It’s a simple enough question that, back in the 1990s, led to some serious grumbly mumbles amongst players. SF had better controls but MK had better graphics. MK had fatalities and blood but SF had a well-established history. SF had more fighters but MK offered more special moves. Or whatever. In my world then, a fighting game was just a fighting game, and I had only played one: Street Fighter II Turbo, so I had an unsubstantial basis for comparison.
Even so, the SF seeds were planted. My younger brother and I played the game…a lot. And the fact of the matter was that I had learned SFII Turbo’s moves fairly well. The controls were great, I really enjoyed the gameplay, and I looooved played as Zangief, Chun-Li, and Sagat.
So it made sense that at the time we would move onto Super Street Fighter II (1993), which introduced more characters and moves. And though T. Hawk and Dee Jay remain among my least liked SF characters today (I did get pretty good at T. Hawk’s Storm Hammer move, much to my brother’s dismay), they were a welcome addition to the team, along with Cammy and Fei Long.
Before SSFII’s release, a little game called Mortal Kombat (1992) rattled the gaming world (and outsiders’ addled views of gamers and video games) with its blood-letting moves and sexy “3D” people in ninja suits. We were too busy mastering our hadokens and spinning bird kicks to listen to all the controversy surrounding the game, but it was hard to not be intrigued just a little by this uppity game. Naturally, we had to get our hands on a copy. Since the game had been deemed “mature,” I thought it would be up to me to get it since I was old enough; but my brother sneakily obtained the game through a trade – in this case Mortal Kombat II (1993) – the one with Mileena, Kitana, and Jade, that deadly and delectable trio. Once we got to playing MKII, the differences between it and SF became incredibly apparent; and yes, I soon signed off my life to join the SF camp.
What I liked about MKII
The graphics. I was far from the end of my enjoyment of cartoony graphics, but the look of MKII on our SNES was pretty amazing. There, on the screen, were two remarkably human people chomping at the bit to beat each other to a pulp. And they weren’t just any people – they were cool looking fighters, ninjas, aliens, and monsters. Some of them had weapons and secrets and they were out for blood. Lots of blood. Oh. My. God. The. Blood. There was some blood, etc. in SF, but it paled in comparison to the buckets that were unleashed with practically each MK punch and kick.
Being jaded teens, the copious amount of blood being released were pretty damn funny to us. Well, maybe more so to me than my brother, but MKII certainly had the entertainment factor going for it. In fact, the graphics were so over the top that my amusement often overshadowed my ability to play. Yes…yes, that’s why I sucked at MK. I was too distracted by all the seductively awesome gore. Yeah.
What I didn’t like about MKII
The controls. Okay, so this is really why I sucked at the game. The tap-tap + (HK, LK, LP, etc.) controls…nope…nuh-uh…not for me. The biggest reason I had any success in any of the SF games is because of the intuitive control scheme. I loved the fluidity of half-, quarter-, and full-control pad turns combined with the buttons. The MK control scheme was incredibly difficult for me to deal with because apparently I lacked the proper synapses needed to link my brain and fingers into one entity. I didn’t possess the hair-trigger timing needed to perform even the basic moves. I felt so very awkward playing, and it took ever effort for me to not make my character look like a lumbering idiot. And honestly *sob* I never learned a single fatality.
If I actually pulled off a fatality, it was only because of the dumbest of dumb luck. I got so nervous at that FINISH HIM moment the game gave you to enter the fatality properly. I usually choked and the other player fell just so pathetically to the floor. Really, what was the good of an MK game if not to master the art of severing one’s torso from one’s legs?
Later in life I tried my hand at one, maybe two other MK games, with a little more success but not much. As for Mortal Kombat II, it didn’t have a long stay at our house. I remember coming home on a college break and asking my brother about it. He muttered something about using it in another trade, and then he asked if I wanted to play Street Fighter. Well, of course. Of course I did.
Epilogue: If anything Mortal Kombat-ish has stuck with me over the years, it’s the soundtrack. And no, I don’t mean the soundtrack for the so-so Mortal Kombat movie. I mean the electro-dance-pop-etc. compilation released by The Immortals in the mid 1990s. Yeah, you know the one. I know you can hear the infamous “Mortal Kombat!” yell in your ears right now. Compared to other stuff The Immortals have done, the MK compilation is nearly dripping with Velveeta, but it’s fantastically fun. Whenever it cycles round on my iPod, I still get my girl power on with Sonya Blade’s theme “Go, Go, Go!”