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Why I love Mortal Kombat

Arcade veteran Michael Gapper relives the guts and glory of Midway's controversial badass brawler

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The tabloids hated Mortal Kombat back in the early '90s, and that's why everyone had to play it. Now, that manufactured moral panic has moved on to other targets. Mortal Kombat can't offend half the planet when the world's best-selling games make chainsawing a man in half a once-every-30-seconds event. Mortal Kombat's hormone-strained fantasy really has no place in the 21st century. Its work here is done. How exactly does Mortal Kombat stay relevant when it's about Ice Ninjas and Electro-Gods and it's been two decades since Kris Kross were in the charts?

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In 1995 the third game spoiled everything we loved about Mortal Kombat 2 by adding baked-in combos and Fatalities so complex the juice (blood) stopped being worth the squeeze (button combo). Really, holding Block, hitting Up, Down, Up, Up, releasing Block, then pressing Block+Run in a three second window was taking the biscuit. Fighting games were getting too complicated and the bottom fell out of the 2D fighting game market. Even Street Fighter III couldn't hit the mainstream, and so Mortal Kombat joined Street Fighter EX in 3D land where both games demonstrated why they should never be in 3D.

CHOOSE YOUR DESTINY

But I grew up playing Mortal Kombat 2 at my local arcade and I liked it. I liked the bit where Arnold Schwarzenegger lops Michael Ironside's arms off in Total Recall, too, and I liked it when Van Damme fought a giant Thai warrior with taped knuckles coated in broken glass in Kickboxer.

I thought The Crow was badass and I thought X-Men's Age Of Apocalypse storyline was the best thing ever. I loved Fist Of The North Star when I saw it on a pirated VHS tape and had a blast when Alex Cox presented Mad Max 2 and The Terminator on the BBC's late-night Moviedrome, so of course it was awesome when Scorpion pulled of his mask and... oh shit dude did you see his head? It was a F*CK*NG SKULL. Even four console generations later the doddering old Mortal Kombat 2 would do a better job of slamming tequila, beating up a ninja, and stealing your girlfriend than the fully 3D Kombats or the sackless MK vs DC could ever manage.

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A good thing then that Mortal Kombat found its balls in the middle of last year. Kevin Tancharoen's Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short convinced the world MK9 would be a Saw-ified grimdark modernised Mortal Kombat where Baraka is a twisted surgeon and Sonya Blade is Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager, but (thankfully) nope. Tancharoen's YouTube video was a tease for a potential movie, not a game, and when the ninth Mortal Kombat was announced a few weeks later, it turned out to be Mortal Kombat as all hell.

NetherRealm didn't make a game for today's 13-year-olds; MK9 was for 1993's 13-year-olds - all big muscles and big boobs and robo-ninjas and gallons of blood and gross fatalities and man-eating trees. It was a proper Mortal Kombat game for the Mortal Kombat generation. Why do I love Mortal Kombat? Because I loved growing up with it. Yeah it's goofy, but just wait and see how stupid Gears Of War looks in 20 years - you'll understand.

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