Mortal Kombat’s Identity Crisis

So in my first article for the site, which honestly I didn’t expect to get published let alone receive any traction what-so-ever, did fairly well. So while I’m still on the Mortal Kombat kick and I briefly mentioned it before I think it’s time that we, the fans, have this very unfortunate conversation about Mortal Kombat and how it’s very identity is in jeopardy.

Allow me to take you back to the year of 1992 and I was in the process of learning the ultimate skill that would take me far in life. How to put one foot infront of the other…oh and Mortal Kombat debuted, set the world on fire by being the most violent video game ever made at the time, and even created the ESRB rating system.

If you weren’t around at the time, or in my case too young to know about it, I recommend checking out some old news footage floating around on the internet on just how controversial this game really was. My personal favorite being a news story from Fox News in 1993 before the ESRB rating system was implemented.

I do YouTube videos and although I covered it on my show Magus Reviews several years ago, I do plan on revisiting Mortal Kombat 1 as part of an analysis series to discuss the lore so if I may shill my other work for a second do keep an eye out for that. But Mortal Kombat using digitized actors as sprites and cartoony violence is what set the good wholesome family friendly crowd ablaze with anger and the desire for one thing. Censorship to protect the kids.

There are rather infamous versions of Mortal Kombat 1, the most notorious of course being the Super Nintendo Port which removed all the blood and gore. The game mechanics were still there but anyone who’s anyone will always go to the Sega Genesis version because Genesis does what Nintendont and what that was this time was have a cheat code for blood.

In some of those previously mentioned news stories, fans of the arcade game mentioned that taking the blood out of the game severely reduced it’s fun factor. Later on with the additon of more female characters we were seeing some sexy cleavage exposing costumes and Mortal Kombat popularized the infamous “Bikini Ninja”. There was blood and now there was tits.

As the series went on to have a more polished combat system, and in Mortal Kombat 3’s case a punishing difficulty that could rival Art of Fighting, the series had forged it’s identity through embracing taboos. It’s only political statement was “just how ridiculous and offensive could this get?” it was almost like you took overly hormonal 15 year olds, gave them energy drinks, turned on some nu-metal, and said “just make something and we’ll publish it”.

And as absurd as that sounds after 11 games in the main series, a few spinoffs, two Hollywood films with a third on the way, two live action shows, and even a couple of animated features, it worked. This was Mortal Kombat and it was here to stay.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Mortal Kombat movies aren’t high art but then again neither is Mortal Kombat. I maintain that the first movie is a good fight flick and the second one is good if you have a group of friends who love to riff bad movies. But there was one major thing missing from both films…gore.

Mortal Kombat built it’s reputation on the back of it’s hyperviolence so even though Mortal Kombat 1 is a quality fight flick it does lose out on some of the spirit of Mortal Kombat and I think it suffers for that. What could be a great video game film is just a good one. The best kills in the movie are when Shang Tsung is impaled on a spike and Kano gets his neck snapped between Sonya’s thighs.

Now Mortal Kombat Defender’s of the Realm, the animated sequel series, suffers from the same problems but it’s intensified. It was relatively toned down in the films but there was some sexiness from the actresses here and there. Or was it just SO integral to the plot for Jade(who’s for some reason Asian and not Black) to be half naked and all over Liu Kang in the movie? Or was Mileena and Sonya’s fight in the mud just a commentary on how all fist fighting is dirty?

Defender’s of the Realm had no fatalities, no gore, and it also erased boobs. I don’t mean that they made all the women flat and covered up. No, they had their cleavage exposing costumes but had no boobs. It was really awkward and embarassing to see the depths the animators would take to censor itself.

So what am I getting at here? Mortal Kombat 11 cranks of the gore to…well…11 and all’s well right? Not quite.

Do you want to know why there was such a huge backlash against the game for taking the sexiness out of it? It wasn’t because people wanted to see attractive women get brutalized in half naked garb but because it was a key element in Mortal Kombat’s identity for 20+ years.

Mortal Kombat needs all of the Taboo elements to be Mortal Kombat. If you take one thing away from it then the whole house of cards crumbles. You can polish your character models, you can have cinematic storymodes, you can have winks and nods to the previous entries in the series, you can do all of these things to compensate for one thing that Mortal Kombat is missing and all it does is just remind us of how much better it used to be.

Also given how many sex jokes that exist inside of MK11 I sincerely doubt that this was just a recent Puritanical standpoint that they took.

Mortal Kombat pretending to be more “mature than it used to be” according to Ed Boon is patently ridiculous. Mortal Kombat hasn’t matured at all since the early 90’s. It’s still the hyperviolent, cartoony, ridiculous, over the top, franchise it’s always been but it is missing the sexiness and why is that important you ask?

Because in 1992 Mortal Kombat censored itself and everyone hated it.