its controls and Fatality system are most reminiscent of MKII. Classic costumes from MKII were also brought back as alternate outfits for female ninja characters in the PlayStation Vita version.
Mortal Kombat II was to be one of the three games remade in HD in the cancelled fighting game Mortal Kombat HD Arcade Kollection. However, only a simple compilation game titled Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection was released instead.
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