Anybody remember when the sight of blood on your TV screen was a big enough deal to hold congressional hearings? Those were the days, man. Here is the game that sparked immense amounts of controversy for showing digitized characters getting murdered. But this particular version is even more infamous for censoring such content. Which is funny because by today's standards the game is extremely tame.
What the game does have is style and atmosphere. The backgrounds, characters, and sound effects all fit together with the evil announcer person to make it really feel like you're playing a video game version of Enter the Dragon. Each character from this game has over the years been elevated to the status of fighting game icon, Sub-zero and Scorpion are as famous as Ken and Ryu. This was also the very first fighting game to have a hidden character in it (Reptile) as well as a morphing character, and who can forget the first time you ever saw Goro? There is a reason this game spawned a franchise of sequels, toys, comics, a TV show, and two live action movies. The story kicks ass.
The game itself is actually pretty mediocre, and without the blood, guts, and controversy it probably would have died a quiet death in the arcades. Compared to it's competition the original Mortal Kombat is incredibly shallow. Yeah, the graphics were very nice at the time, but the actual fighting system is limited and slow moving. It encourages you to use cheesy loops and juggles instead of reacting and adapting to changing a changing situation. The main problem I've always had with this game is that all characters are standardized, each one does the same standard punches/kicks and moves at about the same speed. Plus I always thought pressing a button to block was lame. The specials each character has seems to be the only thing that differentiates them. But the game does get frantic, and expert players can appreciate the subtle differences between the character's basic attacks and exploit the intentional (or unintentional) combo and juggle potential of each character's special moves. When two experts get together the matches get intense, the blood flies (er... sweat flies that is,) and then yes, it is truly satisfying to tear your opponent's head off with spinal cord left dangling.
The big deal about the SNES version though was that the blood and guts was censored out, which took away the one thing that made this otherwise mediocre different. The blood was turned to white "sweat," and the more gory fatalities were altered (which happened to be the best three fatalities, including the Kano's aforementioned heart ripping fatality and Sub-Zero's Head and spinal cord fatality. Thankfully they didn't mess with Scorpion at all.) Well something happened; Without the gore people suddenly noticed the game wasn't as good as they remembered it, and that for some reason the Genesis version (which had crappier graphics) was. Thus the Genesis version sold a lot more than the Snes version, even though this version looked, sounded, and played a lot better. When MKII came out suddenly Nintendo changed their policy. Who says money doesn't talk.
The game itself is very primitive by today's fighting game standards. It's slow moving, the computer A. I. is always faster on the draw than you but always falls for the same tricks over and over again, and Goro is a cheap son-of-a-bitch. But the game is playable, and any fan of the latest Mortal Kombat games owes it to themselves to occasionally check out the series' roots.
Graphics: Very good, even without the blood. Faithful to the arcade and better looking than the Genesis version.
Sound: All of the sound from the arcade version (albeit with a slight loss in quality, but not so much that you'd notice.)
Gameplay: Exactly like the arcade, which never was that good to begin with.
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