Friday, September 29, 2023

Portable Mortal Kombats, Part Two

 
More forgotten ports: Mortal Kombat 3 for Game Boy (!), Mortal Kombat 4 for Game Boy Color (!!), Deadly Alliance + Tournament Edition for GBA, and the only game I remember EGM ever giving a zero to: Mortal Kombat Advance. Why am I doing this to myself?



MK3 was a step down from MK2 across the board, but I'm hoping the Game Boy version will buck that trend and improve on the previous portables.

Missing a few characters, but MK3 didn't have the best roster to begin with. Whatever, it's got one more character than MK2 so we've got that.

Probably random, but it has Kano as Sonya's first opponent this go-around. If programmed intentionally, that's pretty cool.

The splash screens from MK3's two-player mode show up here for 1P fights, so that's a good addition. SO FAR SO GOOD

Annnnnd the game falls apart the second you get to actually fight. What even is this? Gone are the detailed backgrounds of MKII and back is the low-effort single-color wallpaper of the first Game Boy game.

The input lag is terrible again, but at least the framerate isn't atrocious. Still wouldn't say this particularly plays well.

Easiest way to win seems to be to just spam punches and let the CPU walk into them, cause good luck doing anything fancy with the 1-2 seconds of delay on moves.

Jump kicks also work well. Some games, the computer can't defend against jump kicks like, at all. This is one of those. Other games, the computer blocks jump kicks constantly and sometimes even uppercuts or throws you out of them. Very inconsistent in effectiveness, kinda like trips.

Oh My God. Two Sonyas.

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER

Sektor is super-annoying (in pretty much all versions of this game) because of his teleport uppercut. That move cleaves right through your offense.

I know the Annihilation movie makes her terrible and she's kind of beastly in the arcade versions and everything, but I like Sindel. It's probably just the outfit. And anyone who could deal with Shao Kahn on a daily basis must be pretty formidable.

Speaking of which... no Motaro, you go straight to Shao Kahn. It's possible to fight robot Smoke as a secret fight right before this, but he's just a blacker version of Sektor.

THESE CRAZY KIDS MEET AGAIN

Sindel has nice hair.

Jump kicking worked well for most of the game, but not here! This guy just dashes all over the place like a madman. I like that they used the Subway theme for this fight, like they did with the bosses in UMK3.

Lost a few times, can't really be arsed with this one anymore. It exists, it's a thing. Not sure why anyone would play it though. Seems like a step down from MK2 on the Game Boy, and it wasn't like the third game was so awesome that you'd NEED it on the go.

So yeah, the golden age of the portable MKs seems to be over. Not that it had much of a golden age... was pretty much just the MK2 versions and even they were more mid than golden.

Next up: MK4 on the Game Boy Color! I didn't even know this was a thing until lately. Somehow, they ported the first 3D MK onto the freaking Game Boy Color?

::Ryan Reynolds But Why?.gif::

Nine characters and I can't really tell who a few of them are. Probably could if I'd actually played MK4 before. These character portraits sure are muddy for some reason.

Looks like Shinnok (some Elder God IDK) is the final boss. Rayden is 2nd to last, while Quan-Chi is oddly enough 3rd to last despite being the underboss of the game. Quan-Chi is the Shang Tsung to Shinnok's Kahn, so I'm really not sure why Rayden is the penultimate boss. Seems to be like this every time too.

........................

...............................................................

Well, if I thought the character select looked muddy... the battle graphics are muddier than WW1 trench warfare. Just an abject mess. It isn't 3D either...obviously. Why did they even make this?

Well, let's see how it plays.

...it's the easiest portable MK by a mile and the CPU fighters barely even hit back. The controls/framerate/input lag all seem to be almost-decent, but it barely resembles MK so does any of that matter?

These graphics seriously look like they were made in MS Paint...by one of the developers' kids. God help anyone who paid money for this.

Winning is best accomplished by just hammering punch, like the previous games. These fights look more like Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots than a Mortal Kombat game.

At least Raiden is somewhat recognizable. They're really gonna flip back and forth between Y and I for this entire series aren't they

Shinnok has Scorpion's spear, so that's kind of interesting. I easily won a round with him while barely trying. They sure went in the opposite direction on difficulty in this one and made it basically impossible to lose.

At this point I turned the game off because I didn't want to beat the game. Felt like such a cheap win (and the whole thing took like 8 minutes) that I didn't want it on my beaten game roster. Maybe at some later time and on a harder mode.

Yarp. I actively rejected beating a game because it was such nonsense.

Now that the Game Boy Color debacle is over, let's see how MK fared on Game Boy Advance:

Speaking of MS Paint, get a load of the Deadly Alliance title screen. It looks like Reptile coughed up a hairball.

Oh hey, the characters are actually recognizable now. They look awful design-wise, but at least they're properly rendered.

What did they do to Sonya though? She's supposed to be incredibly athletic, not a large-chested refugee from Ride to Hell: Retribution.

At the very least, there's one good-looking character. I think she's new to this game.

And one actual recognizable character. At least that's available from the start. There are a bunch that can be unlocked.

Kind of crazy to only bring over one legacy character. Well, I guess there's also Jax, but he doesn't look like Jax anymore. Looks more like the generalissimo of some military coup. "Leave our uranium mines alone, France!" he bellows while shooting an AK-47 into the air.

I may not be able to select characters like Kitana but I can still fight them on the ladder. Why not just make everyone selectable from the get-go? They finally have a decent-sized roster and they block off half of it at the beginning.

Kano is another locked character. Looks like each character has two fighting stances, and can switch between them at will. So that's kind of interesting. Also, and most importantly:

You can now scoot your way around your opponent as the environment rotates around you. That's right, this game is actually a 3D fighter. GBA 3D which is super-rudimentary, but still. It's impressive they were able to pull this off.

The visuals really aren't terrible, and it plays...okay. Mostly button-mashing but it's okay.

Test Your Sight is a shell game minigame where you have to try and track a goblet as it zips all over the place.

There's now a female Sub-Zero which is kind of interesting I guess? I don't know, most of this Nu-Kombat roster has like no appeal to me, and that goes for this whole era of MK. The PS2 was host to 3 main series MK games that formed a story trilogy (Deadly Alliance, Deception, Armageddon) and I missed out on all three entirely. The last one fooked the world so badly that the next real story-canon MK game after that was a reboot.

Whoa. A draw, never seen that in MK before.

As someone who likes Tekken, this is a decent and playable game. But really, if you're gonna play a 3D MK, seeing it on a console/TV is infinitely preferable to getting eye-strain playing this muddy catastrophe.

A year later, they dropped Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition. It doesn't have a title screen, but it has the other half of the Deadly Alliance roster.

...that's right, Deadly Alliance on GBA was missing half of its characters, so they put out a second version of it a year later with the rest of it. This isn't even an Ultimate version; if it were it'd have everyone. It's just the back half of the same game. Were they trying to capture the magic of Pok√©mon having two versions?

And why call it Tournament Edition? That makes it sound like a port of the first game in the series. I nearly skipped it entirely until I found out it was something new.

Sareena is pretty well-liked as far as later-series MK characters go, and I can see why. Hopefully she's in the PS2 trilogy so I have someone remotely appealing to play as.

Well, besides BO RAI CHO. I keep selling him short. He'll have his day!

That portal in the background... proto 3D looked like such a massive step down compared to 2D of the era. Think of how gorgeous the portal stages were in the 2D games.

Sareena is A DELIGHT. I know nothing about the character yet. She's probably a serial killer with a demon-mouth like Mileena. I don't know, I'll look into the lore when I get there in the main series. Not spoiling anything during these quick portable spinoff romps.

Raiden has a devastating ELECTRIC RIB TICKLE. Here he is administering it to poor Sareena while she squeals and giggles.

There's also this demonic character with wings. I hate all the new people in MK. It's like "dad's new girlfriend" syndrome times ten. Li Mei, Bo Rai Cho, and Sareena are the only ones with any appeal so far.

Next I discover that projectile attacks are COMPLETELY useless in this game because the CPU can easily sidestep them at any range. Couldn't land a single one.

Welp.

Both versions of this are okay. Merely okay though. They seem like actual real games rather than cash-grabs made in MS Paint, so they're well above some of the other portable MKs. What even was that MK4 port? One of the worst things I've ever played and somehow managed to make MK1 and MK3 on the Game Boy look slightly good in comparison.

Oh wait, I've got one more turd at the bottom of this bag of duds.

This is, as previously mentioned, the game that got a zero from EGM. It can't be THAT bad.

Whoa, this is Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Just a straight-up port of it. Makes sense that it'd get a port since it got jumped over with previous portables. It has ALL of the characters from UMK3 as far as I can tell, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment. First time a portable pulled that off inside of one game.

SO FAR SO GOOD.

The character sprites are really small and...weird. Lot of jank here. Framerate isn't great.

My God. Jumps are huge and floaty, like moon jumps. I keep actually overshooting my opposition. It really is like trying to launch a flying kick on the moon.

Scorpion has no issues roundhouse kicking me out of everything I try to launch. They kept UMK3's difficulty and added terrible play control to it.

God Help Us.

The CPU basically always blocks your jump kicks, but if you throw them repeatedly, it'll keep its guard up until you let up. So you can actually chip-damage your way to a win this way.

Another thing that works well is to get your opponent in a corner and wail on them with single close-punches (aka the combo variety of punches). Keep throwing one punch at a time and you can stunlock your foe.

...........................God Help Us

SO MANY NINJAS. When you first choose a ladder, it doesn't show you this screen, which has to be a glitch. After the first fight you get bounced out to this screen and it's the first time you see it.

After a couple fights the CPU gets so cheap that the only way I can win is to throw flying kicks and chip-damage my blocking foes down.

Yep, lots and lots and lots of flying kicks. Over and over. Getting carpal tunnel here.

There's absolutely nothing fun about this one and it's borderline unplayable. Which is really unfortunate because on a surface level it actually looks good, like they finally "got it right" in the portable space. Until you try to play it.

That does it for Portable MKs. Can't imagine how many store returns had to be processed as a result of these games. Thought it'd be fun to check them all out, now I wish I had my day back. Mistakes were made.

God help us.




1 comment:

  1. Game Boy MK3 seems like a step backwards from Game Boy MKII because the developers (Software Creations, as opposed to Probe on the first two) took a totally different approach to the graphics. Normally you would draw the fighters with sprites and the backdrops using tilemaps for the background layers, but the fighters in MK are so huge that you can easily exceed the number of available sprites. GB MK1 requires about 25 8x8 tiles for a single frame of Liu Kang's idle animation, but the Game Boy can only use 40 8x8 tiles as sprites at a given time. You can see the problem here.

    So MK1 and II more or less ditched sprites altogether and drew both the fighters and the backdrops using the background layers, with precomposed tiles of the fighters against the backdrops. But the Game Boy can only have 384 8x8 tiles in memory and can only swap in new tiles during the ~1.1ms between each frame when the display isn't updating, which isn't enough time to load in all the tiles needed for a single frame. So instead it takes multiple frames to load them in, which lowers the frame rate. For MKII they improved things by using the Game Boy's second background layer that went almost unused in the first game, cleverly staggering the tile loading to produce smoother motion—for example, the backdrop might scroll in one frame and the characters might move in the next. This gives a much better impression of movement than the MK1 port, where a new frame isn't drawn until all of the required tiles are loaded in.

    But for MK3 they actually figured out a way to draw the characters as sprites, like you would in a "normal" GB game. I'm guessing this was possible due to a more sophisticated routine for determining which tiles would be needed for the current frame, making it easier to load them into the 40 available sprite tiles. The downside is that the first two games could draw the characters and the backdrops using the same tiles, whereas MK3 needs to load roughly the same number of tiles every frame just to draw the characters. This means all the tiles for the backdrop and status bar elements (plus the letters used for onscreen text at the beginning and end of a round) have to fit into what's left in that pool of 384 total tiles, since they don't exist as precomposed tiles combined with the character graphics. This requires the backdrops to be much simpler than they were in MKII; the upshot is that they scroll at a better framerate than the previous two games, since they're finally drawn using an actual background layer as intended. But given the drop in graphical fidelity and the fact that the overall gameplay is actually less smooth than the MKII port, it hardly seems like a worthwhile change.

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