News/Mortal Kombat prototype for the Sega Mega Drive
Hello everyone! Today we have a nice little release to share with you all - a relatively late prototype of the Sega Mega Drive port of Mortal Kombat! This release was generously provided by David Sauer, who was kind enough to let us dump his cartridges for him.
Mortal Kombat itself needs no introduction. The game came out around the time Street Fighter II was making the scene in arcades around the world. Because of their previous successes in the arcade industry, Midway Games decided to create a fighting game of their own that would become one of the most well known and certainly most long standing fighting game franchises in the entire world. The original arcade release of Mortal Kombat was released on October 8th, 1992 in the United States. A home console release was a no-brainer, and ports of the game were underway for various systems with an intended release close to the holiday season the following year in 1993. All development of the console ports of the game were handled by various studios in both the US and the UK, with US based Sculptured Software handling the Super Nintendo port and UK based Probe Software handling the Sega Mega Drive ports as well. Most versions of the game would be published by Acclaim Entertainment and its subsidiaries.
Since each version of the game was handled by a different developer, each port carries its own unique design choices. Most of these changes are well known (with the bulk of these notable changes being documented by John Linneman over at EuroGamer's Digital Foundry), however the most infamous differences are in how each console version handled the game's blood and gore. Despite the graphical shortcomings, the Sega Mega Drive version proved to be a much better success due to its inclusion of the blood and gore (via a cheat code) that was intentionally left out of the Super Nintendo version. This version of the game would also spark the mid 90s controversy of violence in video games which would evidently create the video game rating systems that we know today.
What we have today is a rare prototype of the successful Mega Drive port of the game. This prototype is relatively late, but still contains many aesthetic changes that were made during the last few weeks of development. For instance, some of the graphics aren't as refined as they would be in the final game (most noticeably is Goro's Lair). The cheat mode that would provide an alternative way of enabling the blood doesn't seem to exist in this build, however the menu does appear to exist in the game's code. The Fight/Finish Him/Her graphics utilize a simple sprite scaling technique that goes unused in the final Mega Drive version, but was oddly brought back for the Sega CD release. For a while we weren't sure if we were looking at an unreleased second revision or a late prototype of the original game because of some of these changes, but as you continue to play the prototype and notice the differences, its clear that this game is most definitely a prototype.
Oddly enough, the cartridge label specifies that the cartridge must be returned to Flying Edge. Flying Edge was a division of Acclaim Entertainment that published games specifically for Sega's systems from 1992-1994, since Acclaim couldn't publish games for Sega's systems themselves due to contractual obligations to Nintendo. However, Arena Entertainment handled the publishing while Probe Software handled development on the port in the final game. Flying Edge was never given credit for any work on the final release of this port nor does any credit exist inside the prototype build itself. Why Flying Edge is given a credit on just this prototype cartridge is a bit of a mystery, but it might be possible that the company was handling some of the western production aspects of the port since Probe was based in the UK since Flying Edge was a direct subsidiary of Acclaim.
Once again we'd like to thank David Sauer for kindly allowing us the opportunity to share this neat piece of history with you. We're always willing to help point those that have these rare finds in the right direction. :)
Until next time!