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Only Two Copies Exist Of This Lost Mortal Kombat Game

"Mortal Kombat" has a storied history, earning a reputation for being a bloody and violent fighting game series. The franchise's focus on ultra-violence and over the top fatalities has been as much of a selling point for the game as it has been a controversy in the industry. The console release of the original "Mortal Kombat" led to the creation of the ESRB and the "M for Mature" rating. While violence and "Mortal Kombat" have become synonymous at this point, during the SNES era Nintendo was convinced that it could sell a version of the game without the gore, leading to a toned-down title that didn't sell as well as the Sega Genesis version (via RVG). This led to the creation of "Mortal Kombat Nitro," which was meant to be an upgraded version of the game with all of the blood and gore put back in. However, this was never released, and only two copies exist now. 

In David L. Craddock's book "Long Live Mortal Kombat: Round 1" (via IGN), Craddock discusses his time working on the SNES port of "Mortal Kombat" for the SNES and the struggles of meeting Nintendo's demands. Nintendo made heavy demands on developers Sculptured Software and Acclaim, which were responsible for porting "Mortal Kombat" from an arcade cabinet to a SNES game. During this process, Nintendo would regularly send the game back for adjustments, never articulating exactly what it wanted. Here's what went wrong with "Mortal Kombat Nitro."

The process of porting Mortal Kombat to the SNES

A major part of the process of porting "Mortal Kombat" to the SNES for Sculptured Software and Acclaim was toning down the violence, according to Craddock's book (via IGN). While some of the developers, like project manager Jeff Peters, felt that the violence in "Mortal Kombat" was so over the top that it became silly, Nintendo didn't feel the same way, taking it more seriously. As for Nintendo's feedback, the company still wouldn't give exact details on what it wanted, resulting in multiple back-and-forth conversations about the violence. Eventually, it was decided to turn the blood droplets translucent as they flew out of characters when hit, and to refer to it as sweat.

As for the fatalities in the game, Nintendo asked that no decapitations occur, resulting in the teams needing to make new fatalities for Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, and Raiden. The developers didn't have time to make new animations, so they had to reuse existing fatalities in a way that made them appear less violent. After solving this batch of issues, Nintendo went on to reject the game twice. The first time was for Johnny Cage's new fatality where he put his foot through his opponents chest. Secondly was due to Kano's fatality where he rips his opponent's heart out.

The result was a port that was outsold five-to-one by the Sega Genesis version, which already had the exclusive rights to the first home-release of "Street Fighter 2." In addition to all of the censorship by Nintendo, the SNES port was rushed, resulting in poor controls and an overall worse version of the game, all of which led to the idea for "Mortal Kombat Nitro."

The creation of Mortal Kombat Nitro

James Fink, a product tester at Acclaim, was frustrated by the negative reviews and poor sales of the SNES version of "Mortal Kombat," according to Craddock's book (via IGN). Fink was annoyed because he knew the reviews about censorship and poor controls were correct. The port had, at one point in development, played and looked much closer to the arcade version than the Genesis game, but the labored development resulted in a bad port. Fink pitched the idea for "Mortal Kombat Nitro," which would be their version of "Street Fighter 2 Turbo."

This updated version would include better controls, put all the blood and gore back into the game (amplified), and expand upon the arcade version. Fink was told to document his ideas for "Mortal Kombat Nitro," which included new costumes, fatalities, and features. This new version would add the boss characters to the playable roster, including Goro, Shang Tsung, and Reptile. Fink took his ideas to Midway and was given permission to put together a prototype of "Mortal Kombat Nitro" with the new playable characters and features. Fink got to work and had a messy — but working — product.

Unfortunately, Midway quickly shut Fink down, as "Mortal Kombat" creators Ed Boon and John Tobias weren't interested in someone else making an improved version of their game, especially as "Mortal Kombat 2" was having a successful run in the arcade and was due up to be ported to home consoles. Ultimately, Capcom's fiscal results revealed that "Street Fighter 2 Turbo" did not perform well, killing any chance of "Mortal Kombat Nitro" releasing. Now, there are two chips with the game: one in Fink's possession, and one he gave to Boon; although, he isn't sure if Boon still has it.