After the massive, shocking bloodletting seen in the original Mortal Kombat, programmers Ed Boon and John Tobias probably wondered how they would ever top themselves. Eventually they figured out a way, but it was essentially the same way everyone else does sequels: Add more characters, moves, backgrounds, blood and make the graphics even prettier. All the jazz that doesn't matter. Mortal Kombat 2 was successful because it had something the first game didn't: A requirement of skill. Now everyone who loved the original REALLY loves the sequel, and so Mortal Kombat becomes a phenomenon. There are Halloween kostumes, aktion figures, komic books, television shows and movies, and of kourse even more kontroversy in Kongress. And it bekomes fashionable to replace most c's with k's when spelling.
As all good Arkade games are, eventually Mortal Kombat 2 is brought home to the popular konsoles (kan I stop with the k thing now? Have I made my point?). After the disaster which was the homecoming of the first Mortal Kombat, Nintendo and Sega aren't pulling any punches. They're bringing the Arcade money machine home as faithful as possible, with the blood fully intact in both versions-no code required. Unfortunately, "faithful," is again not the operative word in a description of the Genesis version. Although it comes much closer than the conversion of the original game.
The story of Mortal Kombat 2 currently escapes me, since I've lost the manuel (which, now that I think about it, I may never have owned in the first place.) Although the purpose of the second Mortal Kombat tournament escapes me, I know the following details: The plot introduces the evil Shao Khan, who is to Shang Tsung what Emperor Palpatine is to Darth Vader. It seems Khan was upset about Tsung losing his grip on the tournament. But Tsung, who is apparently a smooth talker, talked Khan into giving him another chance. So Khan granted him that second chance, and up'd the ante by restoring Tsung's youth. And now the tournament is taking place in their hometown, the Outworld, where the fighters all get another chance to knock off not only Tsung, but Khan himself. Somehow this ghastly contest is attracting all the best fighters from both worlds-including Tsung, who is now a playable character, morphs and all.
Since the game takes place in a more mystical dimension, Boon and Tobias were able to let their imaginations run a bit more wild. As a result, we see some lovely new backgrounds, like the Dead Pool, the Tower and the Living Forest. Among the inhabitants of this wonderland are Baraka, a scary-looking, big-toothed dude with swords which retract into his arms Wolverine-style; Mileena, a sai-thrower who sucks up her opponents and spits out the bones; Kitana, a gorgeous princess whose fans cut deeper than just the skin; and Kintaro, another four-armer. Kintaro, by the way, is the next-to-last boss and therefore not a selectable character. The noble Earth warriors are without Sonya and Kano now, but the rest are still there, as well as a couple of newbies: Kung Lao is one of Liu Kang's Shaolin brothers, and Jax is with the special forces unit Sonya serves on. Reptile is also selectable now, and he has a whole new set of moves.
Boon and Tobias' creativity didn't end there. Since everyone went nuts over the blood in the first Mortal Kombat, they thought of some truly sickening ways to knock off opponents in Mortal Kombat 2. Now each character has TWO ways to satisfy the bloodlust of the gamer using him or her. The Fatalities range from unnecessarily violent (Jax's arm rip) to standard (Baraka's head lop) to painful looking (Scorpion's Toasty) to freakin' COOL! (Liu Kang's dragon bite). Furthermore, if painful instant death isn't your cup of tea, each character also has a Babality, which transforms their opponents into infants, and Friendships, which allow the winners to make peace with the losers in ways like signing autographs or selling dolls.
The good news for the vampires reading this is all these gory works made it into the Genesis version, with all the blood right there. Unfortunately, if it's an exact Arcade sim you want, this sadly isn't the one to buy. In their creative streak, the boys at Midway also added a new move for the Arcade version: A crouching low punch. This move was essential for some of the flashier combos in the Arcade, but Acclaim snatched it away from the grasp of Genesis gamers, citing the three-button controller as the reason. A truly boneheaded move, considering even Capcom managed to find a way to cram a six-button layout into the three-button controller. So if your favorite combos involved the crouching low punch in any way, you'll now just have to settle with ending them with uppercuts.
In Mortal Kombat 2, Midway removed the endurance matches which were in the original. In the Genesis translation of the original Mortal Kombat, the endurance matches were the only things which provided the game with any real challenge. So at first glance, their removal from a Genesis translation of Mortal Kombat 2 is a very bad thing. When a second glance is taken, though, their removal is actually good for the translation. Acclaim managed to keep the Arcade's challenge in there for the ride home, in both required skill and artificial intelligence. It still takes skill to unleash special moves and combos, and the computer won't just stand around letting you pummel it this time. The latter comes off as a desperate attempt to please fans of the Arcade version, however, because the computer isn't bashful about cheaping you out to win. Mortal Kombat 2 Genesis has the most unpleasantly cheap AI I've ever played against. Even in the early stages of the very easy setting, it appears to come at you faster than normal. After awhile, it suddenly gains the ability to throw you whenever you try to hit it with an uppercut. I've destroyed controllers because of this. So it's a good thing you can give yourself up to 30 credits to knock Shao Khan off his pedestal. But the extra challenge is still a good thing.
Mortal Kombat 2 can also be a very unbalanced game at times. Certain characters have simply enormous advantages over other characters. Liu Kang is again the big favorite because he's a ridiculously easy character to learn and use. Even his new bicycle kick only requires you to hold down a button for a few seconds. Shang Tsung can morph into any playable character in the game, complete with his choice morph's special moves. But the time he takes with the actual act of morphing is just enough for a skilled player to administer a free hit. Jax has a move, the Earthquake, which is unblockable. Reptile, the hidden big shot from the first game, is a guy everyone wants to use-until they learn about his invisibility move, which has the same problems as Tsung's morphs, and his ultra-slow forceball projectile.
On the upside, fight buffs can take heart in the fact that the moves, as I've already stated, require real skill. The one-button-at-a-time special move system from the first game has been overhauled, and the new moves require swift Street Fighter 2-like thumb rolls. This is good because it means the chances of being cheesed out by human opponents are less. Combos in Mortal Kombat 2 are twice as hard to use, but also twice as flashy as they were in the first game.
Unfortunately, despite all the creativity and skill requirements packed into the sequel, it still suffers from the same lack of different regular moves which made its older brother forgettable. The regular moves are not only all the same, they haven't even changed from the first game! Every character is still a palette swap. Which makes the real palette swapping of TWO SETS of characters inexcusable. Reptile, Scorpion and Sub-Zero remain swapped, and now Mileena and Kitana have been added to the mix.
The graphics in Mortal Kombat 2 Genesis are far superior to the graphics in their prequel. Instead of looking colorless and muddled, the graphics are bright and photographic. The Fatalities all look brilliant, and the special effects are fantastic. But for all their prettiness, they still have a long way to go before being an exact replica of the Arcade version's. Picky people with eagle eyes will notice all the background details which are STILL missing. The dragons in the Tomb background, the floating monk in the Tower, and a vast number of animation frames are all gone. In the Arcade version, if you pulled the right moves, you could fight a hidden boss called Smoke in Goro's Lair. You won't be doing that in the Genesis version, though. If you get to fight Smoke, you do so in a Blue Portal, which is a very cool-looking compliment to the regular Portal, but still not the Arcade. Color is here but still lacking a bit. When you perform a Friendship, the word "Friendship," flashes across the screen in small red and yellow letters, not gigantic multi-colored letters.
Once again it has been decided the original score in the Arcade was not good enough and had to be discarded. And once again the programmers relied on their own musical abilities in lieu of hiring Crystal Method. Once again the resulting score is astonishingly horrible. Finally, once again the programmers decided the Genesis wasn't powerful enough to handle the repotoire of voices contained in the original version. Although I'll be a nice guy and give them credit for using more voices than they did in the first game. Shao Khan has a thundering voice which he uses to taunt you, and Scorpion now has the phrase "Come Here!" in addition to his classic "Get over here!" Aside, about 90% of the original voices have been hacked. We would have to wait for the next game to get a full range of voices. Unfortunately, by then the series would be about dead.
Instead of pushing the d-pad in a direction, saying "duh!", then pushing it in another direction, saying "duh!" and then hitting the last button to execute the move, you now have to be smooth about the movements. It's like every other fighting game now. If you don't move your thumb fast enough, you don't perform the move. Of course, some characters still have charge moves, but they're rare. The controls in general respond light-years better than the counterparts of their older brother. Now if only that darn crouching low punch still existed, Genny owners would really be in business.
Mortal Kombat 2 for the Genesis is far from the best fighting game available for that console. It isn't the best translation of the Arcade game, either. But, all things considered, Mortal Kombat 2 is the best game in its series and a worthwhile Genesis purchase. Its two-player mode is still a lot of fun, and the challenge, which the first game lacked, is there, despite being cheap. There may be a few people who revile the game because of the missing move. But honestly, sometimes it's interesting to see how you'll improvise your favorite combos without it.