Mortal Kombat 1 PC DOS Version Comparison

Acknowledgment

The research for this article has been conducted jointly with James-F from the VOGONs forums, whom I thank greatly for his valuable contributions.

Introduction

The original arcade hit Mortal Kombat (1) has been converted to a number of home systems back in the day, the PC-DOS being one of them. To have several different releases for the PC is not uncommon, but even among the most hardcore players few know that no fewer than 7 different versions of MK1 for DOS have been publicly distributed. Some are early “beta”s, leaked intentionally or unintentionally; others are official releases from different distributors, or with a different patch level.

While there exist articles comparing a few of the different PC releases of MK1 (such as the excellent Kombat Kolumns Issue #3), to my best knowledge, prior to this write-up there have not been attempts to do a full comparison. In fact, there has been a lot of confusion as to how many different versions are actually out there, and what the differences are.

This article is strictly a comparison between the different PC DOS versions. Similarities and differences between the PC release and the original Arcade game (or other ports) are beyond the scope of the discussion, and are not mentioned except where it may be relevant to understand the evolution of the PC MK1.

Available versions

To date, I know of 7 separate versions of MK1 for DOS that have been available publicly. They are summarized in Table 1. I characterize a version by the game’s main executable file, although many other data files inevitably changed between releases.

The majority of the versions were made between November 1993 and January 1994. The official releases of these versions were on 3.5″ floppy disks. The CD version was released much later, in January 1996, as part of a special compilation disk including MK1 and MK2.

Note: Since there is not any version number accompanying the releases, naming the versions is a matter of convention. Especially for the early leaks, there can not be any official nomenclature. The names I chose (Alpha, Beta, Release Candidate) are merely for easy distinguishing, although as will be shown, they do correlate somewhat with the state of software one would expect at the respective stages of development.

Version EXE Size (bytes) Original EXE Date (*)
Alpha 433,225 1993-11-09
Beta (Virgin) 445,129 1993-11-29
“Release Candidate” 430,111 1993-12-13
Ultratech (first release) 439,131 1993-12-17
Ultratech (final) 586,311 1993-12-31
Virgin (final) 584,127 1994-01-04
CD 1,157,222 1996-01-15

Table 1. Identifying the different MK1 PC DOS versions. (*) Dates are approximate

Alpha (unbranded)

This is the earliest known drop, and, by all signs, a leaked “pirated” version. There are no visible logos to identify the distributor, nor are there indicators as to who leaked the release. It is clearly very premature, and has many limitations and omissions, making it not really suitable for play outside playtesting. In particular, there is absolutely no sound.

Beta (Virgin)

This one is also a pirated leak, often accompanied by a .NFO file from a contemporary pirate group, identifying the game as “Mortal Kombat Pre-release”. The .NFO file mentions “this version is with sound”, which suggests that the earlier leak was either released by the same group or at least known to them. The “Virgin” logo is present here during startup, suggesting that the leak came from the European distributor.

Despite still classifying as a “beta”, and containing some glitches and missing content, this version is much more playable than the first and the game can be enjoyed almost without limitations.

“Release Candidate” (Unbranded)

The first version that starts resembling the finished product, with most of the content converging to its eventual final form. Some glitches are present, but they are fewer than before. This version can be recognized for being the only one with a separate SETUP.EXE program for configuring the game. It feels solid enough to have been a legitimate “Release Candidate”, but most likely it is also a leak, as it often comes with a text file identifying another pirate group responsible for the release and listing the special moves and fatalities for all characters. For lack of a better name, and given the proximity in dates and content to the subsequent first release, I will be referring to it as Release Candidate / RC in the rest of the article.

Ultratech First Release

This appears to be the first official release, for the US market, by the publisher Ultratech / Hi Tech. The publisher’s information is visible under the Acclaim logo on the first screen after the game starts. Content-wise it is a lot like the RC that precedes it by a mere few days, but it is the first version to have an integrated Setup utility, instead of a separate application.

Ultratech Final Release

This is the final floppy release for the US market. It is mostly similar to the previous one, but has some changes, both cosmetic and non-cosmetic. Surprisingly, some of the changes are not for the better (more specifically about it later). It was released approximately two weeks after the previous edition. For customers who already purchased the first edition, Ultratech provided an upgrade patch.

Virgin Final Release

The European market has seen only one official release of the game, which was published by Virgin Interactive. The “Virgin” logo is present in this version as well. Despite being shipped only a few days after the final Ultratech drop, this one has a couple of substantial changes in it, mostly related to the speed of the game, but not only.

CD Release

Released a full two years after the final floppy versions (as part of the MK1/MK2 CD compilation), this one is very distinct from the rest. The audio has received a full overhaul and is now essentially a 1:1 reproduction of the Arcade original. In graphics and gameplay, however, it is very similar to the final floppy release by Virgin. This version has been re-released by GoG some time ago, without any additional changes.

Next: Configuration, Graphics, Audio

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