One of the best 2D fighters brought back in one of the best ways possible.
Between the few 2D fighters I've ever played, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 would be one of my favorites and to be totally honest, the first time I have ever played UMK3 would be right here on XBLA. However, to be able to play one of the best Mortal Kombat games ever on an Xbox 360 complete with online play for only 10 dollars? I'd say that this would be a bargain in any situation, and one of the best games you could get on XBLA by far.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is actually an updated version of the original Mortal Kombat 3. In "Ultimate" Mortal Kombat 3, it's basically Mortal Kombat 3 with just more stuff. In particular, more characters were noticably added to make this one of the bigger rosters of the 2D era of Mortal Kombat. Believe it or not, Mortal Kombat 3 actually lacked characters like Scorpion. No joke. And yes, in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Scorpion is in and toasty.
One of the more noticable things would be the character selection. Strangely enough, Raiden and Johnny Cage, two of the original MK characters and more well known ones, are not in the game. That isn't to say that the roster is disappointing. There are around twenty different characters to choose from which is actually a great amount of characters. Classic fighters like Liu Kang, Scorpion, and Sonya return with some new characters previously appearing in the original Mortal Kombat 3 like Sektor, Cyrax, and Kabal.
The standard arcade mode is typical for the average fighter. In UMK3, after choosing a fighter to use for arcade mode you get to choose a "tower". These towers basically determine how many opponents you'll fight before beating arcade mode.
Fighting consists of using high punches, low punches, high kicks, and low kicks that are mapped to the four face buttons. Blocking has its own button and there is also a run button. Characters have only a small variety of special attacks like projectiles, teleport attacks, the like. Along with that are special combos which are basically pressing buttons in a certain order when throwing attacks into your opponent. Of course, you could say this for any fighting game though UMK3's doesn't seem as flexible as you'd like. Nonetheless, it still works out very well.
A problem that seems to come up early in the game would be the difficulty. The arcade mode is pretty hard. Once you make it higher up, the AI seems to be able to read your mind and react accordingly. It's nice seeing that they're not trying to make this a total cakewalk, but it's not very kind at all to newcomers. What's worse is that there's no options to change the difficulty so if you want to move on, be patient and practice. The learning curve kind of takes more time than you'd want, but it all pays off in the end and it'll remain entertaining.
Mortal Kombat was always known for its gory fatalities and it's nice to know that they're still here in UMK3. Basically, at the end of the 2nd or 3rd round, you'll be told to "FINISH HIM/HER!". You'll have a few seconds to put in a certain button combonation to execute a fatality or some other gimmick like Friendships or Babalities. Characters also have two different Fatalities just to spice up the variety. It takes time to master inputting fatalities in order to see the satisfactory of 2D gore, though it's great when you get the hang of it. There seems to be no way to find out the actual button combos so look them up on the internet or something.
Everything else seems to be pretty intact as well. The graphics are great. Mortal Kombat's way of designing characters is just cool with the digitzed actors and the backgrounds looks good as well. Blood splatters look pretty awesome, too. On top of that, the fatalities are actually pretty gory themselves. For two-dimensional gore, you're in for something. Sound design is also fantastic in almost every way possible. Music isn't great, but otherwise everything else in the sound department is just spectacular.
One of the greatest additions to the game would be online gameplay. If you're ever bored of arcade mode, online play is where things start cooking. While there may not be huge loads of people online, there is always enough for some quality matches. Online is almost always lag-free and it flows smoothly. Even with the rather simplistic combat system, every fight online is exciting and something that shouldn't be missed. My word of advice is to learn, learn, and keep learning as a lot of players are experienced. The online component is also complete with leaderboards. Flawless victory, much?
For ten dollars, I'd say that this is one of the most worthy games on Xbox Live Arcade. It's certainly one of the most jam-packed 2D MK games, it has exciting gameplay, and it has online play which is made of absolute win in almost every way possible. It's a shame that Mortal Kombat Trilogy wasn't made for XBLA instead. MKT is basically UMK3, but with ALL of the MK characters of the 2D MK era. Anyone with spare points should give UMK3 a chance, be it for nostalgia or just for the sole reason of finding something enjoyable. Any fan of anything fun won't be disappointed.