Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition isn't a full-fledged sequel to Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, but, instead, it's an upgrade that shuffles the cast and includes a number of cool play modes that were absent from the previous game. As has been the case with the majority of Mortal Kombat games, Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition is a good fighting game that offers a good variety of attacks and reversals, but the real stars are still the blood and fatality moves you'll see during each match.
With respect to graphics and audio, MK: Tournament Edition and MK: Deadly Alliance are identical to one another. Tournament Edition boasts a few new backgrounds and characters, but the majority of environments, and most of the animation, are the same as before. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since the graphics engine used in this series is nothing short of impressive. Many fighting games on the Game Boy Advance are strictly 2D and use flat sprites and backgrounds to display their cartoonlike environments. By contrast, MK: Tournament Edition and its predecessor combine 3D backgrounds with character sprites that are drawn from a variety of angles. The end result is a game that lets you move anywhere in the arena you like. In fact, you can sidestep your opponent and watch his projectile attacks sail into the distance. The audio is nice as well--particularly the digital speech effects. Familiar phrases, such as "finish him," "fatality," and "flawless victory," are crisp and macho. Additionally, the many different male and female grunts and groans are articulated very well.
One significant change between Tournament Edition and Deadly Alliance concerns the cast of playable characters. Deadly Alliance clocked in with 12, including a number of fan favorites--namely Sub-Zero, Sonya, Scorpion, Jax, Kano, Kung Lao, Quan Chi, and Shang Tsung. Tournament Edition contains 15 playable characters, but the only ones returning from the previous game are Shang Tsung, Scorpion, and Quan Chi. Fans of older Mortal Kombat games will recognize Raiden, Johnny Cage, Cyrax, Sektor, and Reptile--who are reappearing in the series after an extended absence. The remainder of the cast is an assortment of characters that are either from the console version of Deadly Alliance or entirely new to the series. The most creative addition is a drunken kung fu expert named Bo' Rai Cho, whose repertoire includes vaulting kicks and a slippery vomit attack.
You don't need to be familiar with the Mortal Kombat series to enjoy Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition. It's an easy game to pick up and learn, and it doesn't take long at all to master a few special attacks and fatality moves. Punches, kicks, and special attacks are performed with the buttons and directional pad, while the two shoulder buttons allow you to block and change fighting styles. Each character has two unique fighting styles, which primarily affect the kinds of basic attack moves you can perform. One of the nicer aspects of the game is the ability to walk freely around the arena, much like you can in Soul Calibur II, which allows you to sidestep attacks and counterattack your opponent while he or she is recovering. Fatalities are the trademark gimmick of the Mortal Kombat series, and Tournament Edition is full of them. Each character has two different killing moves that can be performed at the end of a match; one killing move results in a torso being ripped in half and the other results in body parts falling onto the ground.
Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition seems especially geared toward linked play. In addition to the obligatory one-on-one mode, the game includes tournament, arcade, and tag team modes, as well as a rather unique option called "race to Raiden." Race to Raiden involves two players. Each person chooses a character and fights against a lineup of CPU opponents. The competition occurs in real time. Whoever beats their lineup the fastest, and reaches Raiden, is declared the winner. The other three modes are somewhat more traditional. The tag mode allows two to four players to pair up into teams to fight each other. Whenever you want to call your friend into the match, all you need to do is push the select button. The tournament mode allows players to link together and pass around multiple GBAs in order to find the overall champion in a multi-elimination tournament ladder. The multiplayer arcade mode is interesting--it actually emulates the experience of staking and holding your spot on a stand-up arcade machine. Four players link their GBAs together. The winner continues to play while challengers go to the back of the line and wait for a rematch.
Strangely enough, you can also link MK: Tournament Edition to the older MK: Deadly Alliance game. Players are limited to the three characters that each game has in common. They are: Scorpion, Shang Tsung, and Quan Chi. Most of the incentive to try this mode resides with the person who owns Tournament Edition--since linking in this fashion will allow you to unlock Noob Saibot, one of the five hidden, playable characters.
To unlock the rest of the cast, you need to beat the single-player arcade and tag team modes multiple times. The same goes for many of the characters' weapon-based fatalities as well. For every fight you win, you earn koins that you can use to purchase items from the game's krypt mode. Six extra arenas and a dozen or so additional fatality moves are unlocked this way, but the lion's share of items available in the krypt are merely costume changes and cheats.
For anyone who hasn't already tried the Mortal Kombat series on the Game Boy Advance, Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition is a good starting point. If you already own MK: Deadly Alliance, however, the decision to make the jump to Tournament Edition will primarily depend on your love of the series and whether or not you have friends to compete against. Despite the change in cast members, Tournament Edition and Deadly Alliance are basically identical in solo play. To get the most out of Tournament Edition, you really need to gather some friends and link together multiple copies of the game.