Ultimate Mortal Kombat Review
The last portable Mortal Kombat game I played wasn't very good. I used to play the version on the Sega Game Gear back when I lived in California in the mid 90s. The game didn't play too well at all, the graphics were of a pretty low quality, and there were only two buttons on the Game Gear! How could I be expected to play Mortal Kombat with only two buttons? I was young and naive, though -- I thought a ton of games like this were really fun then. I was easy to please. However, times have changed, and gamers have grown up. We're a much harder lot to please. Ultimate Mortal Kombat does a much better job of re-creating the arcade experience that the limited portable hardware of the mid 90s just couldn't pull off.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat is actually a compilation of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Puzzle Kombat on one DS cartridge. The MK port is a very arcade-authentic port. The moves are, as far as I remember them, the same, the graphics are well done and the game is just as fun to play. The other part of this package, Puzzle Kombat, is also pretty interesting. The game is partially related to Puyo Pop, with some twists tossed in. You have bricks falling from the top of the screen, with the goal of linking the colors. When you get an MK symbol instead of the normal brick, that symbol will clear all of the blocks of that color that are touching each other. It is pretty entertaining as a diversion, but I see the MK port as the main part of this package.
This game, when first loading it up, presents you with the choice of jumping into either the traditional MK3 or Puzzle Kombat. Both of these games offer three options -- single player, local multiplayer or WiFi Multiplayer. Yes, you can go online and play Mortal Kombat against your friends (or even your enemies, if you so desire). Also nice is that the game keeps track of your stats for fights. It'll tell you how many you've won, how many you've lost and what your win streak is. It is a nice touch.
Most important, though, is just how the game plays. This is definitely an arcade authentic port, with moves and such working like you're used to. Sub-Zero throws ice in the same way, Scorpion throws the spear the same way and I still find it pretty darn difficult to pull off any moves that require you to press 'up' on the controller. Note, also, that the fights are often ridiculously hard. I've gone through tons of fights with characters where I simply could not pull out a win no matter how hard I tried. This was using the 'novice' setting, which only seems to make you fight fewer opponents before you take on Shao Kahn. Playing this game was like jumping through a time warp for me, back to a day when games weren't challenging due to any reason except for the computer being cheesy. Much of the time, the computer just knew what move I was doing when I pressed the button and avoided it.
One nice thing that got added in the port to the DS was the move list for each character. Back in the mid 90s, you often had to have a recent gaming magazine to have move lists for characters so that you could compete with your friends. Recent fighters build move lists into the game, though, making it far easier to get these lists down. It was taken a step further with this incarnation of Mortal Kombat. Instead of trying to force a use for the top screen (such as characters shifting up there when you uppercut someone through the floor), a simple move list is put up there, along with fatalities, friendships and the like also being listed. While it isn't easy to reference these during the fast paced battles, you can still get a look at them when a match is about to start.
The biggest plus in achieving an arcade-perfect port, though, is the graphics. Any of you who were gaming during the Genesis/SNES wars probably remember the SNES version of Mortal Kombat not having any blood because Nintendo didn't want it there. Don't fret, that didn't happen with UMK here on the DS. There are gobs of blood in all the places you'd expect to see it. On top of that, the moves all look like they did in the arcade, the characters all look good and the game in general feels just like the arcade version did. There weren't any graphical hitches that I noticed whatsoever -- a definite boon for a portable system.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat is definitely a worthy pickup for any fan of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. The game plays just like the original did, down to the moves being faithfully recreated. The graphics are well done, the online play was a great addition and the game is just a joy to play. The inclusion of Puzzle Kombat is nice, to be sure, but the majority of the fun with this game is going to come from beating your friends or the computer senseless in a regular fight. If you wonder what really got this craze going in the early to mid 90s, this game will definitely give you some insight into that. While the game brings nothing new to the table, this is definitely one of the more solid portable versions of Mortal Kombat that I've ever played. If you're looking for something new here, pass this one up. But if you're looking to re-live the days of popping quarters into an arcade machine, look no further.