Game Shelf: Mortal Kombat II Gameboy

mortal kombat 2 ii classically trained For this edition of my Game Shelf I’ll be taking a look at Mortal Kombat II (MK2) for the Game Boy. Yes, the tiny black-and-white (well, greenish yellow) handheld wonder.

The short version of this is: It’s surprisingly good.

It’s rather ambitious to think that it’s a high-quality fast-paced five button arcade fighting game like MK2 could be successfully translated to the Nintendo Game Boy – a monochrome two button (Ok, technically, four button) handheld system, but that is exactly what we are dealing with.

Frankly, I think it’s astonishing that Midway even attempted to make this port, especially considering their past failure with the first game. Let’s be honest, the first Mortal Kombat port for the Game Boy is really a disaster. It’s quite unplayable – the graphics are not bad, and I remember wanting the game pretty bad before it came out. I asked my dad for permission to buy the game, and he did not think it was a good idea. I was disappointed, but he actually did me a huge favor – it would have been a tragic waste of money, and I ended up buying Metroid 2 instead.

So here I am, almost 20 years later talking about the follow up that had every reason to be a terrible game. Yet, it’s actually pretty good.

What Made the Cut

It is understandable that some features were left out, but what’s amazing is what was actually left in the games. MK2 featured a full roster of 12 fighters. The Game Boy version was scaled back to only 8 (the same number Street Fighter 2 started with). Sadly, some of my favorites were missing: Johnny Cage, Baraka, Raiden, and Kung Lao were left out.

The rest of the gang made the cut, and show up with their move set almost completely intact. In addition to reasonably responsive controls, the pace the game works as well, but is obviously slowed down from the arcade.

What all this means is that you can (functionally) play a round of the game as the character Jax – land a jump kick, combo into his backbreaker mid air while charging for his ground punch move as your opponent gets back up, followed by his projectile move. The controls are good enough to do this reliably.

MK2 for the Gameboy includes one of the finishing moves for each of the characters, the option to knock characters into the spiked ceiling, and curiously, “Babalities” where you turn the opposing character into a baby. It was odd in the arcade, it may be even more bizarre on the Gameboy. Dan “Toasty” even pops up randomly after landing an uppercut during a match, and both Smoke and Jade are included as hidden characters. These are the little touches that really add a lot to the fun factor of the port.

Once you face off against the full roster of playable characters, you face Shao Kahn as the final boss (no Kintaro). Every character has the same ending, but I am ok with that given the tremendous about of content that was included.

The Best Part of All

Now personally, what I remember most fondly about this game, and still enjoy to this day, is the number of glitches unique to this port. My friend and I would play this game for hours, trying to discover what odd things you could accomplish in the game, outside of the normal rules.

Some of the fun things we discovered were new combos that were not possible outside of this version. Kitana’s fan lift move is especially easy to abuse. There are several other situations where you can perform practically infinite combos, which really make for entertaining play against the computer, as they helplessly get pummeled by combinations that should be impossible.

Odd and gamebreaking glitches were also possible involving the Fatalities. With several characters you can perform Fatality moves mid air, only to completely miss you opponent completely. Jax has an interesting exploit where if you perform his Gotcha grab as the same time as completing the command for the Fatality, your defeated foe will actually perform their Fatality on you! Depending who it is you are facing, their fatality move might be quicker than Jax’s head smash, and the result will freeze the game. You can imagine my surprise the first time this happened.

It is like a quick-draw competition, where both lose!

Why You Should Care

All in all, this is really fun and neglected port that is not particularly difficult or expensive to find online, and if you’re Mortal Kombat fan and a retro collector, it’s worth having just for the novelty of owning the only functioning port of the Mortal Kombat series on the Game Boy. The one thing I wish I had a chance to do more of, is trying out the gamelink head-to-head. I’d love to find someone else with a copy of this game and try it out.