Reviews

Mortal Kombat 11 (Now w/ PTSD!)

Mortal Kombat 11 boasts a strong fighting engine with excellent potential for more technical fighting, diverse combos and amplified attacks. Unfortunately, I found the enhanced gore of the animations to be a heavy distraction from gameplay rather than a motivation to keep me engaged in learning finishing moves.

Mortal Kombat 11 boasts a strong fighting engine with excellent potential for more technical fighting, diverse combos and amplified attacks. Unfortunately, I found the enhanced gore of the animations to be a heavy distraction from gameplay rather than a motivation to keep me engaged in learning finishing moves.

Tagline, 1993. I’m 14. Living in a new town, 600 miles from everything I’ve ever known. Our house is a strange mix of cable-spools and lawn chairs for living room furniture and the smell of new waterbeds wafting down the hall.. I do have a computer and I eventually have a dedicated modem line to run my OBV/2 BBS, The Graveyard. At night, Razor1911 couriers are dialing into the PC to drop 0-Day Warez and I hear mom and dad in the other room arguing -talking about “maybe going to jail” because of [wah-wah - insurance, something-something - wah-wah] that I didn’t fully understand at the time.

We lived in a hotel the previous summer - The Ramada Inn on the Causeway in Mobile, Alabama that has since been demolished - near R&R Seafood. I suppose we were technically homeless but getting a new start. Growing up on 10 acres on the edge of an Indiana Forestry I found myself for the first time with the suburban freedoms enjoyed by kids in my favorite Spielberg movies.

Me, my bicycle and a BP gas station a few blocks away with a Mortal Kombat acade machine & Taco Bell Express. My teenage mind was blown with the opportunity. I fed so many quarters into that machine and played against football-playing high schoolers that were twice my size and a tendency to menace me when they lost. Admittedly, sometimes I let the Wookie win.

Sometimes, I didn’t.

This person named Hillary Clinton was on the television talking about censoring my favorite albums (2 Live Crew, RATM, Tool, Gravity Kills, God Lives Underwater) and the dangers posed by this new menace to America’s youth: Video Game violence.

- ”Is all the world Jails and Churches?”
(well, that was VietNow (1997) but you get the point)


Agreed that is a long walk to get you into my headspace. Now that you are here, pull up a lawn chair and let’s set at the cable-spool turned-coffee table and have a chat about video game violence, 26 years later.

I remember being annoyed when Mortal Kombat (1 and 2) were finally ported to home consoles with minimal gore, no-blood and paired down graphics. It just wasn’t the same game, anymore. Mortal Kombat 1 was the first arcade game I ever bought. I own and often still play a MK4 w/ MK1, MK2, MK3, Mk4 PCBs in it. I let my 13 and 9 year old kids play it and think nothing about it.

Enter, Mortal Kombat 11. MK11 (I’m playing on the Nintendo Switch) continues a trend in the MK franchise through the introduction of mid-fight super-move sequences that can be triggered during a match when a player’s health bar reaches a critical part. MK9 called these X-Ray moves because they used an X-Ray camera view to show the devastation being wrought to the opponents skeletal structure.

If you think of MK3, where there are improbable grapples where an opponent might crack the fighter’s neck or damage their spine during the match. It’s like that. The moves do an incredible amount of damage at the expense of player control for both players but do not necessarily completely drain the opponent. As unlikely has it might seem, Liu Kang can hop back up and keep fighting after Katana snaps his neck..

Mortal Kombat 11 calls these Fatal Blows and they are a strategic crutch that either player can employ to provide momentum for a comeback or level the health meters. The thing is: Fatal Blows in 2019’s Mortal Kombat 11 are the equivalent of 1993’s MK1 or MK2 Fatalities.

Which means.. the fatalities… are more so.
How much, more?

Maybe, PTSD levels of more.

In my best Obama, “Let… me.. be.. clear:” I’m not saying that playing through MK11 gave me any form of PTSD. But I will say that MK11’s fatalities in particular probed the edges of what I’m comfortable watching and classifying as entertainment. Several points during my initial play through of the game, I had a sensation that I can only describe as my neural-net-firewall throwing a warning. “Hey, there are things going into your eyeballs that you should be aware that we aren’t sure is good for us.”

Sure, previous Mortal Kombat games were equally horrible in the fatality death of a character through evisceration, explosion, decapitation and more. This installment in the franchise pauses at the worst bits of horror while the reward and menu system delay to return user control by to the player.

For instance: You get to see Kronica tear your character in half length-wise. Pause. Put you back together through a time-rewind and then tear your character in half at the waste. Repeat as many as 6 times until the menu renders allowing you to navigate the game.

Most fatalities now end in the complete drawn-and-quartered explosive destruction of the opponent and the game developer seems pretty proud of their bloody accomplishment as featured through the game credits.

Searching the web, I found that there is at least one case of an individual who worked on the game being treated for PTSD:

http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2019/05/one_mortal_kombat_11_developer_had_to_see_a_therapist_after_violent_dreams

Take that with a grain of salt, it was picked up as click-bait by half of the internet. No such thing as bad publicity, right?

I’ve met soldiers who operated turrets from inside armored vehicles in Afghanistan. Instead of gunning from an exposed position, “Playstation Johnny" sits in the relative armored comfort of his vehicle as he mows down the enemy from a computer monitor and gamepad. Despite this, Playstation Johnny has just as much potential for combat fatigue and mental trauma as the guy with boots on the ground carrying a rife.

In the mid-90’s I found myself frowning at the Pant-Suited Politician trying to censor my video games and music. 26 years later I find myself wondering if the ratings label on this game is an adequate communication device juxtaposed to the affect it might have on an emotionally developing mind.

I feel like I should love this game but I don’t. The hazards of adulting, I suppose? If my 14 year old self could see me now, he’d probably kick me in the nuts.

“Go get laid, kid.”

10 Minute Review: Mario Kart Arcade GP

DSC_0442 copy.jpg

What follows is my “10 Minute Review” of Mario Kart Arcade GP / GP2

Mario Kart Arcade GP -> KLOV LInk
Mario Kart Arcade GP2 -> KLOV Link

Acquisition

One of my cabinets came by way of a hookup through a friend in Birmingham. This cabinet still has a stock tag on it from asset inventory or from an auction perhaps. The inclusion of an NSN number leads me to suspect it may have spent some time on a military base or perhaps it just passed hands through an auction authority that frequently deals with US Government or Military items.

IMG_0534.JPG


The other cabinet came by way of a miniature golf closure in Southern Mississippi. Both cabinets are in good shape, they have a few cabinet repairs here and there and some scuffs in artwork or missing decals.

Hardware

The game is based on the Namco, Sega, Nintendo Triforce platform. Typically a IBM power PC w/ 512mb of RAM roughly similar in architecture to the Nintendo Gamecube. The cabinet is a JVS wiring class, includes a Triforce CPU, a JVS IOS Interface Board, a force-feedback controller board & sound amp.

This game also includes Namco’s Namcam(2) camera, a gimmick to snap photos of the player to be used in leaderboards or as in-race identifiers to distinguish players from bot-racers.

The game originally shipped with a 29” CRT but I was forced to put in Wells-Gardner (the video mentions Vision Pro but my memory for these details is crap) 27” LED Monitors in order to get support for Mario Kart Arcade GP2.

GamePlay

The gameplay shares similarity in racing dynamics to the console Mario Kart games with key differences and Namco cross-licensed characters (pacman, ms pacman). The original game advertised 6 worlds and 24 tracks but they phoned-in the effort in that each world really only had two track variations and then environment or reverse traffic flow on those two comprising the remaining 12 tracks.

Mario Kart Arcade GP2 expands the track offering by adding deeper variation between tracks, bringing the total up to 8 cups & 32 tracks.

Maintenance, Value, Rarity, Fun-Factor

These games are pretty rare and tended to be higher maintenance games when placed on location because of camera failures and force-feedback failures.

I’m not sure what they are worth but I have roughly $1400 in the Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 upgrade, roughly $900 in the monitors, $400 in force feedback repairs on top of an average price paid of over $3,000 each. With incidental repairs I’d put the total cost of ownership in the pair a little over $9,000. After about 4 years of ownership they continue to be the most-played-arcade games in our game room. Pinball-inclined friends like to comment:

“You could put three pinball machines in the amount of space these consume”

With that out of the way, I estimate that the Mario Kart Pair has gotten more play in four years than every Pinball machine I’ve owned over that amount of time; combined.

It isn’t just kids and friends of kids, either. Adults have been known to use it as a form of rock-paper-scissors or as a sobriety scale. (Legal Disclaimer: Accuracy of Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 to determine a person’s ability to drive safely has not been established)

Is it fun? Yep.

Review Shenanigans

In the coming weeks I’m posting a series of arcade and pinball reviews of games that are currently being fostered in the basement. Ten minutes (+/- a few minutes) with each game to talk about gameplay, maintenance or whatever comes to mind.

As I post them, I’ll go back and make the game entries below clickable.

Pinballs

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Attack from Mars
Medieval Madness
Indiana Jones The Pinball Adventure
Scared Stiff
Tales of the Arabian Nights

Arcades

Cocktail Table Arcade-SD Multigame
Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 - Review completed on 4/19/19
Ms Pacman (Cabaret)
Centipede (Cabaret)
Donkey Kong (Multi Kong w/ Arcade-SD)
Namco Reunion
Tapper
Tron
Q*Bert (Mylstar FPGA)
Robotron (Multi-Williams FPGA)
Tempest
Mortal Kombat 4 (and MK1, MK2, MK3 w/ RiddledTV Switcher)

Console

Nintendo Entertainment System Online (Nintendo Switch Online Service)