During Midway Gamers' Day back in January, Shaun Himmerick and Ed Boon announced the existence of an upcoming version of Mortal Kombat for the Nintendo DS that Shaun was producing. That game has since been revealed as Ultimate Mortal Kombat, which contains both Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Puzzle Kombat. Shaun Himmerick is no longer overseeing Ultimate Mortal Kombat; the producer of Ultimate MK is a gentleman by the name of Hans Lo. Mortal Kombat Online recently took some time to interview Hans concerning Ultimate Mortal Kombat and his own Mortal Kombat background.

MK Online: Of course, Mortal Kombat has a wide variety of material to choose from, from several tournament fighters, action/adventure games, and fun side games. So, the big question... why Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and why Puzzle Kombat?

Hans Lo: As I’m sure you’re all well aware, we’ve never had any of the Mortal Kombat products available on the DS. At the same time Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 has come out for other home systems and was received very well by the public. Taking these two points into account, we wanted to give the DS consumer the opportunity to play and discover Mortal Kombat on this new and exciting platform. As for Puzzle Kombat, this time we wanted to offer something extra. Something we’ve haven’t included with outside of Mortal Kombat: Deception. Throw in online game play and it just seemed like the perfect fit.

MKO: In an interview with IGN, Ed Boon stated that the same team that developed the highly successful port of UMK3 to Xbox Live Arcade are handling the development of UMK. How much different is it for them to develop the game for the DS platform, and what were the biggest challenges they faced?

HL: As with any type of development, there are always challenges. No two game systems are exactly alike, and each has it own advantages and challenges. For the DS, one of the things people notice right off is the screen size. A major concern for us is to make sure everything is displayed correctly. By moving the fighters and traps on Puzzle Kombat to the upper screen, we were able to have more real estate on the lower screen to display the playing field. If we left it the way it was in Deception, the characters would have been tiny. In fact the screen as a whole would be very crowded.

From a technical standpoint the Xbox 360 and the arcade unit are vastly different platform from the DS. I could go into details about VRAM, graphic systems, handling of sprites and such. In short, the team needed to go in and add and/or rewrite code in order for the games to be optimized on the DS. Also, there’s the wireless aspect, keeping everything in sync. But the biggest challenge is keeping Ed and the rest of the MK team happy with the game. Ed and the MK team set a very high bar for quality and they are constantly reviewing the game and providing feedback. In the end, I think everyone will be pretty happy with what we come out with, and if not, I’ll be definitely be hearing it from Ed.

MKO: ) Some ports of UMK3 contained Sheeva, while others contained Noob and Rain. Will this be the "Ultimate" Ultimate MK3 and contain all of them? Or will this be more or less a direct port of the arcade game? The same question can be asked of Puzzle Kombat; will we see new characters and/or super moves?

HL: This version of the game will be based off the arcade version. So with that being said, we want this to be as close as possible to the original.

MKO: In UMK3 for XBLA, the Other Ocean team included a new round-robin tournament mode. Can we expect to see any new multiplayer modes for UMK? Can we expect to see new features and gameplay modes in Puzzle Kombat?

HL: One of the more exciting aspects for these games is the online feature. The ability to play against another person whether they’re sitting next to you, or half a world away is pretty awesome. Another cool thing we’re looking at is allowing two people to play off of one cartridge. This is a great way to share the experience with those who have never really played or been exposed to a Mortal Kombat title before. We are also adding a record keeping system that will allow players to compare their single and multiplayer fight records with friends and competitors.

MKO: We know from the screenshots that the dual screens are used in both Puzzle Kombat and the character select. What other modes will make use of it? Do you have any specific plans for the stylus as well?

HL: For Puzzle Kombat we’ve used the upper screen to better show off the puzzle fighters as well as the Death Traps. By doing this, the lower screen is focused on the action of the puzzle play. In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 we’re still working on a few ideas, so stay tuned. However, in the end the most important thing for us is to preserve the essence of the game play experience. This doesn’t mean we’re not experimenting with new ideas. We are playing around with a few ideas for the touch screen, but we want to make sure that what we do is the best fit for the games. We’ll definitely keep you guys up to date as we move forward.

MKO: Finally... you're a new face to the MK community. Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself, and what experience you've had with Mortal Kombat prior to UMK?

HL: You really want to know about me? Pretty boring stuff. I’ve been in the industry since 1988, back in the NES days. Started out at Nintendo as a “Game Play Counselor”, the guys you would call if you got stuck on the games. In fact if you look around in an old issue of Nintendo Power, you might find my “Profile”. Now in regards to Mortal Kombat, this is my third project that I’ve had direct development involvement since I’ve been at Midway. My first project working with Ed and the guys was for Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks as an Associate Producer. For the next MK project I was the Producer on UMK3 for Xbox Live Arcade. In both cases they were great experiences. I got to work closely with Ed and the team. I definitely learned a lot on those games. However, if you want to get really technical about my involvement, then I would say it would have to go all the way back to my days at Nintendo in the 90’s. I was a Tester at Nintendo, and one of the games that came through for approval for the Super NES was Mortal Kombat. Some may remember the whole hub bub back then about having all that blood on screen, and in the end we, Nintendo, requested that it be removed from the game. Personally, I wanted to see it stay in the game, but management at the time was more concerned about the company’s family friendly image. This was all pre-ESRB. One of the cool things was we were sent an actual arcade unit for us to “review” the game for content. I just remember my boss coming by my desk 2 to 3 times a day saying “Hans, I need you to help me ‘review’ this game.” What was I going to say, “no”? C’mon, get paid to play Mortal Kombat, who would say no to that?

Keep it tuned here; as we learn more about UMK, we'll be sure to report it. Our thanks to Hans Lo for taking the time to sit down and talk to us about the game!