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


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


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
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.