In over 30 years of playing video games, there is no franchise I have spent more time with than Mortal Kombat. It dates back to 1992, with your boy plugging credits into an arcade that had so few buttons installed that we didn’t even have Low Kick. I was besotted with Midway’s fighter and remember – as if it were yesterday – the first time I ever encountered Goro or saw a Fatality. I had a notebook of moves I’d study in efforts to be the best. I would draw pictures of the characters – even invent my own – and spend every weekend engaged in battles to the death, culminating in a tediously repeated story where I had the shit kicked out of me for real following a Kano mirror match. Old-school salt, folks.
The 1993 launch of Mortal Kombat II was something else, and remains the most exciting video game release I’ve ever experienced. From clips glimpsed on TV shows, to rumours printed in magazines, me and my friends were almost shaking with anticipation to get our hands on it. It was such a step up in every way. Damn, that intro… and when Liu Kang turned into a fucking dragon… You could be Shang Tsung. “Friendships?” And who the hell is “Jade”? What a time to be alive.
I love Mortal Kombat. I’ve purchased every release on launch day and while some of the entries pushed me away, others I’ve pumped thousands of hours into. Now, some 27 years since those unforgettable weekends, here I am, covering the eleventh entry in this notorious franchise. So forgive this decidedly self-indulgent intro, but this is a strange “coming-full-circle” moment for me, and it makes this old sap pretty emotional.
Today’s MK looks worlds apart from its ’90s origins. But The Fight remains the thing. A three-round showdown with pride, vengeance, and the fate of the universe on the line. Maybe you’ll emerge victorious, maybe you’ll emerge as a bucketful of guts. But either way, don’t be disheartened because – as every true fan knows – the essence of Mortal Kombat is not about death, but life.