Reviewed: February 20, 2002
The Mortal Kombat franchise has been around forever, and has made an appearance on just about every game system ever made. While the arcade versions have arguably always been the best, Midway has managed to pull of a few decent ports for home use. This time they have let developer, Virtuacraft come in to port the popular title to the GBA and the result is less than spectacular; it downright sucks.
Iíve never been a huge fan of any of the handheld gaming systems, but the Game Boy Advance does offer features and quality that certainly put it above other historic portable gaming systems. It certainly has the power to handle a game such as Mortal Kombat, so what happened?
The game simply smacks of ďrush jobĒ. It looks like somebody needed a title on the GBA so they pushed this through programming and QA and right out the door perhaps months before they should have let anyone see this lemon. If youíve played Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 then youíve already played Mortal Kombat Advance. Itís pretty much a direct port of the earlier title, which was one of the better MK games in the series.
There is so much raw source material available that it was pretty easy for Virtucraft to nail the look and sound of the game down pretty tight. MKA achieves PS1 quality sounds and graphics yet fails miserably in the critical department of gameplay. To play MKA you need to have good controls, and the warriors of Mortal Kombat have always relied on 6-buttons to work their magic. Thereís really no way you can convert such an advanced control scheme to the GBA and keep any semblance of the original game.
Gameplay is pathetic, mainly because the AI is so terrible. Out of the box, your opponents are insanely difficult to beat. Even if you are a long-term veteran of the series you will laugh (and then cry) as the computer pulls off amazing pre-programmed combos that are simply impossible for a human to recreate.
Much of this goes back to the poor controls and your inability to tap button combos fast enough while holding the unit. You might be able to pull off some of the lesser combos if you set the GBA on a table and attack the buttons like a typewriter. Apparently nobody bothered to actually test this game for playability after converting it to the 4-button GBA system.
The graphics are about what you would expect from a GBA title. They look a bit compressed and you will see some obvious dithering. The frame rate is respectable for the most part even though you will experience some jerkiness when there is lots of action going on.
The GBA version has cutback on many of the special effects that made the game so wildly popular in previous versions. Blood and gore have been all but eliminated and the fatalities and friendship movies just donít translate that well to the small screen.
Mortal Kombat Advance features some of the best sounds I have heard on the system, period. The music is great and the digitized sound effects are outstanding. Manfred Linzner (Tony Hawk 2} supervised the sound design for MKA and nobody knows how to get the most out of a GBA speaker than this guy.
The lasting appeal of Mortal Kombat is usually endless. People can normally plays these games until the next newer and better version arrives and never tire of mastering all the characters, specialty moves, and other exciting features. The horrid AI and gameplay of the single player experience will turn off most gamers, and if you still purchase this game after reading my review you will probably get frustrated and throw it out the car window after an hour or so of fighting the impossibly difficult computer opponents.
On the other handÖif you have a link cable and can talk one of your friends into buying a copy of this game you may actually start to have some fun. While I wasnít able to actually test the human vs. human mode it only stands to reason that one you eliminate the unfair computer AI that the game would immediately become FUN. You will still have to contend with the poor controls, and limited gameplay, so you may be better off keeping your Mortal Kombat action at home on the bigger consoles.
Iím not sure who dropped the ball on this one. Either Midway forced Virtucraft to push this title out the door in time for the Christmas shopping season, or perhaps Virtucraft simply isnít capable of programming for the GBA. Everything was there, in place, to make a potentially great game. Mortal Kombat Advance is a textbook example of how to take a proven successful franchise and destroy it with a single poor release.