MKK: Jax

What you have to understand here is that, even before he existed, Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs had the absolute worst luck.

No metal arms

First of all, Jax was originally supposed to be in Mortal Kombat 1. The character that would become Jax was initially named Kurtis Stryker (bad sign), and was supposed to be a military dude that entered the tournament to hunt down Kano. However, one day Ed Boon was sitting in his parlor smoking a pipe, and a woman crashed through his open window. Boon exclaimed, “A woman! That’s it! Gamers are a superstitious, cowardly lot, and this shall strike terror into their hearts. I shall include a woman!” Thus, Stryker/Jax was replaced entirely with Sonya. Why not just include both? Well, likely because that would cause the roster to include eight playable characters, the same number as Street Fighter 2. And no one wanted a world where arcade rats compared Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat. That would just be silly.

Regardless, Jax saved his debut for Mortal Kombat 2. But Jax production issues did not stop! Jax’s signature bionic arms were intended from the beginning, and the designers had apparently already worked out a cool personal sound effect system for Jax pounding on opponents with metal fists. However, the design necessitated a Jax that was mostly covered in long sleeves, because no one had an idea on how to make the full “metal arms” effect look decent. And, further bad news, the motion capture actor for Jax, John Parrish, was a bodybuilder that was swole as hell. So, in a move that is surprisingly 100% not a lie, it was determined that it would be a goddamn waste of a beefcake to cover Parrish in a lame hoody or whatever, and Jax’s metal arms were dropped. Thus, Mortal Kombat 2 Jax was forced to enter the tournament without what would become his signature armament (and a shirt), because he was hella ripped.

Totally metal

Let’s back off behind the scenes bodybuilding and focus on kanon Jax. Jax is a member of the same Special Forces organization as Sonya, and, yes, he entered Mortal Kombat 2 to rescue Sonya from Shao Kahn. And he did! It was probably pretty easy! She was right there in the background of that one stage, and she can naturally shoot lasers out of her hands, so they probably had a simple time escaping while Liu Kang was fighting a multi-armed tiger man. Jax returned to the Special Forces top brass, explained that there’s a centuries-old fighting tournament featuring dudes with swords for arms fighting ninja reptiles for the fate of our world in another world… And nobody bought it. So Jax did the only logical thing: he equipped metal arms. And then he looked like a real (vaguely metal) champ when Shao Kahn did invade Earth with his knife-arm based hordes, and Jax was all ready to go. As an apology, Jax was allowed to punch one (1) horse man.

Jax was involved in his silly rehash plot in Mortal Kombat 4. Once again, Sonya was dispatched to hunt down a Black Dragon thief. Once again, Sonya went missing. Once again, Jax equipped the ol’ metal arms to save Sonya and defeat a Black Dragon member. In the end, Jarek the Thief accused Jax of brutality, but, no, it was a fatality. And scene. Neither worked in Hollywood ever again.

Nice beret

And then some really bad stuff happened to Jax.

Jax earned a starring role.

As has been stated before, the Mortal Kombat franchise has long desperately wished it wasn’t all fighting games. Despite being one of the titles that defines the genre, Mortal Kombat has, again and again, attempted to branch out in “new” directions. Mortal Kombat: Special Forces was going to be one of those new directions. Hot on the heels of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (a game successful enough to sell seven whole N64 units, doubling N64 sales for 1997), MK: Special Forces was intended to be the next big spin-off title. This Playstation 1 adventure would see Sonya Blade and Jax fight their way around the Mortal Kombat universe, and squash threats to Earthrealm with fists, guns, and probably a fatality or two. It would be a thing of beauty, and a fine extension of the greater MK mythology.

Unfortunately, Special Forces never came together. Almost literally! First of all, Sonya was completely dropped from the project at one point, so Jax was forced to go the whole adventure alone. Second, apparently the level design budget was cab fare and half a pack of Oreos, so a game that could have featured the titular Special Forces (aka just Jax) venturing across the many realms of the Mortal Kombat universe instead included such amazing levels as the warehouse, the building, and (everyone’s favorite) the sewers. And, while Kano and Jarek are prominent players, the entire rest of the incomparable Mortal Kombat kast is ignored in favor of new and exciting kharacters like Tremor (a poop-brown recolor of Scorpion) and No Face (a living monument to how difficult it was to render believable faces on the Playstation 1). The plot isn’t any great shakes either, as it is simply the story of Jax battling the Black Dragons, and, aside from one eensy trip to Outworld at the end, it is basically nothing more than an unusually violent episode of GI Joe. Kano was once a man!

Very special forces


Special Forces was great for featuring Jax and providing a backstory for why he hated Kano so dang much (it was because he was a bad guy who murders people, natch), but it was a massive failure as a videogame. It was also a significant failure for the very concept of fun. So, as one might expect, this all but buried the Mortal Kombat franchise for a couple of years. Nobody wanted to see anyone involved in this mess ever again, and, good job, Jax, you were the coverboy for that project.

While it has never been stated plainly, I always assumed this was the reason Jax was consistently featured in future Mortal Kombat games, but always had the absolute worst time.

(Incidentally, since Special Forces chronologically takes place before Mortal Kombat 1, it is apparently 100% kanon in two different timelines. Insult to injury!)

Mortal Kombat was allowed to return for Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. Jax returned, too, having his beloved Special Forces almost completely obliterated because he trusted Hsu Hao, a heartless double agent of the Red Dragons. Incidentally, I’m being completely literal here: Hsu Hao has a mechanical, strobing robotic heart that somehow did not tip Jax off to the whole “bad guy” thing (NOTE: if any readers have glowing, mechanical weak points, I apologize for profiling you as evil). Jax then ventured forth to avenge himself upon Hsu Hao, and successfully killed the dork. But kharma is a jerk sometimes, and Jax was killed shortly thereafter.

Jax!

Now, you may have noticed that Jax is not the only kharacter to be murdered during the climax of Deadly Alliance. Jax, like his other dead buddies, was revived as a malevolent zombie by the Dragon King at the start of MK: Deception. But! Jax was returned to “actual” life for Mortal Kombat: Unchained, the PSP enhanced port of MK: Deception. This “twenty minutes later” redux of the plot acknowledged that Jax had been an angry revenant like his buddies, but Liu Kang’s divine spirit returned him to life. However, he retained all the memories of the evil he did as a flesh puppet, so he basically had Dragon King-based PTSD. And, despite the fact that nearly every other “good guy” had the same back-from-the-dead status at the start of MK: Armageddon, Jax was the only one to develop a psychosis as a result of the trauma. This is not because Jax had some mental issues compared to the other kombatants, but likely simply because the universe at large hates the poor guy. Bad news: the universe rebooting did not help that.

The new timeline of Mortal Kombat 9 is rough on ol’ Jax. Now, Jax gets to participate in Mortal Kombat I. Kinda! He is kidnapped by Shang Tsung about twelve seconds into the tournament, and Sonya is forced to rescue her teammate. Good for Sonya’s agency, not great for Jax. Then Jax is back to rescuing Sonya for Mortal Kombat 2 Redux. That goes fairly well until Jax encounters Ermac, a telekinetic ninja that has no time to dawdle, so he immediately tears Jax’s arms off. To be clear, those are Jax’s actual, fleshy arms. Despite everything I understand about human biology and blood-loss, Jax survives being disarmed, and returns for Mortal Kombat 3 Redux with his new arms. Note that the metal arms were equipment in the original timeline, but the new timeline features a Jax that is a double amputee that is more or less DC Comic’s Cyborg (which, uh, also kinda happened in Jax’s MK vs DC ending). And Jax’s “upgrade” doesn’t do him much good, as he’s killed shortly thereafter by Queen Sindel jabbing her heel through his throat. Have fun being a zombie again, Jax!

Lookin' dead

Jax, once again, did his time as an undead monster for Quan Chi. During this time, Quan Chi took the mechanized Sub-Zero, broke down his cyber components, and re-grew an all new, all dead body for Sub-Zero. Jax did not receive the same courtesy, as he was stuck as a zombie reliant on metal arms. Odd choice, Quan. Then Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Jax are all revived by Raiden’s “happy accident” magical powers. Sub-Zero and Scorpion go on to rebuild their clans and lead happy, productive lives. Jax, once again, is afflicted with PTSD, and retires from active duty. He also has a bitch of a time collecting his military benefits, as he was legally dead for a not insignificant period of time. And his dog died while he was dead, too. It died choking on his cat. The cat is also dead. And you don’t want to know what happened to Jax’s pet rock.

Jax met a wonderful woman (that is never, ever seen) during therapy, and they married and eventually birthed Jacqui “My dad thought I was going to be a boy, and he already bought a onesie that says ‘junior’ on it, so here we are” Briggs. He then came out of retirement decades later to hunt down Quan Chi, the evil wizard that really ruined his day for a few years, on behalf of the Special Forces. This, surprisingly enough, goes really well, and Jax is able to apprehend Quan Chi. Hooray! And then Scorpion kills Quan Chi for general revenge, so it wound up being all moot anyway. Sorry, Jax, better luck next time.

But there would be no better luck for Jax. After MK:X, Jax’s wife (apparently named Vera? Is this a Cheers joke? In the year 2019? Please, please let that be the reasoning) dies. This, naturally, depresses Jax something fierce, and he apparently becomes an old man sitting alone in his lounger crushing beer cans with his mechanical arms. So Jax winds up an easy target for the big bad of Mortal Kombat 11, and is recruited to the dark side with a promise of time travel fixing at least 30% of his problems. But Jax of MK2 (er… kinda? Jax is supposed to get metal arms in MK3r, and he has them here, but Kung Lao is alive, and he dies at the end of M2r, so it’s assumed this group is from MK2, and… oh, I’ve just gone cross eyed) pops in, and aids his daughter on Team Good Guy. This comes to a head when Young Jax fights Old Jax, with Young Jax displaying the optimism of a man that has only lost both of his arms, and not the nihilism of an old man that was once responsible for the worst thing on the Playstation. Young Jax wins the fight, but loses the war (it’s easier to beat an old, depressed man than a pair of gods), and Old Jax continues to work with the baddies until Raiden reveals the crucial bit of information that the evil goddess that is attempting to destroy all of time doesn’t really care about Jax.

I can read lips, apparently

And then Jax won Mortal Kombat 11, and ended all slavery and racism forever. Really turned it all around at the end, big guy!

Next time: The guy with the other different arms.

FGC #445 Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax

Anime!Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax is anime fighter: the animest. While so many anime fighters out there are just about a random bunch of yokels that Arc System Works sneezed into existence after passing a particularly allergenic cat-girl, Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax mixes a healthy number of established anime characters from across manga and television series. It makes for a very Marvel vs. Capcom-esque experience, right down to the fact that certain characters seems to employ “continual cosplay” as their main fighting style (actually, maybe it’s more like Pocket Fighter). But regardless of the gameplay, if you watch a lot of anime, this is where you can see your favorite protagonists fight it out.

And, hey, I watch a lot of anime!

But do I… remember my anime?

I’ve said it before, but I watch anime like many people watch “trash TV”. Okay, yeah, come to think of it, a lot of anime is trash. And I eat up that trash like some kind of ravenous trash panda. I watch anime to relax (and maybe play some games while I’m at it), but does any of it make an impact? Well, one way to find out is to review the characters in this game, and see if I remember a damn thing about their origin franchises. That should prove, once and for all, whether I consume anime in a manner that sustains my appetite, or if it’s all just empty calories.

Mikoto Misaka of A Certain Magical Index/A Certain Scientific Railgun

BOOMWho is this, officially: Mikoto is a student in Academy City, a place filled with… let’s just call ‘em mutants. Mikoto is one of the strongest mutants, and possesses magnetic superpowers that allow her to shoot off a common coin like a railgun bullet.

What do I remember of this series: We are starting here because I have vivid memories of this complete franchise. It is, essentially, The X-Men for a time when The X-Men has kind of sucked for a solid decade or so (do I mean in comics? Movies? Games? How about all of the above?). And, bonus, A Certain Scientific Railgun has a predominantly female cast that offers a little more variety in plots and relationships than “Wolverine and Cyclops are fighting over Jean again”. Unfortunately, Railgun was also the spin-off of another series, and spent a solid season literally going through the exact story as its progenitor series. That killed any momentum I ever had with the show, so I don’t know if it continued past that extremely ill-advised waste of my time. I remember when I have been wronged by an anime! I will never forgive you, seventeen Bleach filler arcs! Melancholy? You’re next!

Anyway, aside from the stock “predatory lesbian that will not stop pursuing her crush that is also her roommate and that gets damn creepy, damn fast” character, A Certain Scientific Railgun left a generally good impression, and seeing Mikoto on the boxart for this title is likely the reason I purchased this game in the first place.

Rentarō Satomia of Black Bullet, Shizuo Heiwajima of Durarara!!, and Yukina Himeragia of Strike the Blood

Okay, I know I didn’t watch these shows, so I’m totally skipping them. I thought Strike the Blood might be that anime where a woman with a sword fights vampires, but I was totally thinking of something else. Next!

Kirito & Asuna of Sword Art Online

It's a fight over foodWho is this, officially: Kirito and Asuna are two ordinary humans that become trapped in a virtual reality MMORPG. Despite people screaming “log off!” at their respective houses, both are stuck in the game for years until they complete an annoyingly complicated dungeon. They also both lovers, and hooked up in the game world thanks to a mutual love of swordplay and log cabins.

What do I remember of this series: First of all, this is the wretched hive of villainy that seemed to popularize the anime conceit of “modern man in strange world” (concept invented by the venerable mangaka Mark Twain). And I can see why it worked out so well: Sword Art Online is interesting at the beginning! The whole conceit of being “stuck” in this MMORPG world is fascinating and explored with a focus on the characters and their growth from extreme disbelief to adapting to this exciting new existence (that incidentally revolves around a lot of questions about the meaning of life and the mystery of death). And then, in a shocking twist, Kirito wins the game, sees everyone released, and must now live a life on the outside, “real” world after years in a magical fantasy universe. That could be an equally interesting adventure! But we’ll never know, because the plot gets bored with that notion after an episode, and the main cast dives into the next MMORPG, because the princess gets kidnapped by an evil dragon. Or something.

It’s stupid. It’s really stupid.

There’s a second season and a complete spin-off series revolving around the sword’s modern cousin, the gun. It’s all extremely stupid. I’m pretty sure the franchise just exists to sell sexy statues at this point.

Oh, speaking of which…

Kirino Kosaka of Oreimo

Little annoying sisterWho is this, officially: Kirino appears for all the world like a smart, athletic, overachieving 8th grader. But she has a secret! She’s obsessed with “cute little sister”-based visual novels of the wink wink, nudge nudge fare, and is a giant otaku nerd as a result. And the greatest irony? She is a “cute little sister”, and her older brother barely wants anything to do with her.

What do I remember from this series: I hate everything that happens here. I could write an entire essay on exactly why this franchise is possibly the worst thing to ever happen to fiction. It is wrong on so many levels, from a moral to a storytelling perspective. I’m moderately certain this anime killed my cat. Long story short: what starts as an actually worthwhile homosexual allegory then jackknifes into a random high school dating comedy, and then somehow mutates into the most insidious of harem animes. It all ends when the brother decides to marry his sister.

The whole wretched thing left an impression, and that impression is that this whole “human culture” thing was a mistake. Maybe dolphins can be responsible for fiction for the next millennium.

Kuroyukihime of Accel World

Dances with fairiesWho is this, officially: Kuroyukihime is the student council president and all around overachiever. She is also a leader of a MMORPG faction in Accel World. And she has an incredibly convoluted backstory involving getting mad at her sister/videogames. What’s important is that she is super-strong in her MMORPG world, and she looks like a magical faerie.

What do I remember from this series: This is where things start to get fuzzy. I know I watched an entire season of this nonsense, but… what was going on? I guess there was some kind of virtual reality MMORPG, and your avatar was based on your rank, so the hero was a wee piggy? And Kuro loved little piggy boy, because he was really good at nibbling on scraps or something? And… that’s all I got. I could not name a single other character from this series. One was named “Lime Bell”? Yeah, maybe my brain is in better shape than I thought. It is protecting me from useless information…

Miyuki Shiba of The Irregular at Magic High School

Sheeb!Who is this, officially: Magic is real! And you can go to high school to learn it! Miyuki is head of the class (I’m seeing a pattern here), but Tatsuya, her brother, is not very adept. Regardless, they both have to hide their hated ancestry, and, I don’t know, they probably learn about life and love along the way.

What do I remember from this series: I can’t rightly remember if I ever watched this one. And, to be clear, this isn’t like “oh maybe”, it’s just that I am reading a description of this series right now, and it could be describing seventeen different animes I can recall off the top of my head. This isn’t the one with the kiss-swapping, and I know it’s not the one with the one girl who turns into a baby when she gets upset. Magic school is… ugh… can we just leave this genre behind? It’s not even like Harry Potter did it all that well. “School, but with magic!” still winds up with the same tropes, just maybe someone turns into a cat at some point. This one only adds brother f$^*ing to the mix, and we already had that in Boy Meets World.

Shana of Shakugan no Shana

fieryWho is this, officially: So, there’s a parallel universe filled with people and creatures that fight all the time, and they’re basically vampires, but different. One of these fighters, Shana, pops into our universe, befriends a well-meaning boy, and she leads a semi-regular life while also occasionally flipping into superhero mode to battle other rejects from her dimension. She also has the coolest hair, ever.

What do I remember from this series: It was basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Anime Edition for a solid two seasons, and then the third season got all sad and angry and all about how much life sucks when you fight. Or maybe I’m thinking of something else. I don’t know! My lasting impression of Shakugan no Shana is that I liked it for a hot minute, but the finale left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t want to see it ever again. I think someone had amnesia? That’s never a good thing.

Tomoka Minato of Ro-Kyu-Bu!

Who is this, officially: It’s a sports anime! And that sport is basketball! Tomoka is a class president or overachiever or something, and…

LOOK AWAY

AHHHHHH!

What do I remember from this series:

LOOK AWAY

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

Taiga Aisakaa of Toradora!

RoarWho is this, officially: Oh, finally. We’re back to a basic, slice-of-life anime. Taiga is a short, high school girl who is publically regarded as a menace because she has an equally short temper. She befriends a boy that is publically regarded as a menace because he has permanent angry eyes. Together, they fight crime navigate the complicated halls of high school, and wind up involved in a love polyhedron that is completely incidental to the continual gags poking at the very concept of a love polyhedron.

What do I remember from this series: I liked it! … And I can’t remember much more than that. And you know what? That’s okay! I consume anime as comfort food, and I don’t need to remember who had sex with whose sister. What’s important is that I enjoyed the show itself, and I don’t have to sit down and write a thousand word essay about what was important in its themes before moving on to update the wiki from now until dawn.

You can forget about the plot to an anime, but never forget that it is okay to simply find something enjoyable, but forgettable. Not everything has to be analyzed. Not everything has to be poked and prodded until it cries for mercy.

Anywho, tune in next week for a couple thousand words on the topic of a random Playstation 2 game from a decade ago!

FGC #445 Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax

  • System: Playstation 3 and Vita. This was released around the time that everything got a PS4 version, too, but that never materialized.
  • Number of players: It’s a fighting game, so eleventy billion.
  • BounceyOther Fighters: This is a Sega title, so there are a couple of guests that originate from videogames that are just really similar to animes. Akira of Virtua Fighter looks a lot more interesting here than in his originating franchise, but he’s still duller than a doorknob from the whitest part of town. There’s also Selvaria Bles of Valkyria Chronicles. She’s possibly the most annoyed character in the whole roster, likely because someone decided to glue a pair of overinflated balloons to her chest.
  • Other cameos: All of the backgrounds are based on Sega franchises/stages. This means that, against all odds, we’ve got Green Hill Zone in a game that doesn’t even involve Sonic. It’s escaped containment!
  • Turbo Edition: There’s also a revised version of DB:FC for the arcades that has not seen consoles yet. It contains a few more characters… and one is Ako of And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?. You do not want me talking about that series. I have opinions on gender politics of MMORPGs that could go on for days!
  • Story time? The plot is that Good (as represented as a cute anime girl) and Evil (a blocky eyeball) are fighting, and Good has selected “your” fighter as the last stand against Evil. This is significant, as this choose-your-own-adventure outright states that every other fighter and world has fallen, save your chosen one. Couple this with the backgrounds involved, and it’s pretty clear that Evil killed not only all anime, but also Sonic the Hedgehog. Bold, but understandable, move!
  • Did you know? There’s a background based on 7th Dragon 2020.
    Roar!

    I’m excited anytime someone mentions dragons in multiples of seven.
  • Would I play again: Maybe? It’s a fun, if a little dumb, fighting game. I like seeing these characters, and it’s entertaining to look at in a general sense. Basically, it’s enjoyable, if a bit forgettable. So I’ll play it again if I ever happen to think of it again.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Odin Sphere! That’s a big ball o’ god right there! Please look forward to it!

MKK: Kung Lao

What you have to understand about Kung Lao is that there are essentially three Kung Laos… though not in a literal sense, as with Sub-Zero. Though there is a second Kung Lao, The Great Kung Lao, the Kung Lao that defeated Shang Tsung centuries ago, but was then murdered by Goro. That Kung Lao has nothing to do with these Kung Laos, and… oh my, this is getting to be a bit much…

Lookin' Sharp

Kung Lao is our first (introduced initially in) Mortal Kombat 2 kharacter in this rundown. What you have to remember about Mortal Kombat 2 is that, apparently, all creative juices had been spent in creating such luminaries as pants guy and ice dude in Mortal Kombat 1, so the new additions of MK2 wound up starting out as weapons delivery systems. You’ve got sword-arms, metal fans, missile sais, and even Jax was originally supposed to have his signature metal arms in his first appearance, but technology wasn’t quite there yet (even though Capcom’s Mega Man proved you could design a character with metal arms in 1987). Kung Lao appeared with this crop wearing his signature weapon: a metal, apparently lethal hat. According to interviews, Kung Lao’s headwear was inspired by the James Bond villain and Goldeneye walking cheat code Oddjob. And, yes, a regenerating, deadly hat does work well in a 2-D fighter.

Except it has nothing to do with Kung Lao.

As far as I know, Kung Lao’s hat has never been particularly explained in the Mortal Kombat kanon. There’s no it was the weapon of the ancestor. There is no secret sect of warriors dedicated to hat-fu. There is no ending where you find out Kung Lao was lost in a plane crash as a baby, and that hat is the only thing that is going to alert his mom to the fact that he’s still alive in Brazil. Nothing. Kung Lao just has a lethal Frisbee for a hat, and we all have to live with that.

Completely separate from Kung Lao: Hat Guy is Kung Lao: Peaceful Monk.

Lookin' Sharp

As you may be aware from these essays, Mortal Kombat 1 went poorly for Shang Tsung and his master, Shao Kahn. Shao Kahn was not pleased for obvious reasons, but Shang Tsung had a plan (to escape immediate, homicidal punishment). Liu Kang was the Champion of Mortal Kombat, but he could be challenged. So why not have a new Mortal Kombat tournament! In Shao Kahn’s Outworld! With blackjack! And hookers! Shao Kahn was into this plan, but there was only one hitch: why would Liu Kang enter a whole new tournament? Mortal Kombat is supposed to occur once a generation. And the victor is ageless until the next tournament. Why would Liu Kang blow that? An all-expenses paid trip to Outworld didn’t look very inviting, as that realm is almost 90% sewer mutant by volume, so what options did Shao Kahn have?

And that’s when Shao Kahn decided to send a pack of Barakas to kill every last Shaolin Monk they could find. That’ll do it!

So Liu Kang was good and pissed off for the duration of Mortal Kombat 2. Joining him on his quest for vengeance was Kung Lao, one of the few Shaolin Monks that survived the slaughter to tell the tale (“There were dudes with knives for hands! It was weird!”). Liu Kang was ready to slay Shao Kahn, but Kung Lao got the lesser personal vengeance duty of avenging himself against Baraka. Other than that, Kung Lao maintained that he was a monk of peace, and only fighting in Outworld out of a debt to his friend and fallen people.

And you see how that doesn’t exactly jibe with the whole “murder hat” thing, right?

Anywho, Mortal Kombat 2 went swimmingly for the good guys, and Kung Lao returned home to attempt to rebuild The White Lotus Society, his local chapter of Shaolin Monks. That was cut short by MK3, so Kung Lao went back to the battlegrounds. Then we had Mortal Kombat 4 (Gold, technically), and Kung Lao returned again, this time “coming out of retirement” so he could score a hit on Goro, the Trogdor that killed his ancestor and namesake. Kung Lao seriously landed one hat-hit on the dragon-dude, said he was satisfied, and then noped-out of a fight with a four-armed monster that would almost certainly have killed him immediately. Smart guy, that Kung Lao.

Lookin' Sharp

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance saw Shang Tsung kill Liu Kang. What’s more, Shang Tsung was able to kill Liu by stealing Kung Lao’s form, thus guaranteeing Kang would have his guard down for that fatal back crack. This pissed Kung Lao off but good, so Kung Lao decided he was going to become the shaolin hero the Mortal Kombat universe now so desperately needed. Kung Lao traveled to Outworld, found Liu Kang’s former master, and diligently trained so he could defeat Shang Tsung and Quan Chi. Kung Lao mastered the bicycle kick, formed his own “deadly alliance” with Kitana, and, while Kitana battled Quan Chi, Kung Lao challenged Shang Tsung to a private duel. Kung Lao lost. He lost bad. Kung Lao died, and spent Mortal Kombat: Deception in the time-out crypt.

And then we met Kung Lao #3.

Through the Mortal Kombat franchise’s weird desire to not be a fighting game, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was created. This was a sort of beat ‘em up/adventure game that, more or less, retold the events of the finale of Mortal Kombat 1, and then proceeded to the whole of Mortal Kombat 2. It was a two-player title, and featured Liu Kang and Kung Lao as a permanent duo. Unfortunately, this simple concept immediately created a pair of challenges:

1. Kung Lao wasn’t actually in Mortal Kombat 1, how is he going to be playable during that time?
2. Kung Lao and Liu Kang are generally two peaceful, agreeable Shaolin monks. Their interplay is going to be boring as hell.

So a solution was found: Kung Lao was kind of a dick! Retcons (retkons?) now included the concept that Kung Lao was always in the background of Mortal Kombat 1, he was just disguised as a generic guard until his presence was necessary. And why was he doing that? Well, because Liu Kang was chosen to participate in Mortal Kombat, and Kung Lao was jealous, so he stowed away like he was living in an episode of Ducktales. And now Kung Lao has an excuse for having a new personality! He was always jealous of Liu Kang’s skill, and he has an obvious chip on his shoulder and desire to demonstrate himself as the better fighter. Liu Kang is a stoic, dedicated monk, and Kung Lao is the hot-headed rookie anxious to prove himself. Together, they fight crime!

Lookin' Sharp

…. Still no explanation for the hat though….

Anyway, MK: Shaolin Monks was technically not kanon (as the game kinda accidentally killed a healthy portion of the cast way too early for MK3 to happen), and it was ignored when a recently revived Kung Lao spent Mortal Kombat: Armageddon palling around with wind god Fujin as a sort of counter-balance to Dark Raiden and Undead Liu Kang running around. Nothing came of that, and then the universe rebooted.

Now, Mortal Kombat 9 theoretically takes place in a timeline where Mortal Kombat 1 started exactly the same as the first time. However, presumably because somebody really liked Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Kung Lao’s personality was switched into jerkass mode, and it was “revealed” again that Kung Lao snuck into Mortal Kombat 1 (reboot) in order to prove he was better than Liu Kang. And, yes, he maintains this generally… cantankerous personality straight through to the redux of Mortal Kombat 2. During the finale of that tournament, Raiden is still trying to figure out a cryptic message from his future self, and decides to choose not Liu Kang, but Kung Lao to fight the final battles. Kung Lao defeats Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and Kintaro. Awesome! Then Shao Kahn shows up, and snaps Kung Lao’s neck like a twig. Whoopsie! At least you beat Shang Tsung this time!

Lookin' Dead

Kung Lao spends Mortal Kombat X as a member of Quan Chi’s undead army, and generally seems to be a surly zombie that (like most of his buddies) blames Raiden for his own death. Like some of the other heavies of Mortal Kombat X, Kung Lao receives a “son” type character in Kung Jin, his little cousin that joins the new generation of Mortal Kombat heroes. Buuuuut they barely interact at all, so I’m not sure why I even brought it up.

Mortal Kombat 11 grants us Undead Angry Kung Lao and Time-Displaced Younger, but Still Kinda Pissed off Kung Lao. Undead Kung Lao is basically just there to stand around and look menacing next to Undead Liu Kang, but Younger Kung Lao is at least a little friendlier than many of his recent incarnations. He acknowledges his rivalry with Liu Kang, but, likely because he was plucked out of the timeline literally minutes before his inevitable death (and every third person reminds him of this fact) he’s a little more mellow. In the end, Kung Lao the Younger is ejected from the final battle on a time technicality, and Kung Lao the Elder is obliterated by Ascended Liu Kang.

Okay, maybe Kung Lao has a reason to be so churlish…

Next time: The universe’s chew toy

FGC #444 Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Spooky!Today’s article talks about Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. While my usual policy is simply “thar be spoilers” for the entire site, and, yes, today’s game is already a decade old; I highly recommend playing the title “blind” if you’re at all interested in ever picking it up. The reasons for this will become apparent in the article (somewhere around a thousand damn words in), but just giving anyone who hasn’t played the game a chance before we get going. You have been warned and whatnot.

Also, we’re going to be talking about death. A lot. It’s kind of a 4-thing. So I suppose that makes this little bit of a trigger warning, too.

We all on the same page? Great! Time for memento mori.

Videogames can be about anything. To take an easy example, many Pokémon games are about “gotta catch ‘em all”, but there is also the significant theme of discovery, of venturing out into the unknown, and, like a child, finding your way in this world of colossal poisonous insects. In the end, you will be the champion, but you will also know every town, monster, and gym from here to your mom’s house. Even when the “plot” of a Pokémon title is razor thin, there is still that underlying substance. And, like any good story, this information is relayed to the player/audience in an almost imperceptible way, so, even if you are just playing to finally hatch that shiny, maximum IV drowzee, you’re still soaking in the base message of the piece. This is true for nearly any game that is released nowadays, whether it be a Mario game that tells you there is a great big, diverse world out there for you to explore, or a competitive FPS that may be claiming that the only way old soldiers know how to retire is to repeatedly shoot each other for ten minutes at a time. Games have themes. Games have stories. And, whether you overtly notice those narratives or not, they are certainly there.

And maybe personal circumstances can influence your interpretation of those themes…

MEMORIES!A friend of mine died recently. It sucked. He died after a two year (or so) battle with cancer, and, while we were not particularly close (slightly above a co-worker level of friendship, kind of guy you predominantly only see in specific circumstances), he was still someone I considered important. Given he had been diagnosed a couple years back, and we all literally knew this was coming, the whole event was in no way a surprise. I was more “mad at the world” back when I first saw him struggling with the first chemo treatments, but by now, by the time of his death, I had come to grips with the typical “why do bad things happen to good people” issue (answer: it’s because we stand too close to microwaves). It was rough to see a friend die, but, unfortunately, these things happen. It’s death. You will die one day, too.

And when you die, I hope to God that you don’t have an extensive VHS collection of past performances that I have to sort through.

I’m a computer guy. To be more particular, I suppose I’m a “media” guy. People know I have a personal office that I erected nearly a decade ago with an emphasis on being able to digitally preserve anything. I am a data packrat, and, whether you hand me a record, cassette tape, or Kodak slide, I am prepared to find a way to transform that into a MP3 or PNG that can be replicated on a thousand USB drives. So, naturally, because my departed friend had been involved in theatre troops since his college days, he had a full stock of old performances on VHS. As I write this, I am literally looking at a stack of tapes going back to 1989, and I’m digitizing every single reel, because, ultimately, this was a man’s life. He saved these tapes. He thought these tapes were important. So I’m going to save them, pass along some USB drives to his daughters and friends, and keep the man alive.

Except he’s not alive. He’s dead. He is so dead, I’m digitizing tapes so we have some interesting bits to show at his funeral. He lived a long and generally happy life, but now, this all that’s left. A pile of VHS tapes and DVDs. Computer hard drives fat with “project” files. A bed that will never be used again, but currently shows an unmistakable imprint. This is all that is left of a man. Everything that was not recorded, every thought that he didn’t think to write down, that’s all gone now. All that’s left are these bits and pieces of a man. His own thoughts are now forever gone, and, in time, our own memories of him will mutate and fade. We’ll make up stories. We’ll claim he did things he never would have thought of doing. Moments that never happened will become “funny stories” we’ll tell about him. It will be wrong, but it will feel right. And, all the while, these tapes and files will be the only real proof of what actually happened. That he was a man, and now he is dead, but he was once alive, and did these true, concrete things.

And it kind of sucks, because these things that he did were obviously lies to begin with.

COME ON!These VHS tapes are almost entirely routines. As mentioned, my friend always not-so-secretly wanted to be a song and dance man, so he took pretty much any opportunity to perform on stage. Sometimes he sang his own, original songs. Sometimes he covered “Weird” Al numbers. But no matter the source of the performance, it was still a performance. There is an audience, and, whether it was intended for the theatre or a camcorder, he knew about the people watching. Even in the candid videos, the “behind the scenes” moments with family and friends, he knew there was a camera. He wasn’t performing per se, but I don’t need to tell you that there’s a gulf between reality and selfies. Having now personally watched literally decades of this man on tape, I can safely say that his real life persona was very different from anything captured on any camera. And this is not to claim that he was a completely different person, or somehow deliberately deceiving anyone that might watch these videos, but… well… Let’s just say he was good at Facebook before it was ever a thing.

With all that said, suffice to say I was somehow… not emotionally prepared when I was reminded that Silent Hill: Shattered Memories starts with an unseen person popping in a deteriorating, old VHS tape.

Steamy?Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is my friend. … Wait, that came out entirely too wrong. Take two… Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a lot like my friend. For one thing, this is a game that, like a certain someone, is a singularly unique experience (in fact, SH:SM is one of my favorite games). SH:SM includes a framing device of an unseen patient (that effectively becomes you) during a psychological session. And, while the average game might use such a setting as an easy backdrop for a character creator (“tell me how you see yourself”) or simply a way to heighten the horror of the situation (“oh, did my face just turn into a pile of snakes?”), here SH:SM outright tells you from the start that it is psychologically profiling you, player. Many of the most innocuous actions in SH:SM influence how things proceed within the story, and how the world of Harry Mason deviates and mutates in his quest to find his missing daughter. Whether you’re the type to obsessively check every area for hidden items or check out an abandoned strip club for… uh… research, the game is always watching, and forming an opinion on “your” Harry Mason. And, given the final reveal of the true protagonist of this tale, it becomes obvious that this is very deliberate action, as the only “real” Harry exists in ancient, concrete VHS recordings, and every action performed by “your” Harry was merely pieces slapped together by someone desperately trying to remember a dead man.

I can relate.

But the other truth of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is that I can never experience the game the same way ever again. Yes, such a statement is usually reserved for back-of-the-box bullet points (“Always a different adventure!”) that expound on how you’ll experience “70 hours of gameplay” and maybe even enjoy some RPG-Action-Adventure-Rogue-like-Fighting elements. However, in this case, it is 100% true… but not in a good way. It is inevitable that, after learning the final twist of the title’s ending, the player will realize what has been going on. There may be monsters running around as an easy distraction, but it’s pretty obvious that, when all is revealed in the ending, a player will learn “how” they were being watched. There’s no “Harry will remember this”, but a more focused, less frightened playthrough reveals the seams of the story a lot more perceptibly. LOOK AWAYThus, subsequent playthroughs make it nearly impossible to get the true “psychological profile” again, as, once you know what’s actually happening, you start performing. You know you’re being watched, being judged, so you behave differently. You’re no longer you-as-Harry, you’re now officially playing as your ideal Harry, who is inevitably very different from an “honest” Harry.

So, basically, on any subsequent playthrough, Harry becomes his own VHS-recorded ideal. The “real” Harry died the first time you saw the credits. You may as well aim for that ending with the goofy dogs now…

And maybe this gets me thinking about my own death a little more than I would expect.

Hi, and welcome to Gogglebob.com, where I have written 444 or so articles about videogames, some amusing recaps of a few other games, and two Let’s Plays that covered literally everything across four different games. In many cases, these words on this site are completely honest. In other cases, they’re complete dramatic bullshit. Have you ever tried to write a thousand words about a videogame featuring a cheerleader with a chainsaw? Do you know how easy it would be to just write “look, I was horny and had sixty bucks, now I got a game where there is literally an achievement for peaking up a woman’s skirt”? Is the article I’m directly referencing a complete lie? No, of course not. But is it the same article I would have written if I was the only audience for my own musings? Of course not. I have memories that are purely my own of literally every videogame I own, but I am absolutely not going to share that vaguely fatphobic version of Devil May Cry that I imagined when I first played Lollipop Chainsaw (long story, trust me). I know there is an audience, I know I am being watched, so this Book of the Dead that is my personal blog about my personal videogames is not exactly as personal as it appears. One day, someone will read through my site, and remember the man I once was, and the person they will remember will be a complete lie. And I bet they’re going to feel like a real jackass when they get to this article!

Here we go!But I’m not dead. I’m alive. If you’re reading this, you’re alive. And, as the game says, “you need to live your life”. We can spend all day dwelling on what might have been, or who a person really was, but, in the end… or maybe more appropriately, in the present, that’s not what’s important. We can pour over old tapes, or replay old games, but what’s past is past, and what’s past will never be “alive” again. Enjoy the memories you have. Learn from the mistakes that you’ve made. Acknowledge that the past has inevitably made you who you are. But don’t let it dictate who you are. Don’t let the dead dictate the person you can be. Your memories are fragmentary and unreliable. Physical objects are only as important as the feelings we ascribe to them. And even VHS tapes of people long gone are only showcases for one side of a person, one fragment of a persona forever preserved in amber by arcane technology (I assume most camcorders are designed by wizards).

One day you too will die. And one day, people will only remember you in unreliable ways, too. Don’t worry about that. Make an impact now. Make your life matter now. Because one day, you won’t have that choice.

FGC #444 Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

  • System: Nintendo Wii, and then PSP and Playstation 2. I will note in a moment why this title should never have left the safe harbors of the Wii…
  • Number of players: It is truly a singular experience.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Didn’t I? Look, I love this game, as it is one of the few truly unique gaming experiences out there. And that’s pretty good for a game that is already like the sixth in a franchise! Everything in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories jells so completely, it is hard not to be wholly absorbed into one of the few horror games out there that doesn’t just rely on jump scares…
  • I hate this placePlay Control: And a significant reason for SH:SM being so good is the way the Wii-motes are utilized. You have to keep your flashlight up at pretty much all times, which already forces the real-life you into a much more “ready” gaming pose than when you’re munching on pretzels while playing Final Fantasy. And the fact that your only offensive options are tied to literally shoving with the motes during high-stress, high-risk monster areas keeps the adrenaline up at the exact moment you should be “frightened”. This is the experience always promised by the “virtual reality” component of the Wii. … Or at least it’s better than bowling.
  • Speaking of Horror: If I want to play a horror game, please give me a game where my hero has practically zero weapons available. I want to shoot some mindless drones, I’ll just play Mega Man, thank you.
  • So which ending did you get? The sexy one. I am apparently a pervert that spent way too long staring at “hard bodies”.
  • Least Favorite Area: This is a horror game, so “least favorite” is the new “favorite”. Anywho, the high school scares the everloving crap out of me, and the moment it asks you to venture back into a monster-infested area to unlock the way forward… I get chills just thinking about it.
  • Did you know? I don’t think I’ve played a single other Silent Hill title to completion. Horror isn’t exactly my bag…
  • Would I play again: Probably not! Shattered Memories is an experience you can only truly experience once. I would like to play it with some fresh meat sometime, though…

What’s next? Random ROB is back to completely random and has chosen… Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax! Well, doesn’t that sound climatic? Please look forward to it!

CRAYON FACTORY