Although I’m not a big fan of fighting games in general, the Mortal Kombat franchise has always been my favourite. So when Mortal Kombat Advance (MKA) for the Game Boy Advance fell into my lap, I was looking forward to scuffling a few bloody rounds with my man Sub Zero. Unfortunately, that eagerness quickly turned to disappointment. It looks and sounds like Mortal Kombat, but the gameplay has taken a serious beating.
Mortal Kombat Advance is basically a direct port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for the SNES, so if you’re looking for something new from the series, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for Deadly Alliance. In the meantime, MKA features a cast of 23 characters, each with their own set of moves, abilities and Fatalities. Select a character and pummel your way through the opposing roster of fighters en route to becoming the Grand Master.
It doesn’t take long to notice the drawbacks of MKA. For starters, the game is near impossible to play at the default skill level. Computer controlled opponents pull off insane combos and defend discouragingly well. Winning the first match is an exercise in futility. It won’t be long before newcomers and veterans alike tune down the difficult level, at which point the AI dumbs down almost too much.
To make matters worse, it’s difficult to pull off your own combinations and special moves. This isn’t the developer’s fault of course, since they had to condense the controls onto the GBA’s four-button configuration, but perhaps that should have been the first sign not to have even made this game. Some of the combinations are too complex to be completed within the time allowed, not to mention without resting the GBA on some kind of surface so you can make better use of your fingers.
Visually, Mortal Kombat Advance looks pretty good. The characters are well animated, albeit a little thin, and the backgrounds, while fixed, are well rendered. There’s an option to turn both the blood and fatalities on and off, so those looking to impale their opponents can do so. The audio department is solid as well. Everything from the trademark “Fight!” and “Fatality” to the energetic musical score is accounted for and done well.
Mortal Kombat Advance supports multiplayer via a two-player mode, and of course you’ll need two copies of the game to experience it. I imagine it’s better than the single-player mode, if only because the AI doesn’t play a role in the action. However, I don’t imagine the controls are any less awkward.
Mortal Kombat Advance is a case of failed execution. It looks and sounds like Mortal Kombat, but it doesn’t play like Mortal Kombat. The horrible AI and wonky controls result in extremely stiff gameplay. The bottom line: this is one fight you’ll want to avoid.