Kombat Kolumns: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for Java Mobiles
Hi folks! The rumors in the past few months about the classic HD remake of the old 2D Mortal Kombat games turned out to be true! We witness the first of the HD remakes... Something doesn't sound right here, oh yeah the game is actually for Mobile Phones and has nothing to do with the HD remake.
I don't know what is happening lately but the web is full of information that turns out to be fake/wrong or misleading. First it was the Mortal Kombat Director's Pitch that disappeared just as fast as it appeared, then some of the world's biggest game retailers added the Mortal Kombat HD Remake to their pre-order lists and then took it down. Once those two were put to rest, a port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for J2ME also called Java Micro Edition or Java Mobiles appeared without any warning or announcement out of nowhere. The game is developed by the French company PlaySoft and is being published by EA Mobile, developed and distributed under license from Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.. This makes Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for Java Mobiles the first Mortal Kombat game released under the supervision of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.. Is this a good start? Let's see...
Let's begin with a little history. The Java2ME port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is not the first attempt of bringing the franchise to cellphones. In 2004 THQ Wireless bought several licenses from Midway and wanted to make a mobile phone port of Mortal Kombat 1. Mortal Kombat Secrets was one of the websites to closely track the project and we even posted several screenshots from the game itself. During our last contact with THQ Wireless representative we were informed that the project is on hold, where it remained forever. The game was at least partially finished as the screenshots point out.
A second attempt to bring the franchise to cell phones was made by the fans and a 3D Mortal Kombat game was created. After these two attempts PlaySoft and EA Mobile finally bring us what is going to enter the history of the franchise as the first official Mortal Kombat game for cell phones, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Now, lets start with the review.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for Java Mobiles offers 6 selectable from the start characters - Cyrax, Sonya, Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Kitana and Scorpion and one hidden character - Shao Kahn, who you will unlock if you beat the Master tower on Hard. The Random Select box is also present on the character's select screen. Each character's storyline is shown after you choose them. Exception is Shao Kahn, who does not have a bio. The storyline of the game can also be found in the Help menu, which is a weird decision. Each character has only one Fatality instead of two and a Babality. Once again, Shao Kahn makes an exception. He does not have any finishing moves, just like in the home ports of the game. A lot of the special moves are missing and now every character possesses only two of them, one of which is always a projectile and the other one is not. There are no Stage Fatalities, Friendships, Brutalities or Animalities in this port. You will be circulating through 5 stages - The Subway, The Graveyard, The Temple, Soul Chamber and Bell Tower.
In terms of graphics the game looks really good for a Cell Phone game that targets this wide range of different devices. The five stages have been recreated really good and the Soul Chamber is even animated. There are of course missing elements from the original stages, for example the big candles from The Temple but none of the arenas has lost its atmosphere and feel. The arenas have been expanded in width and height because of all the different resolutions the game needs to run at. The icons of the characters, the used fonts, the life bar, the Fatality and the Babality signs have all remained true to the original arcade version. The characters themselves have remained proportional to the arenas and they do not feel too small. What is interesting is that there are some new animations and sprites not only for some Special Moves but also for the Fatalities and the characters themselves. What you will notice for sure is the changed skeleton during finishing moves. Other changed things include Scorpion's Fire Breath and Sub-Zero's Ice Breath.
The music and the sound effects left me with mixed feelings. For the most part the sound effects (punches, kicks, jumps, screams, character names, announcements) have been recreated quite well. However there are a lot of missing sounds for the special moves, including Scorpion's "Get Over here!" which is a shame. The background music has also been ported quite well and even though its quality represents more the background music of the 16-bit ports than of the arcade original, everyone should be able to recognize the tracks. When talking about sounds and music we cannot miss mentioning one huge problem. You have good sounds and good music... actually you have good sounds OR good music. That's right, you cannot have both, which is a minus with big M for the game. Probably some technology limitation prevented the team to integrate option for both music and sound effects.
The controls of the game cannot really be compared with the controls of the original arcade version. In this port there is the limitation of only having 2 action keys, so the team was forced to come up with a solution on mapping the existing moves on these two action keys and they have done quite a nice job. The controls are responsive enough and you will not suffer from delay between pressing the key and execution of the move that will hurt the gameplay. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for J2ME offers two key mapping methods – Standard and Advanced. Standard mode is auto-selecting punch or kick when you press ‘5’ and allows Special Moves and Fatalities to be pulled off by merely pressing a Special Move key (‘7’) and occasionally one directional key (for Babalities and the second Special Moves). In this mode the Special Moves key allows you to throw your opponent if you are next to them. The Advanced option tries to recreate the Arcade controls a bit more closely. There are individual buttons for kick and punch (‘7’ and ‘9’). In this mode the Special Moves require you to press two directional keys and kick or punch key, similar to the Arcade version. The team has included a complete moves list, including special moves, combos and finishing moves, which is available at any time by pressing the left soft-key. This was a great idea and will definitely save you time.
Another thing that should be mentioned when discussing the controls is that the game is also available for touch screen devices, like Nokia 5800 and HTC Diamond. In this case the game will display buttons on the screen to control your character. These are also responsive and can be quite comfortable once you get used to them. The only problem is the 8-way directional stick, which is not that easy to control with your thumb and you will occasionally execute the wrong move. Another problem with the virtual controls is that they do not support multi-touch, which causes problems if you decide to play with the advanced controls. Multi-touch could be a nice addition to this game.
The game only offers two game modes. There is the Arcade mode where you play against the CPU and there is also Practice mode. The Practice mode is great addition that will allow you to test combos and juggles. You can even kill your opponent and perform Fatality or Babality. Then the game just transports you to the next level to continue your practice. Sadly, there is absolutely no multiplayer option at all. No online option of any kind. You are completely alone against the forces of Outworld.
The gameplay experience is of course very different from the Arcade version and might feel weird for fans of the Arcade and the other home versions. Every Mortal Kombat fan will almost feel at home after 5 minutes of play as the game does not change the type of gameplay established by the other ports at all. When we talk about gameplay there are a lot of thing that need to be mentioned, so lets start.
Sometimes after a few hits against your opponent you will get pushed away, kinda weird solution to disable big combos for a game that no one will took seriously, not to mention that it does not always work. Some of the characters, like Sub-Zero for example, have pop-up auto combos, that were added exclusively for this game. It should be noted that "Warrior" and "Master" towers seems more difficult than the other one. This was not the case with the original home ports (the difficult there seems to be different only for the first opponent). Overall the game is easier than the other ports, which is understandable considering what you will be playing on. The only problem is Shao Kahn. He is even cheaper than he was in the other ports. Sometimes you will be unable to throw even a single special move or even a basic hit throughout the entire round, because of his, ridiculously broken Shoulder move. If he has started performing this move, most Special Moves not affect him at all. With this move Shao Kahn can perform a 100% unbreakable combo on you if he catches you in the air.
Shao Kahn is not the only character with infinite combos. If you play against a larger character (Cyrax, Scorpion or Sub-Zero) you can perform infinite combos with Sub-Zero (LP, Freeze) and with Scorpion (LP, Spear). With Cyrax, with the right timing, once you catch a big character with the net you can just low punch them to death. Kitana's Fan Lift has a hit limit of 3, but there is no time limit for the Fan throw, and you could do infinite combo in the corner with Jump Kick, Air Fan throws. The exact same thing you can do with Liu Kang. It is really weird that these moves does not activate the weird pushback the game has (after 4 Jump Kicks for example).
Another interesting thing are the Sweep juggles and the fact that you can connect Scorpion's Teleport Punch, for example, after them. In this port there is also no damage protection, so moves will always take the exact same amount of life. This was not the case in the other versions of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.
The game has a point system that is not present in the other ports and a high scores screen. Of course it would have been a lot more fun if you could at least upload your scores online somehow. You will get 200 000 points for flawless victory, 500 000 for double flawless and 100 000 for a Fatality
After you lose against CPU if you decide to continue, you will not be given the chance to choose another fighter, so you are stuck with the fighter you started with, so pick carefully. However, the game will keep your points.Finishing Moves does not require any special distance when performed which is a good thing for a cell phones port. The only exception is Kitana's Fatality which must be executed next to your opponent.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for Java Mobiles is available in a wide range of resolutions and with versions that support both hardware keys and tuch screen devises. So if you have a cell phone with Java chances are good that you will find a suitable version. So far the supported resolutions are 128x160, 176x208, 176x220, 240x320, 240x400, 320x240 (landscape), 360x640, 400x240 and 480x600.
The supported devices include but are not limited to Nokia (N80, 6280, N95, E71, 5800), Motorola (K1, V3), Sony Ericson (k750i, k800i), LG (KP500), Samsung (I900), HTC Diamond and others. The HTC Diamond version has also been tested on HTC HD2 and there are problems with the touch screen recognition if you use the build in Java interpreter, it is to slow. However, if you use Myriad Group Jbed, which is the used in HTC Diamond, the game will run really nice, with only a few resolution based problems that will not really affect gameplay and feel. On the screenshots you can see how the game looks in different resolution:
As a conclusion to this Kombat Kolumn we can say the following thing. We pointed out a lot of good things about the game, but we also pointed out quite a few bad or not so good things when it comes to gameplay. No one actually expects a cell phone game to offer a deep and serious gameplay. So, with the exception of Shao Kahn's unbeatable power, this game is actually not a bad one at all. One thing is certain, with its 7 characters it can beat the crap out of the Nintendo GameBoy Advance port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 called Mortal Kombat Advance that has all 26 characters and is almost unplayable. So, if you are looking for a good fighter for your Java capable mobile phone, give this one a test run. Currently it is one of the few games in this genre, that is available for these devices and will definitely keep you entertained for a while. Lets finish this article as it should be finished, with all Finishing Moves from the game:
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