Midwayís Ultimate Mortal Kombat for the DS isnít so much the ultimate Mortal Kombat as it is a belated re-release of the 1996 series-mender Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Packaged together with the Baku Baku knock-off Puzzle Kombat from Mortal Kombat Deception, this combo provides the thrill of decent late Ď90s 2D combat and the excitement of a tweaked Tetris. This strange combination also includes multiplayer over Wi-Fi, making this not only the first portable release in the series to feature online play but also the best portable release in the series to date.
I have to say that Iím fairly impressed with how UMK came out. After the shockingly bad GameBoy releases, I had internally resigned the series to consoles and hadnít considered the release of a worthwhile handheld version - yet here one is. For those who arenít hip to the pre-3D releases, the smash hit original was followed up by a very successful and universally praised sequel, which itself was followed up by the absolutely horrible Mortal Kombat 3. Main characters (Scorpion) were dropped while others (Subzero) were altered for the worse; derivative characters added that were simply palette swapped, tweaked revisions; and the fatality, babality, animality, and friendship finishers that were just so in 2 were thrown into overdrive and beaten into the ground, reanimated, then beaten into the ground again, in 3. The gameís throwaway character count is only matched in fighters by Mortal Kombat Trilogy, which is an amazing feat. In short: Mortal Kombat 3 sucked.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was an attempt to rein the series in and to help revitalize the series. Old favorites were brought back, including the classic Ďmaskedí Subzero, and levels given the more hellish, ominous appearance of the first two. UMK 3 actually did a remarkable job of making the series somewhat likeable again Ė though numerous subsequent side games and 4 would pretty much destroy that goodwill. With their favorite fighters back, gamers could then work on mastering the new rudimentary combo system and run button that had been implemented for the third go-around. And that is when the realization hit that AI had have reached an apex of ridiculousness.
The Mortal Kombat has always been a bit unfair. The original had a brutal endurance mode that began a sequence of fights that pitted combatants against the cheap Goro and Shang Tsung. The second followed suit, but the third went the extra mile with the second to last boss, Motaro. Motaro is invulnerable to projectiles, with them actually randomly bouncing back at the player, along with a massive fireball, long tale, and the ability to teleport: it combines all of these moves into what is a massive amount of pain. Victory is through attrition, as the computer will just up pass on winning by having Motaro resist from retaliating until after a few kicks have landed. Although this is true of the other characters as well, with the fourth or so match on having opponents that are either mediocre or omnipotent, but it is far more trying with the bosses. Donít be surprised if 10-15 attempts are necessary to beat them.
So, essentially, the problem with Ultimate Mortal Kombat is that itís a Mortal Kombat game. But fans already know how the series is, and those new to the older titles arenít completely foreign to the seriesí strange ways. In fact, not only is this a good portable version, itís a pretty enjoyable portable fighter in its own right. The graphics look great, the sound is spot on, and the controls are responsive. The small directional pad and buttons donít make for the most comfortable setup for fighters, but they are serviceable. On top of all that, thereís stat tracking, which drives home just how long and frustrating the boss section is, and Wi-Fi multiplayer; thereís even a limited single-cart multiplayer option, so friends without a copy can still play versus. The opposite screen is even used to show special moves and finishers.
Puzzle Kombat is a decent pack-in, with super deformed Deception characters battling it out in two rounds, three if there is a tie, while breaking out their special super move. The pace is slow, but it does make a nice companion piece to the fighter. Why Midway just didnít release a refined version of Trilogy or a collection of the previous four predecessors is beyond me, but the addition does help to complete the package.
As far as ports go, Ultimate Mortal Kombat is exceptional. Fans of the series will absolutely love having such a solid translation on the go, and the wireless multiplayer is sure to make a few diehards ecstatic. The problems are the same as those from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, though: spotty AI combined with mercilessly cheap boss battles, a sizeable chunk of lame characters, and the unintentional goofiness of the finishers. In terms of the general quirks and problems with the game, all I can say is that I still own a copy of UMK 3 for the Sega Saturn. Hey, Iím a fan.