In our Final Round series, we take a look an in-depth look at as many fighting games as we possibly can. This week, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1993’s Mortal Kombat II…
Year of Release – 1993
Developer – Midway, Probe Entertainment, Sculptured Software
Publisher – Midway, Acclaim Entertainment
Platforms – Various
Creating a sequel to a game that is considered a cultural phenomenon is not an easy task. Expectations skyrocket and every little detail is scrutinised in much more detail, especially when an original has a huge, rabid fanbase.
Mortal Kombat is no exception to this, as the first game was revered as one of the greatest fighting games of the generation at that point in time. So, how did Midway go about making the followup to one of the most controversial and popular beat-’em-ups ever? Upping the ante by improving on almost every aspect of the first one, that’s how!
Released in arcades in April 1993, Mortal Kombat II included better graphics, more fighters to choose from, more brutal fatalities to discover and more well-hidden secrets. The game was a roaring success, so much so that by 1996, the number of arcade machines sold approached 25,000 units at a time where arcade games that sold 5,000 units were considered “strong titles”.
The game introduced several new moves, including FRIENDSHIP finishers and Babalities. FRIENDSHIP moves see fighters do good, positive deed for their opponents instead of killing them, while Babalities simply turn opponents into crying babies.
The game once again saw its share of controversy due to its ultraviolent content. Mortal Kombat II was banned outright in Germany, as they placed the game in the index by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons. The game also saw criticism over allegedly perpetuating existing stereotypes of Asians as martial arts experts.
Promotional Material & Box Art
Mortal Kombat II‘s marketing campaign for the home console releases centered around the tagline “NOTHING. NOTHING CAN PREPARE YOU“, and relied heavily on the dark, stormy artwork found on the box art of the game itself. Countries such as Japan were treated to an image of the game’s final boss, Shao Kahn.
In addition the magazine and comic book ads, a TV commercial was also released. It features a number of characters from the game, most of which were played by the actors that were digitally captured for the game’s character sprites.
To coincide with the game’s release in arcades, an official comic book was released. This was also the case when the game hit home consoles too, with a four-part series to collect. Mortal Kombat II even got its own Panini sticker album. The game also received two lines of action figures, and a trading card game.
Available via mail order details found on some of the arcade releases, Mortal Kombat II‘s soundtrack was released on CD too, featuring songs from both the sequel and the very first Mortal Kombat game by sound designer Dan Forden.
As for the box art, it remained exactly the same across all of the home console releases; The Mortal Kombat logo being surrounded by dark, stormy clouds.
Mortal Kombat II directly follows the events of Mortal Kombat;
500 years ago, Shang Tsung was banished to the Earth Realm. With the aid of Goro he was to unbalance the furies and doom the planet to a chaotic existence. By seizing control of the shaolin tournament he tried to tip the scales of order towards chaos. Only seven warriors survived the battles and Shang Tsung’s scheme would come to a violent end at the hands of Liu Kang. Facing execution for his failure and the apparent death of Goro, Tsung convinces Shao Kahn to grant him a second chance… Shang Tsung’s new plan is to lure his enemies to compete in the Outworld where they will meet certain death by Shao Kahn himself. Now, the Kombat kontinues…
The game boasts 12 playable characters, many of which return from the first game.
After winning the Shaolin Tournament from Shang Tsung’s clutches in the first Mortal Kombat, Kang returned to his temples. He discovered that his sacred home was now in ruins, and his Shaolin brothers had been killed in a vicious battle with a horde of Outworld warriors. Seeking revenge, Kang travels into the Dark Realm.
Kang’s fatalities include the returning “Deadly Uppercut“, where he butterfly kicks and uppercuts his opponent into the air, and the new “Dragon Bite” fatality, which sees Kang transform into a giant dragon, biting his opponent in half. Liu Kang’s FRIENDSHIP move, “Dancing Monk“, sees a disco ball come down from the top of the screen and he starts to dance.
A former Shaolin Monk and a member of the White Lotus society, he is the last descendant of the Great Kung Lao who was defeated by Goro 500 years ago. Realizing the danger of the Outworld menace, he joins Liu Kang in entering Shao Kahn’s contest.
New to the Mortal Kombat series, Kung Lao’s attacks are pretty similar to Liu Kang’s, but with the addition of a razor-brimmed hat that he can use as a projectile weapon.
Lao’s fatalities include “Body Slice” (which sees him bring his razor hat down, bisecting the opponent vertically in half in a single clean swipe), and “Hat Decapitation“, which pretty much speaks for itself. Lao’s FRIENDSHIP move sticks to the hat motif once again, as he pulls a white rabbit from it.
The world was shocked when martial arts movie star Johnny Cage disappeared from the set of his latest film. But in truth, he was following his former ally Liu Kang into the Outworld where he plans to complete in a twisted tournament in which lies the balance of Earth’s existence as well as a script for another blockbuster movie.
Another returning character from the original Mortal Kombat. Besides a higher version of his curved energy bolt attack and a new pop-up kick, Cage’s moveset is largely the same as it was in the first game.
His fatalities include the original “Head Pop” (where he uppercuts an opponent’s head clean off their body) and “Torso Rip” (which sees him grab his opponent’s waist and rip their torso in half, dumping the top half on the floor). Cage’s FRIENDSHIP plays off of his Hollywood Star status, as he signs a photo for his opponent.
Shang Tsung’s personal protector, Reptile lurks in the shadows stopping all those who would do his master harm. His human form is believed to disguise a horrific reptilian creature whose race was thought extinct millions of years ago. He enters the contest hoping to defeat all and protect his master.
Originally a secret character in the first game, Mortal Kombat II sees Reptile’s playable debut in the series. With attacks that range from spitting acid blasts, power-slides and turning invisible, Reptile is now much more than a simple colour palette swap of Sub-Zero and Scorpion.
His fatalities include “Tasty Meal” (where he takes off his mask, revealing a reptilian face. He then opens his mouth and stretches out his long tongue, sticking it to his victim’s head, then quickly retracts it, ripping off the head and eating it) and “Inviso-Rip” (which sees his foe ripped completely in half). His FRIENDSHIP move sees him pull out a Reptile Doll, then a message appears onscreen saying “Buy a Reptile Doll”. A shameless plug, but a fun one all the same.
Thought to have been killed in the Shaolin Tournament, Sub-Zero mysteriously returns. It is believed he traveled into the Outworld to again attempt to assassinate Shang Tsung. To do so he must fight his way through Shao Kahn’s tournament.
It is revealed that this Sub-Zero is actually the younger brother of the one we saw in the first Mortal Kombat, and that he has entered the tournament to get revenge on his brother’s killer. Despite this revelation, his moveset is very much unchanged from the first game.
His fatalities include “Snowball Grenade” (in which he creates a small orb of ice and launches it at the opponent. It lodges within their chest and detonates, causing them to explode from within), and “Ice Shatter” (he deep-freezes his opponent, then uppercuts their upper body, shattering it). Sub-Zero’s FRIENDSHIP move is the same as Reptile’s, but with a Sub-Zero doll instead.
After losing control of the Shaolin tournament, Tsung promises his ruler Shao Kahn to shape events that will lure the Earth warriors to compete in his own contest. Convinced of this plan, Shao Kahn restores Tsung’s youth and allows him to live.
The final boss of the first game is now a regular playable character, with a moveset that includes morphing into other opponents, using their abilities, and throwing flaming skulls as a projectile attack.
His fatalities include “Soultaker” (he grabs his opponent and consumes their soul, leaving behind a shrunken corpse), “Inner Ear” (He enters his opponent’s body, which then violently shakes until it explodes as Tsung appears in their place) and “Kintaro Morph” (Tsung morphs into Kintaro and punches his opponent clear across the screen). Shang Tsung’s FRIENDSHIP move sees him cast out his hands and form a rainbow.
Her beauty hides her true role as personal assassin for Shao Kahn. Seen talking to an earth-realm warrior, her motives have come under suspicion by her twin sister Mileena. But only Kitana knows her own true intentions.
Kitana is another brand new character in the series, and her attacks are primarily based on a set of razor-sharp steel fans that she wields.
Her fatalities include “Kiss Of Death” (where she removes her mask and kisses her opponent on the cheek, who expands like a huge balloon before exploding into pieces), and “Fan Slice” (she simply decapitates her opponent with her fan). Her FRIENDSHIP move sees her make a cake for her opponent.
His real name is Maj. Jackson Briggs, the leader of a top US special forces unit. After receiving a distress signal from Lt. Sonya Blade, Jax embarks on a rescue mission. One that leads him into a ghastly world where he believes that Sonya is still alive.
New to the series, Jax is one of the stronger characters that players can choose from. His attacks range from an energy wave and a ground pound, to straight up grabbing an opponent and pummeling them with heavy punches.
His fatalities include “Head Clap” (where he claps his hands violently over his opponent’s head, crushing it), and “Arm Rip” (where he grabs the arms of his opponent and rips them clean off their body). For Jax’s FRIENDSHIP move, he cuts out some paper dolls.
Serving as an assassin along with her twin sister Kitana, Mileena’s dazzling appearance conceals her hideous intentions. At Shao Kahn’s request, she is asked to watch for her twin’s suspected dissension. She must put a stop to it at any cost.
Like Kitana, Mileena is one of the new additions to the Mortal Kombat series, and also heavily relies on a dual-wielded weapon; the sai. She can charge them with purple energy, and also hurl herself at opponents on a ball.
Her fatalities include “Sai Stabs” (in which she takes out her Sais and stabs her opponent to death with them) and “Man Eater” (in which she removes her mask and literally inhales her opponent. She then turns to the other side and regurgitates a torrent of bones onto the ground). Her FRIENDSHIP move sees her plant a flower.
He commanded the attack against Liu Kang’s Shaolin temples. Baraka belongs to a nomadic race of mutants living in the wastelands of the Outworld. His fighting skills gained the attention of Shao Kahn who recruited him into his army.
The last of the new playable characters, with a set of deadly retractable blades at his disposal. Baraka’s moveset revolves around these blades, such as a flying spark, a blade swipe and a flurry of vertical blade attacks.
His fatalities include “Blade Decapitation“, which is pretty self-explanatory, and “Blade Lift” (in which he stabs his opponent in the torso and lifts them high. The victim screams and flails about helplessly before expiring, the limp form twitching as it slides down the deadly shears). His FRIENDSHIP move sees him offer his opponent a present.
The hell-spawned spectre rises from the pits. After learning of Sub-Zero’s return, he again stalks the ninja assassin following him into the dark realm of the Outworld where he continues his own unholy mission.
One of the most popular Mortal Kombat characters returns in the sequel, Scorpion retains his moves from the first game while adding a new legsweep takedown.
His iconic “TOASTY!” fatality also makes a comeback in this game, as well as a rather brutal new fatality called “Spear Slice“, which sees him slit his opponent’s throat and then slash through their hip, making their torso fall off. Like Sub-Zero and Reptile, his FRIENDSHIP move involves a Scorpion doll.
Watching events unfold from high above, the thunder-god realises the grim intentions of Shao Kahn. After warning the remaining members of the Shaolin Tournament, Raiden soon disappears. He is believed to have ventured into the Outworld alone.
The God of Thunder and defender of Earthrealm makes his return in the game, and retains a lot of his moves from the original game. A notable additions to his moveset is Shocker, where he grabs his opponent and shoots electricity through them. His fatalities include “Explosive Uppercut” (he crouches down and sends a vicious electrically-charged uppercut to his opponent blowing them into pieces), and “Electrocution” which is essentially a more powerful version of the Shocker move. His FRIENDSHIP move sees him generate a miniature version of himself, adorably named Kidd Thunder. In the Sega Genesis version, a code could be inputted to turn the enemy into a smoking version of Probe Ltd. employee Fergus McGovern, who worked on that port of the game.
With Goro missing, Kintaro steps up take his place as supreme ruler of Shao Kahn’s armies. Stronger and more agile than his predecessor, he is enraged by Goro’s defeat. Kintaro vows to take revenge on the Earth warriors responsible.
Kintaro was originally intended to be a playable character in Mortal Kombat II, but the impending difficulty of creating an extensively detailed fur-lined costume, however, led to Midway’s revamping of the character into the game’s four-armed boss in the same way as Goro in the first game.
The “Big Bad” of the early entries in the Mortal Kombat series, Shao Kahn is a real challenge to defeat.
His moves range from throwing spears at opponents to shoulder ramming them with a shadow trail following him (much like with Johnny Cage’s shadow kick move). During development of the game, Kahn was digitally re-sized to a taller height to make him tower over the playable characters.
A childhood friend of Kitana. While her motives were unclear, she served Shao Kahn alongside Kitana and Mileena as his personal assassin for most of her life. When Kitana finally turned against Shao Kahn, Jade was ordered to capture her for the Emperor.
In oder to face Jade in battle, players must win one round against their opponent before the mystery “?” stage, using nothing but low kicks, and without blocking.
Jade can sometimes be spotted hiding in the background of the Living Forest stage.
A longtime friend of Sub-Zero, and part of the Lin Kuei clan.
Smoke’s moveset in Mortal Kombat II is almost identical to Scorpion’s (even the fatalities!), and in order to face him, players must must be fighting in the Portal stage. When Dan Forden (the game’s sound designer, whose face pops up sometimes when someone does an uppercut and yells, “Toasty!”) does his thing on during the fight, players must quickly push Down and Start simultaneously.
Like Jade, Smoke can sometimes be seen appearing in the background of the Living Forest stage.
Another returning character from Mortal Kombat (well, kind of), Noob Saibot is one of the easiest hidden characters to discover in the sequel. He’s also especially tricky to defeat, as he can teleport and utilise jump attacks incredibly well too.
In order to fight Noob Saibot, players must win 50 matches in a row in two-player mode.
We’ll find out later in the Mortal Kombat series that the identity of Noob Saibot is actually Bi-Han, the original Sub-Zero. Also, the character gained his name from the surnames of the game’s creators, Ed Boon and John Tobias, but in reverse.
Mortal Kombat II has a total of 10 different stages to fight in;
- The Dead Pool – Said to be a place for punishment and sacrifice, and a particular form of punishment for those who were sentenced by Shao Kahn himself. Players can trigger a stage fatality here, which sees them uppercut their opponent into the pools of noxious acid that surrounds them.
- Kombat Tomb – Another stage that features a stage fatality, where players uppercut their opponent into the spikes in the ceiling. Want to add an extra element of nastiness to this one? Get both players in the match to hold down as the fatality happens, then the dead body will slide off the spikes and drop to the floor. Grim.
- Wasteland – a bleak and ruined landscape which is forever dominated by the night, situated in Outworld. Originally, game artist Tony Goskie had added a crucified, four-armed Shokan into the background. However, the company was afraid it was going to be perceived as sacrilegious by Christian fans, so it had to be removed.
- The Tower – An ancient temple that is home to the Shadow Priests.
- Living Forest – Haunted for centuries, the Living Forest is littered with trees that are sentient, some with faces that groan and roar. Some of the trees are also hungry, and unsuspecting travelers may find themselves ensnared in their treacherous branches, and become devoured. In turn, those that are consumed become a part of the forest.
- The Armory – Situated in Shao Kahn’s fortress, the Armory is where all the weapons in Outworld are created.
- The Pit II – The successor to the stage in the first Mortal Kombat game, The Pit II includes another platform in the background, where we see another fight happening at the same time. The characters, Hornbuckle and Blaze, remain static throughout. As expected, the stage has its own fatality, which sees opponents taking an uppercut and falling to the hard stone ground at the bottom of the pit. Hard.
- The Portal – The Portal lies within the highlands of Outworld, with various Shadow Priests standing guard in the background. The Sega Genesis version of the game included a blue version of this stage when players came face to face with Smoke, Jade and Noob Saibot, instead of Goro’s Lair.
- Kahn’s Arena – Situated outside Shao Kahn’s fortress, where he will watch battles and sometimes participate. There are countless spectators in the coliseum that come to observe the many battles that take place. Sonya Blade and Kano, both characters from the original Mortal Kombat were held in Kahn’s Arena as prisoners forced to observe the vicious battles that took place.
- Goro’s Lair – A returning stage from the first game, though it is only accessible when fighting secret characters.
In lieu of the previous game’s “Test Your Might” bonus game, Mortal Kombat II has a pretty strange, unique experience. In the arcade version, upon completion of the 250th consecutive two-player game, a dialogue screen pops up on-screen with the following message;
YOU HAVE REACHED THE OUTER LIMITS OF THE TOURNAMENT.
NOW YOU BOTH MUST FACE A CHALLENGE FROM YOUR PAST…
Players are now entered into a game of Pong, with all the original game’s sound effects and music replaced with sounds and music from Mortal Kombat II. A true testament to the game’s sense of humour, if there ever was one.
Mortal Kombat II was released on a number of different home consoles, many of which were simultaneously dropped on September 13th 1994, known as “Mortal Tuesday” in the game’s marketing campaign;
- Sega Genesis – This port retains all of the blood and Fatalities without a special code having to be entered, unlike the Genesis version of the first Mortal Kombat. It contains several exclusive easter eggs, features some slightly different character victory poses and supports the Sega Activator (widely regarded as one of the worst controllers ever made).
- Sega Game Gear/Master System – Besides the obvious difference in sprite size, the Game Gear and Master System ports of the game are identical. They only have 8 of the game’s 12 characters, and three of the levels.
- Sega Saturn – This version allows players to preload certain morphs for Shang Tsung, reducing loading times but causing a glitch that allows the player to morph between the palette-swap ninja characters.
- Amiga – From a technical standpoint, this version is probably the worst port, with its extra long loading times, broken controls and a plethora of glitches.
- Nintendo Game Boy – Like the Game Gear release, this version only has 8 characters and three levels. The blood has been removed from the game and characters only have a single fatality each.
- Super Nintendo – Due to the low sales of the first Mortal Kombat on the SNES, Nintendo allowed blood and fatalities in this release. In Japan, however, the game is still censored, with the blood now a green colour, and character specific fatalities turning the screen black and white.
- Sony PlayStation – Available only in Japan, and re-titled as Mortal Kombat II: Kyuukyoku Shinken (which translates as “Mortal Kombat II: Ultimate Godly Fist“). The graphics are pretty close to the original arcade release, but the sound is not. Like the Sega Saturn version, it uses synthesised versions of the game’s original soundtrack. This version is also considered one of the rarest, and is worth quite a lot of money as a result!
Like in Mortal Kombat, the game features unique endings for each playable character, with Liu Kang’s being the canonical ending. Many of these endings directly allude to the then-upcoming release of the sequel, Mortal Kombat 3.
Mortal Kombat II is technically superior to its predecessor on many levels. The graphics are more impressive, there’s a larger amount of moves to pull off and the gameplay is substantially polished.
It is regarded by many as one of the greatest fighting games of the 90s, and the best of the entire Mortal Kombat series. After looking at the game again over 25 years later, it’s tough to disagree with that notion.
Are you a fan of the second Mortal Kombat game? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!