Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Mortal Kombat Trilogy (N64/PS1, 1996)

For a long time I was under the impression that Mortal Kombat 4 was the first one where you could actually play as Goro. While that IS the one where Goro returns in story canon, there's another game before that where he's playable (this one). More importantly, this is 2D Goro, the one we know, and not a different 3D version like in MK4. MOST importantly, it also gives us playable Shao Kahn, Kintaro, and Motaro. How did I miss this game all this time?

MKT here had the potential to be the pinnacle of the 2D chapter of the series. At least, I'm sure it was intended to be. It's got pretty much everything from the first 3 (areas, characters, etc). Problem is, the PS1 version has terrible loading times that really slow down the experience, while the N64 version is missing a bunch of key characters, so you're boned by some preventable issue either way. It may be the most "definitive" early MK on paper, but it's hard to give it too many props with the issues it has.

All of that said, I'm mostly just playing this to finally play as the bosses, something Street Fighter II Turbo did ages ago. Unfortunately the bosses are kind of half-assed. They aren't balanced, their specials don't work a lot of the time, and they don't have any fatalities. So yeah. Anyway enough essay, let's get going.

First off, I need to issue a correction. In the post for the first game I was under the impression that the guy being pummeled by Goro here was just some rando. But nope, it turns out that the guy in question is actually Great Kung Lao, the guy Goro defeated to become champion in the first place. This MK comic has a few shots of Great Kung Lao in it and as far as I know it's the only time in the MK canon that we see what he looked like.

Correction issued, onward to...more NP:

They landed on the cover of Nintendo Power again with this one. It's an N64 game in 1996 so Nintendo Power was all ready to give it the mega-push and a quick handjob.

Seriously, find me anything in history that shills as hard as NP did for N64 stuff.

Note how it says "Increase your mortality rate"... so it's going to help you die more?

Much more robust coverage than what UMK3 got, but when it comes down to it this is another expanded version of MK3. It isn't even hugely different from UMK3, but it does add a bunch of battle arenas from the first two games in the series.

The character artwork had a bit of a redesign at some point between MK3 and now. Sheeva in particular is now completely ripped and shredded. For the most part the designs are bulkier and less appealing. Ingame they look the same though.

Case in point. Kabal was someone I played a lot in MK3 as a kid because of his overpowered tornado spin attack, which is pretty effective at immobilizing the CPU characters. As a character though? Pretty uninteresting dude. He's basically just a Darth Vader knockoff with a helmet, some guy who was brutally injured by Shao Kahn's invasion forces.

Also Rain is the wrong color here but we'll overlook that.

Johnny Cage is back, at least. Though much like the bosses, it's kind of a non-canon thing. Nothing about this game is particularly canon. We'll see when he returns in the actual main story.

I'd probably be more interested in Ermac if he didn't debut at the same time as Rain, who I consider much more interesting. Ermac is basically just a version of Scorpion that can throw fireballs (to be more of a Sub-Zero reversal), while Rain is a straight-up lightning master.

Still cool that we've got Jade/Smoke/Noob playable now. Would have been really cool if Ermac and Rain had been secret bosses in MK3 to set them up for these games, but no such luck.

Side Note: It's probable that this picture of Jade helped a lot of teenage boys go through puberty in 1996.

Alright, hold on, STOP THE BIKE. After all of these games...they're finally telling us what "unbalancing the furies" means!

...sort of, because I still don't get it. We needed Stephen Hawking to weigh in on this issue. The furies might be gravitational waves, or dark matter, IDK. And more importantly...the devs of this series also DK.

Some good options here. You can do a tag match, playa, against a friend, which is a good addition.

Kitana (w/ net-shirt). Every character has an intro again. Not sure where this is supposed to go in the series canon, though. It seems to coincide with MK3's timeframe (again) only with a bunch of characters inexplicably around. Mileena should be dead, for example.

Rayden, Johnny Cage, and Baraka are all back after being left out of both versions of MK3.

BUT WAIT... weren't the bosses supposed to be playable? WHAT TRICKERY IS THIS?

That's right, the N64 version...doesn't have the bosses. Only the PS1 version does. The main claim to fame of MKT... and the N64 version just left it out.

It does have two secret characters: Normal outfit Smoke (which is awesome) and Khameleon (...an invisible ninja, so basically Reptile 2.0). I'm kinda over secret unlock characters though. The PS1 version has normal Smoke available from the get-go but no Khameleon (nothing of value was lost, really)

Well, gonna try it out regardless. Kind of interesting to play as MK3 sprites in MK2 arenas. The sprites are a little more detailed than the SNES games, but also have this slightly-off "superimposed" look to them. A lot of early N64 games did this with sprites. They just don't seem to mesh with the backgrounds.

You can really see that "superimposed" look here. It's an N64 thing, for sure. For the most part I liked the N64's visual look, and it did 3D a lot better than the PS1 in 1996.

Mirror matches are still totally inconsequential. Thought they might become "a thing" again with the return of endurance matches, but nope. And yes, endurance matches are back in this one. Yay.

Gone is the purple theme of UMK3, replaced with... an orange/gold theme!

Glad Scorpion is in this. Not sure if they realized what a huge mistake it was leaving him (and most of MK1's cast) out of MK3. Well, they must have realized it later because here he is.

The actual MK3 character additions are kinda lost in the shuffle now with so many appealing old characters returning.

Fun Fact: Since Old Shang Tsung is nowhere to be found in this game, but it has arenas from all three games, now Shao Kahn is sitting in Shang Tsung's chair.

There's this new thing called the "Aggressor Meter" that fills as you do damage. Once it's full, your character moves considerably faster and leaves afterimages. It's pretty cool as a novelty, but wears off pretty quickly (both as a novelty and as a buff). When the CPU activates this I usually just turtle up and back off until they tire out.

Not only is Johnny Cage back, now the Shao Kahn Palace stage has the Chrysler Building in it! This puts Kahn's Palace in context: It's around 1100 feet tall. My God. It's also built right about where the modern Vanderbilt Tower is. Which probably also contains a portal to hell.

Well, that's the N64 version. There isn't really much to say about it. It's a fusion of the previous four games and probably the height of the 2D games in the series visually.

Switching gears now to see what the PS1 version has to offer...

...yeah, this is superior to the N64 version, no question.

It adds SIX new characters, all selectable from the get-go: The four bosses, MK3 Sub-Zero, and Human Smoke (who is fly AF...seriously, guy deserved that NP cover).

No Khameleon the invisible character though. N64 version will always have that. By God it'll always have that.

The bosses are all I'm really interested in with this game so it's good to like, actually get them. Can't imagine how I'd have felt if I bought the N64 version back in 1996 and got it home to find out it didn't have the one thing I was getting it for.

In any case, the bosses are here and playable, but not particularly high-effort. They aren't actually canon to the story or anything, they're unbalanced, and they're sort of like bonus additions more than anything else.

No aggression meter for these dudes either, which is fine because they basically just plow through their opposition.

Goro has a lot more animations than in the SNES version of the original game. Unsure if these animations were in the arcade version.

Most notably, he can throw a kick, which I'm fairly sure is new.

"Too bad YOU...will DIE" says Sindel when reached for comment.

This graveyard stage is entirely new (i.e. not in any of the previous four games that I know of). Fighting on holy ground is a major no-no, though. I need to get back to Highlander.

Side note: Not only can the boss characters not do finishers, they can't take finishers either. There's no animation for it so it just kinda doesn't let you.

Side note 2: One of the tombstones is a reference to Dan Torden, AKA the "Toasty" guy.

Goro is an iconic character and a lot of fun to play as, but it's time to change things up.

Motaro is next, and he's enormous. More agile than Goro too.

He has a sweet mule kick! And that's about it for this guy. He knocks his foes across the screen just like Goro did.

Kintaro, the bane of my existence. Now it is I who controls his power.

Side note: His portrait is different from MKII. Goro also has a new portrait for some reason.

Oh man, oh no, Sektor has me cornered, how am I gonna get out of this one??


As a kid I think the most appealing thing to me about Kintaro was his tiger stripes. Assumed he was wearing tiger skins as an outfit, which made him even cooler. Like he probably hunted and slew his own coat.

Well, turns out the tiger stripes are actually his skin color pattern. What's more, there's a whole lore behind this. The Shokan race (which Goro/Kintaro/Sheeva hail from) is divided into two sub-races. The "elite" Shokan are said to be descended from dragons, and are treated as royalty. Goro and Sheeva are both from this class. Then there's the "commoner" Shokan who are a peasant caste not supposedly descended from dragons, who have stripes. Kintaro is from this other sub-race.

Does this mean ALL of the commoners have tiger stripes? Unknown, but at least it explains the difference. Given that Kintaro is clearly stronger than Goro, the commoners aren't weaker or anything. Though it's also possible Kintaro was simply the strongest of his kind. Also possible he was given an Italian Stallion type chance after Goro was slain, a chance to break out of his caste, and succeeded at it.

A huge clash, the sub-bosses of MK2 and MK3 locking horns. No way to face off Goro and Kintaro in the normal campaign. Two-player is the only way to do that.


Well, all in all, Motaro is much easier here than in UMK3 and doesn't have the "lol screw the player lol" troll code. Basically just normal MK3 Motaro.

Oh man, this would be incredible if it were 1994. So many schoolyard debates about who the strongest in MKII was. I insisted Kintaro was the strongest and other people were all "Shao Kahn is the strongest" and so forth.

Now I have zero doubt Kintaro is the strongest in the actual game of MKII, but in the canon/story I suppose Shao Kahn is stronger than everyone. So we were all right.


I fire back with the flying stomp! Motaro also had a lot of issues defending against this move.


Well uh

That happened

So basically Shao Kahn DOES have the "lol I win" code from UMK3, with even more aggressiveness, and is probably the hardest boss in the series to this point. Guy makes Motaro look like a harmless kitten.

I try throwing Goro at him and it goes even worse.

Well, this is a good sign that it's time to finally play as the last boss: Shao Kahn himself! I steamroll through the competition with this overpowered freak of nature.

He's pretty comparable to Kintaro, with a smaller frame which helps a bit.

You can see how not-canon this is by the fact that Shao Kahn is sitting in the background watching Shao Kahn fight.

This time the endurance round has Shao Kahn catching Sindel with Kano. While this might ruin some marriages, for Shao Kahn and Sindel it just means it's Tuesday.

Sindel with a scream wave! This is a lot like Kitana's fan lift, which is fitting given their Outworld royalty connection.

Sindel: "We were just talking! Stop this madness!"

Shao Kahn: "You won't gaslight me again!" ::sniffle:: "We're through!"


After that lover's quarrel, I take Sindel back and then give Kano a SPARTA KICK. He was 38.

Motaro still isn't any kind of major threat, and I plow through en route to...

...the mirror match of all mirror matches!

Unsurprisingly, CPU Shao Kahn is way better at being Shao Kahn than I am, and blasts off special moves perfectly. Basically, this is impossible to win with a boss. They're just too slow.

Supposedly Kintaro's fireball is very effective on this fight, but I couldn't get it to work. Just refused. Unsure why.

Eventually I switched to the unsung king of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, who I really should have done a full playthrough with: Smoke. He's fast and powerful, and even without knowing his special moves I was able to get the drop on Kahn much better than I could as any of the bosses.

He doesn't taunt nearly as much as previous games, so the key here was to try to score a lucky knockdown during one of his attacks, then hesitate a moment before launching a follow-up attack. Attack immediately and he'll block it as he gets up. Hesitate a moment and he'll start to do another attack right before yours lands, thus not blocking it. Kinda feels like more AI manipulation but it worked like a charm.

And everyone lived happily ever after! What a strange non-canon game, but it was great to finally play as the bosses.

So at the end of the day how would I rank the boss difficulty across the games thusfar?

1. Shao Kahn (MKT)
2. Shao Kahn (UMK3)
3. Motaro (UMK3)
4. Kintaro (MK2)
5. Everyone else, distantly

Kintaro is the strongest who feels like a real, normal boss, while the ones above him all feel like the AI is cheating its ass off, though.

Aside from the story mode, there's a lot of replay value here in two-player. Tag team matches are especially cool now that you can play as the bosses. How sick is this?

Now that MK3 Turbo: Boss Edition is done, going to go back in time a bit and see what was going on with the portable MK games.

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