Mortal Kombat 4 – GBC
Platform: Game Boy Color
Release Date (NA): December 1998
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Nerd Rating: 3 out of 10
Emulated on the Wii using WiiMednafen.
In a sort of unofficial quest to move through the various portable ports of the Mortal Kombat franchise, I found myself playing the series’ one and only outing on the Game Boy Color, a port of the wildly unpopular Mortal Kombat 4. And wow. Out of all the MK games I’ve dabbled in over the years, this is easily one of the poorest incarnations of all – probably even worse than the earlier Game Boy ports!
In a way, this GBC version of MK4 represents all of the major problems with portable MK releases: low resolution and thus a huge loss of detail, boring, repetitive, and basically inconsequential music, smaller selection of arenas and fighters due to memory limitations, and worst of all, a vastly watered down fighting system. In the case of MK4, the actual fighting engine may stray further from the console ports than any other portable versions of MK4 before or since.
It’s no secret that the term “color” in “Game Boy Color” is a bit of a misnomer. GBC games have never been bright, vivid, or detailed, and the oddly washed out, unsaturated tones give the games more of a colorized look rather than the look of being in color. Some games fare better than others with this aspect while others, like MK4, may even look a little worse.
The developers tried to inject some appropriate detail into the tiny sprites by using lots of lines and well-placed pixels, and though the effort is appreciated, it just doesn’t translate onto the low-res screen. But there’s no point in bitching about the graphics too much; Nintendo’s line of Game Boys have never tried to hide or deny their graphical limitations. The real bummer is how far removed from the GBC gameplay is from the console gameplay. Mortal Kombat 4 was known, for better or worse, for being the first 3-D entry in the series. The GBC port makes absolutely no attempt at providing a 3-D experience. It’s essentially the same experience as playing though one of the earlier Game Boy MK titles. Also gone are the weapons, a highly imperfect yet defining feature of MK4.
The fighting is relegated to simple punches and kicks which themselves are clunky an awkward. Like its brethren, the controls feel slightly unresponsive and a little laggy, making the game an inelegant experience devoid of the precision that so often defines the series’ console counterparts. It’s also interesting to note how poorly the AI seems to have been programmed on this release – the computer opponents are not only not intelligent, but at times downright stupid. The portable ports have always been appreciably easier than the console games, though the computer is usually equipped with enough cheap tricks to keep the game from getting too easy.
While all the cutscenes/FMV sequences of the console ports have been replaced by little more than dense walls of text, the fatalities have been handled in a novel manner. Instead of any sort of in-game animation, we get a small, brief clip lifted straight from the console versions. It’s analogous to animated GIF in some ways: yes it’s actual footage, but the quality and size have been reduced so greatly that it’s just barely passable.
Here’s another little tidbit of the MK pantheon that probably isn’t worth your time, though it does have a marginally unique appearance being the franchise’s only release on the Game Boy Color. Once again we’re treading pretty much on “collector’s only” territory here, unless maybe you’re studying what not to do…
Reviewed by The Cubist
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