Review by ffmasterjose
"All The Best Cowbys Have Daddy Issues"
Mortal Kombat is personally one of my favorite video game series of all time and has held this position for as long as I can remember. I've played them all my friend, the best and the worst. Imagine how excited I was when I found out there was a GameBoy Advance port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 - think about it, what could be more swell than portable gore in the palm of your hands? Unfortunately though, this is another situation where the concept itself sounds like it could deliver and do so with a passion, whereas the final product fails to hear the starting gun, gets off to a sloppy start, and trips over it's own two feet in the process. Mortal Kombat Advance is easily one of the most crippled games I have ever gotten the opportunity to play, and it's disheartening in many ways to say that due to how much fun the games can be. It was released before the blockbuster hit Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance so during it's inception it was a dark time for the series as a whole, and it shows. Painfully so.
Mortal Kombat Advance plays very awkward. In this case, the controls are sluggish, often unresponsive (and even overly responsive), loading times between screens can drag on, horribly unbalanced computer intelligence, and all of it serves to give you incentive to take the game back from wherever you bought it, and angrily demand your money back. Either that, or throw it in the fiery depths of Scorpion's Lair, it will probably feel right at home actually. Combos can still be pulled off, though the trademark run meter that was new to the series in this game has been removed, most likely because of memory restrictions. So ideally you can pull off an infinite string of combos. Ideally. The reality of it is, the computer AI will in most cases interrupt your combo with a 7 hit combo of their own, completely out of the blue. If that weren't insulting enough, chances are you'll have to resort to using "cheap" tactics in order to defeat your opponent. This means kicking them over and over again without them blocking it (for whatever reason) or any other boring and bland approach. The difficulty as I said earlier is staggeringly unbalanced. Even on the easiest difficulty setting in one round your opponent may never even throw a punch or evade a single attack, and in the very next round they might decide to decimate you with a ridiculous string of combo attacks that never ends until your character falls over defeated. It's mind-numbingly aggravating and is an ever persistent problem in this game.
The controls are mapped to the GameBoy Advance's four different buttons and the directional pad. So you can expect a severe degree of condensation amongst the moves and finishers. Speaking of which, each character except for Noob Saibot and the two boss characters Shao Kahn and Motaro have two finishers, one Fatality and their Friendship. Those three that I mentioned have no special finishing moves whatsoever for whatever reason. In many cases it takes an odd number of button presses to pull of a special move or finisher, and it's even more likely that it won't register after you've entered it. I still give the game some credit for keeping some of the character's more signature arsenal of attacks intact, such as Scorpion's spear and Liu Kang's fireball. The fun factor is held down with an iron weight due to all of the technical issues of the game (Such as obvious lag between the time you deplete your opponents health meter and the time it takes for them to fall down, it's almost as if they don't notice they just got their rear handed to them), and even the most devoted of Mortal Kombat fans won't enjoy playing this game.
The storyline in Mortal Kombat Advance isn't altered at all from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3's story, which is the same as Mortal Kombat 3, so on and so forth. Each character has a reason to end Shao Kahn's conquest of Earthrealm, whether it be for the salvation of our realm and people, revenge, or the chance to conquer the realms for one's own desires and dreams. Each character has an ending that is displayed after you beat any of the towers in the single player arcade mode. Granted it's not the most in-depth of plots, not too many people play Mortal Kombat games for the story it tells. It just does enough to get by basically. It doesn't fail, it's just nothing spectacular.
In terms of graphics and sound, the game actually doesn't do so bad in some instances. There are only about seven backgrounds to fight in, and each one is completely still the entire time. I attribute this to memory issues that come with putting a game on a GameBoy Advance cartridge, let's hope that is the reason why anyway. The character models look surprisingly accurate to their port counterparts, the digitized actors look..well, like themselves. I'm impressed that they didn't become all crunched up and generic. The special move animation and effects though, look very bland however. Lui Kang's fireball which normally looks cool, now appears as nothing more than a firework popping off. The Fatalities look rather unimpressive when you compare them to the original game and it's many ports, which seems odd as the GameBoy Advance should be able to render things better. Regarding sound, I'm not too confident in how the editing process went with the creation of this game. Even though the character Sheeva is noticeably absent from this game (that's not too surprising though, she was taken out of several older ports due to memory constriction issues) her sound effects are still very present in this game, oddly enough, given to the male ninjas. I admit at first I was wondering if I had really just heard Ermac make a battle cry like Sheeva, and then soon after that, he did so again. I have no earthly idea why Sheeva's audio was given to the male ninjas, it's flat out awkward and makes the game look even more shabby. Luckily Liu Kang still sounds like an enraged monk though, phew. The soundtrack to the game still retains that blood-chilling tone it's always had, which I'm thankful for.
All in all you will most likely put 2 hours into this game at most, and never feel like playing it again, unless you're bored and want some portable Kombat to entertain yourself with. The replay value comes in playing through the game's arcade mode and viewing the different endings, or if you and a pal both have the game and can link up to battle, then by all means do it. But chances are you can find something much better to do in your spare precious time. Mortal Kombat Advance really doesn't offer much for replay value unless you're a very dedicated fan.
If you're a fellow Mortal Kombat guru I'd suggest throwing down the few bucks it costs to buy this game nowadays, just to complete your collection and say you played the game. However, if you're looking for a hand-held fighting game on your GameBoy Advance, I'd suggest looking somewhere else for something else my friend. Chances are you won't enjoy it and will feel cheated out of your five dollars. This game is really only for veterans, and even many of those will pan this game as terrible. I'd still be interested in seeing Mortal Kombat on hand-held systems now that the series has been back on it's feet for the past 6 years or so, and I hope that if a decision is ever made to do so again, that Mortal Kombat Advance serves as an example of what does not work.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 08/06/07, Updated 05/16/08
Game Release: Mortal Kombat Advance (US, 12/12/01)
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