Portable versions of Midway’s revered Mortal Kombat franchise have consistently sailed through troubled waters. From the absolutely dreadful MK Advance to the by-the-numbers ports of recent outings the series has rarely excelled in the portable arena. With the latest chapter Midway has decided to resurrect the pseudo expansion pack Ultimate MK 3 for the Nintendo DS. What separates this version though is the inclusion of WiFi online play as well as a spruced up version of Puzzle Kombat which was originally included with MK Deception. All of these elements combine to create the best portable MK package to date.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is still surprisingly fun after all of these years and aside from a few technical hiccups this port is identical to its arcade counterpart. The top screen is where the action takes place during fights while the bottom screen displays your characters move sets and fatality button combos. Everything from the original version is present here which will certainly please long-time fans, but the best part about any MK game is competition and with the addition of WiFi online UMK delivers this in spades.
While you won’t be enjoying the luxuries of Xbox Live the online is competent enough. Friend codes are still a pain and if you want to take the battle wireless you will need two copies of the game as file sharing will only send a demo to your buddy. Thankfully if you don’t have a friend handy the game does allow for random matches as well as an integrated friends list. The traditional rules of online fighting games still apply here; lag is common and can ruin matches and of course you will have the ubiquitous quitter who disconnects immediately to avoid a loss on his rank, but when the online works it really works well.
Playing online is obviously the game’s strongest aspect and if you don’t plan on partaking in it then you may want to steer clear of this package. Single player is just as frustrating and cheap as you remember it. After a certain point the computer AI starts reading your button inputs and countering them immediately creating a frustrating experience. While it is certainly possible to be beaten senseless online at least there you know it was a matter of skill and not cheap AI designed to devour quarters. Though you can’t fault the team too much as this is a direct port of the arcade original and anyone who played it back in the glory days knows this was standard fare.
In addition to the excellent port of UMK 3 Midway has also thrown in Puzzle Kombat which initially came bundled with MK Deception alongside a laundry list of other mini-games. Puzzle Kombat is essentially Midway’s take on Puzzle Fighter with MK characters replacing the Capcom favorites. It’s all about creating gem blocks and crashing them while filling up a special meter to unleash more blocks to your opponents’ side. The MK universe comes into play with the ability to use fatalities and special moves but as a stand-alone product PK doesn’t offer enough compelling reasons to give it equal billing with UMK 3. You can play this online as well as locally which is a saving grace, but this is certainly only a side dish to this already healthy offering.
From a presentation standpoint UMK delivers just enough to survive. While the visuals are sharp considering the hardware powering them there are some downgrades from the arcade original. Thankfully they are small enough that only the MK faithful will recognize them. The sounds are directly lifted and are still as solid and cheesy as they were a decade ago. There are very few added bonuses to be found which is rare for a Midway compilation, but what is here is well designed and more than worth the price of admission.
The addition of online play is certainly UMK’s biggest selling point. If you are a huge fan of the series and plan to take the skirmishes online there is no reason to hesitate picking this one up. This is by far the best portable Kombat game to date. However, if you are thinking of snagging it up for a solo affair you may want to re-consider as the frustrating AI and shallow puzzle game will do little to entertain for more than fifteen minutes.