MKK: Smoke & Blaze

Here’s your ninja cowboy robot demon cyborg for the franchise.

He's human!

Smoke was introduced as Hidden Ninja Male #2. Like Reptile, he was intended to be little more than a playground rumor, and could be battled by pressing down + start on both controllers when the digitized head of Dan “Toasty” Forden appeared on the screen (a random occurrence usually prompted by an uppercut). –Look, it was the 90’s. There was weirder stuff in NBA Jam. It had Hilary Clinton.– Anywho, Smoke was simply a gray palette-swap of Scorpion, and his defining trait was that he was enveloped in the “smoke” graphical effect that was usually reserved for a few toasty fatalities. Like when his fellow hidden characters initially appeared, there was no real explanation for Smoke’s existence.

And then things got real complicated, real fast.

It was revealed that Smoke, like Sub-Zero, was a member of the Lin Kuei assassin’s guild. And, like Sub-Zero, he was bumming around Mortal Kombat 2 to complete a hit on Shang Tsung. But, as everyone noticed Shang Tsung continued to be alive after two separate tournaments, the Lin Kuei started to lose face on account of their blemished kill count. Lin Kuei leadership decided that robots were the answer, and, after “cyberizing” two willing participants, Smoke and Sub-Zero were next on the chopping (off flesh) block. Smoke and Sub-Zero attempted to escape, but only Sub-Zero was successful. Smoke was captured, and transformed into a vaguely blue-gray robot in need of a decent muffler.

He's a robot!

Smoke was different from the other metal boys, though. Smoke, unlike Cyrax and Sector, retained his soul and some level of autonomy. He was still programmed to hunt and kill Sub-Zero the (fleshy) traitor, but, upon finding his former blood brother, he broke free of Lin Kuei control, and officially joined the forces of good. Hooray! Unfortunately, Smoke was still kind of a crappy ninja-robot, and he was defeated by Shao Kahn’s hordes somewhere along the way. He was dragged back to Outworld (maybe as a trophy, or maybe so Kano could have a new robot buddy), and Sub-Zero… kinda forgot Smoke ever existed. Maybe he just assumed the poor ‘bot exploded while no one was looking? I don’t know. Point is that Smoke was deactivated and left in Shao Kahn’s tower for a solid number of games.

While Smoke’s robot brothers saw a few more adventures over the course of the franchise, Smoke himself did not return until Mortal Kombat: Deception (basically MK6). By this point, Noob Saibot (the original Sub-Zero and another hidden character of Mortal Kombat 2) was unemployed and looking for a new startup opportunity. He decided robots were the future, and stumbled upon the deactivated Smoke. Noob decided he was going to start his own robot ninja army, and chose to revive Smoke with a new, demonic upgrade. What is the kanon explanation for how the undead ninja transformed and resurrected a long-dead cyborg? I think you know!

NANOMACHINES!

So Cyborg-Ninja-Demon Smoke was reborn as Noob’s slave, and the duo became a tag team that wound up dominating the coveted “sub boss” rung on the ladder of Mortal Kombat: Deception. However, technically, they had nothing to do with the big bad of that adventure (The Dragon King), and, aside from generally menacing Sub-Zero (II), they didn’t really do much together. They returned as separate characters with similar goals in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and Smoke started to regrow his own conscience/consciousness when Sub-Zero once again appealed to his cyber-humanity. Smoke was theoretically free of Noob’s influence by the end of MK:A… but then the universe reset, so it didn’t matter a puff.
He's a demon robot!

Mortal Kombat 9 was “only” a modified retelling of Mortal Kombat 1-3, but the title also decided to provide a complete backstory for Smoke. Smoke has always had smoke-based magic, and, like Sub-Zero’s ice or Liu Kang’s fire, it was always kind of assumed this was just some special power, and, who cares how he got it? I saw a yogi breathe fire once, it doesn’t matter if it was because he ate too much curry or was blessed by a god. But, for whatever reason, Smoke was granted a backstory that apparently went back to his infancy. Smoke was once a wee baby named Tom, but was abducted by a cult (it’s the MK Universe, so we’re going to assume this was a cult of ninja), and sacrificed to some generic demon. Tommy Boy died, but his physical form returned as an enenra (a “real” Japanese mythical creature/yōkai), a sort of smoke monster. The enenra killed everyone in the room, and then returned to simply being baby Tomas. Some Lin Kuei were in the next apartment over, heard the carnage caused by one hell of a baby, and decided to adopt and raise the demon child. Couple in some random amnesia that was caused by the whole situation, and Tomas grew up believing he was simply a normal boy ninja that incidentally possessed magical smoke powers.

He's human!  Kinda!

So, to be clear, Smoke has apparently been an undead smoke demon from day one. This will be important in a minute.

Back to what actually happens during Mortal Kombat 9. During this iteration of Mortal Kombat 2/3, Sub-Zero is captured by the Lin Kuei, and Smoke escapes (mostly thanks to Raiden attempting to stymy the annoying unlock conditions for Cyber Smoke). So, on the surface level, their roles are reversed: a human Smoke revives the humanity within a Cyber Sub-Zero. Cool! Then, just when things are looking up for Smoke (for once!), he gets his fool ass killed in a battle with Sindel, Queen of the Banshees. Like all of the other defeated heroes, Smoke is revived by Quan-Chi as an undead servant in his armies.

But… wait.

Smoke was already an undead demon, he just happened to possess a human form thanks to what appeared to be an unholy clerical error. And we can’t even claim this was some kind of unintended retkon, as this whole “undead” thing happened in the very title where his demonic origins were introduced. And, while Smoke is not a playable character in Mortal Kombat X, he returns during story mode just long enough to claim he will no longer be known as “Smoke”, but is now “Enenra” (dude is not great at coming up with interesting codenames). So the Mortal Kombat writers are leaning completely into this “revelation”.

He's demon human!

What does this mean? Basically, Smoke is a former-robot ninja undead smoke demon that died and came back as a double-undead demon from hell.

He’s one of Mortal Kombat’s more straightforward kharacters.

Next time: We’ll cover the four-armed subboss of… Wait. There’s another hidden character? No, that can’t be right. We just covered Jade and Smoke, and Noob Saibot appeared during the Sub-Zero I rundown. There’s another one? Can I get a picture?

Look closer...

No. We already covered those doofs. What? Zoom in and enhance?

There he is!

Oh! Right! It’s 4:20 somewhere, let’s cover Blaze.

Blaze’s backstory goes way back to the beginning of the MK Universe, and we’ll cover the finer details of that story when we cover Edenia’s two large adult sons in a few game’s time. For right now, we’ll look at the basics: Blaze is a fire elemental (shocking, I know), and it was his job to be involved in the single stupidest idea the gods of the MK Universe (who already base dimensional conquest on fighting tournaments) ever devised. When the time was right, Blaze was destined to “awaken” and battle some random dudes to determine the fate of the universe as we know it.

Unfortunately, Blaze got kidnapped like seven seconds into this plan, and, geez, you’d really think someone would have made sure that wouldn’t happen. Come on, gods, could you guys have set up like one firewall for your firedude?

Toasty!

Anyway, Blaze got brainwashed, and was forced to guard the egg of the Dragon King, the only way for Onaga to revive after his untimely death of being poisoned and smacked around with a hammer by Shao Kahn for a solid two days. Blaze was stuck hanging around some lava and guarding the egg, but he did get a brief sabbatical during Mortal Kombat 2 to go out and play in the background of the Pit II stage. Incidentally, some versions of Blaze’s story claim that he was kidnapped after that fight in Mortal Kombat 2, but MK: Armageddon clearly states that Blaze got stuck guarding the egg hundreds of years ago (when the antagonist of that tale awakens and founds the Red Dragons), and MK Kontinuity would never have such a glaring error. It just isn’t done!

Onaga’s Egg becomes a plot point during MK: Deadly Alliance, and Blaze becomes an actual playable (though extremely hidden) kharacter. This was all meant to be a lead-up to the finale of the PS2-era MK trilogy, and certainly wasn’t an excuse for Boon to once again introduce a hidden kharacter that he could claim was “there all along”. Blaze is distinctly introduced as an amnesiac, and, having been freed from his egg-duty by completely failing to guard the egg against a vampire, lizard, and robot, Blaze was free to roam the countryside and beat up random kombatants. He also returned for MK: Deception’s PSP-based revision, Unchained, and, since the plot of MK: Annihilation was starting to coalesce, Blaze finally remembered it was his job to fight dudes to find the dudest of them all. Sweet! He’s been kind of doing his job all along!

He's fiery!

Blaze became the final boss of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation when he happened to remember that he had nigh-infinite, literally godly power. Blaze was only supposed to test the mettle of a pair of cranky brothers, but, since he had spent the previous two games getting pistol-whipped by the likes of Kano and Kobra, Blaze decided to invite literally everybody in the Mortal Kombat universe to his special fighting ziggurat. Everybody killed everybody else for the glory of finally battling Blaze, and, in the end, Shao Kahn managed to win the tournament after nearly killing Raiden. This would have led to Shao Kahn gaining Blaze’s nigh-omnipotent (though apparently easily forgotten) power, so Raiden called a do-over on the whole universe.

He's tiny!

Now Blaze is back to hanging out in Pit backgrounds and guarding dragon eggs in the “new” Mortal Kombat universe. Sorry, you not-so-human torch.

Next time: The boss(es) of the place.

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