IGN Review of Ultimate Mortal Kombat
Ultimate Mortal Kombat. The name suggests that the game's something special, something in-depth, something all-encompassing, what with "ultimate" in the title. In reality Ultimate Mortal Kombat is simply a truncation of the title "Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3," the version of the arcade game that capped off the fighting series' use of 2D gameplay mechanics and digitized actors. It's not the "ultimate" in Mortal Kombat by any means - that arguably could go to the 1996 mash-up release of Mortal Kombat Trilogy. But this is an arcade emulation of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for the Nintendo DS, and a really good one. To spice things up, the company also converted the satirical puzzle game Puzzle Kombat created for Mortal Kombat Deception, and then went one step further and made all versions fully playable over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. Not "ultimate" by any means, but certainly worthwhile.
Both games were converted over to the Nintendo DS by Other Ocean, the same team that worked on the Xbox Live Arcade version of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. The arcade conversion, pretty much an emulation with a few development compromises, is pulled off extremely well on the Nintendo DS. The speed and gameplay is pretty near arcade perfect, and only the truly keen MK eyes are going to see the tweaks employed to get the game working on the handheld. All the spurting blood, fatalities, and gruesome violence - admittedly tame to today's standards - are in here.
Even with its warts Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 still holds up relatively well over the past decade. Like most fighters it's a far better two player game than it is a solo experience - the AI routines are ridiculously cheap and frustrating since the computer opponent can essentially read your controller inputs and react instantaneously and block and counter the attack. Even the best fighters do this in multiplayer, but not to the extent that Mortal Kombat does it. Playing this game by your lonesome just isn't any fun and can be damn near irritating.
So it's a darn good thing that Other Ocean put in extensive multiplayer modes for the Nintendo DS version. Find a friend with a DS and a copy of the cartridge and you can link and play exactly as if he was standing next to you at an arcade machine. If all he has is a Nintendo DS, there's a Download Play mode where you can send a "demo" version to his system and fight with a small sampling of fighters (the color-swapped ninja characters).
If you don't have a friend at the ready, you can go online and fight with random players or buddies you've added to a Friends List
and this is one of the game's big selling points. Most of the game's flaws pop up over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection due to the fact that battles can have lag, so when it slows down you're going to have to cope with some odd glitches and pops. Some connections were pretty darn solid and felt as tight as a local wireless link, but a few worsened over the course of multiple fights
but never to the point of losing connection entirely. But this is the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. You're still going to have random asshats that love disconnecting after they lose so you don't get the victory, but never once in several hours of fights did the link just randomly drop. And even a single day after its release, there seems to be a lot of competition on the servers ready to go.
On top of the Mortal Kombat fighting experience we're also getting Puzzle Kombat, essentially a rip-off
er, tribute to the Super Puzzle Fighter design but with Mortal Kombat characters. I've never been a member of the Puzzle Fighter fan club simply because I think it's a flawed design - it focuses too heavily on the random appearance of activation tiles to remove strategically stacked bricks from play. But after playing it time and again (including this version) it's a design that I'm slowly warming up to
I can see why it appeals to so many gamers. I may never like it as much as the die-hard fans do, but it definitely has its appeal, and Puzzle Kombat is a decent clone of that puzzle game I used to loathe but no longer do. And it, too, is online via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, as well as single and multi-cart two player over a local link.
This cartridge isn't going to win any awards in the Most Innovative Use of The DS System's Two Screens category, if there was one. In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 you're simply getting a static moves list (which is, admittedly, a very handy thing), and in Puzzle Kombat, the second screen's just used to show the animation of the superdeformed characters and their fatalities. The fighting game has double tier arenas
how cool would it have been if you could have uppercutted your opponent through the ceiling on the bottom screen, and continue the fight on the upper one? Yeah, gimmicky I know
but it certainly would've been a neat addition.
The features list is a little barebones, too. Yes, we get two complete games with a good focus on multiplayer support. But the statistics tracking is a little limited - it keeps tally on how many fights you've played in single and multiplayer (along with how many fatality variations you've pulled off), but it doesn't separate local multiplayer wins vs. online wins, and it doesn't keep track of individual player wins (just their multiplayer rating so you can see how you match up). And since you can play random people, it would've been fantastic had it remembered if you've played that person before and how well those fights went.
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