This week sees the landmark release of Mortal Kombat X. The 10th game in the beloved Mortal Kombat franchise, all the glorious violence you can shake a severed spinal cord at arrives on the home consoles just in time to bicycle kick your nostalgia and spear you into the future. It's a fitting time for Mortal Mania to strike up again, this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Mortal Kombat motion picture, easily the greatest video game-based movie of all time. It's precisely because the stars are particularly aligning for the return of Mortal Madness in your mind that just from reading this paragraph a certain everlasting ditty is emptying quarters into the coin slot of your brain. That's right, it's time to discuss the Mortal Kombat theme. Refresh your memory of the tune after the jump.
The song's actual title is "Techno Syndrome," and it's performed by a group called The Immortals. If you think that that's one Goro of a coincidence, it's not. The Immortals were a commissioned side project of Belgian post-industrial electronic group Lords of Acid's members Maurice "Praga Khan" Engelen and Olivier Adams. To coincide with Mortal Kombat's release on the home video game systems, after being a controversial arcade hit, they were to create an accompanying soundtrack. Along with creating an original song for each of the game's characters, they created "Techno Syndrome," with the song's signature "MORTAL KOMBAT!" scream coming directly from the second person we hear screaming in the game's commercial itself.
It's easy to forget just how big arcade culture was in the mid '90s. The communities that would build around big arcade machines that were years beyond anything the home video game systems could re-create made for an environment comparable to Mortal Kombat's Outworld realm itself. Gamers who'd mastered different styles would compete in front of a captive audience and, if the right buttons were pressed, ultimately dispose of their opponent's avatar is the most brutal of ways. Of course having a pulse-pounding synth-heavy anthem would carry these
combatants Kombatants back to the game again and again. With Mortal Kombat's violence being so unprecedented and controversial that it warranted a senate hearing, by the time the movie was released everyone across the country knew what Mortal Kombat was, even if they didn't know how to do Johnny Cage's full-splits groin punch.
"Techno Syndrome" can be heard throughout the film, and subsequently became the franchise's most consistent identifiable trait. There's something so 90s about a techno song about a controversial video game, and that's probably why the track itself is so cherished.
While the original Mortal Kombat: The Album only reached #16 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart, the 1995 Mortal Kombat motion picture soundtrack went platinum in just ten days. The soundtrack also hit #10 on the Billboard Top 200 charts and #1 on the Top Tastemakers Albums. To give you an idea how serious the Top Tastemakers contention is, the weeks preceding the following Mortal Kombat at the top spot were held by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Hootie and the Blowfish. We're talking about the tastes that made the '90s.
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So why is it that these video game songs connect with us for so long? "Techno Syndrome" is on a short list of classic gaming music with the likes of the Super Mario Bros. theme that just taps into that feeling of playing the game as soon as we hear it. Certainly there's something to be said for a sound that makes us nostalgic and all the great memories of a non-duplicatable time in our lives we have a special fondness for, not to mention all the hours we spend with these games and having these tracks drilled into our brains. But, it's perhaps over the course of that repetition, especially for franchises like Mortal Kombat, that makes hearing this song return during different points of our lives with each new release intertwine it with how the song makes us feel then. For every new ninja, cyborg, demon or operative we defeat on screen, once we put the controller down we're back to overcoming that next round in our own lives. Just as we reach that next milestone, we're reaching down some sorcerer's throat and removing his entire skeleton.
While "Techno Syndrome" was probably made with the intent to pump us up for the opportunity to play Mortal Kombat at home, it's become a welcome recurring character in our lives reminding us how often we're going to need to test our might. It's not just about a video game. It's about hope.