Interview

John Tobias

Father Of Fatalities

On the game’s 20th anniversary, Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias says that for him, the game was about characters, not gore.

By Roger Riddell • October 15, 2012

This interview is the first part of a two-part retrospective on Mortal Kombat. Be sure to check out the interview with Tobias’ co-creator, Ed Boon.

Midway Games released Mortal Kombat in arcades 20 years ago this month, breaking new ground in the gaming industry with its campy ultra-violence, realistic digitized characters, and arcane mythology. When Acclaim Entertainment ported the game to home consoles in the fall of 1993, it featured so much blood and gore—most famously in the gruesome, fight-ending “Fatality” animations—that the resulting controversy led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Not coincidentally, Mortal Kombat’s popularity skyrocketed. After two decades, multiple sequels, a handful of films and television shows, a plethora of merchandise, and even a live touring show, Mortal Kombat is still reinventing itself. We invited the game’s co-creators to take a look back on the game’s origins and legacy.

John Tobias was barely into his twenties when he and Ed Boon created the fighting game that would become one of the last landmark game of coin-op arcades’ heyday. After working on Kombat for the better part of a decade, Tobias left Midway in 1999 to found Studio Gigante, the developer of the Xbox titles Tao Feng: Fist Of The Lotus and WWE Wrestlemania 21. He was recently named the creative director for the San Diego branch of social-game developer Zynga. Tobias talked to Gameological about the series’ creation and inspiration, the ensuing pop culture phenomenon, and its legacy.

The Gameological Society: Tell me about how the idea for Mortal Kombat came about, how old you were, and how you met Ed Boon and the other original team members?

John Tobias: That’s a long story. [Laughs.] Let me think. Well, I was hired at Williams Electronics, which eventually became Williams-Bally-Midway. Williams, prior to me being hired, had, I guess, purchased Bally-Midway. But I was hired at Williams straight out of college, and it was in 1989. What I knew of computer graphics at the time was mostly self-taught. My education was mainly in illustration. You couldn’t find much back then in the way of a curriculum—even in colleges—that would teach computer graphics. I was actually 19 when I was hired, and my first game at Williams was a game called Smash TV.

I was working on its sequel, which was called Total Carnage—and this was in 1990, ’91—when the inception of the idea for Mortal Kombat first came about. I met Ed Boon prior to that. He actually had an office next door to an office I shared with a guy by the name of John Vogel, who is a Mortal Kombat veteran. Ed was in the office next door to us, and I met him after he had come down to our video game department from the pinball game department. He was programming pinball machines, and then he joined the video game department and worked on a couple of football games.

The two games I had done prior to Mortal Kombat featured tiny character sprites, and everything I had done on those games was all hand-drawn and animated. I was looking to do something with larger graphics. I wanted to have characters larger on the screen, as large as possible, and Williams kind of had been known for utilizing a digitizing technique where you would videotape live actors and use the digitized animations in the game. In the two prior games I had done, the characters were so small that digitizing really didn’t make sense. The first thing I thought of was that, in order for us to be able to do that, we would need to have as few characters on screen as possible. So I immediately thought of an old game I played in high school called Karate Champ—which just featured two characters, and, I think, sort of a referee in the background—and a one-on-one fighting game came to mind. I brought the idea up to Ed, and he wanted to do a fighting game, as well, and thought it was a great idea. At that point, we began pursuing the idea. That was the start of it.

Gameological: I’ve read before that the story of the first game was somewhat influenced by Enter The Dragon. Is that right?

A western world meets this eastern supernatural world.

Tobias: Yeah. The thing about Mortal Kombat, especially with the first game, was that it was kind of a big mash-up of all of my influences growing up with martial arts movies. I was a huge martial arts movie junkie. In high school, there were a few theaters in downtown Chicago that a few friends and I would go to on occasion after school, and they would play the triple feature Hong Kong martial arts flicks. The idea, maybe, of an island kind of originated with Enter The Dragon.

I remember when I started with the story in the first game, a lot of it was sort of me paying homage to all of these influences that I had from martial arts films growing up. There were these bootleg videotapes I would get from Chinatown in Chicago of these martial arts movies that I think were done in the early-to-mid-’80s. There was a director, his name was Tsui Hark, and he sort of combined—and maybe some other directors in Hong Kong had done it—martial arts with a little bit of a supernatural flavor. With Mortal Kombat, I was trying to achieve that. I know everybody points to Big Trouble In Little China—and I think that movie had some real obvious influences on Mortal Kombat—but for me, even Big Trouble In Little China was doing kind of an Americanized version of that stuff. I wanted to kind of touch on that, and I love the combination of a western world meets this eastern supernatural world. That played a part in Mortal Kombat’s story, and it all came together. I think that’s when Mortal Kombat worked its best. It was this realistic western world with this supernatural eastern world, and it was that combination, I think, that worked real well for us.

Mortal Kombat character select

Gameological: How did that evolve over time to include concepts like the Outworld realm in Mortal Kombat II and a lot of the more monstrous characters that came along?

Tobias: I think, especially when you’re working with expanding an existing story, it’s all about kind of expanding the world bigger and better. That was a little bit of the mentality that I had. I know with the first game, what was important to me was just sort of establishing this world. I wanted it to feel, especially when we got into the second one, as if the first game was just sort of your gateway into this larger world. When we did go into the second game, it was about another realm [Outworld] and the immediacy, I think, of this other world trying to take over our world came more to the forefront of the story. It was about growing and expanding what was introduced in the first game.

Gameological: At the time, there were also Japanese fighting games like Street Fighter starting to become popular. What were you all going for in comparison to that? Street Fighter had more cartoonish animations compared to the digitized actors, for instance.

Tobias: When we came up with the idea for the first Mortal Kombat, it was actually prior to Street Fighter II being released in the arcades. Our instruction was sort of just get the characters as big on the screen as possible. When we first thought of the idea, we thought that we needed to tie a license to the product, so we were looking at tying, at the time, Jean-Claude Van Damme as a licensed actor in the game. We thought we needed that to justify the existence of the game because a lot of the games that were coming out of our department—or the successful ones, at least—had a license tied to them. We tried to pursue that, and it didn’t work out.

Fortunately for us, maybe a month or two later, Street Fighter II was being tested here in the United States and was performing extremely well. So, Street Fighter II and the fact that it did well kind of enabled us to move forward with Mortal Kombat because it showed to our management at the time that a one-on-one fighting game could work well in the arcades. Outside of that, Street Fighter didn’t really have too much of an influence on us. The idea for creating a game with the digitized graphics came prior to us even seeing Street Fighter II, but I think, fortunately for us, it helped differentiate us from the Japanese fighters that were out there. I think at the time, it really was just Street Fighter II.

Gameological: There was a lot of controversy surrounding the game early on with the Fatalities and the blood, and the game is, as you know, credited as the reason the ESRB rating system was created. Were you surprised by any of that? How much do you feel the controversy contributed to the franchise’s success?

Tobias: When we designed the original Mortal Kombat, the audience we were designing for was a little bit older than the home game players. The arcade market was the typical college-age player. It had kind of changed from the early ’80s, where you had this really wide general audience, to where you had just sort of the hardcore players. We designed our game for that audience. I think that when Mortal Kombat was translated to the home consoles by Acclaim, the violence really became an issue because the players tended to skew a bit younger. That’s what probably attracted the attention of the politicians who were, you know, up for reelection or whatever and looking for a vote. Because the players skewed a little bit younger, I think the controversy didn’t surprise me, and the resulting rating system the industry came up with seemed appropriate to me. I thought it was a good response to the issue.

The inception of Mortal Kombat wasn’t about the violence.

In terms of how the violence contributed to the popularity of Mortal Kombat, of course it did, just because of the media attention that the game got. I also believe that Mortal Kombat in and of itself, without the fatalities, was a good game, and I think that’s what gave it legs in the long run. Some of the copycat products back then kind of came and went because, on the surface level, the violence will attract some attention, but if there’s not much to the product behind it, you’re not going to last very long.

The inception of Mortal Kombat wasn’t about the violence. That just came as development went on. It started at the game, and we were concerned with the core of the product as opposed to the surface-level violence. As you developed the game, you know, you added a little more of the blood here, you added the crunching punching sounds there. The Fatalities came about sort of as an exclamation point to the end of the match, and it worked well. It got a great reaction from the players, and, really, when you were designing an arcade product, you wanted the player to replay the game and to have fun. You wanted to get reactions out of them, and the Fatalities certainly got that.

Gameological: Even when I saw the Scorpion fatality for the first time on Mortal Kombat back in first grade, it was just kind of funny to me at the time because it was so over-the-top that, even at that age, it just seemed ridiculous.

Tobias: That was one thing that we were also conscious of—that Mortal Kombat takes place in this fantastical world. Most of the Fatalities were so over-the-top that it was cartoonish in a way. I think a lot of the attention the game got in regards to its violence came from people who never played the game and weren’t really aware of the subject matter. All they understood was that it was violent because they were being told it was violent, and they were looking at the game out of context. They weren’t looking at it as a player. They were looking at it as an outside observer who doesn’t play the product. Even with games today, if someone who doesn’t play a game is shown snippets of a game, their reaction is going to be different than actually sitting down and experiencing the game. If you look at it out of context, it’s worse than it actually is.

Sub-Zero attack

Gameological: Do you think that your pushing the boundaries with Mortal Kombat paved the way for what exists now in gaming?

Tobias: In terms of violence?

Gameological: In terms of violence and realism.

Tobias: With regards to the graphics, the digitized stuff had a short life because, obviously, as technology improved, the processing power enabled realistic 3D graphics to take over. The problem you have with digitized graphics is the limitations of the storage. It is what it is, and you need massive amounts of storage to be able to do digitizing justice, so I don’t know that it really influenced graphics so much. In terms of violence, I think that Mortal Kombat was one of the first, but if we hadn’t done it, someone else would have inevitably come along and done it. [Laughs.]

Gameological: One of the things the series is known for is the gimmick of replacing hard Cs with Ks. How did that come into play?

Tobias: The “K” in “Kombat” came about during the trademark process in naming the game. We really liked “Mortal Combat” as a name, but it couldn’t get past legal. So we changed the “C” to a “K,” and the rest is history.

Gameological: What was your favorite thing to spin out of the game, out of the whole pop-culture phenomenon that followed it? There were the movies, the cartoon, a live action series, action figures, a touring show…

Tobias: The problem, I think, with Mortal Kombat back then was that it was very hit-and-miss in terms of the licensed properties that came from it. I think my favorite was probably the first film, and that’s because it surprised us in terms of how well it had performed in the theaters. And it was a decent translation of the story and the characters from the game.

Gameological: Were you ever surprised by how much of a pop-culture phenomenon the series became?

Tobias: I think a large part of Mortal Kombat’s success came partially because it was the right game at the right time, and it had such a large impact that it kind of cemented itself into being iconic within the larger popular culture. Because of that, I think that’s where all the ancillary stuff came from. After the Acclaim release of the home game, everything that snowballed after that didn’t surprise me so much. Obviously, at first it did. I had no idea the game would become ultimately what it became. After the snowball started rolling down the hill, and the one thing after the other with the film and all of the other stuff, that was cool to see. I had no expectation of any of that stuff, but after a while, we were so busy working on the next iteration of the game that… It was exciting to watch, but it was almost comical, all of the stuff that was happening because of it.

Gameological: Once Mortal Kombat 4 came along, what was the shift like moving from the digitized actors to the fully 3D character models?

Tobias: On Mortal Kombat 3, we had [initially] considered 3D graphics primarily because we knew that, at some point, we were gonna have to make that transition. I think our issue was, back then, that 3D graphics were in their infancy. If we wanted to do it, our characters would have become sort of these blocky versions of our existing characters.

By the time MK4 had come about, we were able to do a little bit more with the 3D graphics. I think that’s what ultimately sparked the transition for us. On that game, I actually didn’t do any of the specific modeling on the characters. There was another artist we had working on the game, but I was tasked with designing those characters. So for me, not much really changed. With the design, there was a symmetry that we kind of had to adhere to, so what was on the left side of the character had to be on the right side of the character. We were kind of restricted to those sorts of things.

Gameological: After Mortal Kombat 4, you left the team. I was wondering if you want to comment on your reasons for that. I know you moved on and started Studio Gigante shortly after that, and you had the Tao Feng: Fist Of The Lotus game.

Tobias: Right. When I left, the timing that was involved had to do with the fact that we knew that there were new platforms that were going to be introduced. We knew that Sony would be doing a follow-up [to the PlayStation], and we knew that getting in at the beginning would make it easier for us to find a development deal. For me, that’s what controlled the timeframe. At the time, I was working on the original version of a game called Special Forces, and there was a bit of a struggle on that game in terms of its development. There was a delay that pushed that project out long enough that, had I stayed, we’d miss sort of the sweet spot in terms of publishers looking for developers and their willingness to do next-gen development deals. The tough decision that we had to make at the time was either stay and complete this game that, I think, was troubled, or if we were gonna move on and not miss that window of opportunity. For me, it was kind of a no-brainer. It was kind of a different environment back then than it is today, and we knew it was important to be there at the ground floor. So that’s what sparked the decision to leave at that time.

Goro

Gameological: If you had to choose a favorite character and Fatality from your time working on the game, who and what would it be?

Tobias: I’ve never really had a single favorite character, although I guess, aesthetically, Goro would be tops on my list. My favorite Fatality was Sub-Zero’s spine rip.

Gameological: You had some involvement in the series again a few years ago in the Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe game, right?

Tobias: For MK vs. DC, Ed had asked me to illustrate a little pack-in comic book for the collector’s edition, so I illustrated that 12- or 15-page comic book. I think in Europe, it may have been released as a pre-sell thing. But that’s the only participation I had on that project, and that was a lot of fun.

Gameological: Do you have any thoughts on the games that came along after you left?

Everybody will always know Mortal Kombat as being the ultra-violent game.

Tobias: The games that followed my departure, I thought that they were all great games. They were a lot of fun. I’m not too familiar with the early ones. I was familiar with the MK Vs. DC project, especially because of my involvement with the comic book. I do think that, with regards to the look of the characters, Mortal Kombat Vs. DC visually turned a corner. I thought that the characters looked great, and I enjoyed the redesign of the old characters. It was done in a way that was respectful to the original versions of the characters and stayed true to the original intentions. And I thought the 2011 release was amazing. Both of those projects were fantastic, but I’m not too familiar with the ones that came out in the early part of the decade.

Gameological: Have you ever been invited to participate in any of the more recent MK games?

Tobias: Invited to? No. [Laughs.] I’m friendly with all of the guys still, but no. I’m kind of doing my thing and they’re doing their thing, so…

Gameological: What are you working on right now, and how has your experience with co-creating Mortal Kombat influenced that?

Tobias: I can’t speak much about exactly what I’m working on, but I can say that looking back on creating the characters and stories of the MK universe has led me to a deeper understanding of how story really should be told in games and what made the original characters work so well.

Gameological: In the long run, what do you think the legacy of Mortal Kombat is?

Tobias: Obviously, because of the controversy with the violent aspect of the game back in the early ’90s, I think that, within pop culture, it will always be known as that, and it will never escape that part of the product. Everybody will always know Mortal Kombat as being the ultra-violent game, and I think, especially with the last release, that no one is shying away from that. So I think that will always be its legacy within the larger popular culture.

In regards to the game, I think it will always be a fighting game. It will always kind of be there with the whole one-on-one aspect, especially now with the competitive players out there. Especially because of its place in pop culture, it will always be around. It’s one of these things that, it might have its highs and lows, and it might go away for a while, but all it needs is a quality iteration for it to come back. It’ll always be here. If you look at any other pop culture phenomenon—like if you look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for instance—it became popular at the time right around when Mortal Kombat became popular, and it had its highs and lows, and here they are once again talking about a major motion picture. That’s because of its place in pop culture. It’s always there for someone to pick up, polish off, blow the dust off of it, and re-release it. And Mortal Kombat will always be that way. It’ll be around 50 years from now.

Now continue to part two with Tobias’ creative partner, Ed Boon.

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  • Enkidum

    I had no idea the same guys were responsible for Smash TV and Total Carnage. I loved Total Carnage with a passion that defies explanation. Used to go down to the arcade, get 10 bucks of quarters, and TC was one of my main jams. So lovingly brutal, so I guess in that aesthetic sense it’s a precursor to MK, but the gameplay is basically Commando updated to be a dual-stick shooter. One of the very few arcade games I would win on a reasonably regular basis – probably at least 10 times.

    Anyone else used to play Lethal Enforcers in the arcade, came out around the same time as MK? Some interesting surface similarities: digitized characters and a lot of violence, and a lot of controversy, at least in my town. Very different game otherwise: a light-gun shooter pretty much like Hogan’s Alley. But here the controversy wasn’t over the violence per se, but over the fact that one level involved shooting lots of Asians.

    I remember trying to explain to my folks, after they’d read an article in the local paper about it, that this was a pretty silly objection. It might be reasonable to object to games on the grounds that they involve shooting a lot of people (as Lethal Enforcers does, or games where you go around trying to kill people because they were Asian (which would obviously be seriously sick). But the level in question was in Chinatown, and as it was a game where you went around shooting people, you shot a lot of Asian people because of where you were. Realism, not racism!

    In retrospect I wouldn’t agree with 15-year-old me any longer, as obviously the setting was deliberately chosen. But… eh… I couldn’t get very worked up about it even now, I think.

    The legacy of Lethal Enforcers is a lot less proud than that of MK, though. The gameplay really was just Hogan’s Alley tarted up with digitized graphics.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Yeah, Smash T.V. is famously misanthropic, and it’s hilarious that it took digitized “real” humans in Night Trap and Mortal Kombat 1 to spark controversy.  Reading the above and your post brought to mind this sort-of-well-known musician named Fatima Al-Qadiri.  I disagree with her politics, but she grew up in Kuwait and got addicted to a (bootleg, probably) copy of E.A.’s Desert Strike.  http://fadetomind.net/artist/fatima-al-qadiri  Now, it’s a bit horrifying to her.

      I’m also now wondering if Konami launched the most ineffective anti-China propaganda campaign in history through the Lethal Enforcers series.

      • Enkidum

        something something Al Qadiri sounds like Al Qaeda something.

        Listening to her tracks now, pretty good actually. Thanks for the link, never heard of her before.

    • TheAngryInternet

      I love Total Carnage too but the purity of Smash TV (dozens and dozens of one-screen playfields, distinguished only by the enemies you brainlessly slaughter) is better at putting me into a trance-like killbot state. Total Carnage got a bit too complicated with the scrolling environments and the hostages and whatnot. (“I want to play the action man’s Robotron — a game like Robotron but with much less thinking.”) Total Carnage did have this going for it, though.

      • Enkidum

        And it had Hitler too, but I guess it was post-Wolfenstein. Of course this was a seriously badass Hitler.

        • TheAngryInternet

          also when you beat him you get to execute him in an electric chair, I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when the designer(s) pitched that one

        • Bad Horse

          Churchill pitched that one. 

          “Minutes of the British War Cabinet released in 2006 show that in December 1942, Winston Churchill proposed that Adolf Hitler — if caught — should be summarily executed in an electric chair, obtained from the USA. ‘This man is the mainspring of evil. Instrument — electric chair, for gangsters, no doubt available on lease-lend.”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_chair

    • http://twitter.com/ZODIAC_MF ZODIAC MOTHERFUCKER

      COME ON ENKIDUM DONT TALK LIKE A PC BITCH. THERES A RICH CINEMATIC TRADITION OF SHOOTOUTS AND GANG WARS IN CHINATOWN AND OBVIOUSLY LETHAL ENFORCERS IS INFLUENCED BY THAT. IN FACT THERES A HUGETIME SHOOTOUT IN CHINATOWN IN THE DEAD POOL AND OBVIOUSLY THE DIRTY HARRY FLICKS WERE AN INSPIRATION THERE

      AT ANY RATE I THINK ITS SAFE TO SAY THAT KONAMI ISNT RACIST AGAINST ASIANS

      • Ziegfelding

        Yeah. Been ages since I played but according to memory it seemed like they were just moving along the check list of movie bad guys and got to Triads.

      • Bad Horse

        It’s kind of absurd to talk about a game where the only control is a gun and the only challenge is the number of targets as being specifically racist against any one group. You are going to shoot a lot of faceless, undifferentiated thugs, and it’s not like the Triads in Lethal Enforcers are any more faceless than any other stage.

      • Enkidum

        Oh, yeah, I didn’t mean to say that Konami is racist, just that someone could get worked up about the game for semi-legitimate reasons.

        Either way, I lost a LOT of loonies to that fucking game.

      • George_Liquor

         If epic stereotyping in a Konami light-gun shooter is what you’re after, play the sequel to LE. It’s loaded with banditos wearing ponchos, thick moustaches, and comically huge sombreros, as well as Indians in buckskins shooting arrows at you. Still a kick-ass game, though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kylemhale Kyle Hale

        Is Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman the first to imply Chinatown is full of warring Asiatic gang cults?

        • TheAngryInternet

          All Keaton was doing there was exploiting interest in the real-life “tong wars” that peaked in the 1920s. There’s tons of pulp literature/journalism from the period providing lurid and fictionalized details, though the real thing was plenty big and nasty (the On Leong-Hop Sing war spread to nearly every Chinatown in the country).

  • http://twitter.com/sarCCastro SarChris Castro

    TOASTY!

    • Enkidum

      GET OVER HERE!

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph

         THE DISTINCT SOUND KUNG LAO’S HAT MAKES WHEN HE THROWS IT AND IT REAPPEARS

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          I am haunted by the females’ digitized screams to this day.  I am not convinced that they weren’t men’s screams sped up.  Way, WAY too throaty and gruff.

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

    Inspired by his mention of the mash-up nature of the game and the “to which fighting game archetypes are you drawn” NeoGAF topic http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=495551 :

    I’m very much glad that the “archetype” model of player-characters won out in fighting games, but I miss the influence of Midway, Rare (I guess), and Sunsoft  http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/sunsoftfighters/sunsoftfighters.htm .  I never identified with any of the Mortal Kombat characters, and I don’t think it was because they were supposed to be VanDamme, Ninja Extras 1 and 2, Hong Kong Great In A Cameo As A Kami, et cetera.  It’s because the mythology, the graphics, the rote gameplay, and the post-match “cutscenes” made it very clear that I was watching a martial arts movie play out.  Namco games never told me which actors played THEIR characters, you know, so it’s clear that I would never be like the guy who did splits and punched people in the crotch.  (And that’s true to this day!)

    Even the history-focused S.N.K. games played more on character type than historical personages with 1 or 2 exceptions.  In fact, now that I think about it, Arc System Works with Guilty Gear http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/guiltygear/guiltygear.htm , Battle Fantasia http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/battlefantasia/battlefantasia.htm , and BlazBlue http://blazblue.wikia.com/wiki/BlazBlue_Wiki is the last carrying that ”participating in a story” legacy. 

  • LoveWaffle

    Probably because of this guy, Mortal Kombat is really the only Fighting Game franchise that actually puts effort into its story.  

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph

      Wait, are you telling me Street Fighter and Soul Calibur HAVE stories?

      • LoveWaffle

        Unbelievable, I know.

        • The_Quirk

           The soul still burns!

      • Asinus

        The first two Soul Caluburs (well, Soul Blade and Soul Calibur) have great stories. I think they sort of wander after that, but Seigfried’s arc through the first two is pretty cool for a fighter with minimal narration. I’m also a fan of Sophitia in Soul Calibur (1). Once the series started grotesquely en-boobing the characters, though, it lost me pretty quickly. Not that I have a problem with breasts, but, yeesh. 

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Naw, a lot of S.N.K. stories match those of at least critically acclaimed action stories in other media.  Samurai Spirits: The Odd Tale Of The Swordsman/Samurai Showdown: Warriors’ Rage was a neat experiment, but my favorite fighting series is ever is The Last Blade/Bakumatsu Romance.

      Not only does it have cool historical archetypes of 1 of my favorite periods in history (think The Last Express), it tells a legitimately top-notch action story in text form AND through gameplay.  Backgrounds like http://images.wikia.com/snk/images/f/fa/Lb2porttownbg.gif, http://images.wikia.com/snk/images/7/77/Lbleebg.gif, and http://images.wikia.com/snk/images/a/a2/Lb2forestofforgetfulnessbg.gif (check S.N.K. Wiki) do a ton of storytelling lifting themselves, and seeing stuff like a rural Japanese village branch out to a path with newly-installed telephone poles leads to the uniquely melancholic feel of the series.

      • Asinus

        I really like Samurai Showdown’s various stories and how economically some fighters can squeeze in a narrative. I also appreciate that SS never (as far as I know, which is mainly up through IV) sexied up characters who weren’t particularly sexualized in the first place. Again, not that i have a problem with sexy characters in general, but sometimes, and I feel a little goofy saying this, I get wrapped up in some characters’ apparent nobility, if that’s the right word, and then slapping giant boobs and sheer clothing on them seems completely outside of the personality I’ve come to understand and construct for them. If they had ever slapped giant bouncing boobs on Charlotte or taken her armor away, I’d have been pretty irked at the series. 

        Oh, I sort of combined thoughts and posts. But anyway, Yes, SNK did a great job. Samurai Showdown might be the only fighter I’ve ever more-or-less mastered in the arcade. I have no idea why it appealed to me when most other fighters do not… at all. I especially disliked Mortal Kombat– I’m not sure I ever played it, I just found the digitized characters ugly and the game too up its own ass with how awesome it thought it was. 

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          Even in Tale Of The World’s Greatest Swordsman/VI, they juggled a ton of characters with interesting vignettes.  Good stuff.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I remember when the movie came out seeing a puff piece on the news about where they interviewed the actors, and they were all like, “Yeah, unlike a lot of video games, this has a really great, deep story that we get to explore.” And even at the time I was thinking “I’m pretty much all the story I need from Mortal Kombat is: ‘Scorpion pulls off his mask, and sets Sub Zero on fire.’”

    • Afghamistam

      And shouldn’t have.

  • Gameological Society Commenter

    I owned Mortal Kombat on the SNES, and was impressed with the exciting and visceral gameplay. However, one aspect of Mortal Kombat that always caused me displeasure was The Story. The gameplay was enjoyable, but for video games the gameplay should always be secondary to The Story.

    Apart from the unfleshed out notion of the Tournament, and a few frustratingly limited character biographies made available upon completing the game, Mortal Kombat unfortunately failed to provide rounded and believable motivations to explain the actions of these characters. When Sub Zero vanquishes his opponent and then pulls their skull and spinal cord out of their bloodied torso, I would wonder what would possibly motivate this man to perpetrate such acts of inhuman brutality? Did he have a poor relationship with his father? As a child was he bullied at school? What compelled this man to wear a mask? The omission of answers to vital questions such as these contributed to the lack of narrative and therefore dismal failure of Mortal Kombat. Granted, some more backstory was filled in with subsequent sequels and my many volumes of fan fiction, but the original Mortal Kombat still leaves me unsatisfied and aggravated.

    My favorite character was Sonya Blade. I dressed as her for Halloween two years in a row and still pull out the lime green spandex outfit for special occasions. My mom once found my stash of Sonya drawings hidden in a shoebox under my bed, but it’s ok we’re cool now.

    • Enkidum

      Can you scan some of the drawings and post links to them? I think your persona needs to be fleshed out.

      Also, last sentence of first paragraph is too heavy-handed. Without that sentence, I give it a 7/10. With it, a 5.

      • Afghamistam

        FINISH HIM!

    • caspiancomic

       Reading this comment is like staring into the abyss.

      • Moonside_Malcontent

         I believe you meant “komment”.

        • HobbesMkii

          FATALITY!

          *@Moonside_Malcontent:disqus rips the head of @caspiancomic:disqus out of his body with the spine still attached*

    • HobbesMkii

      Ironically, I actually don’t mind the story in Mortal Kombat.

      Also: Ow.

  • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

    Shang Tsung… wins.

  • huiyuandian

     http://tinyurl.com/98tl9j6

  • JokersNuts

    Toasty!