Tag Archives: gods

MKK: Shinnok

You ever think back on old 80’s cartoons where there was some unstoppable evil force (think Cobra Commander, Megatron, Skeletor, or Ronald Reagan), but they got routinely trounced every week, so why were you afraid of them, again? Like Gargamel was a malevolent antagonist that was attempting genocide for monetary gain, but he was also routinely thwarted by a pack of brownies with names like “Happy Smurf”. Why was he at all threatening? He failed every single time! There was no stopping stopping him! He would always fail!

And here’s a villain cut from the same cloth.

BABY HANDS

Shinnok was an Elder God. The dedicated theology of Mortal Kombat is ever mutable and confusing on a good day, but we do have a general god hierarchy. There are gods of individual realms, and they seem to be based on elements and such. And then there are Elder Gods, who are gods that got promoted to the City Council of the Gods. However, what Elder Gods actually do is nebulous and unclear. We think they’re supposed to protect the realms? Probably? Well, whatever the case, Shinnok was a proud member of the God Squad, but then got demoted back in prehistory when he attempted to take the whole of Earthrealm (that’s our realm!) for himself. Raiden, (regular) god of Earth, led his own squad o’ gods against Shinnok, and eventually saved the day through a massive attack that unfortunately leveled nearly all life on Earth. In your primitive, human science, you refer to this event as the start of the Ice Age.

So, yes, it is Mortal Kombat kanon that a war between Shinnok and Raiden is what killed the dinosaurs. That’s f%#&ing metal.

Shinnok was punished for his transgression by being damned from the heavens to forever dwell in the Netherrealm, aka the Hell of the Mortal Kombat universe. Now, you might be thinking at this point that this whole mythology is kind of clever, and is arguably a retelling of the popular Christian interpretation of Lucifer/Satan, the fallen angel, waging war in Heaven and then being damned to Hell for his hubris. And that would be cool if not for the fact that “Lucifer” is already ruling in Hell. Yes, it is kanon that Shinnok was damned to Hell and then punished and tormented by the ruler of the Netherrealm, Lucifer. So, apparently, this kind of “fallen divine being” thing routinely happens in the Mortal Kombat universe.

BABY HANDS

Lucifer tortured Shinnok for a few thousand years, but eventually Shinnok made a pact with a demon-wizard, Quan Chi. Quan Chi would aid Shinnok in overthrowing Lucifer, but, in exchange, Shinnok would have to go out for ice cream with Quan Chi at least once every two weeks. Shinnok, ever the scheming god, managed to negotiate this down to once a month, but only because he convinced the vain Quan Chi that too many treats would make him “kinda paunchy”, which is not a good look for a bald guy. And so the two demon bros overthrew Lucifer, and Shinnok became the uncontested god of the underworld (and Quan Chi got Lucifer’s stash of black lipstick).

But Shinnok still wanted to rule Earthrealm, so he hatched a plan to eventually reclaim what he saw as his birthright. Back when Shinnok was still living it up as an Elder God, he transferred the bulk of his power to a magical amulet. Why did he do this? Why did he willingly concede his own power to a trinket that could be removed or stolen? Well, obviously, if we knew the answer to that, then we’d be as smart as Elder Gods, right? And do I see you ruling any mystical realms filled with multi-armed weirdos? No! So shut-up and just deal with the fact that there’s a magical amulet out there possessing all of Shinnok’s powers, and he managed to drop it on his way down to Hell. And Raiden nabbed this amulet, and, as one does, sealed its power in four elemental dungeons guarded by four elemental bosses. And, worst of all, Raiden didn’t tell Shinnok where any of those elemental temples were! Is the fire one in a volcano? But which one? Earth has so many! This left good ol’ Quan Chi to align himself with Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung, and set up a little tit-for-tat for the information Shang Tsung had gained from devouring a million or so souls over the years. Quan Chi discovered the location of the amulet, Shao Kahn gained the ability to revive his dead wife at the time and dimension of his choosing, and everybody was happy. Quan Chi eventually used this information to hire Sub-Zero, reclaim the amulet, and nearly free Shinnok from Hell… but Shinnok decided to chill and wait for a little bit when Sub-Zero fought back. Soon, my pet, soon we’ll have all the failure we can carry in our wee, skeletal baby hands…

BABY HANDS

Shinnok’s big day finally came after Mortal Kombat 3. Shao Kahn’s attempted merging of the realms was just enough to weaken everyone’s defenses, and Shinnok started his invasion with… Edenia, for some reason. In what must have been the first infernal invasion based on a Benny Hill sketch, Shinnok and his buddies disguised themselves as helpless refugees, snuck into Kitana’s home realm, and took over the place inside of an hour. Edenians are really good at being conquered. Then Shinnok turned his divine eyes on Earthrealm, and kicked off Mortal Kombat 4 with a fighting tournament (as this is how things are done). Unfortunately, things went south for Shinnok almost immediately. For one thing, Shinnok was only “empowered” during this time because of Quan Chi, who had stolen the real super amulet, and was kind of making a point of standing next to Shinnok at all times, letting the old god soak up ambient amulet rays, and hoping he wouldn’t notice the ruse. This plan fell apart when Scorpion dragged Quan Chi right back to Hell (which, come to think of it, wouldn’t it have been easier for Scorpion to get his revenge while everyone was already in Hell?), and Shinnok was left fairly defenseless against the combined might of the Earthrealm warriors. As ever, Liu Kang delivered the final jump kick to that dollar-store Shang Tsung, and Shinnok was sent right back down to where the goblins go.
BABY HANDS

Absolutely no one begged for the return of Shinnok, so he spent some quality time with his remaining infernal minions until Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Shinnok was one of the many supporting villains in that tale, and he spent a little time allying himself with the protagonist of that adventure’s (literal) evil twin. But, in the end, Shao Kahn won that battle anyway, so Shinnok was left dead on the ground… which kind of shouldn’t be possible, but I’ll allow it, because it means there is one less Shinnok in the universe.

Take 2 on this story. When the Mortal Kombat kontinuity rebooted, it rebooted at the restore point of Mortal Kombat 1, so all of Shinnok’s complicated mythology remained firmly in place. However, this universe featured a Quan Chi that, thanks to a coin flip that went a different way, got two scoops of Scorpion Flamin’ Hot Crunch, and not Stryker’s Sundae Best. As a result, Quan Chi was in a much better mood in time for Mortal Kombat 4, and decided to give Shinnok the real amulet for this go round. Well, either that, or since Quan Chi had gained an entire army of superpowered undead karate wizards, he decided he didn’t need the stupid amulet anyway. Whatever the case, Shinnok kicked off nu-MK4 completely flush with power, and forsook his whole “Edenian refugees plan” for just flying in on an army of winged demons. Less evil masterminding, more shock and awe. But! Bad news for ol’ Shinnok again, just when the big bad was going to conquer the planet, Johnny Cage stepped up to the plate and magic-kicked Shinnok into next week. And next week is precisely when Raiden figured he could seal Shinnok within his own stupid amulet. So rebooted MK4 is over before it begins thanks to Raiden having not ever once played a JRPG featuring an ancient, evil god sealed into mystical jewelry (which, come to think of it, is every JRPG).

BABY HANDS

So the proper story of Mortal Kombat 10 is that, about twenty years after MK4*, most of the planet seems to be in a mad scramble to either release or permanently seal Shinnok from/to his amulet. As must inevitably happen in such a narrative, Shinnok escapes his bonds again, and… is immediately defeated by a teenage girl. Before Shinnok is Kim Possible’d into defeat, though, he does manage to obtain some kind of “devil form” by welding that amulet onto his tummy. Makes for a dude that at least looks like a decent final boss (finally!). But then Raiden chops off the former Elder God’s head. Shinnok is thus theoretically alive for the rest of eternity, but left as little more than a sputtering skull.

Shinnok isn’t technically consciously involved in Mortal Kombat 11 (some of his old zombie pals use his head as a mystical set of AAs), but his mom does show up, who turns out to be the Goddess/Titan of Time. And it’s revealed that Shinnok’s sister is also the Goddess of Good & Life, recontextualizing Shinnok as distinctly her opposite number, the God of Evil & Death. This really makes you wonder how Shinnok got a seat in the pantheon before his fall… but I guess it’s all about who you know, even when you’re a god of repeated failures.

NO MORE BABY HANDS

Next time: Some more gods and demons.

FGC #456 Asura’s Wrath

WRATH!Today’s game is Asura’s Wrath. “Asura” is, in this adventure, not a collection of demigods (though demigods are certainly involved), but one individual dude. Fair enough. Capcom is allowed to do whatever they want with religious beliefs, because being responsible for Street Fighter offers you a certain level of latitude. And there are enough guys named “Angel” in fiction anyway, right? I can name like three vampires off the top of my head. But I can only name one other Asura, and it’s this queen:

I know this deity

The last time I saw an “Asura”, she was a lady. And that got me thinking: why the hell aren’t women allowed to go crazy?

Asura’s Wrath is, for all the mythical trappings and anime-tastic explosions, little more than a “dad game”. Asura is a (super powered, maybe a robot?) general, but after a long day of battling creepy shadow monsters, he always comes home to his wife and daughter. They bring him joy, though Asura has concerns about his daughter’s divine power and eventual future as a high priestess. These concerns turn out to be well-founded when Asura’s fellow generals revolt, frame Asura for murder, kill his wife (in another, separate homicide), and kidnap his daughter. This pisses Asura right off, and leads to a quest that lasts 12,500 years (or roughly eight active hours), and sees Asura destroying entire armies and endangering the world to sate his rage. But don’t worry! It’s all justified, because Asura is a man, and his precious daughter has been kidnapped, so any damage he does to himself and others is wholly warranted. He’s a father, people! You get it!

And, frankly, we see this kind of thing all the time. It was taken to puppy-dad extremes in John Wick, but the videogame universe features a number of angry dads. From Kratos (reminder: he was a dad before the first game even started) to Mayor Mike Haggar, there are many fathers in gaming that absolutely flip the table over with righteous fury the moment their child is endangered and/or murdered. And, as ever, that’s allowed, right? Even if we’re not all parents, we all understand losing someone or something you care about. That’s universal! And, since we’ve decided to make videogame graphics startlingly realistic, it only makes sense that more and more games would find “legitimate” reasons to justify visiting violence S-WORDS!upon worlds worth of people. They can’t all be zombie games. Every once in a while, you have to honorably put down an entire city’s population for a level, and what better reason than “they took my precious daughter”. I’m pretty sure Booker threatened entire realities with that excuse.

But if this trope is so justified by parenthood, why is it always dads? Why can’t moms flip their shit, too?

Obviously (and sadly), the first explanation is that videogames are assumed to be for almost exclusively men, and thus fathers are more featured than mothers. Even when rampages don’t happen, there are any number of dad games out there where daddy dearest must protect dear daughter from dangers. And, if we’re already assuming boys play videogames more than girls, then we’re also including the added benefit of your daughter character could be a sex object to your heteronormative younger set of gamers. Teenagers are certainly okay with having sex with sexy teenagers, but, flip the genders, and the boys are left to have sex with… their mom? No! Nobody wants that! (Sit down, Freud.) Sex sells, appealing to straight men sells, and appealing to even an imaginary paternal instinct sells. Think about how many reviews will identify your dad game as mature if you’re rescuing a daughter instead of a princess! This is a real world problem!

WRATH!But, if we’re just pandering to clichés, why can’t we indulge in other clichés? For better or worse (almost entirely worse), there are any number of cants regarding “crazy” women. The “crazy ex-girlfriend” or “crazy bitch” tropes are so pervasive they’ve inspired entire songs and television series (that include songs); but consider the trope of the “unstoppable” mother. “My baby is in danger, and I will do anything to protect them!” is the rallying cry of many stories about mothers lifting cars or pushing buses out of the way. And you know who else does that? The Incredible Hulk. But even when you look to the comics, you’ll find that The Hulk is The Friggen’ Hulk, while his female counterpart, She-Hulk, is a character defined by the fact that she doesn’t experience Hulk’s heightened emotions every time she steps on a Lego. We have multiple insulting clichés regarding women going crazy, but only a handful of stories where “crazy women” use that power to do something heroic. We can hear about Karen wrecking a Starbucks over a mislabeled latte, but we can’t find a videogame where that same rage is focused on non-barista based monsters?

But we all know where we do see women in videogames. Asura’s Wrath, could you show us your woman?

This broad

Olga is the only woman in Asura’s Wrath. Excuse me, that’s a bit of an error. There are other women in Asura’s Wrath. There’s Asura’s wife, who is killed so Asura (and his brother-in-law) can experience man pain. There’s Asura’s daughter, who we’re told is super-powerful, but is only ever an object that Asura must rescue. And there’s Unnamed Villager Girl (who marginally has a name if you pay attention to developer interviews and gibberish cutscenes), who exists to remind Asura of his daughter, and then die, thus causing further man pain. Which neatly brings us back to Olga, what with Olga killing Unnamed Villager Girl an’ all…

So Olga is the only woman in the cast that is not simply there to make Asura feel bad. She is also the only lady on team bad guy. Not coincidentally, she is also supposed to embody the deadly sin of lust. Does she effectively display this during the story? No. At best, she is shown to be wholly dedicated to the (male) leader of the baddies, so maybe she’s at least sleeping with him between scenes? Obviously, “lust” is the kind of thing that is hard to work into a story. It’s not like you could just have some character hanging out in a hot spring with concubines while talking about his sexual conquests…

Seriously, guy?

Or maybe you can do exactly that.

So Olga is the supposed personification of lust, but she’s shown up by a dirty old man that embodies greed. Whatever. She can at least prove herself in combat, though, right? No, that isn’t right, as she’s apparently the one “boss” that Asura never fights. In fact, if she didn’t appear in the “secret ending” coda, you’d be forgiven for assuming the writers literally forgot she existed about 80% through the game. And her final fate after that cameo of a reappearance? She’s the only one of the Seven Deities to not be killed by Asura. She’s there to be a sacrifice on the altar of “boy, this final boss is gonna be really tough”.

But don’t worry! She is eventually reincarnated… as a secretary. One of the other generals is reincarnated as a movie star. I wonder if he ever has to make someone coffee…

WRATH!A number of videogames have problems with women. A number of videogames feature berserker male characters. Asura’s Wrath is both. Can these problems be fixed? Of course. Was there ever even an attempt to sponge some of the testosterone off Asura’s Wrath? Of course not. The women of the title are forgettable (and Asura’s own daughter could be replaced with a particularly sympathetic set of AA batteries), and not a single one gets to join in the fun. Asura shares the spotlight with another hero for a few chapters, but, guess what? He’s a dude, too. The message of Asura’s Wrath (and many other games) is clear: women aren’t allowed to be raging warriors. They can be moms. They can be daughters. They can be administrative assistants. But they can’t be The Hulk. That isn’t allowed.

That should make a lot of women mad as hell.

And I’d like to play their videogames.

FGC #456 Asura’s Wrath

  • System: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The general sentiment surrounding Asura’s Wrath was that it was kind of a sales bomb, so I wouldn’t expect a remaster anytime soon.
  • Number of players: Two heroes eventually pop out of this story, but only one player at a time.
  • STUFF GONNA EXPLODE100% Completion: For the sake of pedantry, I want to note that there are plenty of great action women in videogames. Heroines like Bayonetta, Samus Aran, and even Juliet of Lollipop Chainsaw are all great, murderous female protagonists… just they’re not really all that mad. They’re more cool or professional (or occasionally bubbly) than anything. The only berserker lady that immediately seems to fit Asura’s mold is Zero of Drakengard 3, and even that is tempered by Yoko Tarro’s traditional commentary on violence and loss. But thank you to everyone on Twitter who offered suggestions! I’ll get to Darksiders 3 and Ronin soon enough!
  • How badly does this game want to be an anime? Very. Very badly. Practically everything in Asura’s Wrath is organized like a 22 minute anime episode, complete with middle of the episode “bumpers” and a cryptic “episode preview” between chapters. It also commits the sin of repeating exactly what happened before and after the commercial break, even though there are no real commercials breaks. That’s just wasting my time, guys!
  • Favorite Eight Guardian Generals general: I don’t really like, like, any of the characters in this game… though that may be the point. I’ll take Wyzen, though, as he’s the great big guy that is destined to die/fail early in the story, but at least he has the good sense to turn into a planet-sized deity and attempt to crush the hero with a meteoric finger. He still bombs, but it seemed like a plan that could have come together nicely.
  • Favorite incidental weapon: Nunchuks connected together by lightning seems like the kind of thing that should be included in more games. Has that ever been seen in Soulcalibur? Or with the Ninja Turtles? Slam dunk, right there for the taking.
  • ANIME!Horse Armor: Technically, you could claim the “true ending” of Asura’s Wrath is only available through paid-DLC. However, the reality of it is that the DLC is much more akin to a (much smaller) sequel than a “pay-to-play” ending for the real game. Also, given the nature of the game, Youtube is right over there, so there’s really no reason to be upset about Capcom being a bunch of money-grubbing hogs (this time).
  • Mind Blowing: Oh, there’s a spider motif recurring through this game because Asura often has six arms, thus giving him an arachnid-esque 8 limbs. Just got that.
  • Did you know? You can’t actually pause the game during those fake commercial break moments. Now I’m going to rampage!
  • Would I play again: Oh yeah, I barely talked about the gameplay itself. It’s basically paced like a playable movie, with very little “filler”, and absolutely no exploration. Which basically means that, after the visceral feeling of playing the game once “for real”, it’s time to move on. Maybe I’ll rewatch it in the gallery player while I’m playing another, more active game.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Blazing Dragons starring Cheech Marin! Hey, it’s entry #420 somewhere (no it’s not). Please look forward to it!

DEM GODS

FGC #446 Odin Sphere (Leifthrasir)

Good catWhy bother with yet another beat ‘em up? Why bother with Odin Sphere?

Odin Sphere is, at its core, a beat ‘em up game. Yes, it is the unusual 2-D beat ‘em up, and, yes, it has many “RPG elements” that separate it from the typical beat ‘em up title, but it is still “only” a beat ‘em up. You move from screen to screen, defeat some enemies, and then break a few crates for items before eventually reaching the boss. Basic mooks are continually recycled between areas, the areas themselves are limited, and even bosses are fought multiple times in multiple configurations. Odin Sphere is a beat ‘em up, and, even though it is gorgeous (or maybe because it is gorgeous), it is still fairly limited. It seems like there are five hours of unique gameplay in this twenty hour game.

So why bother? This isn’t an arcade beat ‘em up that includes fun times with friends, and, while some of the “JRPG elements” are interesting, you can’t hang an entire game on shoving sentient turnips into flasks. While Odin Sphere is damn pretty to look at, graphics are not everything (or at least I’ve been told that by every lying gamer I’ve ever encountered). There’s good beat ‘em up nonsense available here, but hitting any other title that is over in about a quarter of the time seems like a better choice.

Except other beat ‘em ups don’t feature Velvet.

Odin Sphere might be a simple beat ‘em up with repetitive monsters and locations, but it contains a very engrossing story. This is not to say it is a unique story! Most of the heroes and heroines of Odin Sphere are basic operatic archetypes, and God help me if I have to deal with one more character that has daddy issues and must go on an adventure to find their own place in the world. “What is this emotion called… love?” asks the entire speaking cast of Odin Sphere. And Oswald is clearly just Darth Vader minus the fatherhood angle, which leaves us with… Darth… Nothing? But! Despite all of this, the walking clichés of Odin Sphere are a collection of surprisingly memorable lads and lassies, likely because their proclivity for Shakespearean soliloquies grants us a rare look into these protagonists’ minds (also: fun Shakespearean tropes like “I can only be killed by a tree” “Well my middle name is ‘Tree’” “Oh fiddlesticks”). Aren’t we all tired of silent protagonists? Give us more adventurers with deep-rooted psychological issues.

And the leader of the pack for these nerds is obviously…

VELVET!

Velvet Valentine. I mean, look at that idle pose! She’s got more personality just standing there glaring at a rabbit than most characters earn over the course of a 40 hour adventure.

Get 'em!

But it’s not just about classy poses, she also possesses a ridiculous whip chain weapon (that incidentally absorbs the souls of the dead). And everyone knows that in videogames (unlike in our mundane, crappy world) whips are the most powerful weapons on whatever passes for Earth du jour (Erion?). Whips have range, power, and, if you’re good, the power to command fire (Belmonts have known this one simple trick for centuries). Yes, there’s that whole bondage connotation, but who cares about that when…

Spider-Man!

Whips allow you to become Spider-Man! Who cares about anything when you can be Spider-Man? Actually, given Velvet has experience as a dancer, she’s more Spider-Gwen… and maybe that’s even better? I mean, there are a lot of Spider-Mans running around out there, but Ghost Spider is pretty unique. And, like Velvet, she has a cool costume, too.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses for Velvet…

This sucks for everybody

Velvet comes from circumstances. Velvet and her twin brother were abused by their grandfather, a man who also killed their mother in a fit of rage. Apparently Grandpappy King Valentine would arbitrarily whip his grandchildren, and force his granddaughter to dance for him for reasons that can only be maximum skeevy.

Bro!

This created an unfortunate situation wherein Velvet’s brother grew up to be a duplicitous jerk/three-headed dog monster (although Pappy Odin kind of added to those issues, too), and Velvet herself eventually became an adult with an understandable level of PTSD. And, considering Velvet is also stuck in a magical universe where anything can happen, she lived in fear of her abusive grandfather returning from the grave. When he inevitably does that and kicks off a (surprisingly successful) plan to destroy the world, suffice it to say, Velvet is not having a fun time.

Samus!

But she’s having a fun time when she’s flipping around like Samus Aran. Hey, that bounty hunter had problems with authority and dead parents, too! Samus and Velvet should hang out and play with their grappling beams together!

Such a dreamboat

And it’s not only jumping skills that will make Velvet’s life better. She has the love of a loyal prince, Cornelius, who, despite being cursed about ten seconds after his introduction, is a true Prince Charming. He fights for his country, his people, and, most importantly, Velvet. And he didn’t even need a magical sword to defend his love against his vaguely patricidal father. That’s a man worth keeping, Velvet! I can count on one hand the number of people I know that would fight a sewer dragon for their lover.

Bunny!

Oh, and she really likes rabbits, too. Rabbits, in many cases, are better than a doting boyfriend. If only there were some way to combine the two…

Now, is anything about Velvet here all that revolutionary? Nope! I compared her to three other fictional characters in the span of a few hundred words, so it’s pretty clear Velvet isn’t the most original character (that you should not steal). But she’s… fun. All these traits seem to alchemize into a perfectly golden heroine, and wanting to see what becomes of the wannabe Romani is a fine reason to fight the same stupid five bosses all over again.

Why do we play some videogames? Maybe it’s just a matter of having the right character.

FGC #446 Odin Sphere (Leifthrasir)

  • KISS MESystem: The original Odin Sphere appeared on Playstation 2, but then we saw a rerelease on Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Vita eight years later, presumably because of phat piles of Dragon’s Crown cash.
  • What’s the difference? The new and improved Odin Sphere Leifthrasir contains a number of quality of life improvements, new skills, and the occasional area where you can jump around like an idiot for no reason. But it barely offers any new story content or “levels”, so only seek out the remake if you have eyeballs that enjoy gorgeous graphics carried along a HDMI cable.
  • Number of players: One Valkyrie at a time, please.
  • What’s in a name? The titular Odin Sphere is likely a reference to Odin’s gigantic spikey-ball thingy. Or it could be a reference to the circular arenas featured in every battle stage. Or some kind of upgrade on Wagner’s “cycle” of music dramas. Or it just bloody sounds cool. I didn’t make this game!
  • Other naming issues: Wagner the Dragon has a name that is pronounced like “Vagner”. Oswald the Unlucky Rabbit gets the proper American/English soft pronunciation of his W. I’m not one to fiddle with accents and articulation, but try to be a little more consistent, Japanese-created magical Norse creatures.
  • Favorite Character: Go ahead and take a guess.
  • An End: I very much appreciate that the final boss gauntlet initially appears as a “choose your favorite fighter” situation, but is actually deeply tied to the lore of the piece, and asks the player if they’ve been paying attention to the various prophecies floating around. However, I am not a big fan of the fact that these five (mostly) original bosses were all herded into the final moments. We could have used original content elsewhere, guys!
  • Did you know? Sheep grow on trees.
  • Would I play again: Maybe we could see this one on the Switch? The grindiness seems like something that would be ideal for a kinda portable system… but then again the same could be said of nearly every modern beat ‘em up. That’s it! Go ahead and put every beat ‘em up on the Switch! It’s the only way to be sure!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… We ❤ Katamari for the Playstation 2! That one is sure to roll up a lot of fun. Please look forward to it!

This sucks for everyone involved

MKK: Liu Kang & Raiden

Mortal Kombat 11 seems to kill the Mortal Kombat Universe (uh, spoilers), so, let us wake the Mortal Kombat Universe.

To kick things off, we will start with the twin protagonists of the franchise…

Look out!

Liu Kang: Liu Kang is the generic, lovable karate man that won the first four Mortal Kombat “tournaments”. He defeated Shang Tsung. He slayed Shao Kahn. Twice. And, finally, he defeated the rogue Elder God, Shinnok. And then Shang Tsung and Quan Chi broke his neck.

That’s when things started to get weird.

(Sidenote: how much does it suck that the most prominent, canon “fatality” was a random neck snap? I would have been all in on MK: Deadly Alliance if it started with a cinema scene of Quan Chi tearing off Liu Kang’s leg and beating him with it while Shang Tsung turned someone into a baby or something.)

Lookin' good, Looey

Liu Kang spent one whole title dead. Then, just in time for the Dragon King to kill all of his buddies, Liu Kang was revived as an extremely surly zombie. Unlike Scorpion or other “revenant” characters in the franchise, undead Liu Kang was simply a slack-jawed, shackled, shambling corpse of his former self. And you know what? People seemed to like that!

So when the universe got rebooted, Liu Kang was killed almost immediately. Okay, technically he was killed in an alternate version of Mortal Kombat 3, but it was still within the same game (Mortal Kombat 9) that revived him, so it seemed like it happened pretty quick. Anyway, Raiden BBQed Liu Kang to extra crispy, and then Liu Kang spent a solid game and a half being a corrupted evil ghost that wound up conquering Hell through a liberal use of bicycle kicks. And it all worked out anyway, because Evil Hell Lord Liu Kang absorbed Time-Displaced Young & Saintly Liu Kang, and they became Liu Kang+ who did a few things, and then blah blah blah, he’s the creation god of the entire Mortal Kombat universe.

Actually, maybe we should cover exactly how that all went down…

Zappy!

Raiden: Screw Liu Kang, here’s the real protagonist of the franchise. Raiden is a god. What’s more, Raiden is not one of those “Watcher” gods that is always doing his best to explain why he can’t use his godly powers to just make someone a goddamned decent taco. No, Raiden is a real “get down in the muck” kind of god, and if he has to electrocute a few guys while he’s wearing mortal skin, so be it, just means he can work on his sweet roundhouses while he’s hanging on Earth. The earlier Mortal Kombat titles went to great lengths to explain why Raiden wasn’t using his divine abilities to snap his fingers and instantly end all of his battles, but more recent titles completely forsake that kind of thinking, and, uh, I guess he’s just pulling his punches a bit when fighting Stryker, and that’s why no one’s head explodes at the starting bell.

Now, as far as what Raiden was doing during the Mortal Kombat tournaments… That’s where you can see the basic shape of the series.

Mortal Kombat 1 was your typical anime tournament for the fate of the world. As such, Raiden was just there to fly around and shout like an idiot every couple of minutes. His greatest contribution was giving Christopher Lambert something to do.

Mortal Kombat 2 was your typical anime tournament for the fate of the world, again, but this time they had a change of venue. Again, Raiden is basically just there to be everyone’s Big Tournament Thunder Daddy. Hm… I should probably check to see if that terminology could be applied to anything else…

Mortal Kombat 3 featured Shao Kahn invading Earth(realm) in a last ditch effort to conquer the whole of existence. As such, Raiden, a god of Earth, was not allowed to participate until Mortal Kombat Trilogy (Super Mortal Kombat 3 Turbo Edition). This was theoretically to show just how desperate everything had gotten for our heroes… but it just came off as the Thunder God got replaced by the Thunder Native American Dude.

It's electric

Mortal Kombat 4 saw Shinnok threaten the universe. Shinnok was a deposed Elder God, so Raiden got to take center stage, and rep the God Squad with Fujin, the God of Silent Farts. Liu Kang was the ultimate savior of the universe, but at least Raiden got promoted from “god” to “elder god”, which is really going to look great on his resume.

… Or not! Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance was the story of how Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, professional second bananas, decided to kill Liu Kang and conquer the universe. The Elder Gods decreed that Billy Soulboy and Quan White weren’t the same kind of cosmic threat that had appeared in previous Mortal Kombat events, so they were going to sit this one out. But! Raiden disagreed, forsook his Elder God status, demoted himself to mere Regular God, and, for the first time “in game”, was the impetuous for the forces of good gathering under his wing (as opposed to just getting a paragraph of plot on an attract screen). Likely because Liu Kang was sick with a case of the deads, Raiden came off as the official protagonist leader for the first time. Unfortunately, this did ultimately end in everyone dying, but good hustle!

Mortal Kombat Deception started at the exact end of Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. Old Man and Bald Man accidently revived Onaga, The Dragon King, and then literally everyone (important) died in an attempt to subdue Onaga. This included Raiden, who kamikazed into a gigantic bolt of electricity that, at best, gave Onaga frizzy hair for a week. Raiden reconstituted, though, and came back… more than a little pissed off. Raiden descended into being, essentially, “Dark Raiden”, and spent the entirety of the title looking like he was ten seconds away from telling all his “friends” on LiveJournal how he really feels. The next day…

Mortal Kombat Armageddon was little more than an excuse for every Mortal Kombat fighter to come together and clobber the hell out of each other. Technically, it was during this time that Raiden revived Liu Kang as his zombie enforcer, but, canonically, by the time the “tournament” was over, Raiden had wound up “good” again. Which is good! Because the final two fighters were Raiden and weren’t-you-already-dead-twice Shao Kahn. And guess who won! That’s right, it was Shao Kahn! Whoops! Time for a do-over!

He's a god!

Mortal Kombat 9 starts with Armageddon Raiden contacting Mortal Kombat 1 Raiden. In order to prevent the creation of Mortal Kombat games not helmed by Netherrealm Studios, Armageddon Raiden relays the desperate message “He must win”. Unfortunately, Future Raiden forgets that all versions of Raiden are (is?) kind of an idiot(s), so Mortal Kombat 1 Raiden decides to screw up the timeline but good. Like, he thinks, “Maybe Kung Lao is supposed to win, I should send him in to fight.” And then Kung Lao dies. Or “maybe literally anyone else is supposed to win”, and then literally everyone else dies. Basically, Raiden winds up creating a timeline where all your beloved characters are dead… which is just like the end result of Deadly Alliance… but… uh… this time it happened way too early. Anyway, eventually Raiden kills Liu Kang because he was getting uppity, and saves the whole stupid universe himself by letting Shao Kahn win Mortal Kombat 3, thus invoking some esoteric rule that the boss character can’t get his own ending or something. The Elder Gods vaporize Shao Kahn, and the whole of the universe is saved thanks to fine print.

Mortal Kombat X starts with the events of Mortal Kombat 4, but, in this new timeline, only Johnny Cage is alive enough to save us all from Shinnok. Cage can only pull off a temporary victory (you know Liu Kang would have put that god in the ground if he wasn’t currently a zombie in his unholy thrall), and Shinnok resurfaces decades later, just in time for everyone’s kids to be main characters. Raiden tries to take a hands-off approach to this whole “renegade god attempting to destroy humanity” thing, and, like most Raiden decisions, that ends poorly. Shinnok nearly destroys all of creation (again), Raiden is captured, and winds up having to be saved by a magical teenager. But Raiden does help out, as he absorbs the radiant energy of Shinnok (or something), which only has the minor side-effect of making Raiden all dark and rude (again). Mortal Kombat X ends with Dark Raiden threatening Dark Liu Kang with the ultimatum that there’s only room enough for one fallen protagonist in this universe. And that proves to be true! Because…

Mortal Kombat 11 sees Dark Raiden and Lord of Hell Liu Kang in direct conflict. But then Kronika, Goddess of Time and mother of Shinnok, shows up and further muddies everything. Current Dark Raiden is unceremoniously wiped from existence, and never returns. However, time-displaced Mortal Kombat 2 Raiden appears in his place. Wait, to be clear, that’s Raiden from the Mortal Kombat 2 that took place during the rebooted timeline of Mortal Kombat 9. So it’s Mortal Kombat 2* Raiden. Got it? Anywho, MK2* Raiden winds up nearly killing MK2* Liu Kang (again), but then receives a flash of insight that apparently Kronika was always manipulating Raidens across time into murdering Liu Kangs across time, because the combination of Raiden and Liu Kang is too OP for MK. Raiden takes this revelation incredibly literally, and fuses his essence with Liu Kang (which, incidentally, winds up being a version of Liu Kang that is already the fusion of MK11 Liu Kang and MK2* Liu Kang). This creates Fire God Liu Kang, and Raiden kind of fades into nonexistence as Fire God Liu Kang reboots the universe as he sees fit. So the twin protagonists of the franchise become one as the story closes. Hooray! Symmetry! I think!

He's a god!

So, yeah, in short, it’s Raiden’s world (and timelines!), and everyone else is just living there.

Next Time: The movie star and the military star!