Gameplay, Story and Value:
All things considered, Mortal Kombat II is not much different than its predecessor. Controls remain the same with dedicated buttons for High Punch, Low Punch, High Kick, Low Kick and Block combinations with the direction pad for Uppercut, Roundhouse and Sweep. In this sense, all characters in the game play exactly the same way, and the only real variety comes from each characters unique set of special moves and fatalities.
The character roster has been increased from seven fighters to twelve, introducing series staples like Jax, Kitana and Mileena. Move sets have also been slightly expanded with each fighter average 3-4 special moves up from the first game’s 2-3. Additionally, the game has been sped up slightly allowing for more active gameplay than in the original game.
Unfortunately, much like the first game, the actual fighting in Mortal Kombat II feels very shallow. Movement is somewhat stilted and there’s virtually no room for any kind of combos. It’s too easy cheese the game by getting someone within sweep range and literally leg sweep them to death. While higher levels of play do allow for more advanced juggling, the game itself doesn’t really do a good job of accommodating that. Attacks are generally slow and repetitive and without the ability to effectively counterattack blocking in melee range seems not only weak, but risky.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
While the visuals have certainly improved over the first game with better colors, cleaner sprites and more detailed effects and backgrounds, the overall style of Mortal Kombat simply doesn’t hold up as well over time as an animated game like Street Fighter II. That’s not to say it looks terribly, it’s perfectly playable, only that it’s hard not to look at it and think it feels dated. Animations are smooth and the variety of environments are fun, and the addition of blood without the need for a cheat code is welcome.
The music is… there… mimicking the style of its predecessor. It’s not bad at all, but it’s really only barely noticeable while you’re actually playing the game. Digitized voices proving the iconic “FINISH HIM!” and “GET OVER HERE!” as well as other samples, which all still sound great. Fighters are all have their own voice samples, many shared across the roster, and while they’re fine for the most part I’d be lying if I said Liu Kang’s Bruce Lee impersonation didn’t start wearing on me…
I have A LOT of memories attached to this game. It was at the height of my interest during a difficult time in my childhood and it’s a very important game to me as a result. The associated memories are… not all good, but I value them regardless.
That said, even I acknowledge that this is neither the best 16-bit fighting game, nor is it even the best 16-bit Mortal Kombat game. The fighting is shallow and clunky and I really just don’t have a lot of fun playing it compared to something like the vastly superior Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.
It’s a great piece of history, both personally and just in general, but ultimately it just doesn’t hold up.
*Yep, I’ve adopted rounded-up quarter scores (i.e. 6.0, 6.3, 6.5, 6.8, 7.0)