Tag Archives: mortal kombat

MKK: Quan Chi

This is going to be difficult to explain to people in the year of our Raiden 2019, but Mortal Kombat went through the strangest metamorphosis between its initial release and the finale of Mortal Kombat 3 four years later. At launch, Mortal Kombat (1) was a revelation that not only lit the arcades ablaze like a thousand flaming skulls, but also was featured nigh-nightly on the evening news during segments that warned us all of “mature content” and the vicious seduction of our innocent children. Mortal Kombat was an arcade smash and the scariest goddamned thing in the world. Contrast this with 1996, when Mortal Kombat Trilogy was hitting home consoles. At this point, we had…

He's on fire!

• Mortal Kombat cameos across the board
• The wildly successful Mortal Kombat movie
• Various Mortal Kombat comics, some directly from the franchise creators
• Mortal Kombat being the featured game on roughly every game/cheat magazine every other month
• The Mortal Kombat animated series, Defenders of the Realm
• Mortal Kombat action figure lines, including one set that was meant to scale with contemporary GI Joes
• And, of course, freaking events that accompanied every Mortal Kombat console release. It’s arguable that the release of the original Mortal Kombat on consoles, “Mortal Monday”, introduced a generation to the very concept of videogames having release dates (as opposed to weird hunks of plastic that were clearly just teleported into stores randomly from the future)

In short, Mortal Kombat went from being some dingy tech demo fighting game to the root of all evil to, eventually, a mainstay at toy stores across the country. Mortal Kombat had become arguably the face of gaming by 1996.

So you’ll forgive the curators of Mortal Kombat for believing they could do no wrong. You’ll have to forgive them for Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.

On paper, this could have been a thing of beauty. The concept was simple: Mortal Kombat has a robust kast with interesting and complex “mythologies”, so why not produce some games that focus on non-fighting tournament based events? Not every problem can be solved by a round robin round of roundhouses, after all. And while we’re at it, let’s see if this “mythology” can tie into the inevitably convoluted backstory for the next “real” Mortal Kombat title. How much better would Shao Kahn be if you knew his whole deal before he popped out of nowhere in Mortal Kombat 2? So much better! One would assume! (Incorrectly!)

Unfortunately, MKM:S was not to be a beautiful unicorn, but more of a three-legged donkey that has been rolling in shit all day while another, fatter donkey stood there shouting MAGA slogans and various homophobic slurs. The gameplay of MKM:S was predominantly based on “what if exactly the same controls as a fighting game”, which could have worked for more of a beat ‘em up, but was absolutely abhorrent in what is essentially a 2-D platformer. Frankly, any game where you need to press a button to turn around should be fired directly into the sun (looking at you, Guilty Gear: Isuka). And couple the general stiffness that already exists in Mortal Kombat with a nigh-infinite gauntlet of instant kill traps, and the whole experience just…

That sucked

Falls flat.

And in further ill-advised developments, the good folks behind Mortal Kombat decided to go a step further past digitized human actor sprites, and hire for-real human actors to act out the important plot beats of Mythology. Regrettably, this created a sort of reverse uncanny valley effect. When you see Sub-Zero as a little digitized fighter, that’s cool, there’s Sub-Zero, he’s going to take someone’s head off, and it’s going to work out. When you see that “same” Sub-Zero as a real-life FMV person in a cutscene… uh… what am I looking at here? That’s not Sub-Zero! That’s just some dumpy dude wearing a Sub-Zero costume! And I don’t think I need to tell anyone that Playstation 1-era videogame actors were maybe not the best at selling a story. In short, in a time when “immersion” was starting to become gaming’s latest buzzword, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero did its level best to practically insult the player for investing in Mortal Kombat (mythologies).

And amid all this, this is how we were introduced to Quan Chi.

This jerk

First of all, of all the kharacters introduced after Mortal Kombat 3, Quan Chi looks to be the most relevant and reoccurring. This seems to indicate that someone in the Mortal Kombatorium (where all Mortal Kombat games are made) really likes the guy. Maybe a member of the KISS Army saved Ed Boon’s life? I don’t know. Whatever the case, Quan Chi was the marquee fighter for Mortal Kombat 4, the star of MK:MS, and a frequently recurring antagonist in nearly every following Mortal Kombat title. He was slated to be DLC (with Harley Quinn!) in MK vs. DC, and he even technically premiered not in Mythologies, but as a guest villain on the animated series. He was a little off model (albeit like every MK: Defenders of Realm character), and he had a Megatronian plan to infect all the heroes with a rage virus or something to make them all fight for no reason (like… every Mortal Kombat… huh), but he was still essentially the “evil wizard” Quan Chi right from the get-go. Quan Chi is somebody’s favorite fighter in the franchise.

But you wouldn’t know that from watching MK:MS. Again, on paper, we’ve got a pretty cool customer. Quan Chi was a wizard, and, like most wizards, he needed some magical doodads for, I dunno, turning someone into a toad or whatever. Wizards are a naturally lazy bunch (you ever seen a wizard mowing the lawn?), so he hired a pair of rival ninja(esque) guilds to go and find his trinkets. Sub-Zero of the Lin Kuei not only completed the assigned task, but also murdered his rival along the way. As an extra special thank you for a job well done, Quan Chi completely obliterated the rival ninja clan, and maybe picked up a spare vengeance skeleton along the way. So, to be clear for future retkons: the final answer here is that Quan Chi murdered Scorpion’s family, and Sub-Zero only kinda inspired it. Please get your retribution right, Scorpion.

Anywho, Sub-Zero wound up with Quan Chi’s ultimate goal, a magical amulet, and dutifully handed it over to the wizard. At this point, the chalk-white wizard with freaking spikes growing out of his shoulders revealed that, gasp, he’s totally an evil wizard, and Sub-Zero was tricked into helping Quan Chi revive an ancient evil god known as Shinnok. Quan Chi escaped to Hell, and Sub-Zero followed after Raiden explained that an ancient evil god running around would be a terrible thing for the assassination business. People would be getting murdered for nothing!

So, naturally, Sub-Zero ventured down to the Netherrealm, eventually defeated Quan Chi and the divine Shinnok, and saved the day. How could an evil god empowered by his extra-special magical amulet be defeated by a mere ice ninja? Simple! Quan Chi kept the real magical amulet for himself! Oh, that rascally Quan Chi! He’ll be the death of us all!

Anywho, this cool and calculating wizard was played by the same dude as Kano, so maybe his real cunning didn’t exactly come across in his initial premiere…

This jerk

And then that brought us up to Mortal Kombat 4. Nobody liked Mortal Kombat 4.

Again, Mortal Kombat as a brand was riding high after the release of Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Unfortunately, this was also the era when games “had to” upgrade to 3-D. The old days of 2-D were dead and gone, and the mere concept that 2-D games could exist alongside their pointy colleagues was insane. Virtua Fighter, Tekken, and Battle Arena Toshinden (of all things!) were defining what fighting games could be, and Mortal Kombat wanted a piece of that sweet, polygonal pie. Thus, Mortal Kombat 4 forsook the realistic 2-D models of the olden days, and elevated the whole kast to the third dimension.

Unfortunately, nobody had a damn clue how to translate the actual Mortal Kombat gameplay to 3-D, so… woof, man. Just woof.

As previously noted, Quan Chi was the marquee kharacter of Mortal Kombat 4, as he was featured in all advertising and was plastered over the side of every Mortal Kombat 4 arcade machine. Oddly, though, he didn’t have much to actually do in Mortal Kombat 4. Shinnok was the final boss, and Goro popped up again as the sub-boss. Quan Chi was just kind of… there. He did feature prominently in a few endings, though, like when Scorpion discovered ol’ Quan was responsible for killing his family, or when Quan Chi stood over a defeated Shinnok and finally revealed that he had been holding on to the real, actually useful magical amulet this whole time. You’d think that last reveal would just be an excuse to explain why the toady defeated the master in a completely fantastical ending, but, nope, that winds up being kanon for the rest of the franchise. The finale of MK4 sees Shinnok and Quan Chi failing, but Quan Chi does manage to hold onto an amulet of unimaginable/ill-defined power. Score!

Unfortunately, unlike Quan Chi, Mortal Kombat as a cultural juggernaut could not survive its failures. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero killed some good will. Mortal Kombat 4 killed even more. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was a movie made specifically for fans of the convoluted Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but, give or take some horse punching, it was an abject failure for all but the most dedicated of ninja enthusiasts. The next attempted “Mythologies” title, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces: Starring Jax and Only Jax, was the final nail in the Mortal Kombat coffin (koffin). The Mortal Kombat franchise not only never saw a release on the Playstation/N64 console generation again, it also saw John Tobias, co-creator of MK and godfather to Noob Saibot, leave the franchise. Mortal Kombat as we knew it was gone. Mortal Kombat could return, but it would be a different animal. It would have to be.

And then Mortal Kombat returned in a totally new form on the Playstation 2 as Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. And, as if to tell us that nothing had ever been learned, there was Quan Chi with his bone-licking grin, smiling back at us as the final boss. You crash the entire franchise (twice!), and you get promoted! Clearly, Quan Chi is the whitest of the MK fighters.

This jerk

At least Quan Chi suffered a little for participating in some horrible titles. Scorpion’s MK4 ending turned out to be kanon, and he dragged Quan Chi to Hell for a substantial torture session. Given Scorpion isn’t all that great at psychological torment (he’s more of a zoning guy), you kind of have to assume this punishment involved a lot of uppercuts. A lot. Eventually, Quan Chi remembered, duh, he’s got an amulet of unspeakable power, and, with the aid of a pair of oni, he escaped the Netherrealm to discover the Tomb of the Dragon King. Thus, Quan Chi recruited Shang Tsung, formed the Deadly Alliance, and successfully killed Liu Kang, Shao Kahn (sorta), Kung Lao, Kitana, Sonya Blade, Jax, and probably severely wounded Stryker with an errant flaming skull. Having won literally everything, the Deadly Alliance inevitably fell apart when Shang Tsung gave Quan Chi the side-eye for like a second, and thus a big ol’ wizard fight broke out. Quan Chi emerged victorious, and likely would have ruled the realms had the Dragon King not shown up and wiped the floor with the survivors (who were not survivors for very much longer). Quan Chi himself saw Raiden powering up for an apocalyptic suicide blast, and decided to hightail it out of there to realms unknown. As a result, Quan Chi did not participate in Mortal Kombat: Deception, though in-game data shows that he was intended for the title, but must have been cut at the last moment. Someone finally acknowledged that we all needed a break from Quan Chi.

Quan Chi makes a comeback in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, though, and is responsible for the networking mixer that eventually pulls all the final bosses across MK onto the same side (though everyone was disappointed that Goro only brought a cheese plate). This, of course, leads to every villain betraying every other villain simultaneously, and Shao Kahn is the ultimate victor of that “alliance”. And, as we all know, this leads to everyone being dead, and the universe being rebooted again. (Though with a brief sojourn in the DC Universe, where, despite not being a playable kharacter, Quan Chi still manages to have a significant impact on the plot.)

This jerk

Mortal Kombat 9 was a reboot of the original Mortal Kombat Trilogy, so you might think we’d be free of Quan Chi, who did not appear during that time. And you’d be wrong! Quan Chi is the only (non DLC) fighter to appear in MK9 that was not in the original trilogy. Despite there being no explanation for such a shift in the timeline, Quan Chi has now been retkonned into being right there from the start, appearing as undead Scorpion’s manager in the original tournament. Yes, Quan Chi was apparently the Don King to Scorpion’s Mike Tyson. And when Scorpion has second thoughts about biting off Sub-Zero’s ear, Quan Chi is there to show Scorpion a PowerPoint presentation about how Subs called Scorpion’s mama fat. Thus, Quan Chi gains an undead Sub-Zero as his newest Noob, and everything is going according to plan, bwa ha ha and whatnot.

Quan Chi generally hangs around Shao Kahn’s posse, and is even responsible for reviving Shao Kahn and Sindel at the finale of nu-MK2. And then, during MK3, his big plan is finally revealed: he just wants to see the world burn. Or die. Apparently if you die in Mortal Kombat, you become a member of Quan Chi’s undead army, because QC set up a net on life’s drain or something. Quan Chi is thus now the leader of an army that includes practically everyone that died in the three Mortal Kombat tournaments… which, in this timeline, is practically everyone. Except Motaro. Motaro is dead, and he is going to stay dead. Forever.

At the point that he has literally won everything he ever wanted, Quan Chi bows out of Mortal Kombat 9, and a very lonely Raiden is left to deal with Shao Kahn. So Quan Chi returns in Mortal Kombat 10 for a redux of Mortal Kombat 4: Shinnok and Quan Chi are invading the realms, and the only hero left to oppose their tyranny is… Johnny Cage. Huh. But he (inexplicably) wins! Shinnok is beaten back into his own magical amulet during the opening of MK10, and Quan Chi is stuck (once again) trying to find a way to revive his master. At least he still has like 60% of his undead army to keep him company.

This jerk

Unfortunately for Quan Chi (I love typing that), it’s not easy being a masterless evil wizard. Quan Chi is soundly beaten by Sonya in a random raid, and loses control of (undead) Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Jax. Then, he has to recruit a gross bug lady to sneak around Outworld and steal back his (kinda his) super amulet. Then he’s captured by the Special Forces, and it’s revealed that Quan Chi is now less “evil wizard” and is closer to “marginally magical hobo”. And then it’s all over when (currently alive) Scorpion gets wind of the fact that the dude that killed his family is locked up in a cell, and decapitates the sorcerer on sight. But! Gross Bug Lady did manage to get the amulet to Quan Chi just in the nick of time, and Shinnok is revived before QC completely loses his head. Quan Chi dies as he lived, wholly and unwaveringly dedicated to Shinnok. Which is only, ya know, the complete opposite of his personality in the other timeline. Maybe he read a particularly engrossing Shinnok Tract in this timeline?

Regardless, Quan Chi is dead and buried for Mortal Kombat 11, so he’s apparently not coming back. Good riddance to bad rubbish, you franchise-killing monster. Inevitably see you next game!

This jerk


Next time: Netherrealm politics

MKK: Ermac & Rain & Chameleon & Khameleon

I enjoy this format of presenting complete biographies for each fighter in (roughly) chronologically introduced order, but it does have its drawbacks. For instance, Scorpion’s biography explains his complete history through every single Mortal Kombat tournament… but fails to note the fairly significant (at the time) issue of Scorpion not appearing in Mortal Kombat 3 proper. Yes, there was a game without Scorpion! Scorpion, Reptile, Kitana, Jade, and Mileena all were left on the cutting room floor between MK2 and MK3, and only returned for MK3’s upgrade, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. You would think the easily color swapped ninja would be first on the roster, but, maybe in an effort to make way for robots, they were all benched until the MK3 revision. And when those ninja came back? They came back with a vengeance.

Ermie

Mortal Kombat 3 featured Sub-Zero out of his traditional uniform. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 added Scorpion and Reptile to the regular roster. And then it added two duplicate hidden kharacters (“klassic” Sub-Zero and “human” Smoke), one sprite-modified hidden fighter (Noob Saibot was a shadow of Kano for vanilla MK3, but was now back to being a ninja), and one completely new, secret ninja. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the one and only Ermac, Mortal Kombat’s greatest lie.

Please tell your cousin Jimmy this simple truth: Ermac does not appear in Mortal Kombat 1. He’s not there. Period. End of story. I don’t care what you read in that one issue of EGM you found in a South Carolina convenience store, he’s not in there at all. However! There is a stat screen on the backend of the arcade version of Mortal Kombat 1, and, just below the statistic for how many times players have fought Reptile, there is an entry for “ErMAC”. This was merely a way to note how many times the game had glitched! It theoretically stood for “Error Macro” (or at least something “error” related), and was not a secret count of how many times a player fought “Ermac”. Ermac is not a red color swap of Scorpion, and there isn’t some secret way to fight him on the home ports.

But! The folks behind Mortal Kombat are complete dicks whacky jokesters. Since people combed over Mortal Kombat 1 to find “ErMAC” in the first place, the producers of Mortal Kombat decided to run with that complete nonsense. In obvious commentary on the situation, defeating Shao Kahn in MK2 could unlock a phrase that, when unscrambled, would read “Ermac does not exist”. Additionally, Jade, the hidden female ninja of MK2, would occasionally pop up and state “Ermac who?” On a more “private” joke level, MK coders would deliberately include statistics in future games meant to mislead enterprising players. “Kano Transformations” was a stat in MK2, a game severely lacking Kano, and Johnny Cage received the same treatment in MK3. And that’s why you can’t trust any code in a Mortal Kombat game to reveal future DLC…

Ermie

But, eventually, someone decided it was time to introduce the “real” Ermac, so (unlockable through a secret code that could be entered after every Game Over) Ermie made the scene. And… well… at least he had his own moveset… err… sorta. A lot of his powers were based on “telekinesis”, which is just a cost-cutting measure for everything from TV shows to videogames that allows you to use special effects without having to add an ounce of visual flair (I think Houdini pioneered that trick). Who needs a fireball when you can just say “I’m hitting you now” with invisible force? And, similarly, Ermac’s backstory was another trick of the eye: he’s a collection of souls merged into one being, and… that’s it. That’s pretty effective for a hidden kharacter, as it allows him to be literally anyone, personality or backstory wise, but it’s also a big, glowing “we’ll figure out his real story later” sign. Amusingly enough, his MK3 ending noted that he would return for MK4… which never happened. Ermac already had plans! He had to go to his sister’s wedding!

Ermac then faded into the background of the MK universe. He was referenced in MK: Deadly Alliance as the friendly fellow that taught Kenshi how to use telekinetic powers (which was likely just an answer for anyone complaining about Kenshi using another fighter’s special moves), but then returned as a playable fighter in Mortal Kombat: Deception. It was at this point that it was noted that Ermac was enslaved by Shao Kahn, but was free upon Kenshi cutting the cord (likely literally). Ermac was now a being made up of a bunch of random souls with a whole lot of opportunities available to them (also, this is where they started using more inclusive pronouns, so I may as well honor that going forward). And they chose to fight for good! The “usual” heroes were all kinda-dead and completely-enslaved by the Dragon King, so Ermac used his magical soul abilities to kick all their asses, and then transfer their (good) souls back into their (bad) bodies. Thus, Ermac basically became the second good wizard in the MK kast, and wound up best friends with Liu Kang’s wandering soul. They’re soul pals!

Then they died during Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. It was the popular thing to do.

Ermie

Ermac gets to actually be a presence in the rebooted version of Mortal Kombat 1. For the record, they are introduced as “Shao Kahn’s latest creation”, so this version, like Mileena, is effectively a very pissed-off child. But who gives a damn, because, like every other Kahn flunky, they mostly exist for the good guys to have someone to clobber every other round. However, they did get a chance to prove their power when telekinetically obliterating Jax’s arms during Mortal Kombat 2. Aside from that, though, Ermac only got a bit of interesting backstory during their (non-kanon) ending that revealed Ermac contained the soul of King Jerrod, Sindel’s deceased husband (and king). Unfortunately, that never comes up, and Kitana has no idea her deadbeat/dead dad is actually that wizard in the tournament tele-slamming her twin sister.
Ermie

So, fun timeline divergence: Ermac was freed from malevolent control in the original universe, but Shao Kahn just plain dies in the reboot, so Ermac winds up sticking to Team Baddy. Ermac initially serves Shao Kahn’s apparent heir, Mileena, but leaves her employ when Reptile (of all people!) reveals that Mileena was just some monster from the flesh pits. As a walking soulnado, you’d think Ermac would find that endearing, but, no, they defect and join team Kotal Kahn for the remainder of the adventure. Unfortunately, this doesn’t lead to any remarkable adventures for Ermac, and they just wind up (yet again) as a lackluster minion. But! Ermac’s ending reveals their soul situation could be a portal for the return of Shang Tsung, and apparently one of Ermac’s “collected” souls is Shao Kahn, so Ermac is basically a walking, talking plot device for reviving notable villains. That could have been really relevant if Mortal Kombat 11 didn’t decide to just use time travel to explain literally everything. Oh well!

Ermac pretty much petered out as a ninja, but did wind up with a complicated life despite starting as nothing more than a joke. That reminds me of another joke…

Risk of Rain

Rain was created with the invasion of other Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 ninja. Kinda. Like Ermac, Rain was another stupid joke from the good folks at Mortal Kombat Enterprises (“We go through more blood before 10 AM than most people do all day”). Rain was a purple ninja that appeared during the attract sequence of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. And that’s the only place he appeared. He was not a real playable or fightable kharacter, he was just there to get your quarters as you desperately searched for how to unlock that one dude from the intro. Not that I’m bitter about this or anything, but this does influence my statement that Mortal Kombat creators are history’s greatest monsters.

Oh, and the name? He’s a purple ninja named “Rain”. Purple. Rain.

And when he finally got a backstory, it was revealed he was a prince.

There isn’t very much to Rain. He was not a “real” kharacter in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3: Arcade, but did become a real boy in time for the console ports. Sheeva was dropped from the roster on the 16-bit editions, but Rain got his own history and special moves. Rain was noted as an Edenian (like Kitana), but he defected and joined Shao Kahn’s army. MK: Armageddon (four games later) was his next appearance, and that revealed that he was the bastard son of an Edenian god (thus explaining Rain’s ability to summon lightning and, uh, rain), and that was actually relevant, as the twin protagonists of that adventure were Edenian godlings, too. Of course, none of those kharacters actually impacted a damn thing, so Rain was left with little to do in the grand scheme of the MK Universe.

Risk of Rain

Rain did return as DLC for Mortal Kombat 9, though, thus rounding out the roster of “everybody from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3”. Once again, it was confirmed that Rain was a Prince, a demi-god, and a general jerk to everyone in his immediate area. That’s about it! Mortal Kombat 10 actually features Rain in the main plot… Well, that might be a bit of a stretch. Rain.. uh… participates in Story Mode. He’s one of Mileena’s flunkies (probably because they have similar taste in outfits), and “reveals” that he was going to betray Mileena and steal the throne for himself… but literally everyone working for Mileena already had that plan. He doesn’t succeed, naturally, and fades back into the rich tapestry that is the Mortal Kombat mythos.
Risk of reptile

Speaking of which, it’s time for a song!

You know Scorpion and Noob and Rain and Reptile
Smoke and Ermac and Sub-Zero for a little while
But do you recall
The least famous ninja of all?

Chameleon the multi-colored ninja
Was responsible for a lot of gore
But if you never saw him
You were playing on the N64

All of the other ninja
Had very particular moves
Chameleon had to steal all of ‘em
Even though Scorpion disapproves

But one foggy October Eve
Ed Boon came to say
“Chameleon with your powers so immense
Your ending is going to make zero sense”

So that’s how his creators left him
Without a solid backstory
Chameleon, the multicolored ninja
You’re the worst in history


Risk of reptile

Where was I?

Oh yeah, Chameleon was a male ninja that appeared in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but only on the Playstation 1/Saturn/PC version. Chameleon has never had a backstory past “Chameleon: he exists”. Khameleon, meanwhile appeared in Mortal Kombat Trilogy for the N64, and she got the tiniest smidgen of a backstory. She apparently is the last remaining female Zaterran, but is not giving Reptile her number, because he is a mess, and she’s not dating anybody without a driver’s license. In fact, Khameleon’s whole deal is that she seems to be the last dinosaur person that has her s$%^ together, as she apparently knows her whole race’s history. … And that’s probably why she rarely participates in Mortal Kombat. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of all the ways her people have been roundhoused into oblivion over the years…

Khameleon made her only other appearance in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, but exclusively in the Nintendo Wii version. Once again, she confirmed her status as the last living lizard with a brain, and she… died at the end with everyone else. At least both of the Zaterrans went out together. She’s theoretically palling around somewhere in the rebooted Mortal Kombat universe, but she’s only ever been referenced by Bo Rai Cho telling Reptile “there is another…” This is equal parts kanon and a Star Wars gag.

And that’s it! We’re done with all the ninja from the first three Mortal Kombat titles! Finally!

Risk of reptile lady

Next time: A ninja’s mythology. … OH GOD DAMN IT!

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: Cyrax & Sektor


Cyrax and Sektor, the yellow and red (respectively) robots of Mortal Kombat 3 were named Mustard and Ketchup during production. This has proven to be rather prescient, as the two bots have consistently been the condiments to the main plot’s hotdog (And, yes, I am absolutely stating that, like all hotdogs, the Mortal Kombat storyline is primarily made from randomly assembled rat and pigeon meat).


Mortal Kombat 3 is all about Shao Kahn’s invasion of Earth, but there was also a side story that featured Sub-Zero. Separate from literally everything else that was happening, Sub-Zero was disowned by his assassin clan when they decided to “upgrade” their elite ninja into cyborgs. The first three cyborgs created were Sektor, Cyrax (both of whom volunteered), and Smoke (who very much did not volunteer). Smoke had general issues from his activation, so he wandered off to be a hidden kharacter. Sektor and Cyrax, though, were tasked with hunting and killing (or at least maiming) Sub-Zero. And, because Shao Kahn decided to suck the souls out of every human on the planet, Cyrax and Sektor were the only robot-people standing when all the people-people dropped dead. So, basically, there were four Lin Kuei left on the planet, and three of them were programmed to kill the fourth. That’s screwed up!

Now, unlike the other “clone” characters in previous Mortal Kombat titles, Cyrax and Sektor were, from a plot perspective, effectively interchangeable. Sub-Zero and Scorpion were bitter rivals from opposite clans (and one is a ghost). Mileena and Kitana were sisters cooperating just long enough for one to murder the other (and one is a monster). Cyrax and Sektor were just two robots with the same origins and goals. Even their endings were two variations on the same theme: Sektor’s non-kanon ending saw him “winning” the tournament through a massive self-destruct at Shao Kahn’s base, and Cyrax wound up getting lost and trapped in the desert. Basically, these robots were born to die, and neither actually defeated Sub-Zero, even in the fantasy world of fighting game endings. Poor ol’ cyborgs…

However, they were fairly popular kharacters, and it was only natural that they would show up in future installments. They could only Wile E. Coyote after Sub-Zero for so long before that got old, though, so it was time to separate the bots and give them individual stories. And, as any graduate of the David Cage School of Writing knows, there are only two stories about robots:

1. Can a robot learn to be human?
2. Skynet

And, conveniently enough, we’ve got two robots here! Hooray!

Beep Boop

Cyrax actually wound up with a kanon ending in Mortal Kombat 3. Sub-Zero was attacked by Cyrax, but he fought back with ninja ice powers and hitherto unknown and rarely seen again l33t haxxor powers. Actually, maybe Sub-Zero wasn’t so l33t, as his reprogramming led to that previously mentioned “Cyrax wanders into the desert and is lost within the sands” ending. Whoops! Luckily, Cyrax was collected by either the Lin Kuei or Sonya’s Special Forces. Mortal Kombat 4 was a confusing time! However, it’s agreed that by the end of MK4, Cyrax was starting to reawaken as a “human”, and decided the guys who turned him into a mechanical abomination weren’t all that great, so could someone restore my body, please? The Special Forces were happy to oblige (reminder: Jax is already kind of a cyborg, so they have a little experience), and Cyrax became… well… he was technically already a cyborg that was mostly robotic, but some Special Forces procedures were able to make Cyrax a cyborg that was now mostly human. Or at least mostly human on the inside. He needed his mostly robot on the outside parts for his next adventure.

By Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (MK5), Cyrax was working for the Special Forces, because Uncle Sam don’t restore your humanity for free. Cyrax was on a routine patrol (or something) in Outworld when he was attacked by Reptile. Reptile managed to damage Cyrax’s go-home thingy, and, without that thingy, Cyrax could not go home. Oh no! But Nitara the Vampire appeared, and made a deal with Cyrax: retrieve a magical orb from a lava pit, and she would send the poor bot home (and never mind the fact that Nitara had Reptile attack Cyrax in the first place). Cyrax decided to cooperate, and, since he was apparently lava-proof thanks to his robotic enhancements, he was able to retrieve the mystical ball. Nitara was true to her word, and Cyrax was sent home. Thanks Nitara! Since the sphere was actually the Dragon King’s soul-egg, this technically means Cyrax was responsible for the revival of Onaga and all the death and destruction he caused… but, if Cyrax knew that, he moved that information straight to his recycle bin.

Cyrax took MK: Deception off, and then returned in MK: Armageddon to try to gain Blaze’s power and completely restore his own humanity. He didn’t succeed. He died. And isn’t that the most human thing of all?

Don't missile

But what was Sektor up to during that timeline? Well, Sektor was the one cyborg that was not reprogrammed by Sub-Zero, so he was still on the Lin Kuei payroll after Mortal Kombat 3. He spied on Cyrax and/or Sub-Zero during Mortal Kombat 4, but then the Lin Kuei had a change of management. … Mostly because Sektor tried to kill the old management. The official story is that Sektor’s programming became “corrupted” after having to fight mutant hordes and centaurs and whatnot, but it’s probably just that Sektor finally had it with being the least effective robotic assassin in history (reminder: Sub-Zero is still alive). Sektor signed his resignation with the Lin Kuei Grandmaster’s blood, but Sub-Zero was able to freeze Sektor’s attempted coup in its tracks. This was the exact moment that Sektor decided he was going to start his own stupid assassin clan, and it would be all ninja robots, because ninja robots have been working out so well for everybody up to this point. He even came up with a cool name (The Tekunin), and probably made his own logo and uniforms and everything. Unfortunately, when he participated in Mortal Kombat: Deception: Tournament Edition, he didn’t really get anywhere, and wound up just getting jobbed by Sub-Zero (again). That’ll teach you to unionize, you damn robot!

Sektor successfully creates a spare ninja robot or two while no one is looking before Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and even manages to buy some Final Fantasy surpluss on eBay and winds up with an airship base. He’s kind of a general threat to humanity in Armageddon, but even his warship filled with robot ninja isn’t enough to rank a threat higher than the dude with an entire dimension full of sword mutants. As a result, he’s little more than a mid-boss-level kharacter in the grand scheme of things, and I don’t think Sub-Zero even has time to deal with his nonsense this go-round. Subs was too busy with his undead brother and the other robot attempting to turn the Lin Kuei into another, different army of demon robot ninja. Damn, Sektor, some other guy stole your bit!

Sektor, like Cyrax, eventually winds up at the final battle of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and gets his red butt murdered in the melee. He probably got taken out by, like, Stryker or something.


The universe reboots back to a Mortal Kombat 1 backup, so, hey, we get to see Cyrax and Sektor as “unmodified” humans for the first time in the franchise. It turns out that Cyrax was from Botswana, and Sektor was apparently the son of the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. Wow! That sure does make his future/past actions that much more ironic! Or something! Also, like Sub-Zero the Original, Cyrax and Sektor participated in the original Mortal Kombat 1 tournament. At this point, the two humans were basically in the employ of Shang Tsung/Outworld, and were spoilers meant to weed out any worthwhile candidates for championhood. This is a diversion from the original timeline, where the Lin Kuei were hired to kill Shang Tsung, but, hey, Shang Tsung is a pretty freaky dude, maybe he just wanted to see if he could take out a ninja assassin, too. Regardless, Sektor and Cyrax (naturally) fail, but they do reveal differing personalities before their inevitable cyberization. Sektor is a dedicated child of the Lin Kuei, and relishes in his kill-based vocation. He is all in when asked if he wants to also become a heartless robot. Cyrax, meanwhile, has some reservations about the whole “lose your autonomy and soul” thing, and even spares Johnny Cage’s life after winning a match. The general impression here is that Cyrax was probably going to hang up his wrist-mounted buzzsaws and magical bombs if given a chance… but that ain’t gonna happen. Sektor and Cyrax return as robots before Nu MK2 is out, and successfully capture Sub-Zero the Younger to create a new robot buddy. Unfortunately, the bots have to pledge loyalty to Shao Kahn in exchange for Sub-Zero, so they spend reformatted MK3 as Baraka-esque Outworld stooges. Sektor and Cyrax definitely assist in Sindel’s final battle against the forces of good (which, incidentally, is very successful at killing the forces of good), but they’re not seen again after the fight. They probably snuck out the back when Nightwolf exploded.

BEEPS LOUDLY

The Mortal Kombat X comic is kind of murky on the whole kanon front, but it does dovetail into what actually happens in Mortal Kombat X, so we’ll go ahead and call this next part 100% kanon. At the end of Mortal Kombat 9, literally all named Lin Kuei kharacters were either dead, a robot, or both (see Sub-Zero, Cyber). Shao Kahn was dead, too. Seeing a marvelous opportunity, Sektor took over the Lin Kuei. He tossed out any dissenters, robotocized everybody else, and the Lin Kuei was reborn as the new Tekunin. Score! But Sub-Zero eventually gets over being a robot/dead, and returns to screw up the Tekunin with his rarely seen stealth ninja abilities. And he’s a master hacker again! He drops in a virus that spreads to the majority of the clan, and, before Sektor has time to react, Cyrax has been “infected” with remembering his own soul. Sub-Zero then defeats Sektor in mortal kombat, decapitates the bot, and wins back control of the Lin Kuei. Cyrax, now completely aware of his humanity/love of all the little critters of nature, massively self-destructs in an effort to wipe the Tekunin off the face of the Earth. He succeeds, and Sub-Zero goes on to lead the new Lin Kuei… which is still an assassin’s guild, so, uh… I mean, they might still murder people, but at least they use less fossil fuels than the robots? Sub-Zero also keeps Sektor’s head, and occasionally uses it as a projector when he can find Sektor’s HDMI cord.

Of course, aside from a head cameo, Cyrax and Sektor do not appear in the actual plot of Mortal Kombat X. Their comic adventure must have impressed somebody, though, because, while C&S are not playable kharacters in MK11, they do get the exact same comic plot again. Kronika the Goddess of Time is committed to her master plan of generally annoying the good guys into forsaking the universe, so she brings Cyrax and Sektor forward in time from some unspecified “the past”. Sektor goes to work immediately, and gets an assembly line going on converting the Lin Kuei into robot ninja. And, again, Sub-Zero infiltrates his base (this time with a buddy!), uploads that “free-will” virus (good thing he kept those files! Saved him hours of coding!), and “awakened” Cyrax, again, sacrifices himself to see the Tekunin deactivated (again). Sektor actually escapes death this time, though, and is remodeled thanks to some assistance from Kano. And then Kano blows him up. Because you don’t trust Kano, stupid.

Please look forward to Mortal Kombat 12, where Cyrax and Sektor will not be playable, but the all new Relish menaces Sub-Zero to fill out a scene or two.


Next time: Witchy Women