The Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks Scandal

The Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks Scandal

There is something that has been simmering in my consciousness for over 10 years now. An anger, an unanswered question of an injustice that has yet to be avenged.

In 2005, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks came out. I was a big fan of Mortal Kombat in those days, and a massive fan of the 3D PS2 fighters. I knew every combo in Deception, had unlocked everything – and it was probably the best I have ever been at any one game. In the days before online gaming I have no way of proving it, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Shaolin Monks was a cool concept. Unlike a 1 on 1 fighter, it was a full on action adventure starring Liu Kang and Kung Lao, in an alternate history of MK2. The gameplay was fast and fluid, and it was a really solid effort. The main story was a little short however, and it lacked a certain replayability. The fighting was visceral, with the added arena space offering plenty more options for creative kills. This was compounded upon by the upgrade system which allowed you to unlock new moves at certain intervals, and great many different combos.

The star of the game was undoubtedly the fact that the entire story could be beaten Co-Op. It harkened back to the glory days of Mega Drive beat-em-ups like Streets Of Rage, and the addition of special moves that you could only do with a partner made it all the more exciting. It was an absolute blast to play through this title with my brother, and we loved every minute of it.

We loved it so much in fact, that we were determined to unlock all the games secrets. We did this, slowly but surely, using what information we could glean from online forums, and Midway’s own board, in which people were sharing useful hints and facts. Games were a bit more difficult to fully complete in those days, as the internet wasn’t quite as organised as it is today (or at least, it felt that way).

And then came the Smoke Missions. These were a set of five incredibly difficult semi-secret sidequests that if defeated, heralded a kingly gift. Figuring out what to do was the first part, as the instructions were normally a single line and somewhat ambiguous. But the prize was worth it. If you beat them all, you unlocked Mortal Kombat 2.

I had played Mortal Kombat 2 before, but only on the Mega Drive. This unlocked the arcade version, which I knew to be superior, and which I desperately wanted to try. I could download MAME and try it through there – but in those days it was still buggy and not quite up to par, and the risk of viruses from emulation websites was all too prevalent. The only option was to soldier on, and me and my brother spent an entire day combing the entire game until we had eventually done it. And the screen appeared.

Yes! Hooray!

Shaolin Monks had a ‘Kontent’ menu, in which all unlockables that didn’t affect gameplay would stay, consisting of things like concept art, music etc. It was in here that the game was supposed to stay. However.. it wasn’t. Searching high and low, it was absolutely nowhere to be found. So I took to the internet.

How Midway looked back in the day

I went directly to Midway’s own forums. And there, I saw the other posts. Multiple people asking the same question – where was MK2 after completing the smoke missions? Nobody could find it. I’ve scoured the way back machine for my own thread, but alas it seems lost to the ravages of time. Here is one topic that I can find that was posted.

There wasn’t that many replies to most of these, so I just started my own. I remember my exact words –

“Me and my brother have spent the day beating the smoke missions, and the game says we have unlocked MK2, but we can’t find it anywhere. Did we do something wrong?”

The reply came soon, and it was from Midway. “Sorry, but MK2 is not available in the PAL version of the game”.

I was absolutely outraged. How could this happen! More importantly, how could they keep both the quest and the congratulation of the quest in the game – yet take out the reward! It was almost a cruel experiment. To state in a game that you have unlocked something only for it to be a lie is unacceptable, and to this day I can’t believe it happened. I remember reading about being able to unlock it in the first place from a magazine of the time.

Could you imagine if this happened nowadays? Midway lucked out – they pulled this off at a time just before YouTube and Facebook, and in a game that wasn’t particularly a huge hit.

If it happened nowadays, it would trigger all sorts of questions, it would be people against money-grabbing corporations, lawsuits would be filed, and the internet would lose its shit.

Midway is no more, resigned to the annals of video game company history. Karma.

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