I was an 8-bit video game head, a Nintendo fan like most kids my age. The most violence I had come across was Mario squishing a goomba flat or Ryu Hayabusa making an enemy explode with his sword. Violence in gaming was a foreign concept, real deal blood and guts violence stood far away from me for quite some time, but that all changed, thanks to Midway, thanks to Sega, and thanks to my “Uncle”, “Uncle Paul”. This is how one game changed my view on video games and what they meant to me, forever.
Unbeknownst to me there was a game in Chicago making headlines in the gaming sphere. While I was perfecting beating Mega Man 2 in one life, politicians were having aneurysms at what they were seeing kids doing with their free time, but that’s neither here nor there.
1993 or 94ish: there’s a huge secret. I’m getting a Sega Genesis for Christmas and my brother’s friend let it slip beforehand. I tried acting surprised but how could you? I was used to my dinky worn-out Nintendo and I was ready for Sonic, and only Sonic.
Our family tradition was that we opened our presents at midnight on Christmas Eve. The time had come and there it was… an exact box that only a Genesis could inhabit, in it packed the expected Sonic 2, and with it a mysterious wrapped-up game. I ripped open that Sega Genesis packaging and leaped with joy. Finally, a ticket into the 16-bit world. I opened up Mortal Kombat and put it to the side, that would come later as Sonic was my main game. On that Christmas, I also got Omega Virus, one of the first board games with a digitized voice component but that’s another post.
I played my games equally and when it was time for Mortal Kombat, it happened… all of a sudden I was completely engulfed… in absolutely nothing. What most people don’t remember and this may just be my opinion, is that Mortal Kombat by itself with no blood, just wasn’t that special of a game. Sure it looked like real people, it had special moves, but Street Fighter beat it out ten-fold. My “Uncle” was a martial arts aficionado and I’m completely sure that’s why he bought it for me. So, yeah, the game was cool and all, the graphics were legit but it lacked that “it” factor. Little did I know that factor was about to come into play thanks to one magazine, and what that magazine contained.
Game Informer Introduced The Blood Code to the masses.
A quick history lesson, the Super Nintendo version of MK1 had no blood whatsoever, The blood was changed to grey, making it look like ‘sweat’ The fatalities were also dumbed down with no body parts being ripped off.
At first glance, the Sega Genesis too was thought to be homogenized but Midway snuck in a code that allowed the game to be played just like the real-deal Arcade version. The SNES had the best graphics and gameplay hands down but the Genesis had the blood, and because of this fact alone, it outsold the SNES by a ton.
In my household, the game went from being ‘kinda-fun’ to being the game that was always on. We were hooked, and we gave it the chance that it deserved. Now it was better than Street Fighter, we got its intricacies, If you jumped at your opponent first you were bound to be served with an uppercut. By having blood we learned its mechanics and it the game was truly something special. Scorpion’s Spear, Sub-Zero’s Freeze. There was a time and place for moves such as these.
My friends and I would literally spend hours plopped in front of the television set, taking the winner stands approach. I went with Sub-Zero, and we all had our favorites, playing with each of the seven characters.
The fatalities were disgustingly perfect, and the game’s secrets added another layer to its mysticism. “Look to La Luna”, and “Bottom of the Pit” we spent days if not weeks trying to figure out how to unlock Reptile. One way, and I’m still proud of it today was to change the television tint setting a certain way which would change Sub-Zero from blue to green. Reptile Unlocked. My brother knew how badly we wanted to fight him, so much so that he called us using a fake voice and gave us some ridiculously stupid tips, and of course, we tried them.
We played MK1 up until part two’s release but that’s a whole other story with its own set of crazy memories.
Purchased on a whim by a martial arts lover, played by a group of kids that at first thought nothing of it, blood changed everything and Mortal Kombat to this day remains one of my favorite videogame franchises of all time.