by J.M. McNab
Back in the mid-’90s, Mortal Kombat was bigger than the Beatles, who were bigger than Jesus. So I guess, Mortal Kombat was bigger than Jesus. In any case, along with this success came merchandising, from the movie version, which we talk about on this week’s podcast, to a bunch of other shitty and unnecessary products. Here then are the best of the worst Mortal Kombat tie-in products.
5. The Mortal Kombat Kard Game
Released in 1995, the Mortal Kombat Kard Game gave fans a new way to play their favourite game: slower and more old-fashioned. Players battled one another with playing cards instead of controllers– think of it like Uno, but with more violence and bare torsos.
Of course, no one really needed another iteration of the game, specifically one so antiquated. Replacing Mortal Kombat with a deck of cards is kind of like replacing NBA Jam with a cup and ball. Presumably the endeavor was conceived of by executives who discovered that the word “card” could be playfully misspelled just like the word “combat”.
I guess the only kids who benefited from the card game were those whose families couldn’t afford a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis. And for those kids who couldn’t afford the card game, they could always just punch and kick each other for real.
4. Mortal Kombat: The Novels
Not content with conquering only the film and video game mediums, in 1995 the Mortal Kombat empire decided to throw itself into a entirely new arena of expression: literature. Wading in the same artistic waters as Hemmingway and Faulkner, author Jeff Rovin set out to write a novel based on the game that is essentially just two dudes fighting each other.
“In the beginning of time, nothing was everywhere and it was everything,” is how the novel begins. And while I haven’t read it, I can’t imagine many kids playing video games in darkened basements with Cheeto powder-stained fingers were demanding a literary adaption of what was, essentially, an excuse not to talk to girls or play sports.
The other crazy thing is, in 1995 another Mortal Kombat novel was released. A novelization of the movie by Martin Deliro also hit bookstores, which posed the question– how many ways can an author describe a guy hitting another guy? Did he write the techno music into the novel?
3. Mortal Kombat: The Pinball Machine
The owners of the rights to Mortal Kombat must have watched Spaceballs, because the MK characters sure appeared on a lot of stuff. Like the Kard Game, the Mortal Kombat Pinball Machine was an awkward attempt to siphon off the popularity of one game, into another type of game altogether. I love pinball, but I don’t really understand how they thought they could distill the experience of a simulated martial arts fight to the death, into the experience of hitting a small metal ball with two paddles. Try screaming “MORTAL KOMBAT!” and then playing this:
The small tabletop pinball machine was probably mostly purchased by confused parents who just asked the clerk at the toy store for the new Mortal Kombat game, leading to a lot of disappointing Christmas mornings.
2. Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins
Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins was animated straight-to-video movie produced to coincide with the theatrical movie’s release. And by ‘produced’ I mean hastily thrown together in an effort to exploit children.
For starters, the movie is only 54 minutes. That’s barely longer than an episode of Law & Order, yet is was rented amongst new release movies at the time. The front cover of the VHS even desperately panders to fans noting that “Hidden Inside” are codes for the Mortal Kombat game.
The biggest problem with the video is the computer-animated segments. The cover of the tape boldly proclaims: “Go one step beyond virtual reality with 3D animation like you’ve never seen before!” This is what we got–
Nope, not one step beyond virtual reality, more like one step inside of a class teaching computer animation for beginners. And 1995 was not that early for CGI, Reboot had been on the air for a whole year, and that show was great… I think. Just look how exciting they tried to make the video look in this promo video:
1. Mortal Kombat: The Live Tour
If you ever thought to yourself while playing the Mortal Kombat video game, “I would really like to see these characters to dance-fight each other with laser effects and a fog machine in the background” then this was the live event for you, weirdo. Following the success of the Mortal Kombat movie that summer, a live stage version opened that fall and, in an effort to drain America of every last penny, toured the country.
Like the Ninja Turtles show Coming Out of Their Shells, Mortal Kombat Live essentially took characters you have a previous association with and put them in a stage show you would never ever want to go see otherwise. Entertainment Weekly referred to it as a “spectacle of ineptly choreographed fights and incomprehensible plot developments.” And as an additional “fuck you” to parents, the plot concerned magical amulets that will save the world, which coincidentally were available for purchase in the lobby. Sure, you could not purchase one, but then you’d be dooming mankind.
For many, this unnecessary production put the Finishing Move on the Mortal Kombat franchise. Just try to enjoy the video game after you’ve seen the characters appear on this morning show: