By the time September of 1993 rolled around, EVERYBODY had played Street Fighter. And those of us who stuck with it had all learned how to throw Hadokens with our eyes closed. We were Hundred-Hand Slapping the controllers fast enough to create Sonic Booms, and there were enough Tigers to shake a forest of sticks at.
So when Mortal Kombat came out on Mortal Monday, we were ready for a change. And what a change we had! Not only did a gallon of blood fly out of your enemy’s head with every hit, at the end of a match, you could literally KILL your opponent!
MK definitely inspired a faster style of gameplay – There were only two punch and two kick attacks, and a block button. But, unlike in Street Fighter, when you blocked in MK, you still took a bit of damage. But there was something lacking. MK had seven playable characters, five fewer than SFII Turbo, but everybody was completely different… Or did they?
See, the thing about Mortal Kombat was that, while everybody LOOKED completely different from each other (outside of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, who were yellow and blue versions of the same ninja outfit), everybody played basically identically. So it wasn’t like you could get really good with Liu Kang and then have to re-learn how to play to master Rayden. You really just had to be good at Mortal Kombat, and learn which moves did the most damage and had the most priority.
And Sub-Zero was so incredibly overpowered in that game with his Freeze Ball and a slide attack that could hit opponents on the ground, that any high-level MK matches just came down to who hit the first Freeze Ball.
But by the time anybody really figured that out, Mortal Kombat had made its money, and a sequel was announced. Mortal Kombat II would feature twelve characters – Five returning, and seven brand-new fighters. Each character would now have TWO Fatality moves, and the entire game had been given a facelift; Not a single graphic from MK1 was re-used. The game was faster, bloodier, and more violent than ever. And gamers ate it up.
So, for fear of losing ground in the fighting game community that they started, what did Capcom do? Announce a new version of Street Fighter, of course! Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers introduced four new characters: Dee Jay, a dancing Jamaican kickboxer; T. Hawk, a native American powerhouse; Cammy White, a teenage British intelligence officer; and Fei Long, who looked, sounded, and fought just like Bruce Lee. In addition, the background stages and character portraits had all been completely re-drawn and looked better than ever, every character got at least one new move, and the four boss characters all had their non-special attacks completely re-animated.
It’s hard to say which game was the “winner” in 1994, but one thing’s for sure – Whatever was coming next from either company had some huge shoes to fill, or there was going to be trouble.
But was there enough room for a third entrant in this battle for fighting supremacy? Around the corner loomed a game that claimed to be the KING of fighters…