OPINION: Street Fighter games are better, but Mortal Kombat has its own charm

Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

I was probably about 10 years old when I got my hands on a copy of Super Street Fighter II for Sega Genesis. I was also about the same age when I played Mortal Kombat for the first time.

Coming out shortly after the release of Street Fighter II, advertisements for the first Mortal Kombat promised to knock Street Fighter II "Into the pit where has-beens fester." These two games dominated the fighting game genre for most of video game history, and they’re radically different games when you get down to it. Street Fighter has always focused on giving us tight controls and unique gameplay, and the anime graphics are decent. Mortal Kombat went in with a focus on providing a visual spectacle, both from the quality of the sprites (filmed from real actors early on) and the violence. The Mortal Kombat games often faltered in terms of game play and the computer AI.

I can’t think of one single Mortal Kombat game I’ve enjoyed more than a Street Fighter game, but Mortal Kombat has plenty to offer, surviving its often-predicted extinction. In recent years, the game play of the Mortal Kombat games has dramatically improved.

During the 2D era, the AI of the Mortal Kombat games provided a challenge by turbo charging the non player characters’ reactions. It got to the point where the computer-controlled character would simply counter everything the player did and the only to win was to fake the AI out, or by exploiting the AI’s weaknesses. In particular, the AI was a sucker for the sweep and players could often just keep spamming the sweep to win a match.

This gave players very little enjoyment, although most of these early games provided tight enough controls that playing against another human in multiplayer was still a blast. (The exception being the original Mortal Kombat, which was very slow.)

But as 3D gaming systems forced the systems to adapt, Mortal Kombat began making changes to its gameplay. Fights gradually started feeling more natural, but the games still had a lot of problems. Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon all had their good points, but also their shares of problems which draw derision from fans. Some claim that the clunky graphics of Mortal Kombat 4 make it the worst video game of all time. The story mode of Mortal Kombat: Deception, while playable, is bland with long stretches of flat landscape with a very uninteresting hero who is nothing but an amalgam of other Mortal Kombat characters.

During this time, Street Fighter took a long break. The last Street Fighter game was released in 1997 and Capcom made us wait until 2008 for Street Fighter IV. But the wait was worth it because Street Fighter IV was the perfect fighting game. Not only were the controls and gameplay as brilliant as ever, but the artists masterfully blended water color effects with the 3D models to produce a 3D game that looked like a richly-animated cartoon.

Ever since the dawn of 3D imaging, artists have attempted to make computer generated 3D images that look like hand-painted cartoons, but none have succeeded so spectacularly as the artists behind Street Fighter IV.

Midway Games, the developers of Mortal Kombat, went bankrupt not long after. But this was not the end of Mortal Kombat. Warner Bros hired the original development team under the name of “NetherRealm Studios” and the war for fighting game dominance was on again. In 2011, NetherRealm Studios released Mortal Kombat (2011), the game that rebooted the Mortal Kombat timeline following the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Returning to the games visceral roots, the Mortal Kombat took the violence level up to 10. Although the story mode remained weak, the game provided very decent game play and also won nostalgia points for remaking characters and scenes from Mortal Kombat, MK II and MK III all in one game. The release of Mortal Kombat X in 2015 marked MK’s most successful game ever, with five million copies sold in the first six months.

Street Fighter, for its part, released Street Fighter V late last year. As of December, Street Fighter V has sold 2.5 million copies.