Tag Archives: centaurs

MKK: Sindel & Sheeva & Motaro

The ultimate problem with Sindel is that she was made for one game and one game only.

GOTH!

Mortal Kombat 3 was the story of Shao Kahn reclaiming his undead bride, Sindel, and… Actually, let’s just use her Mortal Kombat 3 biography to start here:

Sindel once ruled the Outworld at Shao Kahn’s side as his queen. Now 10,000 years later after her untimely death, she is reborn on Earth with evil intentions. Sindel is the key to Kahn’s occupation of Earth."

So… you can kind of see where the character came from with that description, right? Shao Kahn was a giant, spike-riddled king that wore bones as random ornaments, so he had to have a matching queen. While the idea of an equally gigantic bruiser lady was likely ignored because we do not live in the best of all possible worlds, it seems the plan was to make Shao Kahn, employer of many a wizard, married to a literal witch. As such, Sindel is in possession of some distinct features:

1. She can fly, and does so often as not only a special move, but also her victory stance
2. She can hurl fireballs from her mouth, a very common villain trait
3. She possesses a super-sonic scream like a banshee
4. She has long, black & white hair that seems to function like a lizard’s tail
5. She is more goth than Starbucks’ ill-fated Fall promotional drink, The Hot Gothlette.

Couple this with the fairly standard Mortal Kombat feature of pupil-less eyeballs (usually used to denote a kharacter is dead/undead), and Sindel does look like an appropriate match for Shao Kahn. Shao Kahn is basically the barbarian king archetype, and Sindel is his concubine-sorceress. It’s not the most original coupling in the world, but if it works for Skeletor, it can work for Mortal Kombat.

And then it was all undermined before Mortal Kombat 3 even ended.

The ending of Mortal Kombat 3 revealed that Sindel was not Shao Kahn’s witch queen, but yet another one of his unwilling victims. Sindel had been a queen, but she was queen of Edenia with her beloved king/husband, Jerrod. Jerrod, unfortunately, sucked at Mortal Kombat, failed against Shao Kahn, and lost fifty cents, his kingdom, and his life. Shao Kahn thus conquered Edenia, and took Sindel and her infant daughter, Kitana, as his own family. Sindel took this entire event poorly, and killed herself as a result (SIDE NOTE: the original MK3 ending simply notes that her death was part of Shao Kahn’s plan, and not noted as suicide. The suicide seems to be a retkon or “interpretation” of the ending that is generally accepted, and, well, yeesh. Right?). Shao Kahn, ever not one to let anything in his life not lead to an evil scheme, struck up a deal with the fallen Elder God Shinnok, and managed to snag Sindel’s soul in some manner of purgatory for 10,000 years, which would allow Sindel to be reborn on Earth, thus allowing him to conquer the place. This had the added benefit of Sindel being revived in a brainwashed, murder-banshee state, so, hey, willing queen as a bonus. Saves Shao Kahn some time on having to score with the Queen of Earth (who, in 1995, was probably… who? Mariah Carey?).

This immediately created a strange dichotomy: Sindel was not Sindel. Or, at least, the undead queen of evil was not who Sindel was supposed to be. Sindel’s MK3 ending even showcased a Sindel with proper human pupils, entirely white hair, and a much more modest gray, 80’s style blazer. She… kinda looked like X-Men’s Storm. Basically, Sindel was intended to be the benevolent leader of a bunch of wannabe elves, and not the demon queen of Shao Kahn. Clearly, when next we saw Sindel, she would be “good” Sindel, and not the version that might manage a Hot Topic with an iron fist.

And the only problem with that would be that absolutely no one would recognize a “good” version of Sindel.

Hairy

Sindel was benched for Mortal Kombat 4 (Edenia was momentarily conquered by Shinnok and Sindel’s own Ambassador of Boomerangs, and queenie was tossed in a dungeon with Kitana on rescue duty) and Mortal Kombat 5 (again, Kitana was the point princess, and Sindel decided to chill), but she did return in time for Mortal Kombat: Deception (6). And did she look any different? No! If anything, with the graphical glow-up available, she looked more like The Evil Queen of the West. Which makes perfect sense from the perspective of “this is Sindel”, but feels pretty weird for a woman that has supposedly been hanging back and defending her realm from Shao Kahn’s mutant forces for a game or two. And even better news? She got worse!

When I said Sindel was created for exactly one game, I damn well meant it. Sindel possessed two abilities that were practically her signature: flight, and magic hair. Bad news? Both of those abilities absolutely did not work for Playstation 2-era fighting games. Flight was right out, as we’re all doing 3-D kung-fu fighting now, and those fighters barely even jump, left alone float around the battlefield. And magic, snake-like hair? Forget about it. Dude, we could barely render a buzzcut back then. Realistic hair that also has its own skeleton? Sorry, but Kabuki Quantum Fighter 3-D was not happening. So, whereas Sindel was able to return as a fighter, a healthy chunk of what made her unique was cut out between sequels. But at least she still looked like Queen Goth of Gothania!

Anywho, Sindel was imprisoned by Zombie Kitana during MK: Deception, eventually was freed by Jade, but then managed to accomplish exactly nothing over the course of the next two games. She was there, but she didn’t do anything. And that’s kind of impressive on its own, as, come on, she commanded an entire dimension. She could have at least gotten, like, Goro Jr. on her side. Whatever. She died during Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and that was that.

Zombie Queen!

But she returned for Mortal Kombat 9! And, good news, Mortal Kombat 9 contained Mortal Kombat 3 again! The game she was made for! Hooray! And the story actually did right by her! Double hooray!

So, first of all, Sindel received the retkon that her suicide wasn’t just some “oh woe is me Romeo is dead I’ll never love again” move, it was a distinct sacrifice of her life energy to guarantee that Shao Kahn had to conquer Earth through honorable Mortal Kombat, and couldn’t just roll in with a centaur murder squad. Thanks, Sindel! And Sindel’s eventual revival was less “10,000 year old Plan B”, and more “Quan Chi, Shinnok’s rent-a-lackey, has a whacky idea”. Quan Chi revives Sindel as an unwilling zombie bride, her suicide-magic is undone, and Shao Kahn invades the planet. Then, when Shao Kahn’s number one horsey man takes a dive, he decides he needs a super-powered zombie queen, so the good emperor sucks the souls right out of Shang Tsung, deposits them in Sindel, and Sindel becomes Juggernaut Sindel.

Thus, Sindel finally earns the part she was meant to play in Mortal Kombat 9. She’s an unstoppable (incidentally goth) force of destruction used against the heroes. She wipes the floor with practically everyone, straight-up rage murders/soul-eats her own daughter, and is only defeated when one of the good guys (kinda ironically) suicide blasts her to the Netherrealm. Naturally, she then becomes one of Quan Chi’s zombie grunts, and spends the rest of her existence as an undead enforcer, presumably never learning (or at least caring) that she used to be a benevolent queen. And that’s good! … I mean, not for her… But it fits her archetype better! She started as an evil zombie queen, and she’ll end as an evil zombie queen.

Oh, and she got her special moves back, too.

So just remember: some characters have an expiration date of one game.

So many arms

In a perfect, more interesting world, Shao Kahn was a “regular” playable character in Mortal Kombat 3, Sindel was made the final boss (“She proves too much for Shao Kahn to handle, and conquers Earthrealm for herself”), and Sheeva was her corresponding sub-boss. Then Sheeva might have made an impact on the mythos. As it is… well… Seems like nobody cares about Sheeva.

Sheeva really should have made a big splash. She was the first (deliberately) playable Shokan character in the Mortal Kombat franchise. And that was huge, considering people had been begging to play as the likes of Goro and Kintaro literally since the first Mortal Kombat. Unfortunately, everything that made the four-armed badass characters such badasses was dropped for Sheeva. She did not have their levels of super-armor, she was not invulnerable to projectiles, and, most disappointing of all, she was able to be tossed around like any other fighter on the roster. Obviously, these changes were made to the Shokan so that they could actually be used during a typical fight without completely unbalancing the entire match, but it did leave the (theoretically) unintended impression that female Shokans were dramatically weaker than their male counterparts. Sheeva could tear a man’s flesh off, but there was no way she could have ever stood up to Goro.

Oh, and Sheeva was the kharacter most often cut from the various forms of the Mortal Kombat 3 home ports, so it’s entirely likely there are people out there who loved playing MK3 as a kid, but never even knew she existed.

So many arms

All of this likely impacted what wound up being her kanon Mortal Kombat 3 fate. All that is established in MK3 proper is that Sheeva is assigned as Sindel’s bodyguard, and the Shokan really hate Motaro’s centaur race, which is currently being favored by Shao Kahn after Goro and Kintaro whiffed it for two solid tournaments. What happened beyond those facts was established by other fighters’ bios in future titles, and what we learned was that…

1. Jade and Kitana teamed up to take down Sheeva. They succeeded, because Sheeva sucks for Endurance Matches, and they “freed” Sindel by restoring her memories.
2. Sheeva eventually found that Shao Kahn planned to eliminate the Shokan, so she fought against Shao Kahn’s forces (besides, she was probably out of a job anyway). She lost here, too, but Liu Kang eventually won the day without her help.
3. Somewhere in there, Sheeva struck up a deal with Kano to kill Motaro. Cooperating with Kano is never a good idea! Kano did successfully distract horseyboy while Sheeva dealt some mortal blows, though.
4. However, Kano ratted Sheeva out to Shao Kahn almost immediately, so Shao Kahn stabbed Sheeva but good, and left the woman for dead.

And that was it for Sheeva for a solid few games. She even cameoed in Mortal Kombat: Deception as a corpse in Hell. That seemed to squash any future plans for Sheeva returning.

But Sheeva did finally return in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. And, like her old charge, Sindel, she didn’t really have a plot at all. She was introduced as “just as brutal as Goro or Kintaro”, and the rest of her biography was just how Mortal Kombat 3 went down. Her (non-kanon) ending was her ascending to become a “Goddess of Destruction”, which seemed a little… on the nose for a multi-armed woman named “Sheeva”.

So many arms

Sheeva doesn’t fare much better in the reboot. It’s revealed that she’s been bumming around the Mortal Kombat universe since MK1, but she’s basically at Baraka’s level on the ol’ organizational chart. She once again, technically, becomes Sindel’s bodyguard, but, since Sindel is a monster woman capable of defeating entire armies, it’s a pretty lackluster position. However, since Sheeva is really bad at her job, she is nowhere near Sindel when Nightwolf explodes, so she (unlike practically everyone in the story) actually completely survives nu Mortal Kombat 3. Way to go, Sheeva!

Unfortunately, Sheeva doesn’t have much of a future past MK9. She’s marginally important in the comics (which features a full redemption arc for Goro), but she doesn’t otherwise appear in anything Mortal Kombat 10 related. She then appears as Queen of the Shokan in Mortal Kombat 11… but that’s likely only because she was the last surviving named Shokan in this plot. Whatever the reason, she has about ten seconds of screentime, and joins a time-displaced Princess Kitana in defeating the time-displaced Shao Kahn, thus finally getting some revenge on her old boss. Hooray?

And that’s that for the final introduced Shokan in the franchise. Way to make your race not cool, Sheeva!

Smashing!

Motaro: If Kintaro thought he had a rough life for being easily forgettable, he should try being the poor horse that was completely impossible for future games.

Motaro was the impassable centaur sub-boss of Mortal Kombat 3. Likely in an effort to hide that the final boss of Mortal Kombat 3 was just the final boss of Mortal Kombat 2 (but with a shoryuken), the chief sub boss of MK3 was nearly impossible. Coincidentally, he was also the most limited of sub bosses. He had a punch, donkey kick, grab, projectile, and sweeping tail. That’s it! But, considering his very hide could reflect all projectiles and he took up about 75% of the screen, that’s all he needed. He was also the first playable MK sub boss on a home system that actually had color, so a lot of people have fond memories of the centaur.

And then he stopped existing.

Look, we get it. In a fighting tournament where everyone has basic human skeletons, it’s hard to squeeze a horse into the proceedings. The official excuse for the longest time in Mortal Kombat kanon was that Sheeva outright killed Motaro during MK3, and, since the Centaurians were supposed to be better than the Shokan, that little homicide settled the issue. Four arms beats four legs, end of story, won’t be seeing one of those dudes again. We’ve got plenty of bipedal monsters running around, we don’t need an equine.

This sucks

But Mortal Kombat: Armageddon touted that it would involve every Mortal Kombat fighter, so someone decided Motaro had to return. And he did! Mostly! The Shokan had apparently cursed the hated Centaurians, and now Motaro was stuck in a less centaur, more satyr form. Hooves and tail can stay, but only two legs for Motaro. Oh, and he’s still huge. But, man, is he a lot less imposing now that he looks like he should be telling you to get up on the hydra’s back.

But at least Motaro got to appear in Mortal Kombat 7 in some hobbled way! Every fighter that appeared in the first three Mortal Kombat titles is available in Mortal Kombat 9… except Motaro. Motaro appears in the background of a few scenes in story mode, though! And then Raiden kills him to save Johnny Cage. The end.

Motaro, how do you feel about being so ignored throughout the franchise?

I don't like it


Next time: Ninja are no joke.

MKK: Goro & Shang Tsung

Look out!

Back in the day, Mortal Kombat stirred up a lot of controversy. We were told the “fatalities” were beamed directly to Earth by space aliens in an effort to desensitize our youth, and, just when we had finally gotten over that “controversy”, there was the whole deal with Nintendo and Sega choosing different routes for censoring the home versions. While it seems almost insane to ponder now, ask any “90’s kid” what was the big deal about Mortal Kombat, and they’ll give you one response: the blood.

And somewhere in all of that controversy, people forgot one other important thing about Mortal Kombat 1: it was damn hard. Mortal Kombat 1 is the Dark Souls of fighting games from 1992.

As a quick reminder, beating Mortal Kombat meant you first had to beat the entire roster of fighters, including the iconic Mirror Match. That was followed by three Endurance Matches, which were a completely unfair set of 1 v 2 battles. Assuming you could beat opponents with technically twice as much health as your chosen fighter, the following match would be even more insane. Ladies and gentlemen, Goro lives!

Goro was pretty impressive for the time. In a game featuring motion-captured actors, he was a Claymation powerhouse meant to evoke monsters from the early days of cinema. Four arms, twelve fingers, a confusing number of pectoral muscles, an innate dislike for pants: he was basically The Incredible Hulk crossed with another Incredible Hulk (that had a lower set of arms). And he felt like an impassable brick wall, too. He was stunned very rarely, projectiles bounced right off those amazing abs, and when you got hit by Goro, you got hit by Goro. On paper, his moves were nothing special (a fireball and a jump stomp? Lame), but anyone that ever had a few quarters riding on defeating the half-man, half-dragon Champion of Mortal Kombat knew that all Goro needed was one good punch. Defeating Goro took skill, patience, and maybe a little luck. Goro is the Dark Souls of fighting game sub-bosses.

Unfortunately, Goro went downhill from there almost immediately.

Now he sucks!

Mortal Kombat 1 Goro was mute (save a roar or two), and his biography basically consisted of the fact that he was two millennia old (!) and had been the uncontested champion of Mortal Kombat for 500 years and nine generations (however that works out). He killed Kung Lao back in the day… and that was it. He was nigh immortal, he was going to kick your ass, and there are decent odds he beat your grandpappy’s ass, too. That is all Goro needed! But, when he surfaced for Mortal Kombat 4, he was literally back with a vengeance (for Liu Kang), and wound up being so lame, he lost to (this generation’s) Kung Lao (spiritually Liu Kang’s annoying little brother). Then he returned for Mortal Kombat Deception (or at least the Gamecube version), and there was this whole complicated story about becoming a general in Kitana’s armies, but he was back-attacked by Noob Saibot, and he was left for dead, and he was found by an injured Shao Kahn, and Shao Kahn shared his life force so Goro would live, so Goro decided to rejoin Shao Kahn, but first he had to fake his own death by putting his royal seal on a slain Shokan warrior, and now Goro lives, but in an effort to return Shao Kahn to his throne because he owes him a life debt. Got all that? I don’t mean to insult any wookies that might be floating around the forum, but, seriously, dudes? You made Goro the Unstoppable into friggen Chewbacca. Chewbacca is strong, yes, but he’s a giant teddy bear! Kinda literally! And, surprise, Goro’s return appearances after Mortal Kombat 1 were just about as threatening as fighting a teddy bear. By the time Armageddon rolled around, Goro was officially palling around with Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung again, and his former might was all but a memory…

Look out!  He's got a skull!

But in Mortal Kombat 9, Goro returned as Champion of Mortal Kombat, and he was a generally mute threat again. Hooray! And then he came back in a non-kanon DLC role for Mortal Kombat 10, and he’s just kind of an almost-mute threat, too! And in the Mortal Kombat X tie-in comic, he has some weird redemption arc that goes absolutely nowhere! And in Mortal Kombat 11, he’s dead for some reason! Okay! Whatever! Truly, balancing Goro’s character arc versus his status as a threatening foe is the Dark Souls of plotting.

Meanwhile, Shang Tsung has a pretty significant backstory that goes back before Mortal Kombat even got going. First of all, he started out as a human of Earth, and fought in at least one Mortal Kombat tournament some 500 years back, but cheated through some unknown means. Considering this is a fighting tournament that routinely involves magical skeletons from Hell fighting dudes with four arms wielding four spiked knuckles, I would really like to know what could be considered cheating. Regardless, Shang Tsung was disqualified for being a jerk, but Shao Kahn, Emporer of Outworld, decided to adopt Shangy, because I guess every organization needs a guy who cheats ineffectively. Shao Kahn taught Shang Tsung how to become a sorcerer, and then, in a marginally unrelated incident, Shang Tsung was cursed by the Elder Gods to devour souls whenever he committed homicide. Given how the MK Universe works, this would be akin to being cursed to eat a delicious chocolate cake every time you got a coffee. I guess the Elder Gods were trying to curse Shang Tsung to be fat? Soul fat? It’s a confusing universe.

More skulls!

Anyway, this whole “soul curse” thing spectacularly backfired, as Shang Tsung grew strong by feeding on the souls of his enemies and inheriting their skills and memories. When Shang Tsung showed up for his next Mortal Kombat (possibly under a soul-stolen new shape/identity), he won the whole thing, and Shang Tsung was set to be new Champion of Mortal Kombat on behalf of Shao Kahn and Outworld. But Shang Tsung was defeated by Kung Lao, an ancient warrior and ancestor of Liu Kang. Kung Lao reigned as champion for at least a generation (fun fact: Mortal Kombat Champions do not age, which is a pretty sweet prize for punching people to death), but then Shang Tsung returned with a four-armed monster man. Goro became the official Mortal Kombat Champion for the following 500 years, and, somewhere in there, Shang Tsung, ever the Don King to Goro’s Tyson, built his own magical island for future Mortal Kombat tournaments. In earlier games, this was just a random island where Shang stowed his gold and various monks, but later titles have made the island a magical place with forcefields, zombies, and Shang’s own private Soulnado. It’s a pretty impressive island fortress, and the only drawback is that, thanks to yet another curse by the Elder Gods, Shang Tsung has to do all the landscaping himself.

So, by Mortal Kombat I, Shang Tsung was snug as a bug in an evil island powered by the souls of the dead rug. Liu Kang defeated Goro, though, and Shang Tsung was a last-minute addition to the tournament in an effort to trounce the forces of Earth. Unfortunately, the dude that can transform into any fighter isn’t really much of a threat for the guy that has already defeated every fighter, and Shang Tsung’s reign was ended with a swift kick to the face.

Look out!  The most skulls!

Shang Tsung then becomes the toady-based through line for the next two Mortal Kombat tournaments. First, in a desperate attempt to not be homicidally punished by his boss Shao Kahn for fumbling a five century-long play at the goalpost, Shang Tsung suggested having a better, slightly more purple tournament in Outworld for Mortal Kombat 2. Shao Kahn really liked this idea, so he restored Shang Tsung’s youth. Or he just didn’t want to smell old man Shang Tsung anymore. Whatever the reason, a vibrant Shang Tsung fought as a “normal” participant in Mortal Kombat 2, though he did retain his shape-shifting abilities from Big Boss College (he got a BS in weak point reduction). When that plan inevitably failed, he was instrumental in the revival of Shao Kahn’s undead queen on Earth, so Shang Tsung once again earned a tournament invite for the forces of evil. Unfortunately, he lost, repeatedly, and, by about the time the forces of Outworld were being beat back to their outhouse dimension, Shao Kahn had had enough of the sorcerer’s sass mouth, and Shang Tsung wound up in a dungeon (probably in Kano’s used shackles).

Shang Tsung spent all of Mortal Kombat 4 on the bench, but he returned in Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance to form the… Deadly Alliance. Neat! Quan Chi (the MK2/3 Shang Tsung of Mortal Kombat 4) had a plan to pilfer his boss’s magical amulet, revive the Dragon King’s Army, and conquer all of existence. Unfortunately, in order to reanimate an army of the dead, he needed a decent soulmancer on the payroll. Shang Tsung fit the bill, and, while Shang had had a rough year or so, he had been the king of Mortal Kombat for a solid few centuries. Shang Tsung and Quan Chi thus teamed up, and, first order of business: (kinda) kill Shao Kahn. Then it was off to (really) kill Liu Kang. After that, the duo set up shop at an all-new Soulnado, acquired some local real estate, fought the forces of good, and, in a surprise upset, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi actually won. With Liu Kang dead, the dastardly duo defeated all of Earth’s forces, and actually fulfilled their quest to revive the Dragon King’s Army. Sweet! Unfortunately, they also kinda sorta revived the Dragon King, too, who promptly killed everybody in attendance. So close!

No skulls...

Thus, Shang Tsung didn’t show up for Deception, but he did return for Armageddon, as, apparently, he had pledged his soul to Shao Kahn a few centuries back, and, so long as Shao Kahn lived, he could summon Shang Tsung back to life, too. Good thing Shang Tsung was so bad at killing Shao Kahn two games back! Shang Tsung wound up helping Shao Kahn regain the throne of Outworld, and, since Shao Kahn then went on to win Mortal Kombat Armageddon and thus prompt Raiden to reboot all of reality, Shang Tsung could totally note on his resume that he was partially responsible for the destruction of a universe. You know, if anyone could remember that universe…

Oddly enough, Rebooted Mortal Kombat 9 Shang Tsung had nearly the same Mortal Kombat 1-3 arc, though with one vital difference. When Shao Kahn revived his queen, he sucked all the souls out of Shang Tsung, and gifted them to his lady love. This had the side effect of making Sindel into an unstoppable monster, and making Shang Tsung super-duper dead. And he stayed dead! Mostly! Shang Tsung is Mortal Kombat 11’s first DLC character, and he’s a time-displaced version of his older/younger self. Apparently, it is kanon that the Goddess of Time identified Shang as too damn treacherous for her generally malicious schemes, so he had to be hidden in the DLC department until which time he was willing to play nice. But other than that, Shang Tsung Prime died a good two decades before the end of this universe.

Morphin' Time

WEIRD FACT: Shang Tsung’s ending for Mortal Kombat Armageddon sees Shang gain god-like power, and, when Shao Kahn objects, Shang Tsung transforms his old boss… “into a centaur slave”. Now I’m not going to jump to any conclusions here, but it seems very likely that Shang Tsung belongs to the loyal order of centaurphiliacs, and the writers have just not yet found a way to sneak that information back into the main kanon. Keep an eye out, true believers!

Next time: Cold-blooded ninja.

FGC #432 Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

AND YOU HAVE MY AXEAnd now we’re going to talk about the slimy underbelly of the concept of games preservation: The Legends.

…. And why they suck.

Golden Axe is an interesting series. It started in 1989 as a medieval arcade beat ‘em up. Golden Axe was a pretty fun experience, but it also had the misfortune of being released the same year as the vastly more popular Final Fight. Golden Axe wasn’t exactly a bad game by comparison, but chicken riding and the occasional magic spell somehow didn’t catch the public’s interest in the face of a malevolent version of Animal from The Muppets. When Golden Axe hit the Genesis, it was just a year until we saw Streets of Rage, a vastly and obviously more popular title of the same genre. And then its sequel, Golden Axe 2, had the significant handicap of being released on the same system during the same year as Streets of Rage 2. Decades later, people are still talking about the tight design of Streets of Rage 2. No one is talking about Golden Axe 2.

But Golden Axe 2 wasn’t terrible. In fact, Golden Axe 2 holds a special place in my heart, as, back in the day, my beat ‘em up-addicted neighbor and myself (am I trying to imply that I don’t have a beat ‘em up addiction after writing about four of ‘em over the course of the last month or so?) played Golden Axe 2 solid for nearly an entire year (which is like twelve billion centuries in kid time). GA2 was a two player beat ‘em up that featured a dwarf and murder skeletons, so it obviously had something going on. And, while we barely ever made it to the finale (damn limited credits), we played that title over and over again, because it was just the right kind of mindless fun that is perfect when you’re a kid. You can ride a beast! You can run really fast and headbutt a soldier with a pointy hat! Murder skeletons! That’s some good stuff!

But my holy grail? That was a creature I only ever saw once, hiding in some smoky arcade while crossing the country on vacation. Once, lurking there in the darkness, I saw Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder.

SKELETONS!Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder was released right around the same time as Golden Axe 2. Presumably, it was a divergent title that utilized the full capability of an arcade machine while leaving Golden Axe 2 to wallow in the muck of the Sega Genesis. GA:TRoDA featured branching paths for levels, vertically scrolling areas, and big, impressive sprites. It was a game that had infinitely branching possibilities, and four distinct playable characters that could halt the revenge of Death Adder simultaneously. It was the platonic ideal of Golden Axe. I might have only gotten to play the game for a credit before being pulled back to I-95, but I knew that Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder was the future of the amazing Golden Axe franchise.

But GA:TRoDA never made its way to home consoles. It was never released for the Sega Genesis, Sega CD, or even the Dreamcast. It was not emulated to any Sega collections. It was not released on any Virtual Consoles. It was simply lost to history, a shining relic of the Golden Axe franchise that would one day ask us all to become beast riders. GA:TRoDA fell between the cracks of time, and, in my mind, became a legend of a game that we would always pine for with an unrequited longing.

So I decided to give Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder a spin for this theme week of forgotten games. And you know what? It kind of sucks!

ROCK OUTThere was exactly one thing I remembered perfectly about Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder: there’s a centaur. She’s a horse-lady, she’s got an American Gladiator bopper, and she can switch to regular human legs when she needs to ride a fire-breathing mantis (… what?). However, my memory failed to remember that Dora the Centaur is also joined by Stern the Barbarian (who apparently did not star in any other Golden Axe games despite looking exactly like the other barbarians), Trix the Elf (who is clearly some weird amalgamation of breakfast cereal mascots), and Goah the Giant, who is at best Goah the Maybe Would be Good at Basketball, but is rode around by Gilius Thunderhead, dwarven hero of the previous Golden Axe titles. And that’s a pretty eclectic group! Too bad they all… just play like Golden Axe characters. There are apparently some two-player shenanigans that are available with pairing up, but that’s not going to do any good in single player or in an arcade where it is impossible to shout over the rolling noise of much more popular machines. And, whether your fighters have any interesting moves or not is rather secondary to the glut of absolutely boring opponents that are available. I played this game a whole hour before writing this article, and… I’m having trouble remember exactly what I fought. There were some malevolent trees, and an army of the mask guy from World Heroes… and… uh… I think there was an ogre or two in there? Certainly a number of useless soldiers, but they are available in practically any medieval brawler. Murder skeletons are a given, but they’re on the home consoles, too. And the final boss, the titular Death Adder wielding the Golden Axe atop a castle that appears to be a giant statue of himself, is pretty memorable. Everything else? Not so much.

You'll never get me lucky charmsYet, I spent decades thinking this title, never released on home consoles, was some kind of solid gold Golden Axe gold standard (of gold). It was the beat ‘em up to end all beat ‘em ups, and we were cruelly denied such a glittering jewel, forever stuck with the likes of Golden Axe III (originally only released in the West on the Sega Channel because it sucked so bad) or The Last Action Hero. These were games that were sorely lacking in centaurs! And, while I wondered about the joys an arcade cabinet of The Revenge of Death Adder could bring me, the beat ‘em up genre withered and died on the vine. I would never see such delight ever again.

And then, years later I played the damn game, and it was boring and rote.

And then I played Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara, and, apparently, that was the game I was thinking of all along.

I thought there were shops in Golden Axe! Sorry!

Anyway, someone please make every videogame ever readily accessible, or this is going to keep happening. Please and thank you.

I really don’t want to take a chance on playing arcade Willow now…

FGC #432 Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

  • System: Arcade only, dammit.
  • Number of players: Four! I want to say that other Golden Axes had a maximum of three… but probably just two. Four is important! That’s how many turtles there are!
  • Get 'em!It’s a kind of magic: This is the only Golden Axe title where a magic spell can summon a helpful item, and not just universally attack the screen. Trix the Elf can summon a tree that grants life giving, magically delicious fruit for the party. This adds an interesting “magic equals life” wrinkle to the gameplay… but most of the time you just reflexively hit the magic button when you’re surrounded, and wind up with a lousy bush instead of a mighty dragon. Good effort, Trix.
  • Favorite Character: Did I mention there was a centaur? Dora has all the power of a woman and a horse. And she seems to have really useful magic, too. There is literally no competition among the men here.
  • An End: Gilius Thunderhead leaps from his giant mount and dies delivering the final blow to Death Adder. This is apparently canon for future sequels, and the fighting game, Golden Axe: The Duel, makes reference to this fact. So, see, all those Saturn owners needed a home port to understand the complicated plot of Golden Axe!
  • Did you know? The hero of Golden Axe: Beast Rider is Tyris Flare, the same Valkyrie that appeared in Golden Axe I and Golden Axe II. Even though she doesn’t appear in this game, I’m noting this now because I am absolutely never reviewing Golden Axe: Beast Riders.
  • Would I play again: There are different routes and characters, so every playthrough is different. But not different enough! I can only fight so many murder skeletons, so I’ll pass on another play of this forgotten title.

What’s next? One last non-random choice: Let’s talk about a “forgotten” game that recently came back to us in a marvelous little collection. Please look forward to it!

BANG

FGC #285 Mortal Kombat (2011)

FIGHTEverybody wants a do-over.

It’s a pretty standard part of the human experience to wind up with a crushing number of regrets by the age of… oh, let’s say… five? I’m pretty sure my life would be a lot better if my mother had never thrown out my old bunny doll. Yes… that would have made all the difference. Regardless of past traumas, regret is an integral part of being alive, so it’s no surprise that a lot of media has been dedicated to the concept of “What if you had a chance to do it all over again.” In some cases, this leads to a simple “imaginary story” where the hero finds that if the “mistake” they’ve been regretting for the last decade or so was actually avoided, then Galactus would have eaten the planet… or something. And we all learn a valuable lesson about being greater than the sum of our faults/being eaten by space giants. But the more common use of this trope (or at least the one that seems to get a larger audience) involves a despairing adult traveling back to a happier time, and, using knowledge from the future, finally realizing what’s really important, and I guess that’s falling in love with your high school sweetheart, and not taking that high-powered job you worked your entire life to achieve. Oh, and then Galactus devours the planet.

I’ve always been a fan of this kind of storytelling (no, I’m not going to go to TVTropes to find the actual name of this trope), because, like everybody else on Earth, I fantasize about going back and changing the past and righting what once went wrong. However, unlike everybody else, I’m also fascinated by this concept because it terrifies me.

And I’m glad to see Mortal Kombat 9 agrees with me.

FIGHT MOREMortal Kombat Armageddon was a fun game that was, conceptually, a sequel to Mortal Kombat Trilogy. After seven or so Mortal Kombat games, about 90 roster changes, and a million shattered pieces of Boon plot, MK had accumulated a memorable collection of characters (and Stryker). As a sort of love letter to the fans, MKA boasted a roster that contained every Mortal Kombat Kharacter that ever was, and let ‘em duke it out for supremacy. Didn’t matter if a fighter had been dead for years or had appeared in every game (or had been dead for years and appeared in every game, hi Scorps!), everyone got to participate, and, considering this franchise doesn’t feature Kuddles Kombat, there was a vampire’s buffet of blood spilled. Basically, even by the standards of a franchise where every other round ends with a triple decapitation, it was a bloodbath, and when the dust cleared, pretty much everybody was dead.

And they made that canon.

Err… kanon.

So, unless Mortal Kombat wanted to do something stupid like focus on the real heroes’ kids or a cast of dead guys (cough), it was time for a reboot. And, taking a page from Star Trek rather than beloved DC Comics, Mortal Kombat got rebooted with a sort of parallel, “do-over” reality. Raiden, lightning god of Earth Realm, sent some crazy psychic message back to his younger self of before the first (videogame) Mortal Kombat Tournament (or thereabouts). Now, gifted with vague future knowledge, Raiden can redo his life (or the last couple years of it, I mean, he has been around for a while) and avoid the tribulations of a timeline that saw Johnny Cage die like sixteen times. So, simple goal: Raiden knows Shao Kahn is a menace that is not to be trusted (didn’t he already know this?), so stop this nonsense before it begins. Easy-peasy.

GLOWY!Unfortunately, as ever, the issue appears to be that Raiden is an idiot. Despite being a god who has like one job (come to think of it, is some lesser god handling lightning duties during the franchise? Fujin?), Raiden messes up in new and exciting ways throughout the rebooted franchise. I can forgive him missing out on saving a certain frosty individual from a yellow wrath, as we all knew how that was gonna go, but when Raiden saves Smoke from cyberization only to give rise to Cryo-Freeze Sub-Zero… that one is on you, pal. Can you not keep track of two ninja? It’s not that hard! They’re wearing bright colors! And then Raiden trusts Kung Lao to step up to the plate… so naturally Kung Lao gets turned into a fine paste. But he’s not alone, as practically all the Earth heroes wind up dead halfway through Act 3. Whoops! And right around the time that Raiden turns Liu Kang, Hero of Mortal Kombat, into barbecued beef… well, I’m pretty sure someone got the message that Raiden is maybe not cut out for a leadership role. When your champion can best be described as “smoldering”, you’ve done something wrong.

But I can relate, because I’m pretty sure that if I got a do-over on my life, I’d do the exact same thing.

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t sauté any beloved allies, but I’m pretty sure I’d ruin any chance of enjoying my re-life. Ultimately, I feel like it comes down to the simple fact that I appreciate my current existence. Yes, there are things about my past that I would absolutely change (about two years ago I started a website that is part catharsis and part addiction, I could definitely cut that out), but I also acknowledge that a lot of good in my life, whether it be regarding career or friendships, stems from happy accidents. And, granted, none of those accidents are the direct result of generational ninja wars (at least to my knowledge), but I feel like if I were to… re-accident some meetings, I would completely destroy the timeline as I know it. … Probably somewhere around when I’m arrested for madly screaming at a woman that we’re destined to be together, so can we get this over with, because I enjoyed dating your best friend a lot more. Look, I can be impatient sometimes.

RARGHAnd I guess that’s the crux of my belief on how life works. We’re the culmination not only of carefully laid plans, but also a big pile of coincidence and chance, some for good, some for ill. Maybe I’d be happier if I had stayed my college girlfriend, or if I hadn’t died fighting against my undead banshee of a mother, but if I changed those important/unhappy events in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am now. And I like where I am now. So, thank you, Mortal Kombat 9, for understanding that a do-over isn’t the secret to happiness. Different choices lead to different mistakes, and not every imagined “what if” has a happy ending.

Oh, and then Galactus ate the Mortal Kombat universe.

FGC #285 Mortal Kombat (2011)

  • System: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Oh, also, there was a Vita version. For reasons that I have never really understood, I once bought a new copy of the Vita version at the local Gamestop for zero dollars. There was some kind of sale, or the universe had twisted in on itself, or something.
  • Number of players: Isn’t there a tag mode that can involve four players? Yeah, there totally is, it’s right there on the menu. I’m not sure I’ve ever had four people together in one place that all wanted to play Mortal Kombat.
  • OuchWhat’s in a name? Technically, as a reboot of the franchise both conceptually and gameplay-wise, this game is simply titled “Mortal Kombat”, and is not Mortal Kombat 9. However, its direct sequel is Mortal Kombat X, and Mortal Kombat (1) is a very important game in gaming, so let’s stick to the nine.
  • Favorite Character: This roster brings back all the old favorites (in fact, it’s practically the same collection as Mortal Kombat Trilogy) so I’m going to have to pick Kabal. He’s in full-on Flash mode here, which… I really have no objection to that. Maybe he can dash through time and make this story a little happier.
  • Favorite Fatality: It made it into that silly video I made apropos of nothing, so I’m pretty sure you can guess.
  • Regarding the gameplay: Call me crazy, but I’m one of the few people that actually liked the general feel of the Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance/Deception/Armageddon games. I find the new Netherrealm style kind of clunky by comparison… but it’s still pretty fun. I mean, in the fighting game genre, very few games feel like you’re actually in a fight, and these MK experiences do seem to nail that heavy-hitting feeling. So I guess it evens out?
  • Did you know? Skarlet, original character, do not steal DLC female ninja, has a fatality wherein she drenches herself in the blood of her opponent. Except… all the cyber-robot opponents have oil or coolant for “blood”, so… well… I don’t think this is going to be good for that quasi-vampire’s digestion.
  • Would I play again: I like this game! But it is, by and large, completely unseated by Mortal Kombat X, a game that lets you play as Goro. And that counts for a lot! Eh, maybe I’ll replay 9 again when the inevitable MKHD Kollection arrives.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic Adventure 2 Battle! Ah-ha! Speak of original characters, and he shall appear. Please look forward to it!

Nice sweater, nerd