Review: Ultimate Mortal Kombat

umk_ds_fob.jpgPlatform: DS
Publisher: Midway
Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Release Date: 11/12/07
Genre: Fighting/Puzzle
Players: 1-2

Ultimate Mortal Kombat, the first MK released for the DS, is an ultimate work of fan service. It’s got a spot-on translation of the arcade original UMK3, a port of the Puzzle Kombat mini-game from MK: Deception, true online play via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and loads of game settings, record-tracking features and unlockable goodies. Any fan of the series would be foolish to pass up this bundle of delicious portable MK goodness.

But that’s just it. UMK is a game that will appeal to its fan base and probably not much of anyone else. As a fighting game, it’s definitely solid. The mechanics and controls map well to the DS button layout (the off-screen is even used to display your character’s special and finishing move button combos!), the 2D graphics and familiar MK audio design are every bit as memorable as the original and hit all the proper notes of nostalgia, and overall UMK3 remains the smoothest, fastest-playing game in the series even on a handheld (which is why it’s still my personal favorite MK ever). But sadly, the cheap-as-all-hell opponent AI that was a frustration back in the day is now so aggravating that the later stages of the single-player mode are downright painful to play. Unless of course you’re a MK diehard who has mastered your favorite characters and knows how to out cheat the AI. Even on the Novice difficulty tier, the AI seems to know exactly what move you’re going to do before you even push a button. It’s ridiculous.

If you have a wireless connection or a nearby buddy to play with, you can avoid this pitfall somewhat by taking on a live opponent via local wireless (both multi-card and single-card download play, though character selection is limited in game sharing mode) or full online network play. The ability to play online is clearly this game’s strong point, especially with the stat-tracking, matchmaking options and friends lists, but unfortunately there are some issues that, again, limit the audience. During my online experiences so far, everyone I’ve been matched up against has seemed like this uber MK master who is damn near as cheap as the CPU AI. I’ve won a few rounds, but I still don’t think I’ve taken a full match yet. In addition, I’ve found online stability to be wildly erratic, even on a fast connection. One match the game will run without a hitch, then the next it’ll be moving almost in slow motion. I know Lag is always going to be an occasional nuisance in online play, but it’s a little too prevalent here to ignore.

As for Puzzle Kombat, even though it has received dual billing in this package, it really is just a fun distraction to tinker with on the side since it’s essentially a straight clone of Capcom’s Super Puzzle Fighter, only not as good. It does have all the UMK3 staples, though, including the local and online multi-player features. So if you dug Puzzle Kombat in Deception, you’ll love this version even more.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat is so very close to being a must-buy DS fighter. In fact, with a more balanced set of difficulties and a steadier online network, it would probably be the platform’s best fighting game yet. But ultimately it’s just not that accessible to the audience outside the inner circle of MK fandom, and as such can’t be as overwhelmingly recommended as I would’ve liked. Be cautious here and try before you consider buying.

TryIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Smooth, fast-paced gameplay
+ Spot-on audiovisual translation makes for high nostalgia value
+ Packed with tons of modes, settings and unlockables

Cons:
– Cheap AI is frustrating as all hell and very limiting in terms of accessibility
– Online performance a bit spotty
– Will really only appeal to MK fans

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!