For a series that has endured as long as Mortal Kombat, it sure does have a lot of skeletons in its closet. When we think back to Midway's ultra-violent brawler we remember the good times - playing Mortal Kombat in the arcade, learning every fatality in its sequel, etc. - but for every good game there were at least ten tragically bad ports. And not just ports, side games, lousy sequels, you name it ... Mortal Kombat just isn't very consistent.
I had to take a deep breath before digging into Mortal Kombat for the Master System; I prepared for the worst and prayed it wasn't as bad as Mortal Kombat Advance. Considering this is an 8-bit port of a game the Genesis could barely pull off, this Master System version probably shouldn't even exist. Was there really a market big enough to support this slimmed down rendition?
I don't know if there was a market or not, but I can tell you that Mortal Kombat comes to the Master System in relatively good form. I know it seems like an oxymoron, but while this version isn't as strong as the 16-bit counterparts, it still manages to recreate the game moderately well. It's not perfect and you shouldn't choose this over other versions, but it's far from being the worst Mortal Kombat game of all time.
As you can imagine there have been some major cuts to get this game to fit on the Master System's limited hardware. For one thing there are only two arenas to fight in (Goro's lair and the pit). For what they are these levels look good (with a surprising amount of detail for an 8-bit game on nearly ten year old hardware), but it's hard to get past the fact that there are only two of them.
You will also find that Kano has been completely excised from the proceedings. You don't fight him, you can't play as him, and all references to him have been removed ... it's as if he never existed. The rest of the combatants (no, I'm not going to spell that with a "K") feel much like they did in the arcade and retain their signature moves, so just as long as you're favorite brawler wasn't Kano you shouldn't have too much trouble having a good time here.