Insert Disk collects the Mortal Kombat series. Part 3 of 3.
Today’s retro game review is part 3 of a 3 part mini-series looking at the Mortal Kombat series. This classic retro game series will look at Mortal Kombat 1, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3 and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. In this second episode we are taking a look at Mortal Kombat 3 and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Expect blood, gore, controversy and of course fatalities.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Welcome to our final episode in this miniseries of Mortal Kombat, the early years. In the previous episode we saw Mortal Kombat 2 slash itself on to our consoles. More fighters, more moves, more blood and more fatalities. For a third outing the developers attempted to push the series further than ever before. For some gamers though changing the formula may have been a step too far. So much so that Mortal Kombat 3 literally tore itself to pieces resulting in 2 main releases. Mortal Kombat 3 and Ultimate Kombat 3. Just to muddy the waters there was also a third release of the game known as The Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Technically this isn’t a Mortal Kombat 3 release but worth mentioning as it did resolve several issues of the original release of Mortal Kombat 3.
Firstly it’s worth qualifying that many elements of the Mortal Kombat series remained unchanged in Mortal Kombat 3. Expect all of the cornerstone elements such as blood and fatalities. Something had changed though. Here on the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis version players sadly mourned the omission of fan favourites such as Scorpion and Kitana. We were now seeing the rise of the cyborg characters such as Cyrax and Sektor. Although the 14 out of the box playable characters and hidden characters still provided a good range it would be difficult to suggest that this is a major step up from Mortal Kombat 2.
Secondly was the addition of the combo system. Combos had existed before in the series although that are what we would know as manuals. Simply stringing move sets together. The new system used pre-defined button presses to execute, this is a similar system to more modern fighting games. Personally I am in favour of the combo system as its fast and user friendly to execute. You can of course still string together standard moves to create a manual combo. Other new features such as a code system allowed a multitude of special modes and unlockables. It was the feel of the game that most unsettled players though. Reportedly due to contract disputes, several of the original motion capture cast did not make it in to Mortal Kombat 3. To the casual games it’s not a big deal but to the hardcore violence seeker I can see why a change in actors was less than ideal. The feel of the game was further modified by the fighting locations themselves. Now less fantasy and Eastern and more Western in appearance.
There was a silver lining though. With the 32-bit consoles on the way Mortal Kombat 3 was handed a lifeline as it resurrected itself as Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Here is the Sega Saturn edition.
It’s darker, more gothic and has a noticeable step change in the audio and graphics departments. Out of the box you’re looking at 19 playable characters in addition to several unlockables. I can’t help but feel that Midway knew exactly what they were doing here as the placed Kitana and Scorpion either side of the main roster. This definitely proved the point that they had been listening to the critics.
Looking back, had the series ended with Mortal Kombat 3 it would have been a sad end to the series. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 hit back so hard it made us forget it even happened. Now using systems such as the Sega Saturn we were treated to CD quality background audio and sound FX. When you throw a punch you know it’s landed from the deep sounds of bruises being made. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 looks great, sounds great and fixes multiple issues from the original version. As expected you’ll be taking on all of the other fighters. Smashing them through ceilings and executing them with brutal precision. Mortal Kombat 3 brought us more fatalities, babalities, friendships, brutalities and even animalities.
Undoubtedly the game does feel a little different to Mortal Kombat 2. Added moves such as a run button and an automated combo system were always going to update the formula. At the time this may have posed fans of its predecessors format an issue. If you can embrace the changes though Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 may just be the best of the original trilogy. In terms of pricing Mortal Kombat 3 for the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis will cost you around the £10 mark whilst Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 will set you back around £15 mint in box. For the US market look to pay under the $20 for either of these editions.
For Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 on the Sega Saturn also expect to pay around the £15 mark or below $20. For the PAL version of the Super NIntendo Mortal Kombat 3 expect to pay under £20 or around $20.
A PAL SNES Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in box will fetch close to the £90 mark though. Just under the $100 in the US. There are various versions of the release known as the Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Expect to pay over the £100 mark here in the UK for a Sega Saturn boxed edition though.
It’s also worth noting that Mortal Kombat didn’t stop after the third instalment. Literally dozens of new games came. New consoles, fatalities and crossovers with other series. Personally as a gamer though I saw a distinct shift in the franchise after Mortal Kombat 3. What had been a great concept as a violent and at times over the top beat ’em up somehow lost its way. Entries on the N64, Xbox and beyond never seemed to capture the thrill of the earlier releases for myself. Until the more recent re-boot of the franchise the series did appear to be becoming less and less relevant to gamers as each generation of console passed.
If you’re wondering, yes I do play modern games and I have played the later instalments of Mortal Kombat. They look great and are more violent than ever. Somehow they just don’t feel the same as the retro trilogy though. That’s not a bad thing in itself, game series should look to develop over time. For someone that spent their youth with a head in a players guide learning the button commands to pull off that elusive fatality though, I’ll always have a special connection to the 2D editions of the series.
In terms of a final verdict on the original trilogy, collectors really are spoilt for choice. You’ll find some variety of the games on all of the Sega, Nintendo and Sony consoles of the mid 90’s. In terms of my personal favourite it’s would be a tie between Mortal Kombat 2 for the Sega Mega Drive and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 on the Sega Saturn. Number 2 just nails the formula perfectly and showed other game developers how to create a graphically distinct game with a unique identity. However, I would select Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for its notable boost in character roster, combo system, additional touches of finesse such as 3D rendered backgrounds and the overall scale of the game. You really can’t go wrong with most of the mainstream editions of the game though.
Thank you for staying with me on this look back at the original Mortal Kombat trilogy. I hope that you’ve had some fun reminiscing with me over our pixelated blood filled past. Let me know in the comments your thoughts on the earlier games. I’m interested to know which edition is your champion and why.