By Samiur Rahman
The writer is the journalist of a leading daily newspaper
We all get angry! Different situations, predicaments, scenarios break the threshold of our nerves, test our limit and finally made us furious. There are many ways to ventilate this anger. Some transcend it to subordinates; few show angry reactions to the surrounding people, someone takes the dark lane of drugs. Only a few shed it over some fictitious opponent. Holding the joystick tight, he or she smashes the buttons of arcade video games machines imagining it is the person responsible for his tragic end.
‘Mano a Mano’ as it said in Spanish, or hand-to-hand, one versus one video game is the virtual fight club where you can test the might of your punch or the velocity of your kick. Knocking down a character on the screen, blasting the digital avatar of an opponent with a fatal blow gives the adrenaline rush to extinguish the anger. Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Double Dragon or Tekken are some popular franchises of this genre. From coin box arcade video game machines to 8th generation super powered gaming consoles; these games have cult followings and a million-dollar business. Among these genres, one game holds a completely different identity with only two words—”Finish Him”! Apparently, Mortal Kombat (MK) is like any other fighting games where you can kick or punch your opponent, throw projectiles to do the damages. The move which lifted MK to a different level is the word “Fatality”. Either you beat your enemy or you are completely beaten by the opponent in the final round; trigger the fatality option with the words “Finish Him” (“Finish Her” in case of a female character). For a 5 second time frame, the beaten one stays dizzily standing. In this short span, if you can push some buttons in a certain order and move the joystick (or arrow button, depending on which device you are using) in a distinctive pattern, the character will perform a fatal finishing move which is called ‘Fatality’. These moves are brutal, violent, gore, but added a signature style to the game which is one of the secrets behind Mortal Kombats long running fandom. Plucking out eye, beheading, tearing apart limbs, crushing skulls, chopping off organs, piercing, burning, impaling…any sort of torture and violence is present in almost every Mortal Kombat games.
Created by Ed Boon and John Tobias in 1992, Mortal Kombat was initially developed as a project to feature famous actor and martial artist Jean- Claude Van Damne. In 1988, a film was released called “Bloodsport” which was based on a fictitious fighting tournament among some of the best fighters around the world. With well-choreographed fighting scenes, hand-to-hand combats and athletic display of unarmed combat by actors earned the film a cult status. Made of a small budget of 2.3 million dollars, the movie earned 65 million USD and made Van Damne star overnight. In Chicago, Boon and Todias was trying to reach an agreement with the film company to make a video game out of the film where Van Damne could be featured as well. But the deal went off due to some reasons. Later, these two young guns from Chicago created a unique fighting game called Mortal Kombat which became a multibillion-dollar franchise.
Tobias wanted to be a comic book artist; Boon was a master Pinball player. Together they created one of the most exciting, horrifying, violent yet entertaining universes which consists video games, web series, animated movies, full-length feature films and lot more!
The first Mortal Kombat game was released on various platforms. From coin-box arcade video games machines to home consoles like Sega Saturn, handheld console Game Boy or computers run on MS DOS operating system. The game was based on seven playable characters who took part in a fighting tournament called Mortal Kombat. The dragon seal and using the letter ‘K’ instead of ‘C’ in the places of ‘Hard C’ sound in spellings. From inception, these two features also some of the iconic characteristics of all MK games.
Instead of drawing the characters, creators Boon and John wanted to use real life models posing in for different characters motion capture. This gave MK a different look from the other fighting games like Street Fighter or Fatal Fury. In those video games, female characters were drawn as sex symbols with appealing outfits and voluptuous figure structure. But in MK, female fighters were as good and deadly as their male opponents. Sonya Blade is one of the protagonists of the whole MK universe, so is Kitana. They are strong, deadly and never spare a chance to kick some ass!
While Boon served as the lead programmer with his vast experience of working on 20 Pinball games, John was the lead designer. He designed the characters like Raiden, Liu Kang, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and the whole universe where this tournament takes place called Netherrealm. He sketched the storyline of MK by bringing in inspirations from Chinese martial arts movies and mythology. They also named or designed some of the characters based on real people! Sonya and Tanya are sisters of Ed Boons sisters. Noob Saibot is the mirror image of the names of the creators; Boon and Tobias! Johony Cage, a narcissistic movie star is a parody version of Van Damne who shares the initials of this real-life actor JC!
In the early nineties, the frenzy of MK was so high that there was divided fandom between Mortal Kombat fans and Street Fighter fans like Coke Vs Pepsi or iPhone vs Android at present days. Some criticized the existence of heavy violence in the games; some wanted to put these games under ‘R’ ratings, but MK survived. They not only survived, but also gave their competitions a killer blow of ‘Fatality’ with the immense popularity and financial gains. The total earnings from MK franchise reached the 5 billion mark in June 2000. In the past 19 years, the number should be doubled, or even more! Another fighting game franchises like Double Dragon, Tekken or Fatal Fury could not reach this height.
Recently, Ed Boon appeared in the unveiling program of MKs upcoming installment Mortal Kombat 11. In the release date announcement and character showcase program ‘The Reveal’, held on 17th January, Ed Boon talked about the new features of the upcoming game. With advanced artificial intelligence and superior game engine, MK 11 promised to deliver best ever fighting experience. Some new features like fatal blow, crushing blow and defense bar is added. Some old characters like Baraka, Scarlet are back. A new character Geros is introduced and for the first time, MK will see a female final boss Kronika who calls herself ‘Keeper of the Time”. New gameplay videos show that the upcoming version will be more brutal, grotesque and violent with terrifying fatality moves. Sub-Zero performs a medieval executioner like beheading, Sonya tears apart her opponent with heavy caliber bullets and finally, slicing with rotating helicopter blades. Scorpion’s classic ‘toasty’ takes a new look while Baraka with his piranha like teeth bites the freshly plucked brain from the opponent’s skull!
The release date is set on April 23 this year. The game will be available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and also for PC. So, stay tuned for some violent action and take on your ex-girlfriend in this virtual fight club. The punch line of this game is ‘you are next”, so be prepared!