Tomorrow, Mortal Kombat makes its return to gaming consoles. So what better way to commemorate the series than to take a look at some of its missteps? Okay, there are plenty, but this is Maximum Letdown, so this is all you get for free.

Maximum Letdown: Mortal Kombat (SNES, Genesis)
The original Mortal Kombat? A Maximum Letdown? What the hell?!? Everyone knows that Mortal Kombat was a classic! Calm down, I’m not talking about the arcade game, I’m talking about some of the home versions. While the arcade game helped the series become a pop culture icon, some of the home ports needed some work. To be fair, I’m not going to rip the Game Boy and Game Gear versions. The developers tried everything they could to fit the arcade game into a 8-bit portable. I mean the Genesis and Super Nintendo versions. The Genesis version of the game had the blood and gore hidden by a code, although it has smaller character sprites, washed out backgrounds, and inferior sound, and it was a nightmare to play using the three-button control pad. However, it managed to outsell the SNES version. Why? Simple. Nintendo had the developers remove the blood and gore from the SNES and Game Boy versions of the game, a mistake which continues to haunt them to this day. 4 of the gorier fatalities were replaced by non-bloody finishing moves. Instead of Johnny Cage punching his opponent’s head off, he could now kick his opponent through the chest. Instead of Kano ripping out his opponent’s heart, he simply punched his foe through the chest (and raised his fist as if he was holding something). Instead of Sub Zero ripping out his opponent’s spine, he froze and shattered them (although this was one of the cooler finishing moves). This move made for some serious repercussions for Nintendo, as the move that would end up being near the top of Gamespy’s top 25 dumbest moments in gaming would unfairly give them the reputation of being a kiddie company. Instead of parents thanking Nintendo for providing family friendly entertainment like they hoped, Nintendo suffered a severe backlash from gamers, while they parents they hoped to impress (at least the responsible ones who raise their children and don’t blame video games for everything) probably felt as if their intelligence had been insulted, as Nintendo seemingly took it upon themselves to do their jobs for them. Thankfully Nintendo learned their lesson with MK2, and had the best home console version of the game. Until then, players were forced to choose between a version of the game that was close to the arcade but had no blood and a version of the game that had blood but was inferior to the arcade game.

Of course when the Sega CD version of the game was released, it added insult to injury. With all the extra tech the Sega CD added, Acclaim had the opportunity to give us the ultimate version of Mortal Kombat. So what did they do with the extra horsepower? Add in that STUPID COMMERCIAL. Instead of maybe improving the graphics (as they were just like the Genesis version’s graphics), giving a new soundtrack (although there were some remixed tracks), or adding new graphical details, we get to watch a video. Oh, and there are LOAD TIMES! Yes, I know CD technology was relatively new, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. For what it’s worth however, you can access the blood without a code.

Maximum Letdown: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (SNES, Genesis, Game Boy Advance)

MK1 wouldn’t be the last time that a port of Mortal Kombat got butchered on the SNES and Genesis. Years later, it would be Midway’s ‘championship edition’ remake of MK3 that would get the butchering. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 added in several changes; movesets were tweaked, new moves were added, new stages were added, and the characters Scorpion, Classic Sub-Zero, Ermac, Mileena, Kitana, and Jade, with the latter being made playable for the first time. Secret opponents Noob Saibot and Rain were also added. Shao Khan’s treasures, a set of hidden rewards, were added when you finish the game. Of course console gamers, including SNES and Genesis owners, couldn’t wait until the game hit their systems. One last Mortal Kombat game before the new generation of systems completely took over.

Just one problem: it was 1996, and while 16-bit MK games were all the rage back in the days, the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis were just not priorities as the Playstation and Sega Saturn were the belles of the ball. As such, the 16 bit editions of the game were rushed, and glitchy. For starters, while the games had the 4 new UMK levels, most of the levels from the original Mortal Kombat were gone. Many of the fatalities were altered, and anamalities were removed entirely (though considering how goofy they were, it was probably for the best). Sheeva was removed from the game, although if you select the game’s tournament mode, and do the random select, she may appear, but it will be in the form of a glitchy mess that may even cause the game to crash. To its credit, it introduced Brutalities, a new form of fatality which causes a player to beat his opponent until they explode. Also, Mileena, Ermac, Classic Sub-Zero were all immediately playable (unlike in the arcade version where you needed a code to access them) along with Noob Saibot and Rain (unlike in the arcade version where they weren’t playable at all). Also the bosses were playable, but only one player can choose them. The Sega Saturn version had its own issues (not the least of which being Noob Saibot being a shadow version of Kano instead of Sub-Zero), but it wasn’t nearly as bad as this. If you wanted a version of MK3, you were better off getting Mortal Kombat Trilogy on Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64.

The Game Boy Advance version, titled Mortal Kombat Advance, was even worse. Not only was the game already hampered by two missing buttons, but the AI was horrible, and the blood was toned down, further reinforcing the stereotype of Nintendo systems being for kids. The world wouldn’t get a decent home version of the game until it hit Xbox Live Arcade in 2006 (sadly it was pulled in February of 2010 after Midway’s demise), and again in 2007 when it hit Nintendo DS.

Maximum Letdown: Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (PS1, N64)
Well, like with any successful franchise, Midway wanted to expand it into other areas. One of these areas happened to be a platforming action game. Starring Sub-Zero, MKM took place long before the first game while acting as a foretelling of the events of Mortal Kombat 4. Sub Zero can upgrade his skills RPG-style. Sounds good on paper, but the controls sink it flat. Without getting into details, let me offer up this advice to up and coming game developers: DON’T USE FIGHTING GAME CONTROLS FOR A PLATFORMING GAME! This is especially true when said game features pitfalls and huge chasms. It’s too bad, because the game has a lot of promise. The plot is okay, and it helps to set up threads for future MK games (most notably MK4) and the graphics are nice even if the live-action cutscenes are super cheesy. Too bad the controls just weren’t up to snuff. Oh yeah, the game utilized passwords. On Playstation. In 1997. PASSWORDS? Come on! This would not be the last time Midway tried with a non-fighting Mortal Kombat game, and it would not be the worst…

Maximum Letdown: Mortal Kombat Special Forces (PS1)
This game by far, is not only the worst Mortal Kombat game ever, but it’s pretty much one of the worst games of all time to boot. What makes this game even worse is that midway through the game’s development, much of Midway’s staff walked out, including series co-creator John Tobias, so you basically got an unfinished product. Sonya was supposed to be in the game, yet she was cut due to the departure and the fact that the game was rushed. The game stars Jax as he is out to capture Kano and his Black Dragon gang. This game, like Mythologies before it, was part of Tobias’ plan to expand the franchise into other genres. This approach would not be successful until 2005’s awesome Shaolin Monks. On a side note, according to MK3’s storyline, Jax got his biotic implants to combat the outworld threat after MK2. So why does he have them in this game, as it takes place before the first Mortal Kombat?

That’s it for now. Thankfully these duds did little to turn fans away from the franchise, as it went on to produce classics such as MK2, Deadly Alliance, and Deception. Even Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was better than these duds. No matter though, because when the sequel is released tomorrow, everyone, myself included, will be having too much fun ripping out spines and punching off heads to pay any attention to the franchise’s missteps. See you later this week!