Looking back on Mortal Kombat

So lately, I had an urge to revisit one of those games that was a big part of my childhood. I’m sure any gamer who was alive in America during the early 90s remembers “Mortal Monday” and the huge hype that followed the home releases of arcade hit Mortal Kombat and later, Mortal Kombat II. By the time Mortal Kombat 3 and Ultimate MK3 happened, I had long since lost interest in the series.

I’m curious: MK1 had Mortal Monday and MK2 had Mortal Tuesday. Did MK3 have a Mortal Wednesday?

Mortal Kombat was not an especially great fighting game, even back then. One thing I noticed even as a kid was that all the characters played basically the same, literally only differentiated by their specials moves. So by comparison to the contemporary Capcom or SNK fighters of the time, Mortal Kombat was a little on the shallow side. I could make some lame point about American vs. Japanese developers, but I’ve read that MK was one of those filler games that they didn’t think would be all that popular, so it would be just silly to make an issue of it.

MK’s real charm comes from its rather B-Movie feel. The first game especially feels like you’re playing a low-budget Hong Kong kung fu flick. And I don’t know how I went so many paragraphs without mentioning the blood. Oh yes, while MK was not the first game to feature copious amounts of violence or bloodshed, it was the first to do so while being immensely successful. Admittedly, for how much it was hyped, there wasn’t really that much–you really only saw it if you uppercutted or performed a fatality, which to my twelve-year-old mind was a little disappointing. Of course, nowadays if I ever wanna see blood I just have to tease my cat a bit, so that aspect has kind of lost its appeal.

One thing that gets me about Mortal Kombat today, is the special moves, or rather the commands to use them. The thing about special moves in most fighting games is that the commands make some sort of sense. I mean, think about Ryu’s fireball motion. Try performing that motion in real life, and you’ll start to understand the whole down-downforward-forward thing. In Mortal Kombat though, the moves just have no rhyme or reason to them. I’ve heard it argued that they were designed to be easy to input, which is true enough except for the Fatalities, where they’re all over the place–Johnny Cage’s is very easy to pull off, while Liu Kang’s requires something of a miracle. One theory I came up for this was that they wanted Fatalities to be a “reward” for skilled players, which I guess is fair, but when the over-the-top deaths are one of the draws of your game it might behoove you to make them a little easier.

Admittedly, I still wouldn’t mind owning at least one home port… besides the Gameboy version, which I do own and which is surprisingly playable considering its garbage. The problem is I don’t know which would be the most fun. I’ve heard the Sega CD is the best one, or else the IBM PC version, at least in terms of “closest to the arcade.” With Mortal Kombat II it gets harder–supposedly the 32x and Saturn versions are the best. Too bad I own neither system (there is also one on the PS2 as part of the the Midway Arcade Treasures 2 compilation, but I’ve heard that one is buggy). At the moment, I’m not sure if I care to go into MK3, or just stick with the games I knew from my childhood.

One amusing little anecdote: For most of my life, I thought the MK symbol was a horse. It wasn’t until recently that I learned it’s supposed to be a dragon. Still looks like a horse to me.

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The Specter of the Great Crash of 1983

One reason I am often hard on geekdom is because at times, it’s almost like a religion. Specifically, geeks often seem to have superstitions they follow, and boogeymen they adamantly believe in despite all logic, reason, or even evidence that show these rituals need not be followed or that the specter they fear might not even exist.

Case in point, many times I’ve cited directions the Gaming industry could take that would (ideally) result in better games, only to have the fans tell me “that kind of thing is what caused the Great Video Game Crash of 1983.” Indeed, it seems like just about anytime some gamer wants to call something a bad idea, or a bad direction, or whatnot, they invariably bring up the Great Crash and hold it over our heads like a scythe that will come down the minute we tempt the gods of fate.

But like most boogeymen, this one has no merit, and such becomes clear when you recall three important details about the Crash:

1. The Crash happened in 1983. Let’s be frank, the Crash itself was nothing more than a bunch of companies losing money on bad investments. This kind of thing is, in fact, fairly routine in the corporate world, and the only reason it seemed like such a huge deal to Video Games was because gaming was in its infancy. Today, gaming is bigger, stronger, and has a far more solid foundation. Even if Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft were somehow wiped off the map, we would still have video games. The circumstances that allowed the Crash to happen simply do not exist anymore.

2. The effects of the so-called “Crash” are actually far more limited than what most so-called “Gaming Historians” would lead you to believe. All that really happened was Atari pulled out of the console-making business, and all the other developers switched to computer systems like the Commodore 64 and IBM PC, as well as arcades. Gaming “History,” such as it is, is very console-centric and often ignores these aspects, which causes it to be skewered somewhat.

3. The “Crash” was a localized phenomenon–it only really happened in America. In other countries–especially Japan–gaming kept going. So again, the supposed “Crash” sounds worse than it really was, and again, there is no way it could happen today, because for gaming to “crash” they would all have to be such financial failures that they bring down all the big name countries from all over the world, and barring the intervention of Christ himself that’s just not gonna happen.

In summary: the Great Crash of 1983 is, as Penn would say, “Bullsh**!” We should stop being afraid of it, stop fearing that it could ever happen again, and we should definitely stop using it as some sort of holy sacred reason that the way things work is the way they should always be. Gaming is in a very bad place right now–not financially, but creatively–and what it would take is for someone to do something truly radical and new to shake it up a bit. Throw away old boogeymen and invite the future with open arms, I say!

He-Man Review

With how little I’ve been using this blog I often forget that placing stuff here is an option. So yesterday I posted a review of the cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe at TV Tropes, then just now I woke up, facepalmed myself for overlooking the obvious and posted a slightly-longer version right here.

But actually. I kinda think the TV Tropes version is more fun to read because of how the images align on the side of the article–gives it more character. As far as I can tell there’s no way to replicate that on WordPress (if anyone knows a way, tell me!). Either way, I’m glad I got this done. I’ve been meaning to do this for months but just… it never came out right.

Liking a show like He-Man is really hard to explain to a lot of people, especially on the internet. The problem is that I, a man in his late 20s, is trying to explain subtle graces to significantly younger people–usually teenagers, and at that people who don’t understand much beyond “John K. likes Bob Clampett. Ergo John K. imitates Bob Clampett. Ergo John K. is an artist because he’s similar to another artist.” A large part of it, too, is life experience. When you’ve seen as much of life as I have, you start to realize that the cartoons of the 1980s were far truer to your feelings than cartoons of the 1990s, which often appealed to false and puerile senses that you will eventually grow out of. I mean when I was eighteen, I was just like a lot of these people are now. As I got older my perspective changed. I used to not like black and white movies, now I’m mature enough to not judge everything by its graphics. I used to hate strategy games, now I’m old enough to appreciate things that have an intellectual as well as a visceral appeal.

Incidentally I removed a lot of sections from my blog. I used to have a comic books section with a review of Preacher. I removed that because, well, screw it. I’m not a comic fan, I’m a cartoon lover and video gamer. In my younger days I used to like to present myself as omni-popcultural and able to enjoy anything, but again the pretensions of youth gave way to the practicalities of adulthood.

Still working on that gaming section.

Shining Beyond Legends

So apparently I’ve been banned from the ItJustBugsMe forum. What was I doing? Not much–some people tried to passive-aggressively troll me, and I called them on it and pointed out that they had done it before. This somehow made me the bad guy. This isn’t just my story either–there are several members who have wondered (both openly and privately) why most of the forum seems to have it in for me when many of the regulars are far worse than I’ve ever been. Anyway, if you want a fuller disclosure, ask in the comments. I got other things to talk about.

Okay, first of all a few days ago I went to my favorite local used games store (no, not Gamestop–one just opened that is so much better and stocks a lot of oldschool systems and games, even the freaking Atari 2600!) and traded in a redundant (as in, I had more than one) game console and some games. In exchange, I got Ecco the Dolphin (I have it, but I wanted a boxed copy), Fatal Fury Battle Archives Volume 1, and…

.. the store has a small DVD section. In which they had seasons 1-3 of Batman Beyond. The sets were taped together and the owner would only sell them as a complete set, for $25. But I was able to get it for free with store credit.

Admittedly I think the Detective Comics Animated Universe (DCAU for short) is kind of overrated. Fans are always talking about how dark or mature or adult the stories and characters are, but to be honest they’re bog-standard superhero stories, little different from Silver Age comics except for the dark face paint they’re wearing, and honestly lacking in even the kind of depth seen in Thundercats (either version) or the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Some fans even say the DCAU compares well to anime or classic literature, which is just LOL worthy. This isn’t to say DCAU cartoons are bad, but you have to keep in mind a lot of the hype is fanboy B.S.

That being said, Batman Beyond is surprisingly decent, as far as I’ve watched. Admittedly the first couple of episodes were kinda “eh,” but the episode where the kid takes control of the thing that looks like Megaman’s Yellow Golem (which may be an intentional homage–the thing is actually called a Golem) was where it clicked with me and I said “ya know, this show has potential.” Currently the last episode I’ve watched is the one where Batman has to fight the Fantastic Four wannabes, which is honestly the first real clunker in the set (that they were such obvious knock-offs made me unable to get into the story and suspend my disbelief). I’m honestly enjoying this show a little more than I did the original Batman: The Animated Series — the premise seems stronger and the villains far more credible, at any rate.

But yeah, Fatal Fury… IS FUCKING AWESOME!!! Okay, the first game is all right, but it was a pretty addicting experience, which I wasn’t able to stop until I beat it with all three characters. Oddly, canonically Terry Bogard is supposed to be the strongest of them, but in practice its Andy Bogard–he has this sort of “dash-punch” thing that, once you’ve practiced enough to be able to pull off at any time, can totally wipe the floor with most of the opposition. When I got to Geese Howard with either Terry or Joe Higashi, he handed my ass to me time and again until I got a lucky break. With Andy, I beat him on the first go. This was on “Normal” difficulty (I’m tempted to try “MVS” difficulty, which according to the manual emulates that of the arcade).

But lately I’ve been playing the Sega Master System, via a converter for the Sega Genesis. So far I’ve downed one game, Golvellius: Valley of Doom which was a pretty interesting Zelda-wannabe. I wouldn’t say its as good as the original Zelda, but it definitely had some unique ideas and was worth a look just for its twists. One thing I had to get used to was turning–the hero doesn’t always immediately turn a direction when you push it, sometimes he kinda micro-steps forward first, which is awkward until you get used to it, but its not too bad. The ending promises a sequel which, sadly, never happened.

After that, I went and tried out an old favorite I haven’t touched in seven years: Shining Force. What happened was a discussion on a gaming forum got me interested in strategy-RPGs again and since its basically the only one I have (I have one other on the Playstation and have since also ordered Ogre Battle, which I’ll talk about whenever I play it). In all honesty, I wish I had a manual because I keep getting things I don’t know what they do, and I keep having questions about the nuances of the system. I’m not gonna look up a FAQ though–I’m gonna beat the game first (yes, I’ve never beaten it).

I take a break from either one with Mega Man Legends 2 which is another old favorite that no you can’t have it is MINE MINE MINE!! Just wanted to stave off anyone who was gonna make an offer. To be honest, I find it a largely tedious game, but when it picks up it picks up good, and you gotta love the Bonnes!

I’ve been wondering: What should I do with this blog? Its like, all I do lately is either comment on TV shows or else give “capsule reviews” of whatever I’ve been playing lately. That’s all well and good, but it seems like a shallow purpose. Should I do something more? Well, I’ll mull on it for awhile while I beat back the hordes of Runefaust. ta-ta!