(GB / Game Boy)

Mortal Kombat (GB / Game Boy)

Game Review

Mortal Kombat Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Dave Frear


Back, back, B. That’s the command that you need to enter to perform Scorpion’s spear move – but you have to do it slowly. Forget the quick tapping that you’d expect for a beat ‘em up, this is something with which you must take your time. It’s the same for all the special moves in the game, an irritant that’s just one of the many problems found in this Game Boy port of Mortal Kombat.

Switch your system on and the first thing that you see are some logos accompanied by silence. Enjoy the peace and quiet, because soon “Midway Presents” appears on screen and the horrific noise begins. A distorted combination of scratches, whines, beeps and ringing come together to create a truly awful audio experience. Some other Game Boy games may have music that's beepy or a bit whiney, but it usually maintains a kind of charm. This, however, is just painful. There are a couple of tracks that play during the main game which are just as bad. Further scratches make up the sound effects, but the music tends to drown these out.

The character lineup is actually quite close to the arcade original, with six playable fighters. Johnny Cage is the one who didn’t make the cut, the only other omission being hidden opponent Reptile. The sprites (including the two bosses) appear quite close to their arcade counterparts. There are three stages which are simplified but recognisable, although one looks a bit messy, with pasted together elements including cloned spectators. There is an arcade-style attract mode, and waiting on the title screen will show you a winning streak table, character profiles and brief gameplay snippets. It thus seems that at some point during development, they spent a little effort to replicate the arcade experience. Try to play the game, however, and the impression is that the coding was largely handled by some kids on temp work assignments.

Character motion is a bit jerky and some movements can be slow. It’s particularly noticeable when someone is falling through the air or when a fighter uppercuts their opponent, then stops, arm raised high, almost as if they have a sponsorship deal with an antiperspirant company and are inviting the watching world to admire their sweat-free pits.

Also disappointing are the controls, which suffer from input lag. That‘s all, if you‘re lucky. At other times, button presses simply do not register and your gormless fighter just stands there waiting to be punched. Sometimes attacks connect but there is no reaction or energy deduction from the opponent. One interesting (though admittedly rare) feature is that if the characters are close, but not close enough to hit each other, striking thin air will occasionally send a passing wasp flying into the other fighter’s mouth that it then proceeds to sting, depleting some of their energy – they may even fall over in agony. These insects aren’t actually visible, but it is surely the only explanation of why you can take and receive damage without attacks actually connecting.

The original arcade version of Mortal Kombat may not have been the greatest beat ’em up, but it could still provide some entertainment, and each character’s unique special moves added variety to proceedings. However, whilst the developers included these in this port, it is impractical to use them. Assuming the game decides to register your button presses and you have inputted the commands at the correct speed, the time taken to do this gives your opponent ample time to block, avoid or jump over your attack and get in a blow of their own. You may manage to pull off a few specials for your first couple of fights, but soon you will have to switch to basic attacks and, once you do, the six characters are not all that different from one another.

After defeating the other five fighters, you have to battle your clone, three pairs (one energy bar to defeat two opponents), Goro and finally Shang Tsung. You have six credits and while Tsung is easy to defeat, the fights otherwise get steadily tougher as you progress. However, the only real challenge comes from the fact that you have to use basic punches and kicks that your fighter won’t always perform when you tell them to.

One addition to the Game Boy port is the ability (via a code) to fight as Goro. Unfortunately, you have to complete the game normally before you can hold the necessary buttons to unlock him. If you do so, the other character‘s names change and you will find yourself fighting the likes of Bob, Eric and Gary. Goro is extremely strong, removing any challenge from the game, but it is still a fun inclusion.

There’s no blood, but the controversial fatalities are present (one per main character) although they are toned down somewhat. At the time of release Nintendo frowned upon ripping people’s spines out, and so the developers have replaced the more gruesome finishing moves. Former backbone-collector Sub Zero now simply punches his opponent. Worst. Fatality. Ever. Just like the special moves, inputting the commands to perform the fatalities is an extremely difficult challenge, so you’re only likely to see them when you lose to a CPU controlled fighter.

If you are tired of fighting alone, there is a two-player versus mode available, so if you happen to know some other poor sod who owns the game you can link up and suffer together.


Unless you are an interrogator looking to experiment with audio torture, you should turn the volume dial all the way down at the first opportunity. Sadly, the other problems are not so easily solved. This port does have some good points: the look of the arcade game is captured well and playing as Goro provides a little bit of entertainment, but the few pluses are greatly overshadowed by the negatives. Input lag, difficult-to-perform special moves and a number of other problems (you can’t pause the thing!) remove any fun from the game. Game Boy Mortal Kombat is one to avoid.

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User Comments (31)



SwerdMurd said:

This whole series is a complete joke. There have been worse fighting game systems, but they all, rightfully, never sold any copies/became popular. For some insane reason, people elected to support/pretend they liked this god-awful gameplay...for years. I had MK3 for GB (bought for me as a gift)--it fixed the input timing a bit, but was still a horrible port of an already horrible game. So glad MK's been largely forgotten about.



grenworthshero said:

I remember playing this game when it first came out. I didn't think it was THAT bad. Of course, I was only 6, so I probably liked anything you gave me to play, no matter how bad.



Klapaucius said:

Have never liked Mortal Kombat, and I don't think I've ever read a positive review for a MK game.



BulbasaurusRex said:

Mortal Kombat isn't a beat-'em-up game. It's a fighting game. Beat-'em-ups are games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage.



JamieO said:

@Bulbasaurus Rex The differences between the terms 'beat-'em up' and 'one-on-one fighting game' came up in my old Super Double Dragon review.

I wonder if it is due to regional colloquialism, because 'beat-'em-up' has been used by UK mags to describe games like Street Fighter II for a long time and I still see 'one-on-one beat-'em-up' in UK mags today. Both Dave and myself are UK gamers, so it may just be that we still use the term for both of the genres in the UK, out of habit.



Yasume said:

Wait, what? I thought this game was amazing when I played it as a kid. I borrowed it from a friend and I just couldn't turn my GameBoy off. I can't believe it's that bad.



HugoSmits said:

it seems as if the reviewer doesn't understand the game.

for one; the long pause after an uppercut is there for strategic purpose. The uppercut is one of the most powerfull moves in the game, pulling it off correctly will do great damage. But if you miss it leaves you defenseless.

same goes for the speed. Mortal Kombat has always been a slow fighting game.

I have no problems with the sounds or anything. It's one of my favorite GB games.



jkgatling said:

Mortal Kombat has always been horrible, no balance (when fighting com) horrible and stiff controlls and boring characters where half of the characters are just copies of each other.



StuffyStuff said:

MK games generally have poor controls but this game isn't playable. I tried playing for about ten minutes and couldn't pull off any move. This review is 100% correct. There's no comparison between this and SFII on the GB.



TheBaconator said:

If there was a Nintendo Life character in the game, its fatality would just be writing 1/10 on a piece of paper causing Johnny Cage's Head to explode.



KingMike said:

No pause doesn't surprise me.
Though I barely played the MK games, I recall that even in MK3 for SNES, you had to enter a code to enter one of the cheat menus just to enable the pause function. WTF?



StarBoy91 said:

I'm not really a fan of Mortal Kombat, and I think the series is overrated as a whole. The only reason I could think of that people would like the series is 'cause of the gore.



JebbyDeringer said:

Initially I didn't like Mortal Kombat and I was a Street Fighter guy. I really didn't like how all characters had the same movements other than the special moves. It also wasn't nearly as fast or fluid as Street Fighter. It was an overhyped game by kids who loved seeing blood and loved that their parents wouldn't like it. Later I did start to like it for what it was. I'm a fan of all fighting games to a point so I can see the merit in Mortal Kombat. It's a solid game it's just not Street Fighter.



SKTTR said:

Hah, a 1/10. Truly deserving!
And believe it or not, but Mortal Kombat 3 on the old Game Boy was even worse!!!!

Mortal Kombat II was the only good MK game on the Game Boy.



Other_Dave said:

Thanks for reading/commenting people.

@Bulbasaurus Rex As Mr O'Neill mentioned it's a regional habit.

@HugoSmits The problem with the speed is the inconstancy. What you say about the uppercut is right, but here it just seems off and it leaves you there a touch too long. Also it's hard to apply any kind of "strategy" when the controls have such problems. The MK2 port was much better.



Kevin said:

I pretty much had that impression the only time I played it. Thankfully it was only once. MK II for the Game Boy is much better.



Bankai said:

People never seem to understand the MK series. It is much slower and more strategic than the Street Fighters and Soul Caliburs, and I prefer it for that.

MK is about testing defences, thinking tactically and making sure that when there is an opening, you hit them hard. MK: Deadly Alliance remains my favourite fighting game of all time because there is no way you can button mash and beat anyone.

I'm not saying this game was any good - I can't remember it, to be honest, but the series as a whole is so completely misunderstood - but then I put that down to trigger-finger hyperactive people who have grown up thinking the best thing ever is Street Fighter and memorising combos to mash out as fast as you can.



timp29 said:

The original arcade game was a gem. It brought in many features that stuck around in future one-on-one fighters. I'm not to sure on this one, but I think it brought in juggles, fatalities and lots and lots of gore.

People loved this game when it came out. The other alternative at the time was the original Street Fighter 2, which was a bit slower, and clearly for a fighting game, much less gory.

Gameboy fighting game however? Doomed to fail.



Kurachi said:

wow, it looks kinda bad, but a 1/10?
has anyone from NL played it on the GB back then when it was new?
remember NL, its retro, therefore dont rate em as new games, cuz then you better delete the game review

anyway, back then i didnt like fighting games, that started when i played street fighter 2 turbo, and liked mortal kombat 2(i think) on PS1
so i didnt buy fighting games, which is why i never tried this one

ps. i still prefer the old way, that everyone could vote, now its just NL team, no offense, just my opinion



NovemberJoy said:

What about Mortal Kombat 4 on GBC? That game was so putrid, that it has about the quality of a Yong Yong bootleg game. Mortal Kombat games are supposed to have good AI, but this game fails at that as well, since you can just walk up to the opponent and keep kicking them and maybe dodge, and you'll get a Flawless Victory. That is the lowest difficulty, but it's still pathetic.

The graphics, well, I can make better-looking graphics on MS Paint, the music is much, much worse than this game's music could ever be, the controls are confusing, and the most insulting part comes next...

Liu Kang has breasts.



retro_player_22 said:

I played this game once as a kid and like it but then revisiting it as an adult gives me disappointment. It's lucky that MKII for Game Boy could still be playable, it's too bad MKII is the only good MK game on the Game Boy as both MK1 & MK3 are hardly playable. Also they not only change sprite animation for some of the moves but the command input as well, Sub-Zero's ice freeze is ← → + kick when it should had been ↓ → + punch not to mention the game is so freaking slow. Big failed for this game.



NintendoCat14 said:

Man, I thought Mortal Kombat on Super Nintendo was bad... I;m really sorry you went out of your way to review this. XD

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