Mortal Kombat II discovered!
Perhaps the most common "what if," as far as Atari is concerned, concerns games which could have been released for the company's consoles. For example, what if Mortal Kombat II would have been ported to the Lynx?
Indeed, Mortal Kombat II was in the works in 1992 and Atari had big plans for the port. But a lack of clear management and resources ultimately led to the demise of the project. Greg Omi, the programmer of both Klax and Electrocop for the Lynx and current employee of Naughty Dog Software, was chosen to code the MK2 port.
"The thought around Atari, in 1992, was that a popular game was needed for the Lynx," he said. "Atari was losing out in the portable market to Nintendo's Game Boy and Sega's Game Gear, and a lot of people at Atari thought a strong title was needed to right the ship. Mortal Kombat II was chosen because of its popularity on the (Sega) Genesis, Super Nintendo and even the Game Gear. But it was never announced publicly because Atari wanted to wait until the license was official."
Omi mentioned some of the graphics techniques he used to make the Lynx version look so true to the arcade. "I did a quickie graphics conversion expecting to clean them up later." Omi said. "I also developed a new programming technique for this game by mixing background colors with the sprite colors. The sprites were programmed to change color palettes depending on the background they were on. This allowed me to use all 16 colors for the backgrounds and use those same colors for the sprites."
Omi said the project looked promising, particularly since the Lynx outclassed the Game Gear in terms of performance and quality, but the current state of the game is only about 60% complete. "It was going to be a 4 megabit game, but there was a bunch of stuff I didn't get to. The character names on the game screens simply say, 'Player 1 and Player 2.' There are only a few backgrounds included and they hadn't been animated yet." Omi also regrets he wasn't able to get the character shadows to work before Atari cancelled the project. "I knew that was important (for some reason) to MK2 players."
Atari officials planned to make MK2 available as a pack-in cartridge so that more Lynx consoles could be sold. "If they gave the game away with a new unit, the thought was Lynx sales would pick up dramatically," Omi said. "No one else was including an A+ title with their systems and Atari wanted to include this one to really show off the potential of the Lynx. MK2 seemed to satisfy all of the company's requirements for a 'must have' game needed to boost the Lynx's popularity."
Sadly, the project fell apart over a licensing spat with Midway, Omi said. "Basically Atari didn't want to spend the money for the license." Money that would have taken resources away from the Jaguar, the 64-bit system which company officials believed represented the future of the firm.
"It's no secret that money was a huge concern back then," Omi said. "Strict budgets were the rule at Atari. Atari officials, after initial negotiations with Midway, believed the licensing fees had been nailed down and set the MK2 project's budget with a certain fee in mind. When the fee was more than originally expected, Atari decided to kill the project. Negotiations with Midway did resume at a later date to port Mortal Kombat 3 to the Jaguar, but by that time the Lynx was dead."
Thankfully, Omi recently discovered the source code and graphics on an old computer in his garage. "I was planning to sell the computer in a garage sale. I'm glad that I poked around beforehand otherwise Lynx MK2 would have been lost forever."
Omi converted the game into ROM format for everyone to enjoy. "I don't expect Midway or Atari will care if this is released. Like I said, it's far from complete, but you'll get an idea of what MK2 on the Lynx would have been like."
Sorry Lynx fans! This is an April Fool's joke!