Category Archives: Mortal Kombat Komplete

FGC #450 Mortal Kombat

MORTAL KOMBATMortal Kombat was one of (if not the) defining games of the 90’s, a time when gaming was just starting to stand on its own two feet. And, for better or worse, it changed gaming forever (M for Mature… or just “Mortal Kombat”? Makes ya think!). Mortal Kombat, with its spine-rips and death kisses, left an undeniable mark on the face of gaming, and whether it’s a rad scar or festering wound is up to the beholder.

But… why was Mortal Kombat popular?

It’s all about Originality

Street Fighter 2 is easy to understand. Street Fighter 2 is a damn fine fighting game with unique characters that can appeal to any (well, probably male) player. Don’t like generic karate guy? Here’s a green beast man, and he plays totally differently. There’s the lithe and nimble woman versus the gigantic, hairy grappler man. There are bosses that are carefully calibrated to drain your credits, but there is also a two player mode that is a significant draw. Take out your favorite sumo for a date with a yoga master, and battle all night long. Learn those special moves! Master one character, and move on to the next! Maybe one day you’ll beat Red Hitler and his stupid scissor kicks!

YOU GOT KANGEDMortal Kombat features four offensive buttons: High Punch, Low Punch, High Kick, and Low Kick. This is two less buttons than Street Fighter 2’s six button layout. If you’ve ever paid attention to Street Fighter 2’s jabs, you’ll note that every single Street Fighter has a different “light punch”. Same for medium. Same for every damn offensive option available. This is absolutely not the case in Mortal Kombat. “High Punch” is exactly the same for Liu Kang as Johnny Cage. Sonya’s got a jump kick, but it may as well belong to Kano. And you better believe Sub-Zero and Scorpion have the exact same animations, because, ya know, they’re the same person.

Ultimately, the only difference between characters in Mortal Kombat is the special moves, and, bad news, they’re all almost exactly the same, too. Liu Kang has a fireball that flies straight and true. Johnny Cage does, too. And Kano. And Sonya. And Raiden. Oh! Sub-Zero’s fireball freezes the opponent in place. And Scorpion’s fireball freezes the opponent and requires less walking. No wonder he’s the most popular character! Now give everybody a special that helps ‘em get across the screen, and… are we done here? There may be a few outliers, but, by and large, all of these unique characters play about as “uniquely” as White Bomberman and Black Bomberman.

Though maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree there. Maybe people are more interested not in what the characters do, but who the characters are. Maybe…

It’s all about the Characters

RAIDEN!Mortal Kombat has produced some very iconic videogame characters. There’s vain but heroic Johnny Cage, inordinately heroic Liu Kang, generally heroic Sonya, and… wait a tick, all those characters are just the same obvious traits plus one tiny quirk. Maybe they’re physically dissimilar? No, Sonya, Liu Kang, and Johnny Cage all just look like regular dudes that showed up in their gym clothes. Johnny and Looey didn’t even remember to pack a shirt. And it’s pretty clear that Sub-Zero and Scorpion totally botched their twin day fashions.

Am I just looking at the superficial? Well, when Mortal Kombat was lighting the arcades and home consoles ablaze, there wasn’t much more than that, anyway. Like with most fighting games, you got a character profile, and an ending, and that was it. There was the accompanying Mortal Kombat comic book, but its razor thin characterization didn’t exactly fill in the blanks on why Kano was a cyborg (eventual answer: why not?) or how Johnny Cage came to participate in this deadly fighting tournament (answer: he got a letter). Sub-Zero hates Scorpion, Sonya hates Kano, and I guess Goro killed Liu Kang’s ancestor. These razor-thin motivations don’t support characters, they simply support reasons for punching.

So, okay, punching is kind of the point, though. So does that mean…

It’s All About the Gameplay

mortal kombatMortal Kombat is a fighting game, so characters don’t matter past how much fun the game is to play. And is Mortal Kombat fun? Of course it is! I just said it was a fighting game! Pay attention! Fighting games are always fun, because punching some other dude in a digital arena is top shelf entertainment. Even the worst fighting games are fun for a little while.

But does the fun of Mortal Kombat last? At all? Well… uh… We already covered how every character is practically the same, so 2-player battles are going to get pretty predictable pretty fast. Maybe one player mode is more interesting? That has some fights against CPU opponents, the always popular mirror match, and then endurance matches. Endurance matches are kind of cool, right? Like, the same fight, but double? Who could say no to double the fighting? Aside from everyone that just finds it grueling and unfair, of course. And while we’re on the topic of unfair, we have Goro, the penultimate boss that in no way plays by the rules, so he absorbs your punches like they’re being thrown by some pasty nerd standing over an arcade cabinet. And the final challenge is just all the other fighters mixed together with a fireball barrage that can bleed off about 75% health.

The gameplay is pretty damn limited. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not the kind of gameplay that should make Mortal Kombat a perennial favorite that dominated the arcades and home consoles.

But maybe it was never about actually playing the game at all, maybe…

It’s All About the Blood and Gore

BLOOD!My dear, dead granny knew of Mortal Kombat, and she knew its name for one simple reason: blood. As was reported by a million moms clutching a million pearls, Mortal Kombat was unerringly violent, and a gross, disgusting mess of blood soaked through every interaction in this so-called vidya game. Mortal Kombat was such a blood orgy that the United States Senate had hearings showcasing the uncivilized ferocity on display for a mere half a buck in every arcade across the country! Could this epidemic of violence ever be stopped after Mortal Kombat opened the floodgates?!

Except… Mortal Kombat isn’t all that bloody.

Yes, there is blood (how else would we be able to tell the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo ports apart), but is Mortal Kombat inherently violent? Well… yes… but not anymore than any other videogame! Contra saw Bill tearing through a thousand poor dudes with backpacks, but Congress never so much as uttered the word “Contra” in its hallowed halls. And Mario! Think of how many poor goombas he led to the slaughter! Is that game inherently less violent simply because it featured a tubby guy picking on chestnuts? Well, yes, but still! Mortal Kombat might have included a coupon for a few globs of blood with every roundhouse, but was it really the bloody mess described by so many Liebermans? Absolutely not.

THE PITBut what of the infamous fatalities? Yes, the scandalous spine-rip is bloody (awesome), but arguably the most famous fatality in the franchise is Scorpion’s “Toasty” finisher, and there isn’t a speck of blood in that ghastly inferno. Sonya’s heated kiss is on the same level, and Kano’s heart rip is about as bloody as a certain Spielberg movie. And the decapitations of Johnny Cage and Raiden are more “yes, that’s right, you do need a head to live” than anything approaching what you’d see in a horror movie of the time.

We may be looking at Mortal Kombat 1 through the lens of jaded 21st Century gamers (“I just watched Samus Aran drink the blood of her enemies six times this morning”), but the violence of Mortal Kombat was often less “bloody gore” and more a literal joke.

Actually, maybe that was the point of Mortal Kombat, maybe…

It’s All About the Humor

Back in the 90’s, it was hard to claim that Mortal Kombat was “funny”. But let’s be real here: the humor was there all along. Right the start (or maybe a particular revision), there was a certain green hidden character that had unlock conditions that seemed designed to be little more than a playground rumor. If “you have to earn a double flawless victory and perform a fatality and never block all while E.T. flies across the moon” isn’t a joke, then I’m turning in my comedian license (issued and signed by Yakov Smirnoff himself!). Speaking of which, what appears to be Peter Pan, an alien, a witch, and Santa Claus will fly over the moon at certain points. That sounds a bit humorous! And there’s certainly a reason skele-face Scorpion faces the screen with his hollow eyes after every fatality. He’s mugging for a laugh!

This became much more evident in later games, when Mortal Kombat introduced such silliness as babalities, friendships, animalities, and fatalities that were clearly just some random dude on the staff playing with Claymation (see Kabal for more details). But even back at the beginning, the humor was there, even before we saw Toasty Dan pop up to announce it was time to fight Smoke.

But it’s pretty clear that this wasn’t a selling point for the original Mortal Kombat. The humor was there, but nobody was feeding those cabinets quarters just because they wanted a laugh.

So what was the secret to Mortal Kombat’s success? It seems like we’ve ruled everything out, except…

Yeah!

Oh man, we have an answer.

Mortal Kombat was successful because it’s all about the sweet uppercuts.

Yeah!

Yeah, that’s the stuff.

FGC #450 Mortal Kombat

  • System: Arcade first and foremost, but then Mortal Monday came, and we had it on Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and Nintendo Gameboy. Oh boy! Mortal Kombat on a portable!
  • Number of players: 2 kombatants.
  • Preferred System: Genesis might have the blood, but Super Nintendo has graphics that don’t look like the butt end of a butt. And I’m a Nintendo kid, so here we are.
  • Favorite Character: It’s obviously Sub-Zero, as he can freeze his opponent and slide. Amusingly enough, my first “main” for Mortal Kombat was Sonya Blade, but I drifted away from her when I realized she reminded me way too much of Jane Fonda.
  • FIGHT!Did you know? An NES port of Mortal Kombat was planned, but was cancelled fairly quickly (before they even entered the programming phase). For any young’uns out there, this was back when two generations of videogame hardware could be supported by Nintendo simultaneously, and not like today, when the WiiU was publically executed the moment the Switch made the scene.
  • Would I play again: Probably not. Mortal Kombat, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that fun nowadays as anything more than a novelty, and is 100% supplicated by its sequels. If you’re getting Mortal Kombat today, it likely comes with Mortal Kombat 2 anyway…

What’s next? It’s Mortal Week! Mortal Kombat sure hit the big time with its release, and it had a number of imitators. We’re going to look at a different wannabe fighting game Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the next two weeks, and examine how some games did their best to copy the Mortal Kombat formula (and generally still failed). First up on the list: Eternal Champions. Please look forward to it!

MIGHT!

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.

MKK: Mileena & Jade

Saiya

What we’ve got here is a clear “evil twin” situation. Mileena is a genetic abomination resulting from Shang Tsung mixing Kitana’s DNA with presumably some random Tarkatan (Baraka’s race) DNA. As a result, she is a perfect clone, save the eensy weensy caveat that her face is about 90% teeth. Interestingly, this is the only aspect of her Tarkatan DNA taking hold (perhaps save Mileena’s bloodlust… though in this universe, that’s extremely relative), and extremely convenient arm-blades were left in some DNA that fell to the bleeding room floor. But Millena picked up a pair of sai to compensate because someone read Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Kitana and Mileena are just Elektra with the serial numbers filed off, and, at her introduction, she’s ready to be Shao Kahn’s #2 assassin.

And then Kitana killed her, because who hasn’t killed their evil twin at one time or another?

In the new timeline, Shinnok and Quan Chi were able to conscript nearly the entire kast as killer zombies, as pretty much every fighter was dead by the end of Mortal Kombat 3 (redux). In the original timeline, though, the kharacters were a lot more indestructible, so they were left with the dregs of Sub-Zero I and Mileena. Sub-Zero was transformed into shadow wraith Noob Saibot, and Mileena… well, nobody felt like modifying Kitana’s sprite past changing her swimsuit’s color, so Mileena stayed Milenna. She participated in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 as a hidden character (not coincidentally returning with the same update that included her sister), and was officially an undead ghoul that looked/operated exactly like her original, slightly more alive initial appearance. It was also revealed during this time that she had a one-way telepathic door into her sister’s thoughts… and then that was never mentioned again.

Saiya

Since Shinnok decided to invade Earth during Mortal Kombat 4, Mileena was allowed to participate when Kitana showed up for Mortal Kombat (4) Gold (seeing a pattern here?). Again, Mileena spent most of her time trying (unsuccessfully) to kill Kitana, and then Kitana managed to Bugs Bunny her sister down a trap floor. Mileena thus retained her “mostly alive” status (Noob Saibot continued to be a shadow monster, while Mileena stayed just a regular monster), but was locked away for quite a while in a dungeon that smelled way too much like Kano.

Milenna had to sit out Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance while Mario was busy rescuing toads in other castles, but she returned with a vengeance (as always, literally) during Mortal Kombat: Deception. Kitana had amassed quite the amazing army during her time as a princess, but, unfortunately, she was knocked off by Quan Chi during the finale of DA. Unfortunately for her forces, though, none of the good guys at the scene survived long enough to email a proper obituary to the Outworld Times (“All the News That’s Fit to Print in Blood”), so no one was particularly aware of Kitana’s untimely death. Baraka, obviously bored and horny, broke Mileena out of jail at this time, and Mileena instantly hatched a fool-proof plan to impersonate her sister and effectively rule Edenia and Outworld’s “rebellion” armies. All she had to do was wear a veil literally all the time, and if anyone called her on this unusual fashion choice, she’d just explain that… I don’t know… she had a really embarrassing goiter? And then she’d have Baraka kill the curious cat. And if anyone questioned why she suddenly had Baraka hanging around all the time, well, you better believe that’s gonna deserve another visit from Baraka. There probably wouldn’t be any questions after that.

Beyond the veil

And you know what? Mileena was a pretty good Kitana. That makes sense, though, right? Kitana was great at her job, and Mileena is her exact duplicate, but also an undead creature with a heaping helping of monster warrior DNA. She managed to take back Shao Kahn’s fortress, and effectively conquered the whole of Outworld… about seven seconds before Shao Kahn made his triumphant return. Mileena immediately capitulated to Shao Kahn the instant he returned to “her” throne room, and Mileena dropped the Kitana act to become Shao Kahn’s henchman again for the first time since Mortal Kombat 2. Thus, Mileena was firmly on Shao Kahn’s side for MK: Armageddon, which turned out to be a great choice, as Shao Kahn actually won that tournament. Yes, Mileena died again, and, of course, the universe got rebooted, but sometimes it is nice to be on the winning side.

Oh, incidentally, Mileena’s (non-kanon) ending for MK:A features Mileena gaining Kitana’s normal human shape, and Kitana being “cursed” with Mileena’s signature choppers. This leads to Mileena becoming a content ruler of Edenia/Outworld, and Kitana going crazy in a dungeon. Is Mileena only a monster because she looks like a monster? Or, in a game where most other kharacters get endings involving gaining god-like abilities (and/or f^%&ing centaurs), are the writers of Mortal Kombat leaning a bit heavily on the whole “all women just want to be pretty, and are homicidally jealous if they aren’t” trope? Something to think about until the end of this paragraph!

Bloody

Okay, stop thinking about Mileena and her place in feminism, it’s time to think about Mileena and her place on the sexometer. Mortal Kombat 9 was a dedicated reboot for the franchise, and an opportunity for some hardcore advertising campaigns to the degree of “Mortal Kombat’s back, baby!” In addition to touting itself as the most Mortal Kombat-est Mortal Kombat in Mortal Kombat history, the deranged minds behind Mortal Kombat (‘s advertising campaigns) decided to play up the sexiness of Mortal Kombat through an extremely muddled, sex-based campaign featuring Mileena. On one hand, you had renders of Mileena straight up appearing in Playboy. She was mostly naked, save her veil and a pair of sai covering her naughtiest bits. Then, the game itself made a point of retkonning Mileena’s “birth” to take place during Mortal Kombat 2 (redux), when her original backstory put her at a few centuries old (like her sister). This, of course, meant that “just born” Mileena could appear in a “costume” that was basically a few strips of cloth tied around some key places. This alternate costume was available to the player through some fairly intense earning-requirements, and, when unlocked, awarded the trophy titled “Best…Alternate…EVER!" Basically, Mortal Kombat 9 was full-on horny for Mileena, which coupled in an extremely uncomfortable manner with her in-game biography:

“Shang Tsung has created many abominable creatures in his Flesh Pits, but none so twisted as Mileena. A fusion of Edenian flesh and Tarkatan blood, Mileena is both beauty and beast. This dichotomy has made her mind unstable; she is prone to fits of madness and savagery. Though she has the appearance of a mature woman, she is more child than adult–a blank slate conformed to Shao Kahn’s will. Devoid of conscience or remorse, Mileena will butcher anyone to appease her beloved father.”

Oh, the game’s prime sex object has the mind of a child and excessively loves her abusive daddy. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go take an angry nap.

Mileena Kahn

Anywho, aside from generally menacing Kitana (as usual), Mileena didn’t really accomplish much besides inspiring some confusing boners during Mortal Kombat 9. As what seemed to be a karmatic apology from the universe (of MK writers), Mileena became the official ruler of Outworld after Shao Kahn was vaporized by the Elder Gods during MK9’s finale. Mileena was technically created to be Shao Kahn’s heir, after all, so it does make a certain amount of sense that she’d be next in line for the throne. And apparently she got over that whole “mind of a child” thing just in time to be a fairly ruthless dictator with a posse of Shao Kahn’s various goons. Unfortunately, her good luck runs out right about when Mortal Kombat X gets going, as she is quickly betrayed by Reptile (who witnessed her “birth” in the flesh pits and likely only stuck around so long out of respect for her mouth’s similarity to a t-rex ) and then Ermac (who continually proves to be kind of a jerk). Kotal Kahn then seizes control of Outworld, and Mileena is left with Team Scrappy Rebellion That Will Eventually Betray Her, which includes noted traitors Tanya, Rain, and Kano. In a shocking turn of events, Mileena is betrayed by, like, everybody, and is eventually killed via a Kotal Kahn-ordered, bug-based death kiss. Mileena was so happy she finally managed to use Outworld sorcery to grow some lips, too!

Aside from a Mortal Kombat X (presumably non-kanon) ending that states Mileena’s soul could migrate to a spare Mileena body, Mileena seems to spend the rest of the “new” Mortal Kombat Universe’s existence as a non-participating corpse. Oh well. At least she outlived Kitana this time!

She has a ninja turtle weapon, too

The final “sister”, Jade is one of three hidden kharacters featured in Mortal Kombat 2. She was (theoretically) the easiest to battle, as she simply required winning a lone round using only low kicks during a specific match. After that, a green version of Kitana/Mileena would appear, and, if you managed to beat her… uh… congratulations? Yay, you fought and beat a hidden fighter, time to move on to Kintaro. Compared to the hype surrounding a certain other green ninja, Jade seemed rather perfunctory, and the “least” of the newly introduced crop of color-swapped weirdos lurking in the shadows.

And, frankly, Mortal Kombat 3 did little to rectify this situation. Jade did not reappear until MK3’s first revision, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and was reintroduced as Kitana’s personal bodyguard turned body hunter. Jade was tasked with bringing in Kitana (for the murder of Mileena, natch), but decided to squelch out on the deal with Shao Kahn to team up with Kitana against her other pursuer, More Popular Green Ninja. Thus, Jade was defined for all future appearances as Kitana’s best friend, and, were the Mortal Kombat universe a sitcom, Jade would be overweight (or at least “Hollywood overweight”) and would continually make racey comments about Liu Kang (“I don’t know about you, girlfriend, but I’d sure like to see his animality!”). That is her entire role in the kanon: Jade does not return until Mortal Kombat: Deception, and she’s only there to avenge the death/zombification of Kitana. And then, with Kitana revived for MK: Armageddon, Jade… just kinda helped. That’s it. Even her ending is just like “uh… she saved the world… and everyone loved her. The end.”

Super best friends

Mortal Kombat 9 saw Jade go through the same MK1-3 BS again (work for Shao Kahn, “watch” Kitana, quit job because girl power), with the significant change that Queen Sindel managed to rip Jade’s heart out before the end of Mortal Kombat 3 (redux). To be clear, that was not metaphorical, and an undead Jade joined Kitana and the rest of her buddies as the undead hordes of Hell.

Jade finally got her own personality in Mortal Kombat 11, when a time-displaced Jade drops into the present and reveals that she used to have a thing with the current ruler of Outworld, Kotal Kahn. Jade was introduced in 1993, and, finally, 26 years later, earns another personality trait beyond “is friends with Kitana”. Mind you, all this really does is establish that Jade likes boys (who are routinely mistaken for literal gods), but that’s more than we had before! She gets her own featured chapter out of this development, but it’s predominantly just about how “young/naive” Jade is a lot less bloodthirsty than “old/grizzled” Kotal Kahn, a guy who literally drinks blood. Jade seems to soften Kotal Kahn a tweak, but it is once again Kitana who steals the limelight and ties off all the Kotal Kahn business.

Sorry, Jade, we can’t all be as successful as a cold-blooded reptile man.

Jade!

Next time: There’s fire.

MKK: Kitana

It’s no secret that this whole silly project got kickstarted by yours truly playing through Mortal Kombat 11 and loving the hell out of its goofy story mode. But it’s not just about the goofy! This thread was inspired by playing MK 11, and having a genuine desire to go back and “review” some of these characters from their introduction, and see if the seeds that would eventually grow into extremely ludicrous trees were always there. And Kitana is a great kharacter to examine for this purpose.

I'm a big fan


Kitana was introduced in Mortal Kombat 2. She was the female ninja wearing blue, and the sister of the female ninja wearing purple. In case you ever get confused by these “twin” sisters, Kitana is the one named after a ninja turtle weapon, while Mileena is the one that wields a ninja turtle weapon. Kitana is also the one that is actually human (well, technically Edenian), and Mileena is the one that is a horrible clone monster that wants to literally rule the world.

Kitana was introduced as “merely” one of Shao Kahn’s top assassins that might have a secret, and that secret was revealed in her ending: she’s a princess! She’s Shao Kahn’s step-daughter, and the biological daughter of Queen Sindel and King Jerrod, the previous rulers of what would become Outworld. She’s also 10,000 years old, but she was starting to get wise to the fact that Shao Kahn might not have her best interests at heart when her marginally homicidal evil clone started hanging around. You know when they hire a new guy at the office, and he does the exact same job you do, and you’re starting to get worried about your job security? Well, it’s like that, except the new guy routinely eats people and spits out their bones. It causes concern.

Digging the fan

Concerned Kitana was apparently a double agent during Mortal Kombat 2 (and let’s not get into the fact that the pretty sister is inevitably the good one), and she straight up murdered her sister before the tournament was out (which, incidentally, marks the second time in as many games that one of the color swap ninja kanon murders their opposite number). This got Kitana on Shao Kahn’s s%&$ list, so he dispatched a healthy number of agents with the express purpose of revenge murdering Kitana. Well, kinda. Jade, Kitana’s former bodyguard and friend (and hidden kharacter of MK2), is tasked with capturing Kitana, while Reptile, Shang Tsung’s former bodyguard and lizard (and hidden kharacter of MK1), is allowed to use “any means necessary” to stop Kitana. Kitana, of course, survives the onslaught, re-befriends Jade, and even hooks up with and de-brainwashes her recently revived mother. Liu Kang wins Mortal Kombat 3 by being the official victor over Shao Kahn, but Kitana ultimately accomplished the most by reestablishing Edenia as a universal superpower separated from Shao Kahn’s rule.

And she gets, like, zero credit for that.

Mortal Kombat 4 doesn’t really “feature” Edenia/Outworld, as it primarily focuses on a rogue god wrecking up Earth(realm). Kitana didn’t even participate until Mortal Kombat (4) Gold, and her only real purpose is to be kidnapped, escape being kidnapped, and then be generally annoyed at the revival of Mileena while attempting to help the good guys. By the end of Mortal Kombat Gold, Kitana is basically in the same place as the finale of Mortal Kombat 3: Edenia is rebuilding, and Kitana is either completely or technically in charge of the place (Queen Sindel’s status as an active monarch is always confusing).

Not enough MK4...

The general Mortal Kombat plot really ramps up around Deadly Alliance, so Kitana’s role in matters is technically expanded. Shao Kahn was not killed at the end of Mortal Kombat 3 (apparently), but he was simply humbled and beaten back to Outworld. Kitana, Sindel, and their allies definitely separated from Shao Kahn, though, so Outworld/Edenia was up for grabs. As such, a land war was declared between the two realms, and Kitana was a mighty general. Kitana led many different forces, including Goro and his Shokan, as Kitana was also an accomplished diplomat, and she actually became fast friends with Prince Goro. When Goro was killed in battle, she was devastated, but still led the combined forces in an effort to liberate her home dimension. Around this time, Shao Kahn was killed by Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, and, while the king was dead, there were still armies that needed to be defeated. Kitana continued to be an accomplished general, and only took a break when she was summoned by Raiden to attack the Deadly Alliance head-on. Kitana, now saddened by the apparent death of her internet boyfriend Liu Kang (they had been exchanging messages on AOL Instant Messenger since Mortal Kombat 2), left her army for a more surgical strike. She had been trained as an assassin, after all, she could avenge one cute boy, and be back in time to literally save her world.

Of course, everything in the previous paragraph happens in the backstory of the actual playable game. In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance: For Realsies Edition, Kitana shows up to fight Quan Chi, loses, and is left for dead on the steps of a temple. The opening of the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Deception, kicks off with a pan of her lifeless corpse.

Dammit.

Kitana did wind up participating in Mortal Kombat: Deception (because it was easy to repurpose Jade’s model for the PSP “enhanced” edition) first as an undead servant of the Dragon King, and then as a revived alive person. Unlike Jax, Kitana straight up only gets a bonus from being a zombie, and recognizes Dragon King Onaga’s weaknesses from her time in his service. She doesn’t actually do anything with this knowledge, but it’s good to know she had a plan in case the actual protagonist of the story decided to take a nap or something. She then returned for Mortal Kombat Armageddon, and did absolutely nothing to impact anything. And she died again. But this time, the entire kast died, so that can be forgiven.

Not enough MK9...

Reboot time! Kitana gets a lot more screen time in Mortal Kombat 9… but it still doesn’t amount to much. She gets to participate in (new) Mortal Kombat 1 as an agent of Shao Kahn, and we actually get to participate in the exact moment when her brain snaps in (new) Mortal Kombat 2 when she discovers her monster clone sister. She has a much more active role in her own defection… but also a lot less success. In the original plot, she was able to escape Shao Kahn after learning the truth. This time, she confronts Shao Kahn directly, he says “Yeah, I killed your dad. So what? It was Tuesday,” and Kitana is immediately tossed in a dungeon, necessitating more rescuing than in the last timeline. Liu Kang rescues our favorite assassin princess, and Shao Kahn is defeated. Shao Kahn is back in business about thirty seconds later, though, revives Queen Sindel with a bit of a power-boost this time, and Incredible Hulk Queen Sindel eventually attacks the heroes. She actively disowns Kitana before draining most of her soul, and, while Sindel is defeated (by other kombatants), Kitana is left to die. She lives just long enough to explain to Liu Kang that she is on the pill, and was totally DTF for like days at a time, but she’s dead now, barf, and this is very sad for you, Liu. She is then conscripted in Quan Chi’s skeleton army, having not even gotten around to killing her sister this go around.

Mortal Kombat X features Kitana as an angry revenant damned to the employ of Quan Chi. When Quan Chi gets his goth ass murdered by Scorpion, Kitana and (also dead) Liu Kang ascend to King and Queen of the Netherrealm. Better to rule in Hell than serve under Shao Kahn? Probably. Unfortunately, the policy decisions one actually makes as a monarch of the dead are never explored, and all we really learn about Kitana herself at this point is that she is super angry at just about everything.

She's dead here

And, thus, finally, do we reach Mortal Kombat 11. In this title, Kitana is still dead and just bumming around Hell as Liu Kang’s queen. In fact, she barely even pulls that off, as she is nearly immediately recruited by the story’s latest big bad, and she’s little more than a rotting henchman for a final boss that is inevitably going to homicidally betray her later. But! We’ve got two Kitanas this time, and a younger, significantly healthier (as in she actually has health) princess pops out of a timehole to assist the heroes of the present. And she certainly assists! While most of the kast is upset over dead moms or dead other selves, Kitana immediately gets her act together, and takes a whirlwind tour of “future” Outworld. She negotiates with Sheeva, current Queen of the Shokan, and recruits Goro’s entire race to her side. Then she manages to get Baraka and his horde to agree to play nice with Kotal Kahn, the guy who literally committed genocide against Baraka’s people (they got better). Then she marches her newly formed army against (time displaced) Shao Kahn, and absolutely kicks his ass. She decides to blind her former father, not kill him, and then takes the throne as Kitana Kahn. And she pulls off this coup in the span of a couple of days. She conquered an entire dimension in the time it takes for you to wait for your Amazon order, and the people (or what passes for people in that dimension) seem completely content with her rule. When Kitana eventually ascends to godhood thanks to Liu Kang choosing his goddess bride, it seems like Kitana earned it a lot more than Liu Kang, who only beat a god or two in mortal kombat. Like, seriously, dude, anybody could do that. Stryker could do that. Kitana became a beloved global queen inside of a long weekend.

And, yes, it technically wasn’t the first time she did such a thing. In the “old” timeline, she also led an army, united different clans, and conquered (unconquered?) Edenia, but this time she actually actively did it on screen. This time she accomplished something in a manner other than a bio paragraph or two, and it actively displayed why Kitana actually kicks some ass. So, hey, good job, Mortal Kombat 11. You finally made plot Kitana match her overpowered Mortal Kombat 2 form. Please don’t nerf her in the next timeline!

Next time: The other sister