The hype for Mortal Kombat 11 causes a reader to recall his childhood memories of one of the Mega Drive’s worst peripherals.
The upcoming release of Mortal Kombat 11 has me excited. I haven’t played a fighting game since the original Injustice in 2013, but Mortal Kombat 11 looks and sounds promising. However, whenever a new Mortal Kombat is released it always reminds me of the crushing, self-created hype only gaming can produce.
If you are a gamer then there aren’t many things in this world that generate as much as excitement, hype and intrigue as getting a new console. Couple that with Christmas and you have fever-level excitement. Even now, in my mid-30s, I still get disappointed at Christmas if I know I haven’t got some sort of electronic gaming peripheral underneath the tree.
I remember when the Wii U was a year past its release date and was clearly struggling with sales. New games were few and far between. Third party support was near non-existent and the only real games to dream about were the then untitled new Zelda game. This later being revealed as Breath Of The Wild, which turned into the swansong for the Wii U. The future was bleak for Nintendo’s bulbous rectangle. Its writing was on the wall and most gamers knew it. Including myself.
But knowing this hardware would be most likely discontinued by the big N in the near future, there was still hope that my girlfriend would somehow surprise me, read my mind, and have one under the tree for me. It didn’t happen. I didn’t ask for one and she didn’t get me one. It was probably for the best. But this didn’t stop me from feeling a slight tinge of disappointment on Christmas Day. Because Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a new toy that plugs into the TV.
Back in 1995, my Christmas was going to be special. My Sega Mega Drive was my Woody doll. My number one toy. It was getting old but it hadn’t been replaced yet and was the captain of the family room. The PlayStation had been released in September of the same year and was changing the way we would perceive gaming. It heralded a new wave of 3D gaming. It was expensive and not many people had one. I knew this wasn’t going to be under the tree. It was beyond my family’s price range, and this was OK.
As Sony’s console was not an option, I was longing for that feeling of having a new console under the tree. That feeling of anxiety in my stomach when eating our Christmas breakfast knowing that within the hour, I would be on the cusp of a new frontier. A new experience. What drove me to the path I took was probably a psychological sacrifice. After seeing a couple of convincing adverts on TV, and the odd magazine feature, I told my parents what I wanted for Christmas. On 25th December 1995 I would be harnessing the power of the Aura Interactor.
The Aura Interactor was a wearable force feedback suit developed by Aura Systems in late 1994. Compared to the state-of-the-art PlayStation it was reasonably priced, which made it a perfect candidate for Christmas Day. It was apparently the first haptic suit available on the market. The effect was that it would make vibrations based on your gameplay from the supported SNES or Sega Mega Drive. Retrospectively, I suppose it was the precursor to the N64 Rumble Pak and the later, more streamlined, PlayStation DualShock controllers. Aura signed a deal with Acclaim to help promote their product alongside the Fortnite of 1995, the all-conquering Mortal Kombat II.
To me, the Interactor was a technical marvel that would transform gaming. A suit that would make you feel your game. It would plug into my Sega Mega Drive and in my mind, would turn my games into virtual reality style experiences. My 11-year-old self didn’t know any better and the Internet was not the purchasers manual it is today, so nothing was going to discourage me. This was it. This was going to be my Christmas Day salvation.
The box itself came with all the trappings you would want from a console-replacement Christmas present. A big box covered in superlatives. Long complicated wires, a large black heavy plastic backpack with straps, small electrical bits that didn’t really look like they would fit into either the console or the TV. It was perfect. It was everything I expected. It was mine and it would soon be transporting me to the year 2199.
Eventually, after patiently waiting for the rest of my family to open their presents (we have particular traditions on Christmas Day), I was free. It was time. I lugged the heavy box across the hall way and started the process of wiring myself in…
This was not so easy. This wasn’t a new console, so you couldn’t just plug into the same port on the back of the TV as the Mega Drive. It had to work with the Mega Drive. There were plugs and wires which didn’t seem to be colour coordinated. No square plugs for square holes. After a while, and with assistance from both my brother and dad, the Interactor was good to go.
As an 11-year-old, I had no real income apart from birthdays and Christmas which meant acquiring new games was a rare treat. My gaming library wasn’t vast. I was the only one of my friends who had a Mega Drive, which meant there was no option to swap games. All my games were like well read books. Films that had been seen a dozen times.
As advertised, the Interactor was supposed to work best with Mortal Kombat II. It was my favourite game at the time, but I had already meticulously picked apart the title already. I knew most Fatalities, Babalities, and Friendships by heart. On Christmas Day, 1995, I didn’t have any new games to play. It then dawned on me. This wasn’t going to be a new experience, but a familiar experience.
Putting on the Interactor was like being fitted to go into space. I am not referring to the idea of venturing into the unknown, I am referring to wearing an incredibly uncomfortable backpack that restricts movement and makes sitting down as awkward as it sounds. Tweaking with the two dials on the main hub of the device, which were for Power and Filter, never really made any difference to the effect. You may as well have called it Volume. It was pretty clear to me what this was. The Interactor was a glorified subwoofer that you strapped to your back.
Once it was fitted, almost all sounds would reverberate through your body. The kit was supposed to react to what ever happened in-game and not just to the sounds coming from the game. But it was never the case. Any voice from the game would playback through the device and resemble the announcer at a fairground you would find at your local supermarket carpark. The vibration from your back would almost incapacitate you. After watching my brother play, my dad decided against wearing the suit in fear of inducing a heart attack. It was shock treatment. It was borderline painful.
If Mortal Kombat was supposed to the pinnacle of this experience, then expectations were low for the rest of my library. Rocket Knight Adventures? Like being shot with a taser. NHL 95? You would actively avoid a goal in fear of the crowd noises. The experience never really got any better and it soon became a party piece that would come out rarely and reluctantly.
Eventually the Interactor was sold to make way for the PlayStation sometime down the road. It was a relic that I would always remember whenever a new Mortal Kombat was in the gaming zeitgeist. It was a lesson in hype and expectations for an 11-year-old which I still carry today. Christmas 1995 was still special because I got what I wanted. Which is all you can hope for. What I hoped for was just not what I thought it was.
As modern game companies strive to add new experiences to make their IP unique, maybe NetherRealm Studios should reintroduce the Interactor for Mortal Kombat 11. I couldn’t think of a better way to replicate Scorpion’s harpoon piercing your body then strapping on the Aura’s pain-generating backpack.
By reader Slug_Ox (PSN ID)/@NicElroy (Twitter)
The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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