Video gamers do not like change. That's the likely reason for the backlash when Mortal Kombat 3 was released. Creating a new combo system tossed the simple and arguably more strategic game play from Mortal Kombat II.
Replacing it was a dial-a-combo system that relied on memory more than skill. The follow up, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, failed to address those complaints, but did improve upon the concept with numerous new extras.
Additions to the Ultimate edition included new backgrounds, characters, and secrets. All of that is retained in this Live Arcade port. Emulation is excellent here, perfectly copying the arcade version, not the numerous sloppy home ports. It still asks for quarters, and comes complete with the attract screen and AMA warning about the violence in the sharp menu system.
Loaded with characters, a record number upon its release, Ultimate MK3 suffers from balance issues. Cabal and Smoke are dominate in the hands of a knowledgeable player, unleashing ridiculously high combo counts and cheap set ups. It's frustrating, though watching skilled fighters go head to head does reveal a solid foundation for a fighting game.
Most importantly, unlike nearly every 3-D entry, Ultimate MK3 feels like part of the series. It's stiff, with a design that rewards the player for fast movement. The combo system is the only radical change, and even if you're unaware of the specific button combinations to pull them off, it's still possible to compete and have fun. The AI in the single player game can be brutal, and disappointingly, there is no options menu to adjust specific game play features.
Control problems plague this specific port. Jumping diagonally is a hit or miss affair, and the same goes for moves like foot sweeps. Online, small lag compounds this problem, though it seems like a connection issue, not one with the coding or servers.
Fans of this specific entry of the Mortal Kombat series will be happy when they see how well this Live Arcade edition turned out. It's the best home port to date, and the key issues like the control are not the fault of the developers.
Players who picked up Mortal Kombat Armageddon for the Xbox or PS2 should be aware this same game is an unlockable feature, though lacking online play.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Violence.