Mortal Kombat – Game Gear
Platform: Game Gear
Release Date (NA): September 13th, 1993
Rating: 2.5 out of 10
Does anyone remember playing any Mortal Kombat game on any handheld? I can’t say I’ve tried too many, but I can’t imagine anything much worse than the Sega Game Gear port of the original Mortal Kombat. Hell, at least on the Game Boy Goro is accessible as a playable character! This truly is an awful game and the perfect example of how badly video game companies want to cash in. Instead of working with the limited power of the Game Gear to create an enjoyable experience, they just cut the balls off the 1992 smash hit and slapped a label on. I don’t even know where to begin. With a little bit of practice this game can become playable, but exactly how much fun anyone will be able to have with it is entirely speculative.
I realize that even on the 16-bit systems of the day Mortal Kombat didn’t look great (however it is absolutely wild to see how much better it looked on the SNES than the Genesis), but the digitization added a welcome sense of realism opposite the hand-drawn Street Fighter series. The Game Gear port takes that slight grainy and muddy quality of the characters and turns it up to 11, maybe even 13 or 14. You can tell who you’ve selected obviously but faces are all but obscured, and smaller details such as Shang Tsung’s garb and Sonya’s patterned outfit melt into indistinction. The backgrounds aren’t such bad translations I suppose, oh but wait, there are only 2 backgrounds for the entire game! (The Pit and Goro’s Lair, I think.) Also absent is Kano (which confused me to no end when I played as a child) and Reptile and anything relating to Reptile has been stripped as well. I wouldn’t have a problem accepting these omissions if it had seemed like something had actually been done better because of them, but one look at this title will tell you it’s not the case.
As far as I know (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), all special moves and fatalities are intact when it comes to the characters that are present. The control scheme is somewhat the same; even though the Game Gear has only 2 action buttons, the console ports of Mortal Kombat only used 3 buttons: one to kick, one to punch, and one to block. This tasks the Game Gear buttons “1” and “2” with punching and kicking, and believe it or not Start is used to block. While that might sound crazy to some of you out there, even the console versions of Mortal Kombat didn’t include pause features. Not that I ever bother much with blocking, but since the Start button isn’t exactly positioned in a location conducive to quick and fluid gameplay the whole affair is far from optimal.
Alright, stuff is missing, graphics are poor, slightly imperfect control set up…but at least you can play it, right? Not really. The frame rate has been drastically reduced resulting in a choppy, almost robotic appearance when anything resembling movement is present on the screen. This misgiving ultimately expresses itself as a sort of lag, making it not only hard to counter computer attacks but also very difficult to control the timing of anything aside from the most basic of button presses. In short, the characters’ special moves approach uselessness. Luckily the difficulty can be controlled (I figured this might be a shock to some of you at this point) and the computer can be beaten on the easy setting with a little perseverance.
The one bright spot hidden within these dim circuits is BLOOD. Before anyone gets too excited, yes, it was censored just like the Genesis port but can be easily activated.
At the “Code of Honor” screen, press 2, 1, 2, D, U, and if done correctly the screen will flash accompanied by a sound.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad I had this, but I would not be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy playing. I just want to fully complete my collection of all Mortal Kombat games for all systems. I’ll forgive Mortal Kombat just a little. However much anyone pretends to love even the fully-functional versions it’s still a game rife with flaws. The handheld industry was just getting going as well, and although the Game Gear got the shaft when it came to good games, it was (still is) a hell of a lot cooler than the Game Boy.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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