Ultimate Mortal Kombat DS Review

Um, "Ultimate"? OK, let's see what the word "ultimate" means, according to the dictionary. "Maximum, decisive, conclusive". So, that means this is supposed to be the be-all end-all experience in gaming, right? Well, why doesn't Ultimate Mortal Kombat for the Nintendo DS feel like this? Sure, it's a pretty decent representation in the MK series, but ultimate? Come on. You've got two games to choose from here -- TWO! If this was any kind of "ultimate" collection we'd have several, including the first two MK arcade games, Motor Kombat from the Armageddon home release, and several others. Here, we have just two -- Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Puzzle Kombat.

Now, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in itself isn't the best game of the bunch. It's an enhanced version of one of the weaker MK arcade entries, with several favorite characters -- Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Scorpion and Sub-Zero -- paired with a bunch of new ones -- Nightwolf, Sheeva, the ultra-lame and poorly dressed "street cop" Stryker. Shao Khan has overtaken the Earth and it's up to Earth's greatest (and slimiest) warriors to decide their fate. Yeah, whatever. The game's alright if you're playing against a friend, but going at it alone is an exercise in sheer futility. The AI is so incredibly cheap that it predicts what you're going to do a mile away and counteracts accordingly. As a result, you lose each match only a few bouts in, even if you're practically a master of the series. It's enough to make you want to tear your Nintendo DS in half.

Puzzle Kombat, at least, is a lot more fun. It's essentially Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo remixed with a MK fashion sense. You've got super-deformed characters and familiar puzzle grids, where you can eliminate blocks with combos and put quite the hurt on your opponent. While not overwhelmingly original, it's a great game in itself -- especially online.

Wait, did I just say online? Why, yes. One of Ultimate Mortal Kombat's greatest inclusions is the ability to play against someone through the Wi-Fi Connection. Both Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Puzzle Kombat are playable, so if you're in the mood to fight or drop blocks, you can take either route. The gameplay works fine in both of these modes, although there are occasional lapses where lag enters the picture. It doesn't really happen that often, though. The game also keeps track of your wins and losses, in case you care to boast your impressive winning -- or losing -- record. You can also play against a friend locally, if you're up for it.

Graphically, the game looks just like its arcade counterpart, with its ridiculous character digitization and great-looking backgrounds. The audio is pure MK with sound samples and music straight from the coin-op. Gameplay is relegated to the buttons and digital pad, just the way it should be. There's no real touch-screen interaction here, although the menu readout with the moves available to you is nice to have on hand without pausing the damn thing.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat? Schyeah, right, and Shao Khan might fly out of your butt. No, truth be told, this is far from the quintessential handheld MK experience. Mortal Kombat Unchained did more for the PSP and it's available at $20 less than this release over at EB Games. However, MK fanatics who don't mind UMK3's limitations and absolutely love Puzzle Kombat shouldn't hesitate to drop a few bucks on it, especially with the game's online functionality. Going at it alone, though, will require a great deal of strength. Get ready to REALLY test your might against this AI.

What's Hot: Online and local support for multiplayer action; Puzzle Kombat is beyond fun; faithful arcade representation of UMK 3.

What's Not: The AI in single-player mode is incredibly unforgiving; no Game Sharing options; needed more MK games aside from just the two.