Saturday, January 8, 2011
Which Was More Important to the History of Gaming, Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat II?
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(Image taken from: consoleclassix.com)
There’s no denying it. Back in the 90s, you were either a street fighter, or a mortal kombatant (Or a primal rager, or an Iron Fist warrior, or a man with a killer instinct, but that was a bit later). Across the arcade, you would hear, “Hadouken” followed by, “Get over here!” all the time, almost as if Ryu and Scorpion were fighting against each other.
Now, you could have liked both back then, there’s no saying that. But when it all came down to it and your quarters were lined up on the casing between the joystick cabinet and the screen, you either had more of them lined up for Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat II, and had plenty of inflammatory remarks to explain why you were for either.
“Yo, Street Fighter is more complex. The characters are cooler and more balanced.”
“Yeah, but there’s no blood in Street fighter. And in real life, there’s blood. And hey, look, Liu Kang just turned into a dragon! A DRAGON! Street Fighter ain’t shit, man.”
It made for some pretty interesting discussions for boys who probably had more zits on their face than sperm cells in their scrotum at the time.
But now, in 2011, the dust has long settled and both series are vastly divided. The Street Fighter name still has clout, while the Mortal Kombat series is struggling to stay relevant. The winner today of which game was more successful is clearly Street Fighter.
But which game was more important?
Both games reinvented what video games were meant to look like, and they also both changed the market of the home console, revealing what would and would not be tolerated when it came to a home port. But again, which was more important? I analyze the two below. Read.
Street Fighter II
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I was definitely a Street Fighter back in the day, defending it to anybody who dared question its greatness, and for good reason. If you look back, there were far more innovations from Street Fighter that were carried over into other fighting games than MK. For example, if you pick up a fighting game today without reading the instructions, just watch how fast you’ll try to do some of the moves with quarter circles or holding back two seconds and pressing forward and then punch. You know where you got that from? Street Fighter, baby, Street fighter. The play mechanics washed over into every other fighting game in the market both at the time and even today, and it solidified how a fighting game should be played, whether it was 2D or 3D.
It also paved the way for how fighting games could be seen in competitive play. Racking up combos was the way you showed off how skilled you were. And its many incarnations (Championship Edition, Turbo, Super, Super Turbo) showed just how little you could tweak a game engine and milk it for all its worth, which weighs heavily on the downloadable concept today. People are willing to stick with a good thing if you just sprinkle in a few extra bells and whistles. Street Fighter paved the way for that. By making idiots like myself shell out for every new edition, they proved that people would continue to pay, just because we wanted to play the game faster and with M. Bison.
In the end, Street Fighter revolutionized fighting games and made them what they are today. And Street Fighter's still going strong. Many people think that Super Street Fighter 4 was the best fighting game of last year. And really, the series is pretty much keeping the genre alive. For quite some time, fighters looked to be on their way out with the death of the arcade. So if you like the fighting genre at all, then you have this stalwart series to thank. No question about it. Now, let's all say it together: "HA-DOU-KEN!"
Mortal Kombat II
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Washington D.C.’s worst nightmare (Next to Doom, apparently), Mortal Kombat made everybody’s eyes bulge out when they first saw a man’s heart get ripped right out of another man’s chest. People also marveled at how realistic the character’s looked. These weren’t cartoons, baby. These were the real deal.
That said, the series had a rocky start when it first came home to consoles.
The SNES version was an utter joke with all the blood and the cool fatalities removed. And the Genesis version had the blood, but you could only get it through a code (A,B,A,C,A,B,B! I still got it).
It was all made up for though with MK2, which stormed the home consoles as bloody as it was in the arcade, with the SNES version almost being a perfect port. People were aghast at how ballsy Nintendo suddenly got. Here was a company that had given the world Super Mario Bros., and now, they were saturating their console with BLOOD?! Were they insane? No, not at all, as business matters over parental concerns every time. And it proved that money trounces over morals (Or fear). It also proved that people WANTED to see these kinds of adult themes at home in their video games. Add to the fact that the MK franchise also had the first video game to movie transition that actually worked (For the time), and you had a series that was even more expansive than Street Fighter. It extended to both music and film.
That said, the series sucks now, and there aren’t any more copy cat clones of the franchise. It’s practically on life support. The new game looks promising, but I don’t think anybody’s really going to get their hopes up. The franchise has run its course, and it's time for it to just stand there wobbling, just waiting for the sky to get dark so somebody can offer the required coup de grace.
The Verdict—Mortal Kombat II
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While the series is moribund, nobody can deny that without it forcing its way onto the home consoles, the thought of video games being just for kids probably would have persisted until this very day. Street Fighter II definitely shaped and modeled the fighting genre in this country, but that’s a genre that isn’t as popular as it once was back in the 90s. This is 2011, and there’s no question where the future in gaming lies and has been for quite some time now: MMORPG’s, and First-person shooters. People want to play against each other across the world and in giant groups. And more power to them. Gaming is bigger than the arcades now. They expand across the entire world.
But you know what has persisted? Adult-themes and gore in gaming, and Mortal Kombat is the forefather of all of that. Sure, the PC had its fair share, but the PC still doesn’t dominate the stage of gaming like the Wii or the PS3 does, even with WOW or Starcraft 2. I'm talking major scope here. When the general public thinks of video games, they still think of the home consoles, and Mortal Kombat II is the game that actually made them relevant beyond just gamers back then. They were made relevant to the people in Washington, who wanted to storm the arcades and pull all the little kids out of there.
But those little kids grew up and didn’t want to give up video games. That said, they couldn’t very well just continue playing hop and bop games with cheery backgrounds and smiling suns in adulthood. Girlfriends and wives wouldn't allow it. The games would have to be played in secrecy.
But games where we get to beat up hookers and chainsaw others in the face? Well, that's pretty grown up, and MK paved the way for that. Without MK, there would be no Grand Theft Auto. At least not for several years later than it came out. Violence and gore and sex were all bound to come to gamers eventually, but MK sped up that process and proved that it could be profitable, and it’s for that reason that MK was more important to gaming than Street fighter II. And for that, I only have one word.