Mortal Kombat: Unchained Reader Review
A long time MK fanboy, I just couldn't resist the idea of carrying portable blood and gore around with me. So as soon as I saw a box with the words "Mortal Kombat" on it, I snapped it. Am I happy with it? Well...
MK Unchained is just a straight port of the PS2/XBox/GC brawler Mortal Kombat Deception, apart from a tiny bit extra content. Seeing as Mortal Kombat has always kept Midway another step away from bankrupcy, they probably felt it would be a good idea to port their best console Mortal Kombat game over to the PSP, EA-style. If you own this game already, don't bother anyway. Something that bugs me is that between the announcement and the actual release of the game, more than one year passed (remember that teaser for "fall 2005"?). How did the developers use the extra time, then? Not too clear to me. Changing the title twice, maybe?
In the unlikely event you have never heard of MK:D before, take a look at any two year old review of the console versions. That should be enough to fill you in the details concerning style-branching combos, death traps, fatalities and hara-kiris.
The additional kontent of MK Unchained comes in the form of four additional fighters - OK, six, if we call Shao Kahn and Goro from the GameCube version "new" - bringing the total number of kombatants up to 30, one additional Kombat mode, which is called Endurance for obvious historical reasons, and perhaps an extra couple of pointless unlockable videos in the Krypt. Can't be arsed to look for those in the sleep-inducing Konquest mode though.
To be honest, it's nice that the mini-game gimmicks that appeared in the console versions were kept in their entirety for the PSP port. Puzzle Kombat is very well suited for a handheld, and quite a few people would actually be surprised at how entertaining can Chess Kombat actually be. Unfortunately, like I already mentioned, Konquest mode is still there, and while the developers were wise enough to have all of the available fighters unlocked in Kombat mode from start, there are still the alternate costumes, as well as some special moves and fatalities that HAVE to be unlocked through Konquest. How klever...
Mind you, it wouldn't have been such a problem if the Konquest mode actually was fun. Which is not. No matter how much you like MK games. This mode features the worst camera ever to grace a 3D game (except maybe for the next-gen Sonic game, which I still doubt). And maybe the most blurry textures ever used in a PSP game as well. Oh well.
The Kombat in itself still is the main part of the game, and it delivers as expected. The developers clearly made an effort to make the game run smoothly there. There are balance issues, of course, with some fighters such Shao Kahn, Goro and even Konquest hero Shujinko (who actually sounds like the first decent replacement for a much missed morphing Shang Tsung in years) a bit overpowered. And the final boss Onaga, is still very, very cheap. Does not go without saying though, gameplay is solid. The controls work rather well, since this iteration of Mortal Kombat games doesn't rely as much on diagonals as, let's say, Street Fighter. Naturally, should one really need to jump, the analog nub is there for that, so I found the PSP controls quite painless to use here. A shame I couldn't try the wireless two-player modes (which are available for arcade Kombat, as well as both Chess and Puzzle Kombat), but to my experience, Ad-Hoc has always worked smoothly on the PSP, so I think it should be great fun. The lack of both online and game sharing is a painfully bad thing, though.
Each match, however, takes roughly 20 seconds to load, which is a bit of a shame, especially when one considers the lightning fast load times of the excellent Tekken DR. Also in comparison to that brilliant fighting game, the lack of options in the Mortal Kombat Unchained fighting modes is rather disappointing. A basic arcade/story mode, an endurance mode (beat several fighters one after the other, with the number of consecutive victories as the score to beat), and a bare bones basic practice mode. That's it.
Something old, something new
The "new" fighters included are all from the even older Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance: Jax, Frost, Kitana, and Blaze. Much a reason for disappointment, they seem to have not been given any new fatalities nor Hara-Kiri moves. Blaze, for instance, obviously does not have any finishing moves at all, just like in DA, where he was a hidden character. So the introduction of additional fighters from Deadly Alliance sounds like a rather lazy, last-minute hack.
My least favorite new feature in this portable Mortal Kombat is that once I play Konquest mode, the PSP sleep mode is no longer available. It took me half an hour, since buying the game, to come across this bug. Seriously, this is ridiculous.
For the most part, most flaws can be forgiven, especially for a Mortal Kombat fan: the lack of online might be preferable to a laggy online play, the load times are bearable, and the extras are still welcome, even if they could have been much better. However, the boring, ugly and buggy Konquest mode is nothing short of a reason for embarrassment, and should not have been left wasting UMD space.
If like me, you're a MK fanboy, you might enjoy this game, if for no other reason, for nostalgia. If, on the other hand, you're just thinking of getting a fighting game you can play anywhere, you're better off with Tekken DR, as that port actually was properly adapted for the PSP.
6 / 10