Much ado about blood, sweat, vomit and spinal cords

mortal kombat 1

Mortal Kombat (SNES) (1993)

Well, what’s the most selfish thing you’ve ever done? Mine? I gave blood once. Sounds more selfless really, but note: there is a massive, King-Kong sized emphasis on ‘once’ there. I still haven’t been back up to that clinic to give any more of my precious life fluid, despite their constant texts and calls to action. And in fact, I only went along to do it because the girl I liked was going too.

Isn’t that terrible? On the strength of my shameful deceit, I’m now going out with her. And when she mentioned one evening that we should go and give blood again, merely down the road and around the corner, you better believe I was quick to give it the bum’s rush.

When you go up there, you’re sat down and given a questionnaire. So it’s a bit like going to school and doing a test really, which isn’t so fun. But you do get given some light refreshments, bars and crisps and that. Almost worth the price of entry alone (that is, free).

The questions you had to answer were hilarious too, but bloody hell (wink wink), there were dozens of them, and if you gave the wrong answer on any one of them, you’d be out the door. I wasn’t to have handled monkeys in the last twelve calendar months. Looking in the direction of Britain or Africa was a no-no. And if I was to out myself as a homosexual during the questionnaire, I’d have no choice but to flee the country.

Then, after an interminable waiting period, your name is called and you hop up on the bed and get given what looked like a rubber bone to squeeze. That gets the old blood flowing, the veins standing proud, waiting to be suckled on by that needle being waved about by the man in the white coat. You don’t feel any of it afterwards at least, so you can freely chat football and cars with the man siphoning your blood while you go that bit light-headed and loud.

After a few odd minutes, where you feel as if you’re going to get ejected forward and be asked to perform cartwheels while pouring claret all over the place, you’re told that it’s over. Then you’re bandaged up and sent away home, pale-faced and a few hundred grams lighter. You’re told that you’d better not drink or operate heavy machinery, and maybe stay out of the sun for a bit in case you’re burned to a crisp. It was tempting to get drunk at half the usual price of course, but I thought, best not to bother.

I ended up regretting it all really, since I’m a permanent fixture on their mailing list now. It seems like every three days I’m getting the urgent shout that they’re almost out of my blood-type, and I need to get down there quick or everyone dies. Delighted that I’m in their thoughts, but I’m not falling for that one. I’m sure that some other sap will come along and pick up my slack.

In any case, where is all this blood going? There were hundreds of people up there when I went, all in there giving it everything they had. They must have lost gallons of the stuff between them, and I’m sure I saw a lot of them arrested on public order offences later that evening. I know there’s several different blood types, but I hardly think we’re staring at blood epidemics here.

No, I think the people out there who are losing claret all the time need to shoulder some of the responsibility themselves rather than look to me for a clue. Or maybe the surgeons doing the operations ought to go about their work a bit more cleanly rather than spilling blood all over the place.

What if I was homosexual or if I‘d been a heroin junkie in the past six weeks? What then?! Honestly, if you had a pint of Guinness at the bar and someone thirstier and needier than you came in, you wouldn’t just give it to him, would you? My body works hard to produce its pints, so get your own.

Blood, blood, blood. What is good for? Why do we need it so badly? I suppose it keeps us alive, but why was it so important to have in mid 1990s fighting games? You mention Mortal Kombat back in the day, and that’s all anyone ever talked about, the blood.

It got so that people refused to buy the SNES version of the game in favour of the Mega Drive home port, because the latter was ballsy enough to include blood. That’s right, you want to talk about games making you violent nowadays? Well back then, we were quite literally bloodthirsty.

Mortal Kombat SNES, for its part, compensated for the lack of blood with a substitute liquid. They called it sweat, but it looked a lot more like tofu-vomit getting barfed up by the Kombatants after you’ve laid into them.

The whole blood controversy had a big hand in leading to your modern day PEGIs and your ESRBs, set up to keep violent games away from our virgin eyes – censorship boards spearheaded by the same curtain twitching, bleeding heart types who tried to go after Ebeneezer Goode.

We all got so wrapped up in Mortal Kombat’s blood gushiness that we forgot to assess the actual game at some point, and the home ports may be thankful we did because the SNES version of the game is bum. It’s fairly accurate to the arcade version, I believe, which leaves us to conclude that Mortal Kombat 1 was never much good at all.

I suppose it does look cool and enticing, in a way. The digitized live capture of the fighters puts me off and looks clumsy, but I’ll admit that it did look better in arcades than on your console, and it was definitely a technical feat. And anyway, characters that look like actual human beings aren’t often done on the SNES. Gorillas yes, but not humans.

I just can’t see how this one is any better than Street Fighter 2 and its many iterations, though. You’ve got more characters over there, particularly in Turbo and The New Challengers. You’ve got much better music and more appealing sprites as well, and it’s a lot less clunky to play.

No, you don’t get Fatalities in Street Fighter, those finishing moves where you can rip out someone’s spleen or vertebrae or roast them alive. But even to people like me, possessing a mental age of 6, that Fatality stuff gets tiresome fast.

You’ll probably just end up being the victim of them anyway because you can forget about doing well on this game, even on medium difficulty. The AI just chews through your lifebar without breaking a sweat, although you’ll be vomiting up plenty of the stuff. It can be a little difficult to even see how much life you have remaining, because your character’s name takes up a massive chunk of the lifebar.

I know you’re raging at my ignorance here, but I can admit it – I am cack at fighting games, and my sole strategy in Mortal Kombat 1 is to throw out the old Scorpion harpoon to pull opponents in, daze them and then deliver a swift, toasty uppercut.

Forget about which version has blood or not, it’s Scorpion’s line here that should determine which version you go for. In the SNES version he shouts, “Come here!” while in the Sega version he shouts the far superior, “Get over here!”

Even with the usual unpleasant static associated with voice clips on the Sega, that hands another advantage to the Mega Drive version of Mortal Kombat. It seems like that one would be the clear winner, although going down that route obviously means that you’re stuck using a gimp pad with 3 buttons.

It doesn’t really matter, though. Either way, whichever poison you pick, you’re probably going to end up disappointed by the original Mortal Kombat. So I simply advise you to do what I do whenever they come looking for my blood – just don’t bother.

6 November 2020

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