Monday, September 18, 2023

Mortal Kombat II (Super NES, 1994)

The biggest sequel since Terminator 2. And this time the Nintendo version has blood and guts. YOU HAPPY NOW, KIDS??

This was one of the Nintendo Power issues that I totally tore apart, mainly due to this game. September 1994. I'd say this and the following 3 months might be the single best four-month span of Nintendo Powers in a row. I don't know if that's the case or not but either way 1994 had to be the best overall year for the magazine.

Only playing the SNES version this time because it's much closer-together with the other versions now. Look at how exciting and leap-off-the-page this coverage is.

I really like this shot of Shang Tsung doing a flying punch to Kintaro. This was the first time I ever saw Kintaro and I wasn't sure what I was looking at here.

The pages have these cool center-photos of different characters, starting with Shao Kahn. Unfortunately, they kinda get gobbled up by the binding.

Sub-Zero looks particularly freaked out. I thought this was because he was still fleeing from Scorpion's eternal wrath. But nope, this Sub-Zero is a different guy from the first game. The first Sub-Zero, Bi-Han, was actually slain by Scorpion in the canon. This new Sub-Zero is his brother. And presumably this new one is the guy we see unmasked in MK3. So what happened to the original Sub-Zero? More on that later.

Regardless, these pages are super-informative and full of button commands. I kinda miss the cartoon story inserts of the previous game's coverage but I'll take it.

Reptile is now an actual reptile. Still Shang Tsung's personal bodyguard. Not sure if he was in the first game or if he got promoted after Goro got... slain(?)

Kitana and Reptile both have special moves that move their opponent around (Kitana can suspend them in the air, Reptile can bounce them off a force ball).

The first game really just had a projectile and a direct special for each character (and sometimes a non-damaging teleport/movement or a second direct special). This game has more special moves, and the special moves have a lot more variance and utility. Characters have multiple versions of their projectile attacks now; they can fire high, fire low, fire more than one, etc.

Also Nintendo Power poses a good question here: Does Shang Tsung actually need a bodyguard, since he can morph into anyone? Come to think of it, if he wants to overthrow Shao Kahn, why not just morph into him and beat him up? Or better yet Kintaro.

Here we see the reason why Sub-Zero looks so freaked-out: Scorpion. He's still in hot pursuit of the ice man. Maybe? IDK. Maybe he's after someone else now. The new Sub-Zero is trying to assassinate Shang Tsung, the objective of the first Sub-Zero. And speaking of which...

Shang Tsung is hands-down my favorite character in this game, even though he only has one real special move (the Skull Fireball, though he can fire up to 3 in a row).

Yeah, he's the bad guy and all that, but whatever.

"Who knows what he does with it then"...yeah, thanks Nintendo Power.

The real bad guys. Two of the nastiest final bosses in fighting game history, quite frankly. I think in the canon Goro is supposed to be mightier than Kintaro, but I find that hard to believe. Kintaro is a full-on destroyer compared to Goro.

...I still don't know what "unbalance the furies" means

Do the right button combination on startup and you can summon these two to completely trash the Acclaim logo. I can't believe I remembered how to do that.

They've taken the motion-capture animation to a new level in this game. It looks pretty damn good.

This was a week-one rental for me in late 1994, but I couldn't beat the game. Or on later rentals. Nope, it wasn't until Summer 1997 when I finally managed to beat the game, again on a rental.

At release in 1994 we were so stoked for it, it was unreal. Like the previous September, everyone at school was flipping out over this and we were pantomiming throwing fireballs at each other outside.

Liu Kang is the canon winner of the first game, and Shang Tsung is in some deep doo-doo. Not only did he lose the tournament, he also got Goro killed!

Wait a minute... "apparent" death of Goro? What are they trying to say here?

Some pretty cool character intros in this one. Liu Kang may have won the tournament, but his reward was having Baraka lead a death squad from Outworld to get revenge on the Shaolin temple. This part of the story sounds like it'd make a great spinoff game...

Also, not only is Liu Kang the Bruce Lee of the series, they also gave him the background from the poster for Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.

...yeah, kind of funny. THEY THOUGHT I WOULDN'T NOTICE?

This movie also got a SNES game around this timeframe, a surprisingly good one. Maybe I should take a look at that some time.

 Which side is Kitana on? No one knows. The lore-building is alive and well (and probably the best it is in the entire series, considering it leaves just the right amount to your imagination).

We've got 5 of 7 returning characters (no Kano or Sonya), plus Reptile, Shang Tsung, and five new ones. Also the character select music is probably the best in the series here. The SNES version of the track is actually better than the arcade version, and adds some sort of pan flute (or some other wind instrument) that gives the track a completely different mood.

Another tremendous theme is the battle ladder, with more of the same wind instrument on the SNES.

Shao Kahn stands atop the mountain. I was basically obsessed with this dude as a kid and thought he was the king bad-ass.

We're starting all the way at the bottom, by the pool of... blood?

The forest stage is my personal favorite in this game. The trees all scowl and make moaning sounds.

First of all, this game is HARD. Considerably more so than the first game, and I wasn't prepared the first time I played it. This time it doesn't help that I'm trying to screengrab.

Liu Kang's special moves are super-easy to carry out, and extremely effective. And then he's got a new one:

The Bicycle Kick unleashes HELL, but it seems to be spotty in whether it triggers or not.

Kung Lao was the character I always played as when I was a kid. Not sure there's anything he particularly does better than anyone else, but he's who I went with every time.

...I also didn't beat the game until Summer 1997 so...

I'm trying to main other people but I keep going back to Shang Tsung. His version of the fireball might be the best in the game, and launching 3 in a row is a good way to catch the CPU when it doesn't duck or block long enough.

It's a rematch from the first game! This time Shang Tsung is way more formidable.

Reptile doesn't look as cool as he does in the first game IMO. One of the exceedingly few things I prefer the first game on is the look of the ninjas. Their look is just smoother and the colors pop more.

Tsung looks like he's calling for a time-out. This might be a good time for a tangent:

I permanently associate the X-Files main theme with this game. Why? Because I kept seeing commercials for it during the X-Files and the commercial had a similar mysterious vibe to the show's opening.

Lot of Shao Kahn in this commercial. I remember the quick flash of the shoulder-charge being the most interesting part of the commercial in 1994.

Baraka is kind of a cheap character because he can easily dish out blade-swings basically as much as you want. He's one of the better characters against Kintaro.

My friend who always played as E-Honda in Street Fighter II would always pick Baraka in this game. Funny because this guy also has a Hundred-Hand Slap type move.

Shang Tsung's soul-stealing finisher is the only one I consistently remember how to do.

Kitana is probably a top-3 character for me along with Shang Tsung and Liu Kang. Much like the first game, there are no weak links here though. None whatsoever. The only character who might feel slightly superfluous or out of place is Reptile, half because he's now an Actual Reptile and half because we've got enough ninjas already. ...that said, later games go way overboard with ninjas and we aren't there yet.

Kitana also has the firmest haunches of anyone in this game. But are they as firm as Sonya's in the first game?

No, not quite.

Kitana also has the fan throw, probably the most graceful attack in the game...except for the copious amounts of blood that flies everywhere. It's probably one of the more damaging projectiles, but also a little easier to avoid than most others.

Mileena, who I've never liked but others swear by her, throws laser sais!

She also has this finishing move that was made re-famous by the Last of Us show, where she literally eats her opponent and pukes out their bones:

Alright, that's pretty f*****ing insane.

The last two guys on the ladder (before the bosses) are almost always Scorpion and Rayden (in either order) for some reason. These last two spots are much tougher opponents than anything before this, too.

This means I now get a taste of my own spear-spamming from the first game.

Scorpion and Sub-Zero will probably always be inexorably tied together / compared, and their projectile attacks have similar immobilizing effects. I'd say Scorpion's spear is far superior to Sub-Zero's freeze, though. The spear does (a small amount of) damage, the freeze doesn't. But more importantly, the spear hauls your opponent over to you, while with the freeze you have to run over to them. These several seconds give you less time to pull off an uppercut or similar high-damage move before it wears off.

Shang Tsung has a killer flying punch, seen here as he vaults over Rayden's lightning.

AYO-BOBBO-LAY is alive and well!

Shang Tsung is the third-to-last fight and is another big leap in fight difficulty over the previous ones. Guy moves fast and counters everything. I'd say he's tougher than his counterpart in the previous game by quite a bit. Then you've got Kintaro who is exponentially tougher than Goro, and Shao Kahn on top of all that.

Finally I get to Kintaro. This guy is a full-on nightmare and probably the toughest opponent in fighting game history, at least from all the ones I've played. People talk about Gill in Street Fighter 3 and so forth but nobody has a damn thing on this fight.

His big game-breaker is the leaping stomp, which absolutely decimates and he likes to use this right as the player launches a projectile. It's possible to counter it with a perfect jump kick if you've got time, but most of the time I don't.

This fight is as far as I got for a couple years when I'd play this game, and it wasn't until 1997 that I finally got a win. Jeepers.

I try a couple other characters and get absolutely nowhere as I die to the guy for like an entire hour.

Sub-Zero might actually be the best character to beat this guy with...if played by a master. Because Sub-Zero can launch his Slide attack every time he knocks Kintaro off-balance and it'll land. Hit him with a jump kick and knock him down? Immediately Slide and bam, it connects. Takes some real skill to pull that off though.

Kitana is a better character for n00bs to use because her Fan Lift move works super well on this fight and incapacitates the big guy. ...unless he just stands back out of reach and waits for it to end.

Switching back to Shang Tsung here, let's try the "short jump kicks" method that worked for me a few years ago...


My "short jump-kicks" method... isn't working now either. This dude just blocks everything!

His "catch opponent out of the air and throw them" move is starting to GET OBNOXIOUS

The key this time, I found, was to capitalize whenever he roars or shows off. Also he likes to leap forward ineffectively which is a perfect time for an uppercut. It literally took over an hour just to get a win on this one fight.

The SNES version has limited continues, which was really unfortunate and probably the reason it took me years to beat the game. Should have followed the first game and just let you play.

Finally, Shao Kahn! He's the big bos-

       annnd I'm dead

His shoulder tackle is his big move, and it's nowhere near as bad as Kintaro's flying stomp. He's also a Block-thusiast, like Kintaro. Dude just blocks EVERYTHING, to the point that you can actually spam projectiles on him and he'll just stand there taking chip damage (until you give him even a half second to respond).

My special moves do nothing! NOTHING!

I switch back to ::sigh:: Shang Tsung and dish out his basic flying punches and flying kicks. The triple fireball is also pretty effective because the CPU often makes the mistake of lowering a block after the first or second one lands.

Finally win, and this game is mercifully over. Probably the best game in the entire series, but it sure is hard for the last couple of fights.

On the other hand, said last couple fights are probably two of the most memorable in any fighting game. So they may have griefed me to an absurd degree over the years, but I damn sure remember the fights as a result.

MK3 has the same final boss but he's easier in that, and as a result I barely remember that fight in comparison. Then they went and made him super-tough again in UMK3 and MK Trilogy. That last one I've never played before so I'm gonna give it a whole post.


So yeah, every time I beat this game it seems to end up being as Shang Tsung. In the canon I think it's supposed to be Liu Kang again.

But wait! The game isn't over yet. The first game had Reptile as a secret uber-boss. Keeping with the tradition of everything in this game being bigger and badder, now we have THREE secret bosses.

Win the fight before the "?" with nothing but low kicks and you get transported back to Goro's Lair. Not sure why that place specifically, which makes the player think they're gonna fight Zombie Goro or something.

Jade is basically a faster, stronger version of Mileena and Kitana. Kinda combines the two, like Reptile did in the first game. She's the easiest of the 3 secret bosses to get to, for sure, since winning a fight with nothing but low kicks isn't much of an ask.

Then we've got Smoke, unlocked via a quick code-press whenever the Toasty guy pops up. He might be the most challenging of the three because he moves super-fast and has Scorpion's moves. Probably the most compelling new character in this game and it wouldn't be long before they made him playable in later games.

Lastly there's Noob Saibot. This guy is pretty annoying to get to, and also moves super-fast. Apparently he's the shade of the original Sub-Zero, and as such has Sub-Zero's moves.

Welp, that's Mortal Kombat II. It's still really, really good after all this time. Outworld is a hell of a location, full of mystery. Alas, the third game would return to Earth with a post-apocalyptic storyline that didn't really land the way this game did. More on that in a bit.

But first!

Another zany video. "Kintano" indeed.

As much as I like this game I think the fight with Kintaro is gonna deter me from most future impromptu playthroughs.

Other Mortal Kombat Posts

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