Mortal Kombat review (SNES)

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat’s huge 16-megabit cartridge is filled with the backgrounds, digitised sprites, oriental tunes and samples so familiar to fans of the coin-op. But the one feature that made it a hit in the arcades hasn’t made the transfer: there’s no mutilation, no blood, and no external, internal organs. Apart from that, the home console version is graphically spot on – the sprites look good and the animation is excellent.

Midway’s arcade original gave you special death moves to ‘finish’ your opponent. Tired of fighting? Then why not just tear off the other guy’s head or rip his heart out? Mortal Kombat pulled no punches in its effort to dethrone Street Fighter II.

Explaining the changes made to the SNES version, Acclaim’s European boss Rod Cousens denied rumours that Nintendo disapproved of the violence, instead saying that the SNES version wouldn’t be as violent as the Mega Drive due to “restraints of hardware” – ie the SNES’s state-of-the-art 16-bit console couldn’t do the gory graphics. Good one, Rod. But does the cleaned-up Mortal Kombat look right? Or has the reduction in gore literally ripped the heart out of what was a great arcade game?

Well, Acclaim has certainly captured the look of the coin-op – the sound and graphics are excellent – but the lack of blood ‘n’ guts goes a long way to reducing what gave the game its weird appeal in the first place. Without the gory punchline, this joke just isn’t funny.

Some people will have you believe that Mortal Kombat is the new ‘king of beat ‘em ups’, but that distinction is definitely held by Street Fighter II Turbo, whose variety and sheer playability far outstrips Mortal Kombat’s limited appeal.

This review originally appeared in E1, October 1993.