Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Released 1995
Platform: Arcade. Genre: Fighting 1 or 2 Players Rated: M
Cast: Richard Divizio, Kerri Hoskins, John Parrish, Tony Marquez, Michael Obrien, John Turk, Lia Montelongo, Eddie Wong, Sal Divita, Becky Gable, Brian Glynn.
UMK3 expands the character select screen by seven. three of which are unlocked via code: Mileena (22264-22264), Ermac: (12344-44321), and Classic Sub-Zero: (81835-81835)
By holding Left (P1) or Right (P2) +HP+HK+BL+RN before the match, a player can transform Robo-Smoke into his Human counterpart (who plays like Scorpion.)
True, Mileena's body won't fall down like the decapitation victims from MK1 & 2 ... but at least Ermac doesn't inflate her head with an air pump.
It's amazing how much more realistic, cohesive, and believable the Animalities look when they don't go out of their way to divorce themselves from the fundamental visual style of the game.
I've actually grown to hate freeze-themed MK characters. Two Sub-Zeros in this game. In MK5,6,&7 he gains a female apprentice named Frost. In MK9, we again get two Sub-Zeros (Human and Robot.)
Once you get done with Ermac (assuming you can beat him), the timer resets, and Mileena jumps in with a full life bar. If you're lucky, you'll get a free hit on her as she jumps in.
The original MK3 endings (left) featured unique character-specific images; UMK3 removed these in favor of the appropriate character's Versus Screen portrait & text (right).

Review by Jay Wilson

Around the time Mortal Kombat 3 headed to the home consoles, Midway outfitted the old arcade cabinets with the new and improved Ultimate MK3 featuring a number of improvements (along with a few drawbacks.) It's still Mortal Kombat 3 so much of the MK3 review applies here including the pathetic and generic Fatalities, useless Babalities, and underwhelming Animalities. Dial-a-combos are still present, the stages are still mostly in an urban settings. Same boss fights against Shao Kahn and Motaro.

Think of Ultimate MK3 as the “MK3 Expansion Pack.”

Ultimate MK3 brings back the iconic combatants Scorpion, Kitana, Mileena, and Reptile (all of whose moves made the transition from MK2 to MK3 more gracefully than, say, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, Shang Tsung, and Jax.) They feel very similar to their old selves with surprisingly few new moves to their arsenal (besides the new MK3 combos.) New additions to the roster include Jade, the hidden character from MK2 and Ermac who originated as a rumor for MK1 and became realty here. Lastly, the redundant classic Sub-Zero and Human Smoke for those who really missed the palette swap masked version of the characters.

New characters mean new Fatalities, many of which are encores of previous classic Fatalities. Reptile again takes his mask off and chows down on his opponent, Scorpion again reveals his skeletal face and breathes fire; Kitana again decapitates her opponent; Mileena swallows her victim whole and spits out their bones. Ordinarily, I would complain about UMK3's lack of creativity with how it almost parasitically clings to its predecessors; however, considering the unprecedented worthlessness of the original MK3 Fatalities, I'm inclined to be forgiving.

The Animalities for the new characters, however, are undoubtedly better. The original Animalities (which are still in place) seemed like they wanted to compete with the Fatalities—an “animal attack” version of the Fatalities, if you will. But they really packed no punch or seemed to do anything. For the new Animalities, though, they eliminate that monochromatic tint and out-of-place glow so, though still cartoony, the animals don't stick out quite so badly. More importantly, the new Animalities aim for comedy, and for the most part hit their marks. Kitana turns into a bunny and goes Monty Python on their ass; Mileena becomes a skunk and knocks her opponent out from the smell; Scorpion morphs into a penguin and drops an explosive egg; Jade changes into a cat and goes to town Looney Tunes style. Again, I could complain that joke Finishers already exist in the Friendships, but looking at what we had before I'm just thankful we didn't get more of the same.

Other (neutral) changes include a new title screen; new stages (a desert, a hellscape, a new portal stage, a riverfront, and a throne room for Shao Kahn); combo-uppercuts no longer knock enemies through the ceiling of stages (but standalone uppercuts still do); old characters receive minor tweaks ranging from adjusted damage (no more 45% combos with Kabal) to new moves (Stryker's gun) and even a new (better) Friendship for Sonya (she makes flowers grow as opposed to her awkward arm wave ... thing.) Endurance matches (a la MK1) make a comeback for those masochists who enjoy stacking the odds against themselves for no apparent reason. And lastly, upon beating the game, the player now has a choice of rewards including seeing the character's ending, playing Galaga, fighting a hidden/locked character, and seeing Fatality Demonstrations (among others.)

Now for the bad: Mortal Kombat 2 went too far with eight Palette swaps; Ultimate MK3 goes way the hell too far with—count them—twelve palette swaps (all eight of the new characters are palette swaps ... and I'm being generous with that number in not counting Rain.) Clearly, Midway wanted to push the limits of the memory as far as possible, and to make room for the new characters (palette swaps as they all may be), Ultimate MK3 removed tons of non-essential content including the various attract screens detailing the main storyline and subplots; all the original MK3 bios are gone (now only the additional UMK3 characters have bios); and even the original imagery which accompanied the endings has been removed. In the context of gameplay, these deletions really don't mean a thing. At the same time, I wonder if UMK3 went too far in removing aesthetic related material (which does have their own charms).

Even if we credit Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3's for sacrificing “fluff” for gameplay, it still runs into a memory related complaint: UMK3, as released in arcades, is blatantly incomplete. Ermac, Classic Sub-Zero, and Human Smoke lack a full array of finishing moves (again, the whole point of Mortal Kombat). Worse yet, Classic Sub-Zero's only Fatality cops out with a fade to black after he reaches for his opponents head. Human Smoke's only Fatality is identical (in both appearance and execution) to one of Ermac's (which, itself, was ripped from Johnny Cage.) All three lack a Friendship or Animality. Ermac and Classic Sub-Zero lack a Babality. There's even a fake hidden character featured in the opening montage, a purple palette swap ninja named Rain, who is absolutely nowhere to be found in the game proper.

The AI for UMK3 could very well be the worst AI in the history of fighting games. The CPU reads your button inputs and instantly performs one of its preprogrammed counters. Jump back? They throw a fireball so you land on it. Jump forward and attack? They jump straight up with a perfectly timed kick to knock you out of the air. Throw a projectile? They'll either duck, jump over and attack, or Jade will instantly activate her projectile immunity, run over to you, and flawlessly perform her 7 hit (25% damage) combo. It's like fighting an IF/THEN statement that reads, “if you act, they will fuck you up.”

The only way to beat the AI is to exploit the programming. One such trick is to land a single hit, then if you can position yourself to have enough distance, you can walk forward and backwards and the AI will mimic you, maintaining optimum distance for its counter attacks ... but if you keep walking back and forth and never attack you can run the timer down and win. The only other option is to pick characters with mid-jump teleports. You jump forward and attack. The CPU jumps up to counter attack. Cancel into your teleport, and nail them every time. Nothing works beyond these two painfully monotonous (not to mention excruciatingly boring) tactics which completely, totally, and absolutely destroys any shred of a chance of enjoying the single player experience.

If you don't have company to play UMK3 with, the game is utterly unplayable. Period.

In some ways, I think UMK3 better represents the game MK3 should have been (perhaps was meant to be.) I like it a lot more than the original release of MK3, and I think were the Fatalities more creative, more unique, and more serious—if the legacy MK3 Animalities did not stick out so obnoxiously with “bleh” end results—if all the characters possessed their full alotment of finishing moves ... I really think UMK3 could have rivaled, maybe even surpassed, Mortal Kombat 2. Alas, a mere (incomplete) expansion such as UMK3 cannot undo the fundamental mistakes that haunt the core of Mortal Kombat 3.