Sunday, September 24, 2023

Mortal Kombat III + Ultimate Mortal Kombat III (Super NES, 1995/1996)

Was never a fan of this logo. It's a step down from MK2 much like the game itself is. The dragon symbol is fine but it looks like the 3 is pregnant with it.

In any case, MK3 is where I start to think this series might be kind of overrated. Ultimate MK3 is a superior version and kinda what MK3 should have been from the get-go...well, in some ways. So I'mma combine the two here.

We get another NP cover (still surprised the original game didn't get one). Not sure how I feel about their cover choice though. Cyrax? Really? I would have gone with Liu Kang and Shang Tsung facing off. This isn't immediately recognizable for series fans.

This game really liked the phrase "There is no knowledge that is not power"

Not sure this is correct. There's got to be some situation where knowledge doesn't actually equal power.

It's probably just a reference to knowing all the special moves in the game

This game adds Kombat Kodes, those six-character passwords that cause weird things to happen. Never was into them myself and didn't bother with them. I do like that we've got some new abilities in this one (Animalities are cool, sue me)

We also get probably the best version of Sonya in the series, at least from what I've played. Some of the character designs in this improved a bit on the previous games (except Sub-Zero).

They needed Sonya to come back, because this game also decided to get rid of Pallet-Swap Ninjas: Lady Edition from the previous game.

Jax now has METAL ARMS. You'd think this would make him the Punch-Master who does more damage with his punches and doesn't use kicks, like Balrog. Not really though, he's still pretty much the same as everyone else. And that's kinda the big weakness of Mortal Kombat at large. Cooler setting and story than Street Fighter II but when all of the characters play the same and have the same general attributes aside from their special moves, there's a lot less variety.

Bunch of new characters here. Night Wolf is... Native American (as a kid I liked him a lot). Don't know anything else about him. Let's just say he's a heyokah and his job is to absorb Dark Quickenings.

And the two robots... ehhhh. They're kinda not my bag at all, though Cyrax has a super-OP green net attack. It's like Scorpion's spear except it hits even if your opponent ducks.

Maybe the most interesting new character is Sheeva, who has some of Kintaro's moves. Namely the giant stomp. Most importantly, she's proof that the four-armed Shokan race actually has chicks. We weren't sure if they reproduced a-sexually by laying eggs or something.

She's not really any stronger than anyone else, and nowhere near as Pure Destruction as previous Shokan characters. Gonna have to wait another game or two for those guys.

Smoke is the hidden secret fighter for this game, and unlike the secret fighters of earlier games, he's actually playable if the right criteria is met. It's about time.

...unfortunately they made Smoke into another of these weird-ass Lin Kui robot dudes, rather than his Cool AF original design.

Kintaro's gone and the new big minion to contend with is Motaro the centaur. In a vacuum this guy is actually pretty f****ing cool, but he's got a couple things working against him: A) He isn't Kintaro, so there's some "dad's new girlfriend" syndrome going on where I just don't like him and where's Kintaro. I'm guessing people who loved Goro had that same issue with MKII so it's all relative. Except Kintaro is OBJECTIVELY way cooler than Goro and I have the weeks of debating this on the school playground in 1994 to prove it.

Oh yeah, uh... B) Motaro's heat kinda gets killed by his portrayal in Mortal Kombat Annihilation, that Bad sequel to the original classic. A few characters got tainted by it (Jax and Sindel are others) and when I think of Motaro I think of that movie.

Enough essays, let's get this game underway so I can get onward to the later games that I haven't played a zillion times already (or at all).

The first thing you see. Man, they really liked this line.

Alright, I've got something! Knowing all of the Kombat Kodes for this game. It's about as advantageous to your life as knowing the complete quote works of the bathroom stall graffiti at Wembley Stadium.

This probably should have been implemented ages ago. MK1 on the SNES took away the blood, MK2 put it back in. Neither actually gave the player a choice and there were plenty of people who'd want to play it one way or the other way. So points to this game for including the option.

Slightly larger character select than the previous game, with two extra character slots (3 if you count Smoke). However we lost a few really good ones: Rayden, Scorpion, original Sub-Zero, and Johnny Cage are all nowhere to be found, among others. The new characters we got are mostly kinda unappealing, except for Sheeva and Sindel. The former due to being a four-armed Shokan and the latter due to her firm haunches.

Not sure where Scorpion etc sodded off to, but Johnny Cage is just straight-up dead. Shao Kahn killed him, either during MKII or when he invaded Earth pre-MKIII. Not sure. But either way, our man Johnny is dead dead dead. This also happens in the second 90's movie, I believe. Not gonna revisit it to confirm. I know Cage is in later games in the series so I'm interested to see how they bring him back. I assume that death becomes as trivial as Buu Saga DBZ as time goes on and they just sorta kill and bring back various characters as needed.

The biggest step down from MKII: They got rid of Shao Kahn standing atop the mountain and now he just has a lame character portrait. He's got the same light effect that Goro had in the first game.

Mirror match right at the get go! The first game was the only one that really made the mirror match a thing of importance.

So yeah, I haven't gotten into the plot at all yet. This game goes full Doom 2 and has Shao Kahn and his minions cross over from Outworld and INVADE EARTH.

So all of the settings in this game are Earth settings, though corrupted by Outworld's influence.

In other words, defeating Shao Kahn in Outworld in the previous game DID NOTHING because he just overran Earth and caused mass devastation. It's a cool premise at least, though I would have liked to see more of Outworld.

Shang Tsung still has his multi-fireballs and they're still rad. Guy continues to be my favorite character to play as in these old games, though Liu Kang is second.

This particular cityscape shows Shao Kahn's Palace in the background. That's right, he had a palace built in the downtown of a city. Of course he would.

I break out Cyrax as soon as I start having any issues, and spam his net attack. This move is SO OP. Look at the size of it.

The settings capture a solid post-apocalyptic feeling, with papers and trash flying by in the wind while you battle it out on deserted streets. I know the seventh game in the series has Earth go through a similar armageddon (before they reboot it) so they may have burned that idea a bit early here.

New Sub-Zero has the same freeze move as the old one. So what's up with this guy, you ask? This is the MKII version of the character, the "good" Sub-Zero who we'd have in most of the games from here on out.

The "evil" Sub-Zero from MK (Bi-Han) was killed by Scorpion and became Noob Saibot from then on while this guy replaced him. You only play as evil Sub-Zero in MK and then later MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero since it's a prequel.

So why is New Sub-Zero not in his ninja uniform here? Because the Lin Kuei were converting their ninjas into robots and he didn't want to have to do that, so he cast off his ninja status.

Motaro is nowhere near as bad as Kintaro, but he's got his own brands of cheapness. The CPU likes to teleport around with him like a maniac. Also projectile attacks just plain BOUNCE OFF and damage you.

Funny thing is, as a kid I remember kids saying that Kintaro was so strong that projectile attacks would bounce off of him sometimes. Never actually saw this happen myself so it was an urban legend. Best one was that if you tried Scorpion's spear, Kintaro would actually grab it and pull YOU in.

Well, this game actually did implement this Kintaro urban legend by having projectiles bounce right off this guy.

Best maneuver against him seemed to be just wailing with punches.

SONYA HAUNCH STATUS? Still firm sir.

He's got a grab-and-punch that's devastating, but nowhere near as obnoxious as Kintaro's throw.

After getting past that guy, we've got the final boss. He's lost some steam since MKII but he's still formidable.

His green laser-spear has been replaced by a green spark fireball, seen here about to knock Sonya across the room.

His afterimage-dash is still around, but now he can launch it into the air as a sort of rising knee-lift move. Downside is that this is actually when he's most vulnerable, as an uppercut will knock him out of the sky.

Sonya's hot silhouette gets the final hit, and that's it for this guy. Nowhere near as bad as MKII.

So basically MK3 is brief and to the point. Never got around to talking about the Run button, which lets you sprint across the screen and launch a combo. I think they were trying to capitalize on the Killer Instinct phenomenon with that one but I found it less interesting than just using the basic special moves. Combos work great when the CPU does them, not so much when I do them.

Now for the next one, which largely came and went without a ton of fanfare it seemed like. I don't remember the kids being nearly as worked up about MK in the mid-late 90's as they were in 1993/1994.

This is basically just MK3 2.0 and not really a new game at all. Adds a bunch though and is probably what MK3 should have been in the first place.

Also this game REALLY likes the color purple. While OG MK3 had the color orange everywhere, this game goes full-on purple motif.

This HUGE CHARACTER SELECT brings back a bunch of missing MKII characters (still no Rayden though). There's a Classic Sub-Zero but he isn't canon (technically it's the same guy as the one next to him, just a different outfit). Also, Johnny Cage is still dead.

Rain is sort of the signature character for this game (he's purple, after all) and can call ligtning bolts. Definitely the main one I was interested in checking out back in the 90's.

We also get playable Noob Saibot and Jade, so now all of the secret characters from 1-3 are playable.

Ermac is another new addition like Rain. There were a lot of urban legends regarding MKII having a character called "The Red Robin" who was a red ninja and shot fireballs. Made sense to have an anti Sub-Zero (except Scorpion kind of already is) and the rumor got a ton of traction. It was even featured in a few gaming magazines at the time when discussing fighting game rumors. Well, for this game they finally added that character in for real.

This is a little less awesome when you stop and realize that all of these guys are just pallet swaps...but yeah. At least in the first two games they gave the ninjas different stances.

Endurance rounds have made a comeback, and the tallest ladder has TWO of them.

::high-pitched scream is heard::

The Outworld Portal is probably the main image I think of with UMK3. This was the last main series MK game I played for a really long time (until MK9 in 2009) so these images stuck with me. Didn't beat this game in the past, will today.

The desert is another entirely new stage created for this game, as I battle Smoke. Kinda feels like while MK3 didn't go far enough with characters and content, this one goes too far. Like the second movie. Almost feels like it loses something by addition because of all these ninjas.

Noob Saibot has this ghost projectile that freezes his foe in place temporarily. In a nice touch, it uses the same button presses as Sub-Zero's freeze. (Since it's the same fighter)

Sindel is probably my second-favorite vanilla MK3 character behind Sonya. Why, you ask?

Because she can hover in the air, which in addition to probably being super-useful in the bedroom, is a stylish way to win fights.

I give Ermac a quick whirl here but he really isn't that interesting. Didn't they shoehorn this guy into MK Annihlation too?

Rain is probably the best new character. And speaking of...

Rain's ability to call lightning down is one of the best distance-attacks in MK because it strikes out of nowhere. Guy just looks cool too, as diluted as ninjas are getting. Hard to get a good shot of it so I had to borrow this shot from the Genesis version.

And speaking of diluted ninjas... time for the ENDURANCE ROUND. Remember when these two were the only ones? Well, they're still cool even now.

Funny thing is, and I don't know if this is random or on purpose: The two fighters I got for the endurance round were the two different Sub-Zeros. Again, it's the same guy in different outfits.

This endurance round was just as obnoxious and annoying as the ones in the first game in the series.

Other than the new endurance round, this goes the same way vanilla MK3 does, Motaro and Shao Kahn at the end. Except...

...he's now ULTRA FAST CHEATING CPU MOTARO. Forget Kintaro's OP moveset, this guy will just combo you to death.

Fun Fact: This is on "Very Easy"

I'll give them props though for moving the Subway music from MK3 to the bosses in UMK3. It's probably the best track in the game and fits a lot better for the bosses.

Eventually I manage to eke out a win with Shang Tsung by just sort of getting lucky. Also noticed that the bosses tended to just stand there if you didn't move (since the CPU was waiting for you to do something it could immediately counter). It also immediately attacks when it gets up from a knockdown. Waiting a second to attack again, after launching a successful attack, was a good way to bait the CPU into dropping its guard. Didn't feel particularly strategic so much as an exploit of the AI, but whatever gets me to the end I guess.

Either way the CPU is very, very cheat-y in this version of the game compared to regular MK3, and this kinda sucks the joy out of playing the campaign here. Game is an improvement over MK3 in most regards but when it throws in bosses that cheat like crazy, it's hard to want to revisit it.

Kintaro was different, he's just a really difficult boss fight. Never got the impression in MK2 that the CPU was auto-countering my moves in a way that I couldn't really get around.

Shao Kahn is even more of a menace than Motaro, and likes to spam shoulder-rush.

He also likes to laugh uproariously when you're stunned. I guess he's getting revenge for me basically crushing him in the previous two games.

Shao Kahn's main weakness is that he TALKS TOO MUCH as usual. Waiting for the right moments and launching attacks is the key to winning, but it still took a bunch of tries to overcome the AI by doing just the right things that consistently wouldn't get countered.


Roll credits, good to see the women all returning. When it comes down to it UMK3 was a good addition to the franchise and probably the last one that I paid attention to in the 90's.

John Turk playing six different characters: How you save money.

Also the arcade cabinet of this game was pretty nice:

Lotta Sindel and some Shao Kahn. Too bad about the prominent pregnant 3 but what are you gonna do?

Even Nintendo Power wasn't really going crazy for this series anymore at this juncture. The most UMK3 got was this two-page preview that mainly shows off how purple the game is. Far as I can tell, there's never an actual review in any later issue, which makes sense because we're now in the age of the N64. This game dropped on the SNES a few months after the N64 launched, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy for the N64 came out on basically the same day. So basically UMK3 turned into an afterthought, at least in the Nintendo camp, as MKT got all of the attention.

Funny thing is, MKT is also kind of a DLC for MK3. It's even more of a "definitive version" than Ultimate but it also has its share of problems. And that's where I'm going next, MKT. And after that, some portable stuff.

This series had a harder time counting to "4" than Street Fighter II did counting to "3"...and forget about 5.

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