Category Archives: Mortal Kombat Komplete

MKK: Mavado & Hsu Hao

Mortal Kombat Special Forces nuked the Mortal Kombat franchise. This fact was not lost on the producers of the next MK game to come down the pike, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. While Jax and Sonya were always going to be iconic heroes in the franchise, the villains of the piece, Kano and the Black Dragons, needed to be punished (why is Kano smiling?). Someone had to pay the price for leading that trash, and it may as well be the gang that was already a bunch of losers.

And if there’s one thing Mavado is good at, it’s punishing losers.

SPROING

To explain Mavado (original design name: Malvado Q. Badguy), we have to look at the two crime syndicates of the MK universe: the Red Dragons and the Black Dragons. The Red Dragons were started thousands of years ago by a wayward immortal godling that was starting his incredibly convoluted plan to eventually take over the universe(s) and show his brother that mom loved him best. That dork gets an entire game to himself, so we’ll cover that nonsense later, but for now just know that the Red Dragons have been around for a long, long time (and there was an actual dragon involved). And in that time, they earned a reputation of… not having a reputation. In a move that shows just how stealthy and professional they are (and is not at all a complete asspull used to explain why no one had ever heard of these dudes before MK: Deadly Alliance), the Red Dragons operate in complete shadow and subterfuge, so even entire organizations tasked with their eradication don’t know for certain that they exist. They are ghosts, and not big silly braggarts like all those ninja clans running around. Red Dragons are the real deal, and they’re so much better than any Black Dragons you may have heard about.

In fact, the Black Dragons used to be Red Dragons, but the two clans split sometime around the early 1900s (and MK lore actually claims this was thanks to real-life dude Morihei Ueshiba, who threw in with a [real] Japanese nationalistic political party… the Black Dragons). There isn’t much of an explanation for the split, but the official word is that the Red Dragons wanted to remain secret and elusive, while the Black Dragon faction wanted to be out and proud. So, basically, it was a managerial disagreement over the marketing department. It happens. Whatever the case, a hundred years later, Kano wound up leader of the Black Dragons, and Mavado was the leader of the Red Dragons. They had apparently maintained an uneasy truce up until around the time of the first Mortal Kombat when Kano kind of disrupted the alliance when… Okay, I’m not going to get into details, but long story short, Kano had this overweight St. Bernard, loaded it up with hotdogs and laxatives, and then invited the puppers to the Red Dragon HQ. It was unpleasant for everybody, and Mavado never forgave the wannabe cyborg for the transgression (and the fact that they had to buy a whole new couch, and Mavado really liked that couch). Mavado vowed to kill every last Black Dragon.

SPROING

And, ya know what? He didn’t have to try very hard at that. Turns out Mortal Kombat tournaments and Kano’s piss poor management style (uh, he literally pisses on poor subordinates) had whittled down the Black Dragon ranks to a mere two members. Actually, it was just one member, as MK3’s Kabal had officially left the organization of his own accord. This didn’t matter to Mavado, though, as he killed Kabal anyway, and took his signature hookswords as a prize. This left Kano as the only surviving Black Dragon member (/leader/treasurer/janitor), and Mavado decided to step out of the shadows to end the Black Dragons once and for all. Mavado struck up an alliance with Shang Tsung to kill Kenshi in exchange for Kano’s whereabouts (and, spoilers, Kano was also on Shang’s payroll).

So Mavado joined the fray for Deadly Alliance. As befitting a debonair and elusive criminal, Mavado attacked primarily with… slinkies. They’re fun for a girl or a boy! Okay, technically he’s supposed to have some kind of “grappling hook” thing going on for his signature moves, which is supposed to be evocative of cat burglars and alike. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite come across in his moves or animations, and what we have here is less Batman’s trusty grapple, and more like Dampé’s stretching, shrinking keepsake. Mavado, complete with black trench coat and most-competent thief ever backstory, seems like he was conceived to be the coolest cat in the franchise (after they ditched the whole “matador” angle that appeared in some design documents), but failed at the finish line when all his best moves were more appropriate for Clayfighter.

SPROING

So Mavado didn’t survive Deadly Alliance. He was successful in nearly killing Kenshi (at least wounding him to the point that he wouldn’t decapitate Shang Tsung this week), and the Deadly Alliance was true to their word, and handed over Kano. Mavado escorted Kano to his natural habitat (a dungeon), and then… died. Mavaod’s previous prey, Kabal, was revived by a random chaos cleric (is there any other kind?), and extracted a revenge on Mavado that was so complete, Mavado’s corpse appeared as part of Kabal’s bio screen. That really should have been the end of Mavado, but he did return for MK: Armageddon, as literally everyone returned for that game. There, he died again, for the final time.

Mavado hasn’t been seen since in MK proper, but he did appear in the MKX comics. He’s still got a major mad-on for Kano and all Black Dragons, and he largely sneaks around the borders of the story as a tricky, scheming criminal. And then he makes his appearance known to the heroes… and Cassie Cage bisects him with his own hookswords. Hey! Guess he still had one more death left in him!

While we’re talking about Black Dragons, we may as well cover Hsu Hao. Hsu Hao is one of Mavado’s subordinates, and the man tasked with infiltrating Jax’s Special Forces, and pointing any investigations away from Red Dragons, and squarely onto Black Dragons. So far, so good, right? Pretty typical story here: the mole. The viper in the garden. The criminal that is so good at infiltration and deception that he has successfully tricked the forces of good into believing that….

Wait a tick.

I’m sorry, it’s this guy?

Right in the glowys

Holy crap, Jax. You guys trusted a bloke with a glowing weakpoint on his chest? I mean, dude, I don’t want to sound racist or anything, but don’t do that. You hire a jackass with a shining, red cybernetic on his chest, and you’ve clearly hired a boss monster. And you know what boss monsters do? They fight you! They blow up your base! Who the hell is in charge of hiring at Special Forces?

Whatever. Hsu Hao, possibly because he was the worst double-agent ever, possibly because of his lame "wrestling" fighting style, or possibly because his design was kind of vaguely racist from the get-go (is he seriously yellow?), is one of the most hated and ignored kharacters in the franchise. John Vogel, half of the Johns that developed the first Mortal Kombat, almost pulled a Poochy by stating during MK: Deception’s development that Jax killed Hsu Hao, and that’s kanon, and he’s never coming back. He, of course, did return for MK: Armageddon, but he has literally no plot, and he’s theoretically only there for completion’s sake.

Hsu Hao did resurface in the Mortal Kombat X comic. He got in a pretty good sneak attack on Kenshi, and was then immediately speared in the weakpoint by Scorpion. Dude never had a chance. His corpse cameos in Mortal Kombat 11 as a head in a bag.

Right in the glowys

And, give or take the previously mentioned founder of the Red Dragons that is introduced in MK:A, Hsu Hao is the only other named member of the Red Dragons in the franchise. Way to establish that team of champions, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance! Let’s just stick to ninja next time.

Next time: Bloodsuckers and boogey men

MKK: Bo’ Rai Cho & Li Mei

People have a tendency to underestimate how important “special moves” are to fighting game characters. The original Mortal Kombat only had five actors to go around, but they managed to squeeze another two characters onto the roster by dressing Johnny Cage up like a ninja and painting him various colors. And “Blue Ninja” and “Yellow Ninja” could have been forgettable roster-filler, but they wound up as arguably the most recognizable dudes in the franchise. Why? Well, who doesn’t like ice magic? And Scorpion’s distinctive “Get over here!” and fiery skull head leave an impression. Two quickie photocopy characters became the faces of the franchise almost entirely because of their iconic special moves.

BARF

Bo’ Rai Cho has a number of iconic special moves. They mostly involve puking and farting. And he’s the last kharacter from the MK5/6/7 trilogy to see a revival past Mortal Kombat 9.

According to interviews, Ed Boon wanted to see some new body types in MK: DA, and demanded a “slobby” fighter to contrast with the rest of the MK kast (which, yes, all appear to be rejects from the popular film Invasion of the Ab-ulons from the Planet Swole). This makes a certain amount of sense, as Mortal Kombat literally had more reptile fighters than tubby guys. And, while we’re still working on the technology to render anything but a slim, buxom woman on modern consoles, Bo’ Rai Cho’s meaty frame premiered back on the PS2.

And if you’re going to make a character a “slob”, you can’t just let the dude be “thick”, you have to go full hog.

“Borracho” is Spanish for “drunk”. Bo’ Rai Cho predominantly practices drunken fist style martial arts. His most distinctive special move involves vomiting on the floor and causing his opponent to slip. Another of his special moves is the “bump ‘n dump”, and it’s exactly what you think it is. He has a fatality that involves a combustible fart, and it is finished with an exclamation of “That was a wet one.”

Are you not entertained?

But he’s not just one stereotype! Bo’ Rai Cho is not a drunk, but a drunken master. BRC fills the previously unoccupied position as mentor to a number of different fighters (well, at least three), and basically hangs out with Raiden on the “Dad Tier” of Mortal Kombat kharacters. That’s… something?

BARF

To get into the details of Bo’s general existence, we’re looking at an Outworlder that is (for once) not an angry mutant. Like many quasi-humans in the franchise, he’s hundreds of years old, and has been training warriors for centuries. However, he does not train fighters for Outworld, but realms that oppose his home dimension. Why? Well, Bo’ Rai Cho opposes Shao Kahn’s rule, but, were he to compete in an MK tournament himself, he would technically be winning for Shao Kahn. This is because, a while back, his buddy was running for city council, so he registered to vote in his local Outworld municipality, but now he can’t figure out how to change his residential status. It’s a pain in the ass.

But Bo’ Rai Cho did train Liu Kang. It was Bo’ that taught the hero of Mortal Kombat his iconic bicycle kick, and it was that very bicycle kick that saved the Earth on four separate occasions. However, a bicycle kick can’t solve all your problems, and Shang Tsung murdered Liu Kang at the start of Deadly Alliance. Because the events of Deadly Alliance weren’t technically a sanctioned (by the Elder Gods) Mortal Kombat tournament, Bo’ Rai Cho decided to get off his butt and do a little fighting/vomiting of his own to avenge his fallen student. He also trained Kung Lao to defeat Shang Tsung during this time. That worked out really well, because Kung Lao went on to fight Shang Tsung, and only died once. That’s pretty good for Kung Lao!

Bo’ Rai Cho did rescue Li Mei during Deadly Alliance, though, and we’ll cover that little bit of failure during her section. After earning another loser student, Bo’ Rai Cho worked to amass the good (relatively speaking) forces of Outworld against The Dragon King and Baraka’s knife-boy hordes. He was successful in stopping the Tarkatans, at least, but mostly thanks to the reappearance of Liu Kang’s ghost. So, once again, Bo’ Rai Cho’s greatest victory was hanging out with Liu Kang. It apparently doesn’t matter if he was alive or not.

Bo’ Rai Cho… uh.. participated in MK: Armageddon. He helped out the good guys. He died. Then the universe died. I’m probably going to type that a lot in the coming biographies.

BARF

But Bo’ Rai Cho did make a return in the rebooted universe!

Bo’ Rai Cho wound up as playable DLC in Mortal Kombat X. Technically, his “arcade mode” story/bio takes place before the events of the MKX’s story proper. Bo’ is concerned that Shinnok might revive, and is looking for Raiden. That’s a good plan! Unfortunately for Bo’, though, his presence in story mode picks up after he has found Raiden, helps for like ten seconds, and is then mortally wounded by Shinnok. Bo’s current status is unknown, but it’s generally assumed he’s death-farting on the pile of corpses that is labeled “Raiden’s allies”.

And, yes, of all the fighters introduced in Mortal Kombat 5,6, and 7, only Kenshi, Frost, and Bo’ Rai Cho ever make another playable appearance. Though we do get one extra Deadly Alliance story cameo in Mortal Kombat X. Let’s look at Li Mei.

Look away!
(Face modeling was not easy on the PS2)

As far as conception goes, Li Mei is Bo’ Rai Cho’s polar opposite. It seems she was designed to present well (a conventionally attractive woman that looks fit and prepared to fight), but her story positions her as a novice in the world of martial arts (which is the only thing that matters in the Mortal Kombat universe). Unfortunately, unlike Bo’ Rai Cho, her designers forgot to hang any sort of hook on that setup, and Li Mei’s special moves (and general moves, for that matter) are wholly forgettable. She comes from the hazy “fireball and a jump kick” school that saw so much success for Johnny Cage and Liu Kang, but, as a random “support” kharacter (and not one of the towering heroes of the piece), that just isn’t going to cut it. Without a flaming skull or the ability to puke on command, Li Mei almost instantly fades into the halls of forgotten Mortal Kombat fighters.

Li Mei at least has a moderately interesting origin concept: she’s supposed to be your average Outworlder. After a series of games where it seemed like the only residents of Outworld were sword-mutants, lizards, and filthy wizards, Li Mei was introduced as simply your average Outworld villager. And, as you might expect, that’s a pretty crappy situation to be in. Li Mei and her entire village was enslaved at the start of Deadly Alliance, but, knowing exactly how prisons work, Li Mei knocked the tar out of Kano on her first day. This drew the attention of Quan Chi, who decided that Li Mei would gain her freedom if she won the loose tournament that was the Deadly Alliance epoch. She got a little training from Shujinko (we’ll get into that goober next game), and went on to do pretty well! She did so well, in fact, that Quan Chi and Shang Tsung decided to transfer her soul into a random immortal corpse for use in the Dragon King’s army. She was not happy with that outcome. And that, in the business world, is known as the Peter Principle.

Going down?

But Li Mei was rescued from her lethal promotion by Bo’ Rai Cho, because MK is not going to let a sexy lady model go to waste in a corpse Bo’ Rai Cho is a good guy. Li Mei’s soul is returned to her body, but it seems some of the dragon soldier taint came along with the transfer, so now Li Mei is less “naïve neophyte” and more “bloodthirsty revenge monster”. This didn’t change a thing about her boring special moves, but it did mean she traded in her old duds for some (sexy lady shaped) armor. And she got a sword! And her MK: Deception ending revealed that, had this version of Li Mei been allowed to flourish, she likely would have gone all-in on the whole “evil and serving the Dragon King” thing. That never happened, though, as Li Mei earned the dubious honor of being kanonically the first fighter to die at the start of MK: Armageddon. This was the event where literally everyone died, but, hey, good to have someone designated as first in line.

Li Mei does pop up in Mortal Kombat X, though. She’s not a fighter, but she does lead her village from Outworld to Earthrealm when a magically empowered Mileena threatens her people. Cool! And, in a weird dimensional echo, she once again jobs Kano, this time by ratting him out for being a weird, shifty dude with a robotic eye. This leads to the Special Forces capturing the fugitive Kano, so thanks, Li Mei, you didn’t even need a battle bikini to be useful in this rebooted universe. Cheers all around!

Still not great with faces

Of course, most people probably didn’t even recognize that Li Mei was supposed to be anybody when she made her little cameo, so she really only gets partial credit. Maybe if she had some more special moves that involved farts she’d have made the DLC cut.

Next time: Dragons of a different color.

MKK: Frost

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance introduced all new, all unique fighting styles to its kast of kharacters. However, something was lost along the way. Familiar fighters like Johnny Cage and Liu Kang had acquired long lists of special moves over their tenures in the MK franchise. And that makes perfect sense! The only way to truly distinguish a kombatant in MK previously was special moves, and the more special moves, the better. Unfortunately, the new system put a premium on distinctive fighting styles, and was absolutely not built for designing new kharacters with two unique fighting styles, one unique weapon style, and seven or so unique special moves. So the newbies only got a special move or two, and the old guard got their signature specials moves gutted down to nothing.

Chilly today

This had an interesting impact on some of the fighters’ longevity. Sonya Blade or Johnny Cage, for instance, were never really defined by their special moves, so it wasn’t really a big loss that Sonya wasn’t tossing around pink energy rings anymore. Some, like Scorpion, gained a move that seemed like it should have always been there (the ability to summon hell fire), but retained the signature move (throwing spear) that everyone expected, and no one really noticed a missing teleport. However, unfortunately, some were defined by their special moves more than anything else. Sub-Zero gained Shotokan and Dragon fighting styles, and a sword entirely made of ice, but nothing there really screamed “this is how you would fight if you had access to ice magic” (can’t he just keep his enormous sword in his pants like everybody else?). His special moves were reduced from his ice blast, ice avalance, ice slick, ice clone, and sliding kick of Mortal Kombat Trilogy to simply an ice blast, a “cold shoulder” substitute for the slide, and the “Ice shaker”, which was like his ice clone, but less adaptive. And that’s it! We’ve got an ice wizard, but he’s just going to toss around mundane punches like everybody else. Can’t we do better? If everyone has to cut down on special moves, can’t we have, like, another ice wizard?

Here’s Ice Wizard #2 (or at least “#2 with a different name”). Meet Frost, the Deadly Alliance proprietor of Sub-Zero’s ice slick and sliding kick.

Hot tamale

As you may recall, Sub-Zero was promoted to leader of the Lin Kuei assassin’s guild after the Grand Master was killed by his robot son. Sub-Zero gained a magical medallion, augmented ice powers, and a club full of murderers that should more or less follow his orders. Sub-Zero decided that his promotion was an excellent time for performance reviews, so he sponsored a wee fighting tournament to gauge everyone’s skills (fighting tournaments are all Sub-Zero knows). Frost emerged victorious, and won the coveted position as Sub-Zero’s direct disciple. Of course, there was a lot of concerned muttering among the Lin Kuei rabble, because, come on, there are like two ice wizards in this clan, and now they’re both hanging out together? Nepotism much?

So Frost became the first “generations” kharacter in the Mortal Kombat mythos: the direct underling and obvious “child” of a more famous MK fighter. This would become practically the entire basis for Mortal Kombat X, but a solid five games earlier, here’s Frost, all hoping senpai notices her. Actually, strike that, Frost distinctly doesn’t want Sub-Zero to notice her, as it turned out her grand plan for Deadly Alliance was to pal around with Sub-Zero, be a general cuss to everyone, and then find the exact right moment to betray Subs and steal his shiny new medallion. And she actually succeeds in her heist! Frost deceives Sub-Zero and steals his jewelry, but it doesn’t work out quite how she expected. The Dragon Medallion imparts too much ice power to Frost, and she’s trapped in an ice cocoon summoned by her own overflowing power. So Frost is a popsicle by the end of her debut game.

Hot tamale

Now, in the real world, freezing to death is a legitimate way to die. Sub-Zero, despite all evidence to the contrary, believed he lived in the real world, and stuck the frozen Frost in an Outworld freezer/crypt, and nabbed some chill armor before hitting the ol’ dusty road. Unfortunately for Sub-Zero’s clan, Frost was merely temporarily frozen, and she thawed out in time for the PSP port of Mortal Kombat Deception (MK: Unchained). She took being buried alive poorly, and decided she was going to kill the heck out of Sub-Zero. She returned home, found she had beaten her former boss back to the business, and switched to just wholesale murdering everyone in the clan. Or she was insane, and only saw everyone as Sub-Zero. Given literally everything this woman does post-Deadly Alliance is wholly homicidal, it’s possible she was just murdering everyone, but didn’t feel like learning anyone’s name. Or maybe the Lin Kuei really need to get more distinctive uniforms. Whatever the case, Frost went on a rampage, and when daddy finally did get home, she was re-frozen in her own little time out chamber. Taven, the extremely confused protagonist of MK: Armageddon, reawaked Frost when he was just swinging by Lin Kuei HQ for some party supplies (they always seem to have an excess of ice cubes), and Frost once again went on a murder spree that probably ended right about when she and her entire universe was obliterated. She went out doing what she loved.

As the unofficial daughter of Sub-Zero (and official third cousin once removed), you may have expected Frost to pop up again in the new timeline of Mortal Kombat X. After all, random washouts like Kenshi and Kung Lao got to have “second generation” kharacters taking up their respective torches, and reboot Sub-Zero once again became the leader of the Lin Kuei, so this would be a fine time for Frost to return to service. And she did appear in Mortal Kombat X! As a ten second cameo that confirmed that, yes, Frost is still around, and she’s still crazier than a partially frozen rat. Frost pops in for five seconds to declare that she is not happy with Sub-Zero’s decision to become super best friends with Scorpion (which, considering the whole “keeps trying to murder you” thing, seems like a valid concern, even if it is coming from someone actively trying to murder you), but is swatted aside by the combined might of Scorpion and Sub-Zero. Sub-Zero just goes ahead and leaves Frost a frozen statue thawing out on the balcony while the adults continue their conversation uninterrupted. The general feeling there is that Sub-Zero is trying with Frost, but, dude, ice magic doesn’t make you a decent dad.

Hot tamale

But Frost gets to return as a real kharacter and (marginal) threat in Mortal Kombat 11. Long story short (we’ll get there), Kronika, Elder God of (All) Time, is recruiting a collection of psychopaths (and Jax) to beat up the good guys (or what passes for such in MK) while she busies herself with resetting the whole of the universe. One of her earliest recruits is Frost, as Kronika only seems capable of recruiting people overwhelmingly known for their treachery (and Jax). However, the timeline on “this” Frost is a little murky. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Frost is now a robot. Or, more specifically, a cyborg. She seems to have more fleshy bits than the usual MK cyborgs (and I’m sure that has nothing to do with a female cyborg cutting a more feminine silhouette than her male contemporaries), but she also can and will routinely launch her severed head at opponents. It’s pretty clear the mechanical side of her biology is doing the heavy lifting. Regardless, we don’t know the specifics of when she became a robot. It is entirely possible that she was “cyberized” thanks to (time-displaced) Sektor. It is also possible Kronika personally gave her some manner of upgrade, as she was able to produce new super arms for Jax at a moment’s notice (or, again, Sektor was responsible for those). And, of course, there’s the more interesting explanation that this Frost is from some manner of nebulous “future”, and is technically the Terminator of the franchise (ya know, before the actual Terminator showed up) called back in time to wreck the measly humans of the present. Whatever the reason, Frost is now an entirely unique fighter with her crazy ice-robot moves… or at least she’s totally different from that time Sub-Zero became a robot. She’s not a copy, dammit! She’s her own person! Who accomplishes nothing!

Anywho, aside from killing Fujin (off-screen), Robo Frost doesn’t exactly have an illustrious career before that iteration of the universe implodes, so she’s pretty consistently “just kinda there” throughout the series. Photocopied origins, fascinating direction for a protégé archetype, but, in the end, there isn’t much to Sub-Zero’s tsundere pupil. At least Sub-Zero’s slide found a passable home.

Don't lose your head

Next time: Try not to puke.

MKK: Kenshi Takahashi

So Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, Mortal Kombat Advance (don’t ask), and most of all Mortal Kombat: Special Forces combined to form an evil Voltron (Sincline) that ultimately killed the Mortal Kombat franchise for a good number of years. There was a two year gap between Special Forces and any sort of MK game, and a four year gap between fighting game installments. Four years might not seem like a long time to old and wizened gamers such as ourselves, but, to put that timespan in perspective, it only took a little over four years for Mario to de-age from a perfectly competent plumber to a useless, football-esque infant. Can you imagine what could happen to the Mortal Kombat franchise in that same span of time? Johnny Cage might become some manner of fighting fetus!

He can't see much

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was the first fighting game to see the return of the franchise. It was the official fifth game in the franchise (the logo looked like a deadly roman numeral), and it sought to right what once went wrong with Mortal Kombat 4. First of all, MK: DA ported the familiar fighters of Mortal Kombat into the third dimension in a way that didn’t completely suck. Finally, MK had graduated to graphical fidelity that would put War Gods to shame. And the gameplay had improved in this strange new dimension, too. Moving in 3-D space was bizarre and clunky (klunky?) in MK4, but MK: DA included side-stepping that actually felt smooth and remotely natural. MK was (and, seemingly, always would be) a 2-D affair (there are too many flying spears that would have to be adjusted to be infinitely wide to truly be 3-D), but MK: DA faked it well enough to make us all believe Mortal Kombat had entered the 21st century with uppercuts a-blazin’.

But the other gigantic change to the Mortal Kombat formula was that MK: Deadly Alliance was the first MK title to introduce a little bit of variety to the fighters. Previously, every kharacter had unique special moves, combos, and fatalities, but possessed “basic” movesets that were exactly the same. Sonya Blade’s roundhouse was exactly the same as Kano’s. Give or take a few pixels, every combatant was virtually identical when using anything but their generally unique fireballs and alike. MK4 made the babiest of baby steps toward some differentiation by granting each fighter a unique weapon… but this was unbalanced to the point that Fujin could snipe his opponents with a crossbow while Kai stumbled around with a staff. MK: DA, meanwhile, granted everyone an exclusive weapon and two distinctive fighting styles. Everyone was now completely dissimilar, random select felt more diverse than ever, and style switching was optimized for home console controllers, so going from roundhouses to sword slices was just a shoulder button away. This was a whole new era for Mortal Kombat!

He can't see much

Of course, not everyone liked it. One could easily argue that the appeal of the old MK system was that the fighters weren’t distinct, and claiming Scorpion or Kitana as your favorite didn’t mean you had to relearn how to play the game. Now, if you chose Reptile for his sweet acid spits, you had to also learn how to effectively use his crab fighting style, and restrain your laughter as this Yoshi-looking mofo scuttled across the battlefield. Fighters now had an “ease of use” rating, and, let me tell you, you didn’t used to have to figure out whether or not “ice throwing guy” was going to properly conform to your “playstyle”. In short, taking every kharacter from “0 variety” to “3 fighting styles each” very possibly overcomplicated the previously straightforward gameplay of the franchise.

And, heralding this brave new day of density is Kenshi Takahashi, the most complicated new fighter from the era.

Kenshi must possess the most archetypes crammed into any one fighter’s backstory. Kenshi was originally a Ryu-esque world warrior looking to be the best fighter. He eventually stumbled upon a helpful old man that claimed he could help Kenshi find a magical sword worthy of his fighting prowess. Unfortunately, that old man proved to be Shang Tsung, who was using Kenshi to uncover some magical crypt of fighting ancestors. Kenshi gained his own private Excalibur, but a curse upon the sword blinded the fighter, so now he was stuck with being a sightless master for the rest of his days. Shang Tsung ate some souls, but whatever leftovers were around possessed the sword and guided Kenshi, so he’s also got some soulcalibur wiz biz going on. And, as any Neurospear will tell you (I have decided to go all in on esoteric references now), losing your sight will increase your telepathic abilities, so Kenshi possesses both telekinesis and general mind control powers. And he’s probably really good at making sushi. And if he was on the Star Trek Enterprise, everyone would be his friend, and he’d totally be running the place by the end of the week. Captain Picard would cry happy tears.

Blindy

As you might expect from that origin story, Kenshi really wants to stab Shang Tsung but good, and he’s willing to use his two separate fighting styles and one magic sword-based weapon style to do it. He joined up with Sonya and the Special Forces sometime around Deadly Alliance in order to gain access to Outworld (apparently generating portals is one of the few powers he does not possess), and volunteered to help out Cyrax in exchange for access to sweet, sweet Shang Tsung murder. Better men than you have tried, Kenshi! Unfortunately, Kenshi never gets his chance, as Mavado (look forward to that bio!) was tasked with killing the swordsman, and world class fighter Kenshi here got his ass kicked. Kenshi spent the finale of Deadly Alliance lying dead in a ditch, but was rescued by Sub-Zero, who was similarly waylaid on his way to the final battle. They instantly became sword buddies, and ventured around having whacky adventures and distributing snow cones to Outworld children. So all Kenshi did during Mortal Kombat: Deception was bump around in the dark like some kind of dude with severe vision impairment.

But things were really looking up in Mortal Kombat Armageddon! Kenshi found his way back home, and decided to drop the pretense and just straight up become Daredevil. He dismantled criminal empires “from the shadows”, and probably would have had time to complete his law degree if another stupid Mortal Kombat tournament didn’t pop up. Kenshi actively decided to refuse the call when he not only heard murmurings of the Armageddon plot amongst the criminal elements, but also when Johnny Cage straight up invited the dude to come along and fight for the forces of good. But Kenshi’s ol’ reliable psychic powers kicked in when the battle began in earnest, so he turned his car around and lead the forces of good at Armageddon (which is apparently in Edenia). Kenshi probably did lead the armies of general friendliness well, but he definitely died, too, so he couldn’t have been that great of a general.

Blindy

Not like it mattered, though, as Kenshi got a second shot as one of the few “later” MK kharacters to appear in the rebooted universe. That’s right, boys and girls, we’re almost out of fighters that bother to show up for MK9 and later! Kenshi was DLC for MK9, and only appeared in the storymode as a name check during nuMK2. But his DLC appearance confirms that he has the same backstory, and he’s out to get all blind justice on Shang Tsung. Unfortunately, he whiffs that blow again, and is now 0 for 2 in two different universes on actually exacting vengeance. That’s a fairly impressive loss record when you consider how many times Shang Tsung has been killed by other people.

Smarting from that loss, Kenshi decided to find comfort in the arms of a woman. Or maybe he did earlier? Look, what’s important is that Kenshi met a woman by the name of Suchin, had wild, probably telekinetic sex, and then didn’t think to use any of his powers for birth control. Suchin had a kid a few (probably, like, nine) months later, but, by that time, Kenshi had already knocked off to the pub for a cig. Kenshi did not learn of his son, Takeda, until years later when Suchin was murdered for the crime of being a woman in a man’s story. Kenshi was then granted custody of his only son… and immediately dropped the kid off with Scorpion. Scorpion. You know, the one guy in Mortal Kombat who kanonically got his son killed as a result of being an assassin for hire (or whatever the hell he was doing in MK Mythologies). Father of the freaking year. No, I don’t care if he’s a recovering fire skeleton that needs something new to focus on. That is a poor choice, Kenshi. Regardless, Takeda winds up in the care of Scorpion so he can become the next generation of Shirai Ryu ninja, and Kenshi ventures forth to knock off to the pub for a cig avenge his baby mama’s death. Unfortunately, the outcome of that quest was lost with the cancelation of the Mortal Kombat X comic book, but let’s just go ahead and assume Kenshi failed yet again.

That's going to smart

Kenshi was moonlighting with the Special Forces again all this time, though, so he had an excuse to participate in the prologue and main bits of Mortal Kombat X’s story. He’s instrumental in stopping Shinnok’s initial invasion, as his magical sword directs the party to a magical elevator. Seriously. That’s a thing that happens. It’s supposed to be triumphant or something. Then he spends most of the “present” of MKX telepathically informing his son that he’d love to swing by and help, but the pub has got so many cigs, and he’s gotta go get them, and he’ll be back to help just as soon as he’s done. Kenshi is last seen being knocked out by a revived Shinnok, and does not appear again even after his son leaves with the other newbies to save the world. Kenshi and his son don’t appear in Mortal Kombat 11, leaving Frost as the only MK: Deadly Alliance protagonist to carry the torch into the final reboot.

In the end, that’s a pretty complicated life for a guy whose name just means “dude with sword”.

Next time: Ice to meet a chill fighter.