Review by ysm ihanzo
"CD-rom Kombat blah blah blah..."
The original Mortal Kombat is an awful game by today's standards. In fact it became archaic years ago with its far superior follow up Mortal Kombat 2. Regardless of how well it has held up, the fact remains it was an important fighting game for a few reasons. It was a fresh alternative to all the 2-D Capcom/SNK glut that was clogging up arcades with its digitized graphics and heavy gore. The game took the arcade public by storm, becoming one of the most successful and recognizable titles in the mainstream media. So much so that its emphasis on blood and visual carnage was used by government officials as an example to the perennial public of why censorship is needed in the video game industry. In retrospect, the anti-violence nuts really didn't accomplish much but fuel Mortal Kombat's success and establish a pointless ESRB rating system for the industry. After it's release in arcades, Acclaim picked the game up and released it on several home consoles. The new Sega CD hardware assured us that everything would be bigger, louder and badder; with the seemingly unlimited memory of a CD-rom, coupled with stereo sound and advanced 16 bit graphics, everyone was almost positive that they would have an arcade perfect port of their favorite blood fest for their home. We're all aware now of the Sega CD's short comings, and like that flag post for violence that the arcade version was, Mortal Kombat CD is a testament to Sega's heavily flawed machinery.
Graphics: Don't expect the large digitized warriors of the arcade version on your television set for this one. All the fighters look exactly like their Genesis counter parts, with the exception added frames of animations. Because the Sega CD adds no extra colors to the Genesis' weak pallette, MKCD's graphics look just as washed out as the lesser 16 bit title. Though everything is a tad bit sharper looking. Levels are given some new extras like animations and effects, but nothing is particularly impressive. Even the blood looks ripped right from the Genesis version rather than the arcades. The bonus FMV intro that boots this disc up is complete disc filler trash. Basically it's a grainier version of the T.V. promo. Interestingly enough the commercial uses game footage from the SNES version, exposing the graphical inferiority of this CD right from the beginning! On the bright side, the character select screen still looks good and the bonus rounds still look really hot. The fatalities here are interesting, but are really tame in comparison to later games in the series.
Music/Sound: To this version's credit, there really is no difference here with the arcade. The sound effects are absolutely chilling; the announcer is much louder and clearer. Every scream and rip can be heard perfectly through the awesome stereo sound. Music sounds just as excellent, from a strictly technical point of view. I don't like the game's sound track. It's spooky, but forgettable, though it's signature MK.
Game play: MKCD is a completely arduous experience. Let's start with this titles source. The arcade game gave you five buttons for the control layout: a high and low punch, a high and low kick and an accursed block button. Game play has more in common with Samurai Shodown than Street Fighter 2, in that the key to winning is with a good defensive and counter strategy. However, MK could never touch any of the SS games in terms of depth or playability. All seven of the game's playable characters would be almost identical if it wasn't for their special attacks. Everyone moves the same, jumps the same, punches and kicks the same and so on. Combos are limited and difficult to figure out. Because every single move you perform will most likely knock your opponent to the ground, combos are basically frustrating to set up. For the initiated who lay a good two in one down on their opponent, damage is sparse and because of the weakness of the combo structure, they are almost always breakable. There are only seven characters, but the line up is actually pretty good. Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya, Kano and Raiden are all awesome character designs that can be seen in more modern MK games of today. As for Liu Kang and Johnny Cage...eh, I can live without them. O.K. everybody looks good, but in the play field, there are some real balance issues. Though everybody plays the same in basics, their special moves become another story. Some characters have more powerful or faster moves than others. Boss battles are another joke. Goro and Shang Tsung are ridiculously cheap. One player games are relegated to memorizing cheap AI patterns and the two player matches become block and uppercut fests. This game was never really about game play though, it was all about the blood. A trademark gimmick of this franchise are fatalities; this is where those gory finishers began. Every character has only one, and once you have them memorized they're a breeze to pull off. Fatalities don't add anything to the core game play, it's all just visual gratification.
Now we return to the Sega CD version; yes, this title brings home all the shallow game play. Special moves are the same and fatalities are the same. Because the core play mechanics are as deep as a puddle, the standard three button pad works well. To get the fullest possible arcade play experience however, it is recommended you grab a six button joy stick. The Sega d-pad is a bit sticky making some special moves a bit difficult to pull off. There is one major detriment that makes battles almost completely unplayable: load times. Oh my god are they long. I counted about 20 seconds before each match started. Fatalities even take about 2 seconds to load up. Even the immediate availability of blood doesn't make the load times worth it. The action is completely broken up and takes you out of the entire MK experience.
Overall: MKCD really isn't worth a glance. The extra FMV and stock blood is worthless when considering it will take about a half hour to get through an entire one player game, not because of the shallow action, but because of the loading. This version just isn't fun. If you want a copy of this game seek out the Genesis version for the blood or the SNES version for the graphics. MK on the Sega CD feels like a cheaply enhanced version of the Genesis game rather than a serious port of the arcade title.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 08/10/04, Updated 08/17/04
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