Patrick McCarron - January 3, 2006
Ever since portable gaming began to evolve with the release of the GameBoy Advance back in 2001, I have wanted a portable arcade-perfect version of the original Mortal Kombat series. With the release of Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play, my dream has finally come to fruition. Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play brings you many of your favorite arcade games from the past twenty years to your PSP system. It includes 21 classic arcade games including Gauntlet, Paperboy, Joust, Rampage, Spy Hunter, Defender, Marble Madness, Klax, Toobin', Rampart, Wizard of Wor, Xybots, Championship Sprint, Arch Rivals, Cyberball 2072, Xenophobe, Sinistar and 720. But what we are interested in are the original arcade versions of Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3. A majority of the games, including the Mortal Kombat games, feature adhoc wireless play between multiple PSPs to allow you and your friends to battle head-to-head.
Exended Play is missing a few games we're normally used to in the Midway Arcade Treasures collections, those being Smash TV and Robotron: 2084. I'm pretty sure that these were excluded simply for the lack of a second analog stick to control the fire action in those games.
The biggest question we've had since we knew Midway was making a Sony PSP version of their arcade classic compilation was if the Mortal Kombat games would be arcade perfect or not. And we can happily answer that question now and say that the games are *near* arcade perfect. Digital Eclipse has put a lot of work into making the emulation run properly on the PSP which has only 32MB of ram and 333MHz processor. All the games are arcade perfect and have no load times besides the initial loading of the game, with the exception of Mortal Kombat II and 3. We'll get into that more later on.
First thing you notice when playing on the PSP is how incredibly crisp and clear the PSP's screen is. The way we have recently been able to play Mortal Kombat is on a TV or Arcade Monitor, which have scan lines; however, the PSP uses a LCD which has none. The lack of scan lines makes the game look really clean and crisper than normal. Each game is displayed to best fit the PSP screen without distorting the original game's display resolution. Since the original Mortal Kombat games ran at 400×254 there are black bars on the sides of game area on the PSP's 480x272 screen resolution. This is a good thing because some other games on the disc, like Joust and Gauntlet, have been stretched wide to fit the PSP's display area causing some sprite distortion. I really think that Midway should have given the user the option to change display area of each game.
The only real major graphical problem I noticed was that the 'The Tower' stage in Mortal Kombat II is missing its animated cloud background and was replaced with a solid blue color. It's the only stage I could notice that was altered in some form or another. Although this isn't a major distraction, I feel that could have been handled better.
You can't argue that the sound and music of the Mortal Kombat series is one of the distinct things that set it apart from other games. Well this version doesn't disappoint. The stereo speakers of the PSP sound good, but here's a tip: plug in a pair of good headphones. Headphones make the game sound even better than it does with the PSP's internal speakers.
The biggest complaint about the previous ports of Mortal Kombat in Midway Arcade Treasures: Volume 2 for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube was that the music and sound effects had some major issues, especially with Mortal Kombat 3. Fortunately, it seems like those problems have been fixed for the most part, despite one minor issue. The issue is that there is no proper music before and after performing Fatalities in MK2 and MK3 due to the fact that all music seems to stream from the PSP UMD disc. While this isn't a major issue, I wish the developers did something to get this working right. The music for these scenes sets the mood properly and without it, it feels empty.
Without having to go and wire up my original Mortal Kombat arcade boards, the games appear to play just as good as the original arcade games. All the typical combos, special moves and even the arcade glitches/tricks are all in the game and work exactly as expected. The only disadvantages of the PSP hardware is the unit's D-Pad makes jumping forward/backwards a bit difficult at first and the load times from the UMD are long on some games. Mortal Kombat 1 is the only game with no load times because it is small enough that they can load the entire game into memory when it starts up. So, this makes this game play just perfectly with no noticeable load times of any kind. Mortal Kombat II and 3 both have load times, but are done in such a way that it doesn't distract too much from the game play, with the longest load times just before the start of each round. Besides those instances, there are also a few short (<1s) load times with some Fatalities and after you select your character. But the developers managed to eliminate any noticeable lag when Shang Tsung morphs, although sometimes Shang Tsung disappears after the morph, but for only a single frame or two.