Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition – GBA
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release Date (NA): August 25th, 2003
Nerd Rating: 5 out of 10
The Mortal Kombat series has never fared particularly well on handhelds, which always left me a little curious as to why Midway ever even bothered with these versions in the first place. Recent years have seen the PSP, PS Vita, and Nintendo’s line of evolving DS’s pack the hardware necessary for giving us a proper MK experience on the go, but before the advent of these machines, handheld Mortal Kombat was achingly substandard. Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition was the last of such games (the next portable installment would be a PSP port of Mortal Kombat: Deception known as Mortal Kombat: Unchained which included all of the content and features of the console versions plus more!); despite the wealth of immersive and well-crafted games developed for the Game Boy Advance, it never did capture the “MK spirit.”
When Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was ported to the GBA, Midway to decided to split the game into 2 halves rather than to release a super-scaled back version. The first half – titled Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance – featured roughly half of the roster, and then some months later came the second half – Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition. The one notable aspect of MK:TE is probably the inclusion of Sareena, who makes her first playable appearance here, after a stint as a supporting character way back in MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero. Also included are Noob Saibot and Sektor, who make their only appearances of the Deadly Alliance era within MK:TE.
Tournament Edition follows the storyline established by Deadly Alliance, whereby Quan Chi and Shang Tsung are attempting to resurrect the Dragon King’s undead army and the various surviving warriors of Earthrealm and Edenia are doing their best to foil the sorcerers’ plans. Word has it that MK:TE was originally titled Mortal Kombat: Deadly Revenge (as evidenced by the instruction manual) and was supposed to feature an all-new storyline, though plans were scrapped as Deception loomed on the horizon.
So what’s it like to actually play MK:TE? Lackluster, lukewarm, and ho-hum are good words to describe it. Characters can punch, kick, and block. There are no real combos to speak of, though through brute force button mashing one can pull of inelegant combos that register as such. Console versions of DA featured 2 fighting styles and 1 weapon style for each character; TE tries its best to replicate this by giving each character 2 fighting styles and then several pseudo-special moves that result in the momentary use of a weapon (which is really just a monochromatic outline of a weapon).
Gameplay is more than a little clunky. It can be difficult to pull of stylish moves with any predictability and often times button mashing is the only way to counteract the AI’s endless barrage. Special moves verge on the pointless due to their delayed start-ups and the following vulnerability of the character. The controls themselves feel quite responsive, it just seems like the game takes a few milliseconds too long to process them. Everything feels sluggish and slowed down and TE’s total lack of finesse doesn’t make it a very fun game to play.
It’s really quite a shame that Tournament Edition isn’t more fun to play, because there are loads of unlockables in the game that would be far more fun to uncover if it was a more compelling experience. Much like the console versions of DA, roughly half the characters are locked from the start and must be either bought from the Krypt or unlocked through various other means. Besides characters, there are tons of “costumes,” and though they’re little more than bizarre palette swaps, they are fun to look at. Other secrets include different gaming modes, where the entire playing area undergoes a color change, and the all-new weapon fatality, never seen before or since MK:TE.
Just looking at all that can be unlocked in Tournament Edition one can see that the developers desperately wanted to compensate for the substandard gameplay as much as possible. The problem is that unlocking all this stuff requires a significant amount of play-time. Some Krypt items also require Gold Koins to open, which can only be obtained in 2-player mode; this makes 100% completion of MK:TE quite difficult…unless you have the help of a cheat device. If you do find yourself in a position where you actually like dredging through MK:TE for hours on end, it does feature the ability to create up to 2 separate profiles, each of which automatically saves the player’s progress, much like the system Deception and later Armageddon would adopt.
Graphically, Tournament Edition doesn’t offer much. Although certainly an improvement over old Game Boy, GBC, and Game Gear installments, the character models are still muddy and indistinct. The arenas look alright and don’t suffer nearly as much from the lack of detail and low resolution, but don’t get it twisted: this is poor man’s MK all the way.
I applaud Midway for trying to do something different and distinctive here – especially the vast array of “costumes,” the weapon fatalities, and introducing a new playable character for the first time in the series – it’s just a bummer that they couldn’t create something more fun to play. You may want to steer clear of Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition unless you’re a hardcore collector…or unless you have a ton of time on your hands. If you want a proper portal MK experience, it’s best to move on to the PSP’s Mortal Kombat: Unchained or Mortal Kombat – Komplete Edition for the PS Vita!
Reviewed by The Cubist
Share This Post