reviews\ Dec 12, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance - GBA - Review

The Mortal Kombat franchise hasn’t had much success in terms of public acceptance since Mortal Kombat II, and the last game that was released on the GBA, which was a remake of the original Mortal Kombat, was an undeniably-huge disaster.  So based on those unfortunate occurrences I went into this game hoping it would rekindle the glory of the first couple games but expecting that it may not.  As it turns out Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance on the GBA is a surprisingly fun pseudo-3D fighting game that, as luck would have it, is one of best fighting games on the system.  While it doesn’t possess the same strategic action of the recently released Street Fighter games, it certainly does deliver in the straight-forward visceral action department.


While the past four MK titles were originally released in the arcades and then ported over to the home console platform, Deadly Alliance was developed and specifically tailored for home consoles.  The result is longer lasting appeal in the way of bonus extras and number of unlockable goodies.  Like its recently released big brothers on the three available 128-bit systems, it takes the series into somewhat of a new direction, offering multiple fighting styles, Koin collection incentives, and a new fighting system that includes melee weaponry.  But unlike the bigger, more graphically intensive, console games, the developers had to make some sacrifices in order to conform to the limited storage space of the solid-state GBA cartridge.  The most obvious change to the game, aside from an only somewhat 3D environment, is the absence of nearly half of the fighters.  Only 12 of the 23 fighters featured on the console port are present.  Luckily all the “kombatants” feature a full set of different moves and most MK fans will agree that Midway did a fine job of choosing which fighters made the cut.


If you are curious to know exactly who the available fighters are, I’ll tell you.  Right from the onset of the game you’ll have access to seven combatants: Sonya, Jax, Scorpion, Kung Lau, and a few new faces: the blindfolded ninja Kenshi, the female Sub-Zero equivalent Frost, and the freedom-fighting Li Mei.  Characters that can either be purchased or unlocked by completing arcade mode are: Kitana, Kano, Sub-Zero, Quan Chi, and the soul-sucking Shang Tsung.  The lineup of warriors isn’t as fleshed out as the console ports, on which this mini-version is based, but it is a nice mixture of old-blood and new faces, enough so that whether you are an old-school fan or newcomer to the series, there will be enough of a variety to find one or two characters who you’ll be comfortable using.


The gameplay system employed in Deadly Alliance on the GBA is easy to learn and use, especially if you are familiar with the past MK games.  MK:DA draws heavily from past games in terms of executing various attacks, special moves, and fatalities, but the sort of-3D atmosphere instills a certain amount of innovation.  While the fighters retain the ability to move forward, backward, and jump – you also have the option to move up and down, sidestepping in traditional 3D-fashion, so as to avoid attacks or bide your time as you devise a victorious strategy.  The A and B buttons are used for punches and kicks, respectively.  While the R-trigger is used for blocking.  By hitting the L-trigger you can switch between the fighter’s two available fighting stances, doing so will slightly adjust the characters fighting style with new moves relating to the martial arts style selected.  It is a substantial addition to the tried-and-true gameplay structure and mastering two fighting styles per character also prolongs the game’s lasting appeal.


Finishing moves consisting of a crazy amount of brutality and blood has always been a staple of the Mortal Kombat franchise, and Deadly Alliance follows in this gory tradition.  Unfortunately, most “fatalities” simply consist of one player making a few recycled frames of animation and the other writhing around in pain until a pink-colored loaf of bread falls out of them.  This will come as somewhat of a disappointment to MK fans who dug on MKII’s numerous and detailed fatalities, friendships, and babalities. 


The single-player experience is complemented by the fact that currency can be retained for every opponent that you beat, or between round mini-games that you complete.  This currency comes in the form of “Koins” that can be spent at the Krypt.  The Krypt is full of Koffins, each holding a different unlockable goodie.  There are 120 Koffins in all and they vary widely in price and payload.  These bonus unlockables consist of anything from new fighters, arenas, modes of play additions, and costumes, among other things.  This currency element of the game really adds a significant amount of incentive to keep playing and the developers should be commended for having the foresight to include it.  To further add to the benefits of Koins, the multiplayer aspect allows each player to make a “bet” using the currency, with the booty going to the winner.  Another excellent addition that successfully extends the lasting appeal of Deadly Alliance.


The auto-save battery backup feature ensures that every fight you win will be registered and every Koin counted, allowing for gaming in short bursts.  There are three save slots in which different users can save their profile and there is also a fleshed out statistic-keeping screen which informs you of win/loss ratio, percent of extras that you’ve unlocked, amount of time clocked in on the game, and rates you on a scale of A – F on your “might” and “sight”.  All said, this is one hell of a bloody good time on the go.  Fans of the series will respect the inclusion of so many trademark elements and newcomers will appreciate the inclusion of the various innovations that the game sports in the way of the currency system  3D atmosphere, multiple styles of martial arts, and interesting multiplayer component.



Gameplay: 8.2
Simple and straightforward, but also fun and intuitive.  The ability to switch fighting styles on the fly is an excellent addition that makes mastering each fighter’s arsenal of attacks all the more intricate and entertaining.

Graphics: 8.3
Wow, for a handheld title this game really shows just how capable Nintendo’s little 32-bit dynamo is.  The semi-3D environments coupled with a cool reflection algorithm allows for arenas unlike any other fighting game on the GBA.  The frames of animation seem a tad limited (especially in terms of fatalities), but that is to be expected considering all the other stuff that was packed onto the tiny cartridge.

Sound: 8.1
Expect a heaping serving of masterfully digitized voice-clips and wonderfully orchestrated music.  The various grunts that the fighters emit when they are attacked tend to repeat a little too often but other than that the sound-effects are top-notch.


Difficulty: Medium
There are different difficulty settings, from very easy to very hard, so no matter your Kombat-skillz you’ll feel right at home with the competition.  The computer-controlled opponents are far too vulnerable to cheese-tactics, though.

Concept: 8.1 
Coupling the visceral blood-soaked elements from past MK games with 3D environments and a currency system proves to be a stroke of genius.  This is one fighting game that you won’t soon want to put down.

Multiplayer: 8.4

The ability to link-up and bet Koins on a match is a total blast.  Unfortunately, in order to facilitate this cool function each player needs a copy of the game, but not a big deal.   


Overall: 8.4

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance is one handheld fighter you won’t want to miss this holiday season, an excellent stocking-stuffer.  Unlocking all the extras will take quite some time and mastering every fighter in the game will also prove a daunting task. 


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